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Maria and Bessie Gray and The stockman's last bed

Dr GRAEME SKINNER (University of Sydney)


To cite this:

Graeme Skinner (University of Sydney), "Maria and Bessie Gray and The stockman's last bed", Australharmony (an online resource toward the early history of music in colonial Australia):; accessed 28 February 2024

GRAY, Elizabeth Anne (Bessie GRAY; Mrs. Robert GRAHAM; Elizabeth Anne GRAHAM)

Songwriter, amateur vocalist

Born Scotland, c. 1826/27; daughter of Charles George GRAY (1786-1873) and Jane GROGAN (c. 1801-1870)
Arrived Sydney, NSW, 13 July 1837 (per John Barry, from Dundee, 25 March)
Married Robert GRAHAM, Huntington, Port Macquarie, 27 May 1846
Died Heatherbank, Camberley, Surrey, England, 31 May 1911, aged 85

GRAY, Maria Catherine (Maria Catherine GRAY; Mrs. James Leith HAY; LEITH HAY; LEITH-HAY)

Songwriter, amateur vocalist

Born Scotland, 1829; daughter of Charles George GRAY (1786-1873) and Jane GROGAN (c. 1801-1870)
Arrived Sydney, NSW, 13 July 1837 (per John Barry, from Dundee, 25 March)
Married James Leith HAY (c. 1820-1887), Ipswich, QLD, 19 September 1854
Died Ipswich, QLD, 7 June 1875 (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

See also, on their father: (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

Maria Catherine Gray (Mrs Leith Hay (Gray) c.1860 (SL-QLD)

Maria Catherine Leith Hay, c.1860; SL-QLD (DIGITISED)

Documentation (Gray family)

"SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE", The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (15 July 1837), 2 

From Dundee, same evening [Thursday, 13 July], whence she sailed the 25th March the ship John Barry, Captain Robson with 312 Emigrants, under the superintendence Dr. Thompson, R. N. This vessel has brought up in the Quarantine Ground, in consequence of a fever on board.

[Advertisement], The Australian (22 May 1841), 1 

Desirable Leasehold Estate at Barombin, on the River Hastings, twenty miles from the Town of PORT MACQUARIE, and on the line of Road to NEW ENGLAND, and LIVERPOOL PLAINS . . . HASTINGS PARK is pleasantly undulated, and commands a variety of the picturesque scenery, for which the Hastings is so proverbial. The vicinity is eminent for many distinguished residents connected with the landed and agricultural interests. The grounds immediately adjoin Huntingdon, the beautiful seat of Colonel Gray, and about the extensive estates of Major Innes, while the elegant Villa of Wanchope, and the romantic retreats of Croslands, Rosewood, and others are each within short and delightful drives . . .

"COUNTRY NEWS. PORT MACQUARIE", The Australian (8 July 1841), 4 

. . . Our third night's halting-place is Wallighbrea, another station belonging to Major Innes, and which, under the judicious management of Mr. Edward Barr, promises to become a considerable farming establishment. Nine miles from Wallighbrea is Huntington [sic], the seat of Colonel Gray. Various ramifications of the general line now branch off to the different villas and farms on the banks of the Hastings; but pursuing our journey by the main road, we rapidly push on for its terminus, and at twenty-one miles from Huntington, we behold the Tower of St. Thomas, and emerging from the forest, we arrive at Port Macquarie . . .

At the Queen's Pier then, we bid adieu to those who have patiently followed us from the table-land. Here the eye which may have been somewhat fatigued by the monotony of the bush, will gaze with lively pleasure on the dashing and trim-built vessels which deck the harbour. Here the Hastings, that first crossed our path near Yarrows, in humble sinuous stream, is a broad and spacious river; and lo! on the frothy bar a tiny skiff is leaving the ocean wave, and beating up for its silvan waters.

"She braves the river's foaming crest,
Which hath its secret fountains,
Away in the unpeopled west,
Among unpeopled mountains -
The bar is bare where the white waves sound,
And tide and stream are quivering round,
But the bark hath cross'd for the Hastings bound.
She lies on the mane of a broad green billow,
As a gull might rest on her ocean pillow:-
She flies, like foam, o'er the ragged bar,
And shakes where the waters quiver ;
But steady and strong the keel stands far
Up the Australasian river." . . .

"MARRIED", The Sydney Morning Herald (8 June 1846), 3

At Huntington, Port Macquarie, on the 27th ultimo, by the Rev. Charles Woodward, B.C.L., Robert Graham, Esq., only son of the late Colonel John Graham, of Fintry, to Eliza Anne, eldest daughter of Lieutenant-Colonel C. G. Gray, of Huntington.

"MARRIED", The Moreton Bay Courier (23 September 1854), 2

At Ipswich, Moreton Bay; on the 19th instant. by the Rev. H. O. Irwin, of Brisbane, James Leith Hay, Esq, third son of Colonel Sir Andrew Leith Hay, K.H., F.R.S., L. & K., of Rannes and Leith Hall, Aberdeenshire, to Maria Catherine, youngest daughter of Colonel Gray, late Rifle Brigade, of Huntington, Port Macquarie, New South Wales.

"COLONEL GRAY", Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser (9 September 1873), 3 

. . . in 1837 [he] left with his family to settle in New South Wales. Colonel Gray arrived in Sydney, after a distressing passage of five months, in the ship John Barry; and, after looking about for some time, he determined to settle in Port Macquarie, then and for several years after a penal settlement. He accordingly took up his land-grant on the River Hastings, about twenty miles front the township, where he remained until 1848, when he was appointed Police Magistrate of Gladstone . . .

