Billy Barlow in Australia [song, 2 September 1843]

[Editor: This song was published in The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (2 September 1843). It was also included in Banjo Paterson’s collection, The Old Bush Songs (1905), with minor variations.]

Billy Barlow in Australia

When I was at home I was down on my luck,
And I yearnt a poor living by drawing a truck;
But old aunt died and left me a thousand — ‘Oh, oh,
I’ll start on my travels,’ said Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh;
So off to Australia came Billy Barlow.

When to Sydney I got, there a merchant I met,
Who said he could teach me a fortune to get;
He’d cattle and sheep past the colony’s bounds,
Which he sold with the station for my thousand pounds.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He gammon’d the cash out of Billy Barlow.

When the bargain was struck, and the money was paid,
He said, ‘My dear fellow, your fortune is made;
I can furnish supplies for the station, you know,
And your bill is sufficient, good Mr. Barlow.’
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
A gentleman settler was Billy Barlow.

So I got my supplies, and I gave him my bill,
And for New England started, my pockets to fill;
But by bushrangers met, with my traps they made free,
Took my horse, and left Billy bailed up to a tree.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
I shall die of starvation, thought Billy Barlow.

At last I got loose, and I walked on my way;
A constable came up, and to me did say,
‘Are you free?’ Says I ‘Yes, to be sure, don’t you know?”
And I handed my card, ‘Mr. William Barlow.’
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He said ‘That’s all gammon’ to Billy Barlow.

Then he put on the handcuffs, and brought me away
Right back down to Maitland, before Mr. Day;
When I said I was free, why the J.P. replied,
‘I must send you down to be i-dentified.’
Oh dear, lackaday oh,
So to Sydney once more went poor Billy Barlow.

They at last let me go, and I then did repair
For my station once more, and at length I got there;
But a few days before the blacks, you must know,
Had spear’d all the cattle of Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
It’s a beautiful country, said Billy Barlow.

And for nine months before no rain there had been,
So the devil a blade of grass could be seen;
And one third of my wethers the scab they had got,
And the other two-thirds had just died of the rot.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
I shall soon be a settler, said Billy Barlow.

And the matter to mend, now my bill was near due,
So I wrote to my friend, and just asked to renew;
He replied he was sorry he couldn’t, because
The bill had pass’d into Tom Burdekin’s claws.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
But perhaps he’ll renew it, said Billy Barlow.

I applied; to renew it he was quite content,
If secured, and allowed just 300 per cent;
But as I couldn’t do it, Carr, Rogers, and Co.,
Soon sent up a summons for Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
They soon settled the business of Billy Barlow.

For a month or six weeks I stewed over my loss,
And a tall man rode up one day on a black horse;
He asked ‘Don’t you know me?’ I answered him ‘No.’
‘Why,’ says he, ‘my name’s Kingsmill; how are you, Barlow?’
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He’d got a fi. fa. for poor Billy Barlow.

What I’d left of my sheep, and my traps, he did seize,
And he said, ‘They won’t pay all the costs and my fees:’
Then he sold off the lot, and I’m sure ’twas a sin,
At sixpence a head, and the station given in.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
I’ll go back to England, said Billy Barlow.


My sheep being sold, and my money all gone,
Oh, I wandered about then quite sad and forlorn;
How I managed to live it would shock you to know,
And as thin as a lath got poor Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
Quite down on his luck was poor Billy Barlow.

And in a few weeks more the sheriff, you see,
Sent the ‘tall man on horseback’ once more unto me,
Having got all he could by the writ of fi. fa.,
By way of a change he’d brought up a ca. sa.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
He seized on the body of Billy Barlow.

He took me to Sydney, and there they did lock
Poor unfortunate Billy fast ‘under the clock;’
And to get myself out I was forced, you must know,
The schedule to file of poor Billy Barlow.
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
In the list of insolvents was Billy Barlow.

Then once more I got free, but in poverty’s toil;
I’ve no ‘cattle for salting,’ no ‘sheep for to boil;’
I can’t get a job — tho’ to any I’d stoop,
If ’twas only the making of ‘portable soup.’
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
Pray give some employment to Billy Barlow.

But there’s still ‘a spec’ left may set me on my stumps,
If a wife I could get with a few of the dumps;
So if any lass here has ‘ten thousand,’ or so,
She can just drop a line addressed ‘Mr. Barlow.’
Oh dear, lackaday, oh,
The dear angel shall be ‘Mrs. William Barlow.’

