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Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)

15 Apr 99 - 01:29 AM (#71030)
Subject: Australian 'Gentle Annie' - history?
From: Ferrara

This song is based on Stephen Foster's "Gentle Annie." Foster took the tune from somewhere else, an Irish tune I believe. His song was a lament and I've been told it was inspired by the death of a friend's daughter in an accident.

Lyrics for the Australian version are in the DT. It's a matter-of-fact sounding song full of homely details, quite cheery, but somehow it feels like a metaphor song, you know the kind, where a fiddle isn't really a fiddle, etc. - "Your mutton's very sweet, Gentle Annie" just brings other things than farming to mind. Also the first verse refers to wild oats, a symbol of promiscuity. When he says "You'll be anxious to know, G.A., how your little crop of oats is going to yield," it brings up tongue-in-cheek pictures of Annie, nine months later, bouncing a daughter or son on her knee.

Does anyone know where the song came from and when, etc? And is it perfectly innocent after all?


(G) G D7 G C / G D7 / G D7 G C / G D7 G

The harvest time's come, gentle Annie,
And your wild oats are all scattered round the field.
You'll be anxious to know, gentle Annie,
How your little crop of oats is going to yield.

C G / G D7 / G D7 G C / G D7 G

We'll say farewell, gentle Annie,
For you know with you I can no longer stay.
Yes, I'll bid you adieu, gentle Annie,
Till we meet you on another threshing day.

Your mutton's very sweet, gentle Annie,
And I'm sure it can't be packed in New South Wales,
But you'd better put a fence around the cabbage,
Or they'll all get eaten up by the snails.


You'll take my advice, gentle Annie,
And you'd better watch your chappie goin' away
With his packbag flung over his shoulder,
And he stole some knives and forks the other day.


The bullocks they are yoked, gentle Annie,
For you know with you I can no longer stay.
So I'll bid you adieu, gentle Annie,
Till we meet you on another threshing day.



The original song, "Gentle Annie," seems to have been written by
Stephen Foster in 1856. Like many good songs, it found it way to
Australia, where it took on local references and, perhaps, a more
ambiguously sensual flavor. This version appeared in print in
Vol. ITUNE FILE: 1964) of Australian Tradition, and was recorded by
Martyn Wyndham-Read. Thence via Joe Hickerson to Ed Trickett to

Recorded on Side 2 Band 4 of "Turning Toward the Morning"
filename[ GENTLAN2

15 Apr 99 - 02:11 AM (#71032)
Subject: RE: Australian 'Gentle Annie' - history?
From: Elizabeth (inactive)

Can't add anything to the innuendo but near where I live there is a very long and windy section of uphill road between Forth and Wilmot, known to all and sundry as Gentle Annie! No idea why!

15 Apr 99 - 02:43 AM (#71035)
Subject: RE: Australian 'Gentle Annie' - history?
From: Joe Offer

A thread on the American version is here and here are both versions. We still haven't found much solid information about the Australian version. Alan of Australia had promised a MIDI of the Australian versinon, but hadn't submitted it because he hadn't invented MIDITXT yet (hint, hint).
John of Brisbane seems to think the Australian tune is better and describes the original Stephen Foster tune as "martial," but that may be mere Australian jingoism on his part....
-Joe Offer-

15 Apr 99 - 03:30 AM (#71040)
Subject: RE: Australian 'Gentle Annie' - history?
From: Bob Bolton

G'day Ferrara and all,

I remebebr this song mainly sung by Poms (English who have not yet had the sense - or compulsion - to move to Australia). When Vin Garbutt was out some years back he sang this and I think he told one of his inimitable introductory tales about the way this song got shuffled from one country to the next ... and ended up in Australia until Martin Wyndham-Read took it back to England ... and now he (Vin) was bringing it back!

I'm sure the song is full of inuendo of which we miss the meaning. I know some references are from the days before federation ... a secondary meaning to the mutton "not being packed in New South Wales" can be seen to be a reference to state taxes and smuggling (OK ... and possibly other things!).

I'm off for a few days, but will look at the recorded origins and see how dates and references all fit together. The Australian use and treatment of songs from the American popular culture in the 19th century is an area that has been seriously neglected for far too long. The best known folksong outside folkie circles (Click go the shears) is a parody of an American song written to celebrate the end of the Civil War. Lots more in the same vein (or, at least, drift). It's time someone mined the mother-lode.


Bob Bolton

15 Apr 99 - 10:10 AM (#71075)
Subject: Tune Add: GENTLE ANNIE
From: Alan of Australia

OK, here's the tune, I'd forgotten about this one, it's been sitting around on my hard disc for ages.

Click to play

ABC format:



16 Apr 99 - 07:45 AM (#71274)
Subject: RE: Australian 'Gentle Annie' - history?
From: Ferrara

This is the first time I've used TXT2MIDI and haven't figured it all out yet (don't worry, I'll get there.) Thanks so much, Alan, for the tune.

But I want to make a comment on the Stephen Foster tune. It shouldn't sound martial. It is a lyrical ballad in the 18th century sense of the word ballad, and it should sound lyrical and sweet. I've heard some midi versions that sounded martial because they had a somewhat choppy accompaniment, but I think midi files tend that way anyway. At the time the song was written, it would have been performed onstage in the bel canto style with lots of ornaments and overdone dramatic effects from today's point of view. But people playing it in their home would probably have done what I did when I learned it from a book of Foster's music: Play and sing it with an expression that was appropriate to its sweet, sentimental tone. I'm very fond of this kind of parlor song. They were often played by middle- and upper-class women (a real lady was supposed to number musical training among her accomplishments) and they tended to be very, very sad and sentimental, especially in the U.S.