"Deaths", The Queenslander (12 June 1875), 4

LEITH HAY. - On the 7th June, at Ipswich, Maria, the beloved wife of James Leith Hay, Esq.

"DEATH", Queensland Times (18 July 1911), 4 

GRAHAM. - On the 31st May, at Heatherbank, Camberley, Surrey, Elizabeth Anne, relict of the late Robert Graham, of Fintrey Forfarshire, and eldest daughter of the late Lieut.-Col. Charles George Gray, H. M. Rifle Brigade, 95th Regiment of Ipswich, Queensland.

"Early Settlers: THE LEITH-HAYS AND RANNES STATION", The Central Queensland Herald (14 July 1949), 3

. . . ONLY WHITE WOMAN. A second shipment of wool was made from Gladstone in 1856, and on this journey Mrs. James Leith-Hay came to Rannes. Accompanied by her husband, her baby daughter under 12 months old, and a young woman servant, she travelled over the dangerous road with little escort. Mrs Leith-Hay lived at Rannes for a number of years, and for the greater part of this time enjoyed the distinction of being the most northerly white woman resident in Australia. She was formerly Maria Catherine, the youngest daughter of Colonel Charles George Gray, Police Magistrate of Ipswich . . .

Other sources (Gray family):

Jarry-Gray Manuscript (this exceptionally rare volume was purchased by the Auchmuty Library in 2001, using funds from a private bequest. Its authorship was at that time unknown), Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library; complete manuscript digitised at flickr 

"The Jarry - Gray Manuscript", Posted on Monday, 15 October, 2007; Cultural Collections, University of Newcastle Library 

The original author of the manuscript was Francois Jarry, a French general of the Napoleonic era; the French manuscript consists of over 300 pages of lecture notes on military fortifications and the mapping of battlefields. When turned upside down and opened at the other end, it is written in English and is the working diary of C. G. Gray, as a settler near Port Macquarie in the second half of 1839. Gray had probably acquired the volume while a student at High Wycombe in 1809. Gray was born in Edinburgh in 1786 and fought at Waterloo. At Port Macquarie he later built himself a residence, Huntington House. Gray later became the Police Magistrate at Ipswich, and in 1860 Queensland's first Parliamentary Librarian and Usher of the Black Rod.

References (Gray family):

"Lake Innes Ruins, Port Macquarie, New South Wales", Wikipedia; Wikiwand,_Port_Macquarie,_New_South_Wales,_Port_Macquarie,_New_South_Wales 

Documentation (The stockman's last bed)

For all tagged items in TROVE:'s+last+bed (TROVE tagged by Australharmony)

Stockman's last bed, MS, SL-NSW

[Undated manuscript, ? late 19th-century, ? in the hand of Annabella Boswell], "The stockman's last bed / Written by two Miss Grey's daughters of Col. Grey at Lake Innes in 1836. A parody on the "Last Whistle" then a favorite song"; State Library of New South Wales (DIGITISED)

ASSOCIATIONS: Another source of Annabella Innes Boswell's published account below

The Stockman's Last Bed.

Written by two Miss Grey's daughters of Col. Grey
at Lake Innes in 1836. A parody on the "Last Whistle" then a favorite song.

Whither stockman or not, for a moment give ear
Poor Jack's breathed his last, and no more shall we hear
The crack of his whip or his steed's lively trot,
His clear go a-head and his jingling quart pot.
He rests where the wattles their sweet fragrance shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

When drafting one day he was horned by a cow;
Alas, cried poor Jack, it's all up with me now;
I'll no more return to my saddle again,
Or bound like a wallaby over the plain.
I'll rest where the wattles their sweet fragrance shed
And the tall gum trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

My whip must be silent, my steed he will mourn,
My dogs look in vain for his master's return,
Unknown and forgotten, unheeded I'll die,
Save Australia's dark sons none will know where I lie.
I'll rest where the wattles their sweet fragrance shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

Oh! [--] if ever on some future day,
When after a herd you may happen to stray,
Where lone and forgotten poor Jack's bones are laid
Far, far from the land where in childhood he played.
Tread lightly where wattles, their sweet fragrance shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

"MASONIC - (COMMUNICATED) TO THE EDITOR", The Constitution; or, Cork Advertiser [Ireland] (22 January 1856), 2

Mr. Editor - As many of our citizens and country folk have numerous friends and relations in Australia, the annexed song, which was sung few evenings since at the 3d Lodge of Ireland by an Australian "Stockman," may be interesting, conveying, as it does, a faithful outline of an incident by no means uncommon in the colony. It has been written on the death of "old chum." His body was accidentally discovered 'neath a gum tree (some three weeks after the accident), to which he had crawled his last moments, and carved his name on its bark, having also made his will on a leaf of his pocket book, in which was found large sum of money. The Brother who kindly furnished the words had several men killed in a similar manner. It scarcely necessary to add that he faithfully carried out his friend's last wish. W. A. H.


Ye Stockmen* who're not, to my story give ear,
Poor Jack's gone at last, and more shall you hear
The crack of his whip,+ or his steed's lively trot,
His clear "go ahead" or his jingling quart pot;
He rests where the "Wattle"** their sweet fragrance shed,
And tall gum-trees++ shade the Stockman's last bed.

