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’.
Photography is about telling the story sometimes in colour sometimes in the drama of black and white, what is the story behind an image in whatever medium works for that image subject. It can be your story not necessarily mine. The vast majority of people look at an image and see only a nice photo few look beyond seeking purpose. Knowledge that it is a nice looking snap of a family member does not have any ties to understanding, it is akin to amorality. The mass availability of phone cameras and general compacts has taken the general perception of photography into the world of the myopic monochrome and away from artistic achievement. Professional photographers now find it hard to achieve true value for their hard worked images, for in order to generate a truly creative image it still takes hard work and a creative mind. Photography of the highest quality still has its high place in the world of creative media. Like the master artists who use the right equipment in order to achieve their chosen objective the best photographers select the best tools for their creative path . The camera is only the brush. Pointing a phone and clicking and accidentally achieving a good snap is not a creative path, it is usually a good family or travel record. At my recent exhibition in London the curator Ruta Sasnauskaite cleverly devised a competition whereby people had to find certain information buried within the images. The winner was the one with the closest answers to the ones held by the curator. Everyone took part; the answers where not the issue what it did was to make the audience look into the photograph and not at it. Involvement with an image can give the same level of intellectual enjoyment that a fine piece of music does moving the viewer from knowledge to understanding.
Images by: Shane Aurousseau – Shane A
Exhibition of work by: Shane Aurousseau – Shane A Leyas 20 Camden High Street London NW1 0JH
I recently had the privilege of photographing and filming Kelpies working with Merino sheep the invitation came from Peter and Terrie L’Estrange, they are the owners of a station on the outskirts of Condobolin Central NSW called Belswick Merino Stud. I believe they have around 7000 acres running mainly Merino sheep including prize animals that are regularly shown at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney .
The Merino is of course the sheep that gave Australia its place in history as the leading wool producing country in the world. Wool production of Australia accounts for approximately 30% of world production.The Merino originally from central Spain (Castille). Its wool was highly valued even in the Middle Ages.
The fine micron quality of Merino wool gives this commodity its reputation as the highest quality of all wools.
Merino sheep introduced into Australia from Spain in the late 1700s and developed by Captain Macarthur in the early 1800s into the valuable commodity it has now become for Australia. The production of Merino wool adds some Aust $2 billion annually to the Australian GDP. From the 1800s it was generally accepted that Australia rides home on the Merino’s back. The droving and organising of the sheep has always been a hands on exercise however those hands do have assistants – the Kelpies.
Although different breeds of dogs work with sheep it is generally Kelpies that the the Australian stations use. These dogs tend to have great personalities and have an inbred desire to work and to organise.
The Kelpie tends to be a one man dog and is great with children if brought up in an environment with them. A good working dog is prized and can change hands for anything up to $30,000 Australian Dollars and as one station owner pointed out is worth 2 men. Watching the two drovers working with the dogs moving some 100 sheep around was an incredible experience. The handlers shouted orders to the dogs more or less indicating to them where they wanted the sheep to be directed. The dogs quickly respond to signals even to a glance. To see a sheep cut from the group and the speed of the dogs forcing the sheep to rejoin its mates gives an insight into how intelligent these animals are.
The Australian Kelpie is the most popular of working dogs and their agility gives them the ability to move around tightly packed sheep, see the dog in the photograph clearing the sheep by jumping them. They are workaholics easily trained herding is in their nature.
The workaholic nature and energy of this breed can be demonstrated by the image of the Station hand hosing the dogs down following an intensive working session. The dogs actually seek the cooling hosing when work is finished.
Boredom is the Kelpie’s worst enemy they are working dogs.
When travelling in Peter L’Estrange’s 4×4 one of the dogs Lucy sat between us. This particular dog is as pointed out the house dog and rarely leaves Peter’s side however she still needs to work and knows when he is preparing to move the sheep and more or less demands participation. She can be seen travelling on the back of Peter’s quad bike waiting for one of the flock to make a false move.