The Maitland Mercury & Hunter River General Advertiser (Maitland, NSW), 2 September 1843, p. 4

Also published in:
The Southern Australian (Adelaide, SA), 2 July 1844, p. 4

Editor’s notes:
ca. sa. = a contraction of the Latin phrase “capias ad satisfaciendum” (“that you take to satisfy”), referring to a writ for the arrest of the defendant in a civil action, when someone who has been awarded damages by a judge, but the defendant has not paid the amount stipulated

Day = Edward Denny Day (1801-1876), born in Ireland, joined the British army, left due to ill health, migrated to Australia, and was appointed police magistrate at Maitland (NSW)
See: 1) Ben W. Champion, “Day, Edward Denny (1801–1876)”, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
2) Will Lawson (editor), Australian Bush Songs and Ballads, Sydney: Frank Johnson, 1944, p. 96

fi. fa. = a contraction of the Latin phrase “fi’eri facias” (“cause it to be done”), referring to a judicial writ for someone who has been awarded damages by a judge, being a command to the sheriff to see that the judgment of the court is duly carried out
See: E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (new edition, vol. 1), London: Cassell, 1895, p. 456

free = in the context of early Australia, a free settler or a free person (as distinct from a convict)

gammon = misleading, deceptive, or nonsensical talk, humbug (can also refer to a cured or smoked ham)

J.P. = Justice of the Peace

Kingsmill = John Kingsmill, Sheriff’s Bailiff, East Maitland (The Southern Australian, 2 July 1844, in a footnote to its printing of “Billy Barlow in Australia”, describes Kingsmill as “The Sheriff of East Maitland”; however, newspaper notices, from 1843 and 1844, of court-directed sales of assets, conducted under the control of the Sheriff of New South Wales, refer to John Kingsmill as “Sheriff’s Bailiff”)

pass’d = (vernacular) passed

portable soup = a soup for travelers which has been boiled until it becomes almost solid, whereupon it could be stored in the form of glue-like “cakes” until such time it when it was needed, when hot water could be added to render it as soup once again (especially used in the 1700s and 1800s)
See: 1) Max Quanchi and John Robson, Historical Dictionary of the Discovery and Exploration of the Pacific Islands, Lanham (Maryland): Scarecrow Press, 2005, p. 138
2) John Ayto, The Diner’s Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012 (second edition), p. 288
3) Chambers’s Encyclopaedia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge for the People, vol. IX, Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1882, p. 2

pound = a unit of British-style currency used in Australia, until it was replaced by the dollar in 1966 when decimal currency was introduced in Australia

spear’d = (vernacular) speared

spec = speculation; in a monetary context, refers to financial speculation

tho’ = (vernacular) though

Tom Burdekin = a businessman who lived in Sydney, who was well-known in the 1840s as a usurer (someone who lends money and charges interest, especially one who charges interest at an exorbitant or unlawful rate)
See: J. C. Byrne, Twelve Years’ Wanderings in the British Colonies: From 1835 to 1847, vol. I, London: Richard Bentley, 1848, pp. 127-129

trap = a general term used for any two-wheeled light carriage (or cart) with springing, pulled by a single horse or pony, and designed for two passengers; however, the term is also applied to similarly-built carts which are four-wheeled and designed for four passengers; in the early years of the development of motor vehicles, motorized traps were built

’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”

under the clock = prison (“going under the clock” was to be locked up in prison); a reference to the outward appearance of prisons, which commonly had a large clock positioned above their main entrance; in Sydney in the early 1800s, “under the clock” was a reference to Carter’s Barracks, which was used to imprison insolvents from February 1838 (alternative terms for being imprisoned in Carter’s Barracks were “carter’s lodgings”, “visiting the Country House”, and “going to Limbo”), however, the clock was removed in 1845 and given to the recently-built Darlinghurst Gaol; in Sydney in the 20th century, it was common to arrange to meet someone “under the clock” at Sydney’s Central Station, which housed a large clock (curiously enough, Sydney’s Central Station was built upon the same site where Carter’s Barracks used to be located)
See: 1) Richard Fotheringham and Angela Turner (editors), Australian Plays for the Colonial Stage: 1834-1899, St Lucia (Qld.): University of Queensland Press, 2006, pp. 64-65
2) “[Carters’ Barracks, Sydney]”, [Sid Hammell]
3) “[News section]”, The Australian (Sydney, NSW), 24 December 1839, p. 2
4) “Carters’ Barracks”, The Sydney Herald (Sydney, NSW), 5 August 1840, p. 2
5) “”, The Sydney Herald (Sydney, NSW), 23 October 1841, p. 2
6) “News from the interior”, The Sydney Herald (Sydney, NSW), 16 February 1842, p. 3
7) “Under the clock”, The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 22 February 1845, p. 2
8) “Hired Servants’ Act” [letter to the editor], The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), 6 October 1845, p. 2
9) “Getaway Fact sheets: Central Station Tour”, Getaway, 26 September 2002 (accessed 15 August 2014)
10) “Central Station”, Sydney Trains (accessed 15 August 2014)

wether = a castrated ram

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