When drafting one day he was gor'd by a cow,
Alas, says poor Jack, its all up with me now -
I'll never return to my saddle again,
Or bound like a "Wallaby"*** over the plain;
I'll rest where the "Wattle" its sweet fragrance shed,
Where tall gum-trees shadow the Stockman's last bed.

My "whip" will be silent, my dogs they will mourn,
My steer'l look in vain for his master's return;
Unknown and forgotten, unpitied I die,
Save Australia's dark sons, none will know where I lie.
I rest where the wattle its sweet fragrance shed,
And tall gum trees shadow the Stockman's last bed.

Oh, stranger, if ever you're passing this way,
Or after the herd you may happen to stray,
Remember the spot where poor Jack's bones are laid,
Far, far, from the land where in childhood he stray'd;
Tread lightly, where wattles their sweet fragrance shed,
And tall gum-trees shadow the Stockman's last bed!

* Large proprietor of cattle.

+ This formidable Instrument has a whip of untanned leather, four yards long; the handle of hard, heavy, native wood, about 16 inches. Its crack is fully as loud as that of a rifle.

** WATTLE. - The mamosa, a beautiful evergreen, bearing bright yellow blossom, and grows in flats interspersed with the gum-tree.

++ GUM-TREE. - This gigantic tree has been found 30 feet in diameter at three feet from the ground. Straight planks have been taken from it 200 feet long.

*** WALLABY. - A swift species of Kangaroo.

"BUSH LYRICS. THE STOCKMAN'S GRAVE", Bell's Life in Victoria and Sporting Chronicle (24 January 1857), 4 

Be ye bushman or not, to my story give ear,
Poor Jack's breathed at last, and no more shall ye hear,
The crack of his stock whip, his steed's lively trot,
His clear "go-a-head," or his jingling quart pot.
He sleeps where the wattles their sweet perfumes shed,
And the tall gum-trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

Whilst yarding one day, he was horned by a cow;
"Alas", cried poor Jack, "It's all up with me now,
"No more to the saddle shall I vault again,
"Nor bound like a wallaby over the plain.
"I shall sleep where the wattles their sweet perfume shed,
"And the tall gum-trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

"My whip will be silent, his dog now may mourn,
"My steed look in vain for his master's return.
"Unknown and uncared-for, unpitied I die,
"Save Australia's dark sons, none will pass where I lie.
"I'll sleep where the wattles their sweet perfume shed,
"And the tall gum-trees shadow the stockman's last bed."

But, stranger if ever at some future day,
In search of wild cattle you may happen to stray,
To where lone and forgotten poor Jack's bones are laid,
Far, far from the land where in childhood he played.
Tread light where the wattles, their sweet perfume spread,
And the tall gum-trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

"THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. AN AUSTRALIAN SONG. Music arranged by S. H. Marsh", The Illustrated Melbourne Post (25 August 1865), 128 (DIGITISED)

Be ye stockman . . .

"THE ILLUSTRATED PAPERS", Hamilton Spectator and Grange District Advertiser (23 August 1865), 2 

We have received copies of the Melbourne Post and the Australian News, the two illustrated papers now published in Melbourne. They are both capitally got up, and are certainly very creditable productions. The Melbourne Post contains the music and words of a song very well known in this district, namely, "The stockman's last bed," the words of which, we believe, were composed by a lady in the Mt. Gambier district.

"CRICKET MATCH. THE DINNER", Border Watch (18 March 1868), 2 

. . . The Vice-President proposed the toast of "the President." Song - Mr. Singleton, "The Stockman's last bed."

"WESTERN VICTORIAN NOTES", Border Watch (10 June 1876), 3 

Mr. W. Rutledge. of Franham Park, near Warrnambool died on June 1, from dropsy at the age of 70 years. The deceased gentleman was a very old colonist, having arrived in Sydney in 1831 or the year following, from whence he proceeded to Port Phillip. Having been deputed (states the Hamilton Spectator) by Lady Farnham to purchase property in the Australian colonies as a speculation intended for the benefit of her four nephews, Mr. Rutledge, came to Port Fairy in the year 1843. The fine property of Kalangadoo, in South Australia, was purchased, and the Messrs. Hunter, the nephews in question, were afterwards settled thereon. The youngest of them named Frank [? Alix], was killed by a bull at Mount Gambier, and to his memory the now well-known song, "The Stockman's Last Bed," was composed - it is believed by the young gentleman's sister-in-law, Mrs. James Hunter . . .

"THE STOCKMAN'S GRAVE", The Capricornian (22 December 1883), 11s 

Ye bushman or not to my story give ear . . .

"NOTES AND QUERIES", The Australasian (26 September 1885), 7 

"The Stockman's Last Bed" was published on page 552 in "The Australasian" of last week. A correspondent kindly sends me the following particulars concerning this verse:-

"The words were sent to me by Mr. Brodribb, of Sydney, one of the earliest settlers in the colonics. He knew 'Poor Jack' well, also the gentleman who composed the words of the song, a Mr. Townsend, one of the first surveyors in New South Wales, who has since died in London. 'Poor Jack' was a stockman who led a solitary life in the Maneroo or Monaro Mountains, where he was buried after having been fatally gored by a steer. It was in the year 1885 that Mr. Broadribb [sic] knew both Mr. Townsend and 'Poor Jack.'"