11 Feb 21 - 04:40 AM (#4092572)
Subject: RE: Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)
From: GUEST,Don

The Australian version was written by Jack Cousins, about Annie Thwaites, who was a schoolgirl friend of Elizabeth Jamieson, the grandmother of folk singer David Lumsden. Elizabeth used to sing the song at family gatherings.

Marti Wyndham-Read learnt it from David at Frank Traynor's Folk Club in Melbourne, and then recorded it, which is how it became known around the world.

David's account of the origins of the song can be found here:

11 Feb 21 - 05:14 AM (#4092577)
Subject: RE: Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)
From: GUEST,The Sandman

There is another variant on this verse

The bullocks they are yoked, gentle Annie,
For you know with you I can stay no more.
So I'll bid you adieu, gentle Annie,
Your the little dark eyed girl that i adore.

11 Feb 21 - 05:18 AM (#4092578)
Subject: RE: Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)
From: Reinhard

Wikipedia, and Danny Pooner in the sleeve notes of his album "I Got This One From…" give the name as (Lame) Jack Cousens, with an "e".

11 Feb 21 - 08:51 AM (#4092607)
Subject: RE: Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)
From: GUEST,#

Here it is sung by Kevin Kennedy

Note that there is mention of it being part of a trilogy.

11 Feb 21 - 10:36 AM (#4092631)
Subject: RE: Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)
From: Dave Hanson

2 great songs, both Stephen Fosters and the Australian song.

Dave H

11 Feb 21 - 05:32 PM (#4092672)
Subject: RE: Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)
From: rich-joy

Subject: Lyr Add: GENTLE ANNIE
From: Stewie - PM
Date: 19 Jun 02 - 09:34 PM

Hrothgar mentioned an Australian version of 'Gentle Annie'. In the Australian outback Foster's piece became a bird of a very different wing. There are several variants, but the text of an unusual one was given to Danny Spooner by Dave Lumsden who said his family tradition had that it was written for his grandmother's sister, but that he believed it was probably written for a friend - both girls were 15 at the time. The words were by Jack Cousens who was an itinerant worker around the Murray River in the 1890s. Cousens spent much of his time with the travelling steam-driven threshing machines that travelled from town to town.


Now the harvest time is come, Gentle Annie
And the wild oats they are scattered o'er the field
And you'll be anxious to know, Gentle Annie
How your little crop of oats is going to yield

And we're travelling down the road into Barna
And we're following the feeder, Billy Yates
When we arrive and we see the donah
She's the little girl we left at Tommy Waits'

So we must meet again Gentle Annie
As each year we're travelling round your door
And we never will forget you, Gentle Annie
You're the little dark-eyed girl we do adore

Well, your mutton's very sweet, Gentle Annie
And your wines they can't be beat in New South Wales
But you'd better get a fence round your cabbage
Or they'll all be eaten up by the snails

And you'll take my advice, Gentle Annie,
And you're bound to watch old Chaffie going away
With a pack bag hung over his saddle
For he stole some knives and forks the other day

Yes, we must meet again Gentle Annie
Each year as we're travelling round your door
And we never can forget you, Gentle Annie
You're the little dark-eyed girl we all adore

Well, your little bed of oats is fresh, Gentle Annie
And the bullocks they are yoked to go away
You'll be sorry when we're gone, Gentle Annie
For you'll want us then to stop and thresh the hay

But we must say farewell, Gentle Annie,
For you know with you we cannot longer stay
But we hope one and all, Gentle Annie,
To be with you on another threshing day


More verses here .... plus I think there are other threads that discuss the Oz version too. R-J

16 Mar 23 - 07:32 AM (#4167697)
Subject: RE: Origin: Gentle Annie (Australian version)
From: GerryM

Here's what it says in Therese Radic, Songs of Australian Working Life:

In his notes to *Traditional Singers and Musicians of Victoria* (Wattle Archives Series 2, Page 12) Edgar Waters says:

Tom Newbound learnt this song from Lame Jack Cousens of Springhurst a small town in northern Victoria, a few miles from Rutherglen. Cousens had travelled around farms in both northern Victoria and the Riverina with a steam threshing machine. These travelling threshing machines played an important part in the wheat harvesting, and the workers who travelled with them probably played quite an important part in spreading songs around the wheat farming districts. Jack Cousens said that he had written the words of the song himself, about a girl named Annie Waits, who lived on a farm at Moorwatha on which he had worked a threshing machine.

Gentle Annie is a parody of the song of the same name by Stephen Foster, published in 1856. Many popular songs from the American stage and concert platform were well known in Australia in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and were frequently adapted by bush song-makers to their own ends. Such songs reached Australia in a number of ways. From the time of the gold rushes of the 1850s onwards, they were often introduced to Australia by touring American entertainers belonging to black-face minstrel or variety shows, and – in the case of songs which had caught the popular taste in England – through touring English entertainers also. On the criteria commonly used for the definition of folk song in English-speaking countries, this parody of Gentle Annie is not a folk song. Leaving this question of definition aside, it exemplifies one source of tunes and texts used by bush songmakers in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Its gentle, rather playful tone casts a somewhat unexpected light on the manners of the bush workers.

NOTE: Mr Newbound pointed out that the first two lines of the second verse are a hint that the mutton had been smuggled across the border from Victoria: the songs dates from the period before the federation of the Australian colonies in 1901. The Riverina grows sheep for wool; northern Victoria also grows fat lambs for meat.

Well, there's more, but that will do for now.