The Cocky or the boss on a sheep station, the shearers and hard work or hard Yakker in the shearing shed. The kelpies the working dogs of the Australian sheep stations, backing dogs that only need a quick command in order to know exactly where the drover wants the mob to go. Drovers and Cockies will tell you that a dog is worth two men. Australia still rides home on the sheep’s back producing over one third of the world’s wool and the finest micron level from Merino Sheep. I have had the fortune to spend some time in Condobolin, roughly the centre of New South Wales (NSW). An Uncle was the Cocky at a sheep station called Rosalind close to Condobolin.
Condobolin believed to have evolved from the aboriginal word Cundabullen (Shallow Crossing). explored in 1817 and established by 1844. Close to Condobolin is the ‘Overflow Station’ the setting of the poem ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. by the creator of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and the Man from Snowy River – Banjo Paterson. ‘Clancy of the Overflow’ part of an Australian’s schooling.
Andrew Barton “Banjo’ Paterson (1864-1941). Poet, ballad writer, journalist and horseman.
‘Banjo’ Paterson, known as Barty to his family, was born Andrew Barton Paterson at Narrambla, near Orange on 17 February 1864. His parents, Andrew Bogle and Rose Isabella Paterson were graziers or Cockys on Illalong station in the Yass district. Some say Yass is the finest wool grazing in the world, certainly in Australia for the Merino sheep.
Paterson’s early education took place at home under a governess and then at the bush school in Binalong, the nearest township. From about the age of ten years he attended the Sydney Grammar School. He lived with his grandmother in Gladesville and spent the school holidays at Illalong station with his family.
After completing school the 16-year-old Paterson was articled to a Sydney firm of solicitors, Spain and Salway. He was admitted as a solicitor in 1886 and formed the legal partnership, Street and Paterson. During these years Paterson began publishing verse in the Bulletin and Sydney Mail under the pseudonyms ‘B’ and ‘The Banjo’.
In 1895, at the age of 31 and still in partnership with Street, Andrew Barton Paterson achieved two milestones in Australian writing. He composed his now famous ballad ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and his first book, The Man from Snowy River, and other verses, was published by Angus & Robertson, marking the beginning of an epoch in Australian publishing. This hallmark publication sold out its first edition within a week and went through four editions in six months, making Paterson second only to Kipling in popularity among living poets writing in English. His poetry continues to sell well today and is available in many editions, some of which are illustrated.
*Biography courtesy of the Reserve Bank of Australia
Clancy of the Overflow – Banjo Paterson
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just ‘on spec’, addressed as follows, ‘Clancy, of The Overflow’.
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
‘Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.’
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving ‘down the Cooper’ where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all.
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.
Droving Shearing, hard yakka
Images: Photographer Shane Aurousseau