According to this alternative origin story, the author of the song was Thomas Scott Townsend (d.1869), who worked in the surveyor general's department in the 1830s. The informant was probably William Adam Broadribb (d.1886)

"THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED", Once a Month: An Illustrated Australasian Magazine (1885), 373

Be ye stockman . . .

"OUR QUESTION BOX", The Herald [Melbourne, VIC] (1 October 1885), 3 

"Stockwhip" writes: - Can you inform me where I can get the song, "The Stockman's Last Bed," a copy of which is subjoined. The words are Gordon's [sic], and the music I can not cay whose. But it has been set to music and that very prettily. I have heard It sung by a lady in South Australia, who sings and plays it without music, and unfortunately cannot recollect where or when she first heard it. I have tried every music seller in the colonies without success. Here are the verses:


Be ye stockmen or not,
To my story give ear,
Poor Jack is gone at last,
And no longer yon'll hear
The crack of his stockwhip
And his steed's lively trot
Or his clear "Go-a-head!"
And his jingling quart pot:
For he sleeps where the wattles their sweet perfume shed,
Aud the tall gum trees shadow the Stockman's last bed.

While yarding in cattle
He was gored by a cow,
Then "Alas!" cried poor Jack,
"It's all up with me now;
No more to the saddle
I will vault light again.
Nor bound like the wallaby
All over the plain;
For I'll sleep where the wattles their sweet perfume shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the Stockman's last bed.

And, stranger, if ever
At some future day,
In search of a mob
You should happen to stray,
Tread light where, forgotten,
Poor old Jack's bones are laid,
Far, far from the scenes where
In childhood he played;
For he sleeps where the wattles their sweet perfume shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the Stockman's last bed.

Although the metre is irregular there breathes a strain of feeling through the whole poem, which bring to the mind's eye the rollicking, genial stockdriver cut off in the full swing of a tearing gallop. As an enthusiastic admirer of, perhaps, Australia's sweetest singer, poor Gordon, I should very much like to get a copy, at any price, of this poem. It rings with the tramp of the herd, the crack of the stockwhip, the thousand and one wild echoes of the weird and wondrous Australian bush.

"THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED", The Herald (3 October 1885), 3 

In our issue of Thursday last "Stockwhip" made an inquiry as to some verses entitled "The Stockman's Last Bed," which he said were from the pen of the Australian poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon, and were set to music by some person whose name our correspondent did not know. "Stockwhip" enclosed a copy ef the verses, which we published, and he asked if any of our readers could inform him where he could get the music. We have received quite a number of replies, and from these it appears there is a doubt as to the authorship. It also seems that "Stockwhip" did not quote the verses quite correctly. We give below a few extracts from letters sent on the subject: -

Mr. J. W. Meaden, of Bridport street, Albert Park (author of the Exhibition Cantata), writes: -

The song referred to by your correspondent Stockwhip appeared many years ago in an Illustrated paper named the "Melbourne Post." The name of the composer, is Mr. S. H. Marsh. The name of the author of the words does not appear in the copy. Like your correspondent, I am struck by the beauty and poetic feeling of the lines. I remember being impressed by the thought that it was the first truly "Australian" song I had met with. For this reason I cut it out, and have preserved it till now. If your correspondent will send me his address I will get my daughter to copy the music, and will forward it to him."

Mr. M. O'Donnell, of Canning street, Hotham Hill, says:-

If "Stockwhip" will call on me I will be most happy to give him the music of "The Stockman's last Bed." I got both score and words from Tom D'Arcy, a horse owner and farmer, of Greendale, who knew Gordon personally. If "Stockwhip" experiences the same amount of pleasure from the song that I did in learning it, I will be sufficiently rewarded."

"R. B." observes:-

With regard to the verses called "The Stockman's Last Bed," I beg to forward a copy of them as I have heard them sung, in which the metre flows smoothly, a meter which is essentially necessary in such a singable melody. The music, but not a good rendering of it, was given a few years ago in one or the Melbourne illustrated papers, but not being pleased with the cramped way in which it was set I did not care to preserve it. Is your correspondent sure that the verses are Gordon's. I have very great doubts about such being the fact. But, however that may me, they are, to my thinking, true poetry.

The correspondent forwards a copy of the verses which are almost identical with those given below, the only difference being one or two verbal ones . . .

"J. [?]" [J. W. ?] (Carlton) writes: -

About 40 years ago I heard "The Stockman's Last Bed" sing, consequently the words cannot be by Gordon. Poor Jack, so some such title, was the name of n [?] [no-/ne- ?], the refrain being "When he hears the last whistle he'll jump on the deck."

"Old Chum" sends the following contribution to the correspondence:-

Permit me to correct "Stockwhip" as to his facts. The words are not by A. L. Gordon, the song having been a favorite around camp fires in the early days of "Ovens"-ing. A have had it in my possession over many years; have heard it sang several times in Gordon's presence, when he made no claim to be its author. That "Stockwhip" heard it by a lady in South Australia without music, I can only regret (for his sake). The words of the song "Stockwhip" refers to are set to the music of an old sea song, entitled "The Boatswain's Last Whistle," but I [know] the score is not obtainable here, as I have [searched] for it high and low without success . . .

["Old Chum's version of the words are printed, but mostly missing in scanned copy] . . .

ASSOCIATIONS: Adam Lindsay Gordon; "Old Chum", perhaps Joseph Michael Forde

"The Stockman's Last Bed", Evening News (17 October 1885), 7 

Be ye stockman . . .

