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Lyr Add: Great Northern Line - Australian song


Related threads:
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In Mudcat MIDIs:
The Great Northern Line (Singabout #4, v.4, p7, 1962 - from the singing of "Duke" Tritton)

Bob Bolton 04 Sep 00 - 08:27 AM
Marcus Campus Bellorum 04 Sep 00 - 05:51 PM
Bob Bolton 04 Sep 00 - 11:42 PM
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Subject: Great Northern Line - Australian song
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 08:27 AM

This song has come up in Mark Campbell's discussions of various Celtic derived Australian song tunes. The grand old singer 'Duke' Tritton (1888 – 1965) sang this one and it is obviously a bullockdriver's song, derived from the English Music Hall song The Knickerbocker Line (of which another lovely old Australian singer Sally Sloane (1894 – 1982) sang a version). Other links in the tune are to Musselborough Fair and the American Cruise of the Bigler (both mentioned by AL Lloyd).

This is sung in a 6/8 time, like Knickerbocker Line, but the tune also turns up in 2/4 as the well known Australian shearer's song Lachlan Tigers and the lesser known The Shearers' Cook or Towlers Bay.

This song purports to be sung by the bullocky's girlfriend, boasting about his amorous exploits (including those with other girls!). I think we can safely assume he is just kidding himself! The description in the second line is of the very beau ideal of a flash colonial lad: with a red Crimea shirt (liberated from the Army?), trousers of warm English fustian – in gleaming white and a tough woven hat of local cabbage tree palm (costing up to 10 pounds, handmade, at the turn of the century).


Bob Bolton

The Great Northern Line

My love he is a teamster, a handsome man is he,
Red shirt. white moleskin trousers, and hat of cabbage-tree;
He drives a team of bullocks and whether it's wet or fine,
You will hear his whip a'cracking on the Great Northern Line.

Watch him, pipe him twig him how he goes,
With his little team of bullocks he cuts no dirty shows;
He's one of the flash young carriers that on the road do shine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.

And when he swings the greenhide he raises skin and hair,
His bullocks all have shrivelled horns, for Lordy he can swear;
But I will always love him, this splendid man of mine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.

When he bogged at Mundowie and the bullocks took the yoke,
They strained with bellies on the ground until the bar chain broke;
He fixed it up with fencing wire and brought wool from Bundamine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.

When he comes into Tamworth you will hear the ladies sigh,
And parents guard their daughters for he has a roving eye;
But he signals with his bullock whip as he comes through the pine,
With his little team of bullocks on the Great Northern Line.

Singabout #4, v.4, p7, 1962

Here is the tune, decoded from Alan of Oz's MIDIText format:

Click to play

To play or display ABC tunes, try

ABC format:


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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Great Northern Line - Australian son
From: Marcus Campus Bellorum
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 05:51 PM

Thanks Bob that puts all those other threads in nice neat package.

Do you think the related "Welsh" tune of "Bachgen Bach o Dincar, The sailors tune, Kings of the Western Ocean and the Canadian loggers tune (forgotten the name) have all been spread by sailors?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Great Northern Line - Australian son
From: Bob Bolton
Date: 04 Sep 00 - 11:42 PM

G'day Marcus,

I would be inclined to hedge that statement. They were almost all spread by people who sailed out to Australia - it was the only way to get here at the time. Those who didn't pay much for their passage came out "steerage" and had a lot of contact with the ordinary working sailors. It would be surprising if they did not pick up a bit of folklore along the way.

As well, many sailors decided to settle here - particularly in the immediate post-cinvict goldrush era -(at least one in my direct ancestry and it is fairly common in my mother's family) so sailors' song commonly appear in Australian folksong in 'bush' adaptations - especially droving songs, which translate easily from sea journeys to overland ones.


Bob Bolton

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