The Poetry Corner

The Passing Of Gundagai

By Banjo Paterson (Andrew Barton)

"I'll introduce a friend!" he said, "And if you've got a vacant pen You'd better take him in the shed And start him shearing straight ahead; He's one of these here quiet men. "He never strikes, that ain't his game; No matter what the others try He goes on shearing just the same. I never rightly knew his name, We always call him 'Gundagai!'" Our flashest shearer then had gone To train a racehorse for a race; And, while his sporting fit was on He couldn't be relied upon, So Gundagai shore in his place. Alas for man's veracity! For reputations false and true! This Gundagai turned out to be For strife and all-round villainy The very worst I ever knew! He started racing Jack Devine, And grumbled when I made him stop. The pace he showed was extra fine, But all those pure-bred ewes of mine Were bleeding like a butcher's shop. He cursed the sheep, he cursed the shed, From roof to rafter, floor to shelf: As for my mongrel ewes, he said, I ought to get a razor-blade And shave the blooming things myself. On Sundays he controlled a "school", And played "two-up" the livelong day; And many a young confiding fool He shore of his financial wool; And when he lost he would not pay. He organised a shearers' race, And "touched" me to provide the prize. His pack-horse showed surprising pace And won hands down, he was The Ace, A well-known racehorse in disguise. Next day the bruiser of the shed Displayed an opal-tinted eye, With large contusions on his head, He smiled a sickly smile, and said He's "had a cut at Gundagai!" But, just as we were getting full Of Gundagai and all his ways, A telegram for "Henry Bull" Arrived. Said he, "That's me, all wool! Let's see what this here message says." He opened it; his face grew white, He dropped the shears and turned away It ran, "Your wife took bad last night; Come home at once, no time to write, We fear she may not last the day." He got his cheque, I didn't care To dock him for my mangled ewes; His store account, we called it square, Poor wretch! he had enough to bear, Confronted by such dreadful news. The shearers raised a little purse To help a mate, as shearers will. "To pay the doctor and the nurse. And, if there should be something worse, To pay the undertaker's bill." They wrung his hand in sympathy, He rode away without a word, His head hung down in misery . . . A wandering hawker passing by Was told of what had just occurred. "Well! that's a curious thing," he siad, "I've known that feller all his life, He's had the loan of this here shed! I know his wife ain't nearly dead, Because he hasn't got a wife!" * * * * You should have heard the whipcord crack As angry shearers galloped by; In vain they tried to fetch him back, A little dust along the track Was all they saw of "Gundagai".