"BUSH BALLADS", The bulletin (31 October 1885) 3 

Sir, - In Bulletin of 10th October (which does not reach our back-block country until some ten days after the publishing date) you comment upon a letter in the Melbourne Herald accusing "Long" Gordon of writing what the Herald correspondent calls the "Stockman's Last Bed." "The Stockman's Grave," written by George Moran, a Northern Territory bushman, in 1863, is the song asked for.
It runs thus:-

Ye bushmen, or not, to my story give ear,
Poor Jack he has gone and no more we shall hear
The crack of his stockwhip or steed's steady trot,
His clear "Slew the lead," or his jingling quart pot.
In a nook where the wattles and wild flowers wave,
The tall gum trees shadow the stockman's lone grave . . .

While yarding one day he was rushed by a cow,
"Alas" cried poor Jack, "lt's all up with me now;
My seat in the saddle I'll ne'er take again,
Nor bound on a buckjumper over the plain."
In a nook, etc.

"My whip shall be silent, my dogs they will mourn,
My horse look in vain for his master's return;
All alone and uncared for, unpitied, I die,
Save Australia's dark sons, none shall know where I lie."
In a nook, etc.

So, stockmen beware, when you're passing that way,
If ever in search of a mob you should stray,
Tread lightly down there where the wattle trees wave,
In the bend of the creek is the stockman's lone grave.
In a nook where the wattles and wild flowers wave,
The tall gum tree shadows the stockman's lone grave.

There is the song asked for, and, if it has not been already supplied you, may be of use to the gentleman seeking it through the Herald. At the same time, I might remark, as one who knew Gordon well (though I lost sight of him after he went to Melbourne), that if half the sickening posthumous praise he received had assumed the form of practical sympathy during the last three months of his life, that lonely strip of beach at Brighton had not been stained with his blood, and we might to-day have been listening to the voice of one at least of those ill-fated three, who gave the lie to the assertion there is no school of poetry in the land of the songless bird. To accuse Gordon of writing such "muck" as the verse quoted in the Herald is an insult to the memory of that erratic and ill-fated genius, which no man capable of appreciating poetry would be guilty of. Gordon was just the last man in the world to write such arrant nonsense as "No more to the saddle I'll vault light again." . . .

The gentleman who could enthuse over that effusion and associate the "Stockman's Bed" with the running fire of stockwhips, and the fiery run of hoofs, with the rush and scamper of the "nuggets," and the yells and shouting which accompany a muster, may, perhaps, be able to coruscate over the following lines, portion of one of Gordon's prentice efforts, and written as early as 1853:

"Let woman's nature cherish grief,
I barely heave a sigh
Before emotion takes relief
In listless apathy,
While from the pipe the vapours curl
Towards the evening sky.
And 'neath my feet the billows whirl
In dull monotony.

The sky still wears the crimson streak
Of Sol's departing ray:
Some briny drops are on my cheek -
'Tis but the salt sea spray!
Then let our barque the ocean roam.
Our keel the billows plough!
I shed no tear on quitting home.
Nor will I shed them now.

The bird which could warble a musical lay in '53 would scarcely sound the euphonious note of the jackass in 1863. In, the following lines there breathes the spirit which pervades most of his subsequent writings:-

While the bells on distant cattle
Waft across the range,
Through the scented golden wattle,
Music, low and strange.

This is an Australian picture. The bushman wants no interpretation of it. He does not require to read between the lines. He sees the picture as the Poet saw it; he is lying beside the camp fire; a cool evening after a hot day, the drays are drawn up close together, tarpaulins are spread, the beds are made, he thinks of turning in, and raising himself on his elbow listens for a moment to the bells to get the bearings of his teams so that he may find them when daylight breaks. A soft zephyr floats down the gully through the grove of wattles, and with the perfume of the golden blossoms comes the music of 20 or 30 bullock-bells, the sound harmonised by distance, the effect calculated to awaken the poetic sensibilities, however dormant, in the roughest hairy-chested bullock puncher who ever cursed his near-side leader, or playfully tied true lovers knots in the tail of an ugly, crooked-pulling camp bullock. Bush poetry, so called, is, like Dibdin's sea songs, more frequently heard elsewhere than amid its proper surroundings. The sea songs of the stage are not the "shantys" of the fo'ksle, nor is the bush poetry of the city the galloping rhyme of the back-blocks. The dying stockman of the poet (and, by the way, I never saw or heard of a dying or dead stockman, not in harness, anyway), is not the dying bushman of the bush. The only difference between a dying stockman and a dying policeman is that the latter "dies" while the [f]ormer "pegs out." The "Silver punch bowl," "The broken-hearted shearer," "Burke and Wills," and the "Stockman's grave," are not nearly so well known in the bush as "Nancy Lee," "Widow Dunn," "Silver threads," &c., &c. Let me close this sketch with -



I'm a broken-hearted shearer, and ashamed to show my face,
The way that I've been treated is a shame and a disgrace;
I raked a cheque together, and thought that it would do,
So I went down to Sydney just to spend a week or two;
I thought I was no "flat," so resolved to "cut it fat,"
Dressed myself from top to toe, put a pugg'ry round my hat;
Then I went to get a nobbler at a certain house in town,
Where the barmaid was a caution to lamb a shearer down.
CHORUS (omnes) - "To lamb, &c.

Oh, she tossed me up at "Yankee grab" to keep me on the booze,
And, somehow or the other, I was always bound to loose;
She would turn and twist about, saying "That slews you, old chap;"
"Sold again and got the money," "Who struck Buckley such a rap?"
She had all the slang and flash talk that was going round the town,
And she'd sling it at me right and left while I was lambing down.

Now, my money being finished, I resolved to know my fate.
So I asked this pretty barmaid if she would be my mate.
She said: "Young man be civil, on my feelings don't encroach;
I'm a decent married woman, and my husband drives the coach!"
My smiles, that used to be, were all turned into frowns,
When she made the grand discovery that she had me lambed down.

Oh! I have sold my good old horse, and I'll get some work, I hope;
I've some tea, and some tobacco, and a half a bar of soap.
Some flour and some matches, a billy, and jack shay.
And box of Cookie's pills, and a jar of Holloway.
A that's all my five years' gathering since last I left the town,
But it's nothing when you're used to it to do a lambing down.

The old-time bushman will guarantee the fidelity of this sketch. The city bushman, who would get lost In the Domain at night, perhaps will not.

A. O.

"THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED", Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette (2 March 1886), 4 

Be ye stockman . . .

THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED, The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (5 May 1886), 2 supplement

"THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED", The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (5 May 1886), 2 supplement (with illustration, above) 

Be ye stockman . . .

"The Stockman's Last Bed", The Port Augusta Dispatch, Newcastle and Flinders Chronicle (10 May 1886), 3 

In a late issue reference was made to this song in connection with the absurd colored supplement of the last Australian Sketcher. That journal states that the author is unknown, and that "Poor Jack" is believed to have been a Manaroo stock man; but though the song is certainly an old one (for Australia), its origin is not yet lost in the mists of antiquity, and there must still be in Victoria and Riverina a considerable number of men who, 20 years or so back, heard the author, "Long Murphy," sing it, and tell the story of its composition at many a camp fire. The air, like the verses, is decidedly original, and the refrain when artistically sung has a very pleasing effect. Murphy wrote the verses on a Wangaratta station (Victoria) in memory of a stockman who was killed there while branding, and the original draft was afterwards revised and enlarged by himself and three or four of his comrades, who among them managed to piece together an air to suit it. Murphy was a noted horseman and stockman in his day, though, having held a commission in the cavalry before coming to Australia, his seat betrayed the dragoon, in spite of his having served his noviciate under that now forgotten worthy, "Billy-go-round 'em." Adam Lindsay Gordon might have had poor Murphy and his song in mind, when writing the following lines in the "Sick Stockrider": -

"Aye! nearly all our comrades of the old colonial school,
Our ancient boon companions, Ned, are gone;
Hard livers for the most part, somewhat reckless as a rule,-
It seems that you and I are left alone,

There was Hughes, who got in trouble, through that business with the cards,
It matters little what became of him;
But a steer ripped up Macpherson in the Cooraminta yards;
And Sullivan was drowned at Sink-or-swim,
And Mostyn - poor Frank Mostyn - died at last a fearful wreck,
In the " horrers" at the Upper Wandinong;
And Carisbrooke, the rider, at the Horsefall broke his neck;
Faith! the wonder was he saved his neck so long."

We give below the song as Murphy used to sing it; the version differs in some points from that printed by the Sketcher some one having apparently revised it for the Press, without improving it. A cow is just as poetical as a steer, and the expression, "It's all up with me, here," has been manifestly coined to rhyme with "steer." . . .[song text]

In this origin story, the supposed author is perhaps Francis Murphy (1809-1891).

Douglas B. W. Sladen, A century of Australian song, centenary edition (London: Walter Scott, 1888), 543 (DIGITISED)

By the kindness of The Hon. Mrs. W. E. Cavendish, herself an Australian,
the editor has been enabled to lay before English readers the three Australian songs most sung in the Bush - all of them thoroughly racy of the soil.


I. Whether stockman or not,
For a moment give ear
Poor Jack, he is dead,
And no more shall we hear
The crack of his whip,
Or his steed's lively trot,
His clear "go ahead,"
Or his jingling quart pot.
For he sleeps where the wattles
Their sweet fragrance shed,
And tall gum-trees shadow
The Stockman's last bed!

[544] II. One day, while out yarding,
He was gored by a steer.
"Alas ! " cried poor Jack,
'"Tis all up with me here;"
And never shall I
The saddle regain,
Or bound like a wallaby
Over the plain.
So they've laid him where wattles
Their sweet fragrance shed, &c.

III. His whip at his side,
His dogs they all mourn,
His horse stands awaiting
His master's return;
While he lies neglected, -
Unheeded he dies;
Save Australia's dark children,
None knows where he lies;
For he sleeps, &c.

IV. Then, Stockman, if ever,
On some future day.
While following a mob,
You should happen to stray -
Oh ! pause by the spot:
Where poor Jack's bones are laid.
Far, far from the home
Where in childhood he strayed.
[545] And tread softly where wattles
Their sweet fragrance shed,
And tall gum-trees shadow
The Stockman's last bed.


I. Lift me down to the creek-bank, Jack;
It must be cooler outside:
The long hot day is well-nigh done,
It's a chance if I see another one.
I should like to look on the setting sun,
And the waters cool and wide . . . [9 stanzas]


I. His other name ? 'Well, there Em stumped
He was tall, sir, dark and slim,
And we - that is, my mates and I -
Just called him " Careless Jim,"
That was all we knew - to his other name
No thought we ever gave,
Until one day, at the foot of the mount,
When we laid him in his grave . . . (7 stanzas)

ASSOCIATIONS: Mrs. W. E. Cavendish = Elizabeth Janet Baillie (c. 1865-1935), a daughter of the squatter-pastoralist Thomas Baillie (1823-1889); Baillie's Toorak mansion was later purchased by W. H. Glen

"THE DYING STOCKMAN", The bulletin (23 June 1888), 6 

Dear Bulletin, - You published some time ago an article on Australian Bush Songs, and gave several specimens of back-blocks verse. In the beginning of January, 1865, I was a passenger by the Three Friends from a small settlement on the Lower Burdekin called Wickham, and, as is usual, those on board did their best to make the time pass pleasantly. One young woman was asked to sing, and she said she only knew one song, which she had learnt at the station she came from. It had been taught her by an old cook, and it was called the "Dying Stockman." She said that it had been composed by a mate of the cook's. You gave one verse in your article on "Bush Songs," and if you think it worth publishing here it is: -


Whether stockman or not, one moment give ear - . . .

I am afraid this is not very poetical, it may even be very commonplace, but when sung, as it was then, it sounded very pathetic. - Yours, VINCA, Townsville (Q.)

"THE DYING STOCKMAN", Kerang Times and Swan Hill Gazette (6 July 1888), 1 

Whether stockman . . .

Nehemiah Bartley, Opals and agates; or, Scenes under the Southern Cross and the Magelhans: being memoirs of fifty years of Australia and Polynesia (Brisbane: Gordon and Gotch, 1892), 133 

[131] . . . let me resume my recollections of people and places in the olden days (say) in October, 1857 . . . [132] . . . I was glad to reach Warwick at night. Here I met Arthur Macarthur, Dalrymple, and McEvoy, the chief constable. Willy Campbell and Jack Lamb, of Sydney, arrived next morning to [133] breakfast, from New England, and I travelled to Ipswich with them . . . Our conversation, as we rode eastward in the rain, was of the folly of mere money-grubbing, and Campbell sung us the "Stockman's Grave," a plaintive bush ditty. We were all bachelors, with small waists then . . .

"Country Notes", Australian Town and Country Journal (14 October 1893), 17 

The shearers at Paika held a little concert the other day in the woolshed, and among the songs were "The Stockman's Lone Grave" and "The Used Up Stokman". Australian poets seem to have selected the stockman and boundary riders as objects at which to pelt all sorts of pathetic situations. The stockman of the songs is generally experiencing something depressing, and enough songs and poems have been written about lonely graves to smother all the lonely graves in Australia. There ought to be more "Clancys of the Overflow".

"THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED", The Queenslander (6 October 1894), 644 

A Victorian correspondent, "C. W.," in forwarding a copy of the song "The Stockman's Last Bed," which we published some weeks ago, gives the following account of the origin of the song, the author of which was the late Mr. Thomas Townsend:-

Far away from the haunts of men, near the lonely Manaroo Mountains, many years ago there lived, in his solitary log hut, "Poor Jack," a stockman, well known to a few of the early settlers in that district and to Mr. Thomas Townsend, one of the earliest surveyors in New South Wales, and long since dead, who has made the lonely stockman famous in his simple bush ballad, "The Stockman's Last Bed," which many people have imputed to Adam Lindsay Gordon, confusing it, I suppose, with his "Sick Stockrider." The simple words strike straight home to the heart of all true Australians, and to any one else who has spent much of his time in the lonely bush of any of the colonies. It is not only some other stock man who lends a willing ear to the story of "Poor Jack," though to him, of course, it must appeal more directly than to any one else, but all over the colonies you will come across some man, woman, or child who knows the words by heart. Occasionally you will hear it sung in the drawing-room, though more often it is one of the great songs of the drover's camp, sung by some stalwart Australian youth with his clear, pleasant voice. It is one of the favourite songs in our house, even to the baby boy of 4, who asks " Mother" to sing the story of "Poor Jack" as the little chap prepares to curl up to sleep for the night. For the benefit of those who know the words and not the air I may say that they are sung to the tune of "The Bosun's Last Whistle," but I tried to get the music even in London, and could not; so, knowing the air, I just arranged a few chords for the accompaniment. The lonely grave was marked only by a rough bush headstone placed there by the one or two men who knew of his sad death, and gave him the only burial possible in that out-of-the-way place in their tough but kind way. Long years afterwards I heard him spoken well and kindly of by an old squatter who knew "Poor Jack" well; and the same gentleman told me that he knew Mr. Townsend too, and remembered when he wrote "The Stockman's Last Bed," some time after "Poor Jack's" death.

"A LITERARY QUERY. (To the Editor of the Hamilton Spectator)", Hamilton Spectator (29 August 1901), 4 

SIR, - Can any of your reader supply the words and music of "The stockman's last bed." The song was a favourite at convivial gatherings in the Western District in the early days of squatting . . .

"The Stockman's Last Bed", Australian Town and Country Journal (2 December 1903), 42 

Be ye stockman . . .

"The Stockman's Grave", The Newsletter: an Australian Paper for Australian People (20 February 1904), 22 

(A once famous Australian song, seldom heard now.) Be ye stockman . . .

"CORRESPONDENCE. THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. To the Editor", Sporting Times [London] (6 August 1904), 11

Sir, - ln your issue of May 28 I notice a letter signed Charles L. Auld asking for the words of a song, of which he gives the last verse, called the "Stockman's Last Bed." Here they are: -

Be ye stockman or not, to my 'story give ear . . .

I have only heard the song once. It was sung by a shipmaster at a whisky fight on board a country ship in Calcutta somewhere about 1870. I was only a second mate at the time and, according to the traditions of the sea, not eligible to attend the drinking, but heard it through the skylight and persuaded the singer to furnish me wth the words afterwards. - Yours faithfully, PAGODA. Rangoon, June 27.

"CORRESPONDENCE. THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. To the Editor", Sporting Times [London] (3 September 1904), 10

Dear Sir, - In your issue of May your correspondent, Mr. Charles L. Ault [sic], asks for the words and music of an old Australian song called "The Stockman's Last Bed." It was written anonymously about twenty-five years ago, and I or my friends have never seen any music published to it. I have inquired at the big Melbourne music warehouses, and have been informed that the music was never published. When as boys used to sing it on my father's cattle station[.] I have heard many various versions and renderings the song. If Mr. Ault is still desirous having the music, I shall happy to transcribe the air as we used to sing it, and post it him if he writes to me direct.
- I am, Yours sincerely, A. NORMAN McARTHUR,
74, Collins Street, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, July 13, 1904.
P.S. - I attach the words of the verses.

THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. Be ye a stockman or no, to my story give ear . . .

"ON THE WALLABY", The North Queensland Register (17 October 1904), 11 supplement 

What has become of the old-time familiar home-made bush songs, sung everywhere, years ago in camps, sheds, and on the billabongs? One hardly ever hears any of the old lays now. There were really some fine songs full of the spirit of the bush, and racy of the soil. The bush manufactured tunes to the words were full of quaint, sad and joyous melody, and in harmony with the surroundings where they were sung. The beauty of these bush songs, words as well as music, was the fact that they were never actually written or set to music; they sort o' growed and were improved upon as they went along, similar to the old Scotch lores and sea-shanties. It really seems a pity that someone hasn't undertaken the task of collecting the best of these bush shanties and have the music written down. Those who have heard some of them sung on clear starlit summer skies in camps along the placid rivers, will forever be haunted by them, and agree with us that they, many of them, tune and all are well worth preservation. Every European country has its stock of national folks lore, i.e., songs that have grown out of the hearts of the people, and which express the loves and general sentiments of the folks. How they have originated no one can actually define. Australia being a new country has no history, and is rapidly losing natural aspect and mode of living. In the not very distant future, though we may not ses it, our great wide bush will be populated and shorn of its aboriginal wool. The wallaby track will be obliterated and whalers, sundowners and other Wallabists, as well as kangaroos, emus, 'possums relics of the pet, while shearing will be done in large sheds with railways running through them in towns. Sheep and cattle will be artificially reared, and the bark of the collie-dog and the crack of the stock whip will be forever silent and replaced by the shrill shriek of factory whistles. Let us then try and retain some memories of the old bush life for our successors, and the old natural bush songs will convey the best idea. The so called acknowledged school of Australian description bush writers are not natural enough. They all overdraw to extremities and work too much on their futile imaginations. One of the, best bush songs I remember I append herewith. It has a very beautiful and plaintive air {I wish I could write down the music), and has been sung by bushmen throughout Australasia for many years before we were born. Who the author is or who hooked the tune onto the words nobody knows. Many old bushmen will fondly remember the words. Perhaps the words will recall many happy days of the old camping time as well as the names of old long gone mates.

THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. Be ye stockmen or not . . .

A. B. Paterson, The old bush songs composed and sung in the bushranging, digging, and overlanding days (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1905), 110 (DIGITISED)

THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. Be ye stockmen or no . . .

ASSOCIATIONS: Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson

Old pioneering days in the sunny south by Chas. MacAlister (Goulburn: Chas. MacAlister Book Publication Committee, 1907), 35 (DIGITISED)

[page 31] The six or seven years from 1839 to 1845-46 were, perhaps, in a physical sense, the "hardest winters" the Author has known in his career . . . [35] . . . And though our musical education had been neglected, there were amongst the old carriers singers who, metaphorically, could move the "soul of a crocodile." Such songs as "The Old Bark Hut"; "The Old Bullock-dray"; "The Stockman’s Last Bed"; "Black-eyed Susan"; and "The Wild Colonial Boy" were the chief "classics" known to the platform of the camp-fire; and in concluding this first chapter on the "Carrying Times," we will submit a verse of that early Australian song, "The Old Bullock-dray," as sung in the formative years: - "Oh, the shearing all is over, and the wool is coming down . . ."

ASSOCIATIONS: Charles MacAlister (1830-1908)

"GOOD (AND BAD) OLD TIMES", The Worker [Wagga, NSW] (5 March 1908), 27 

Annabella Innes (later Mrs. Boswell), c. late 1840s

Annabella Innes (later Mrs. Boswell), c. late 1840s

A. A. C. D. Boswell, Some recollections of my early days written at different periods ([no publications details, c. 1911]), 107-08 (DIGITISED)

In 1846 our friend, Mr. William Mackenzie, went to China, and his partner, Mr. Robert Graham, married Miss Grey [Gray], and took his bride to the Cape, where they settled permanently, but before that Colonel Grey had brought both his daughters to stay with us. I shall never forget Maria's first visit. She was then about 16, and the prettiest little creature imaginable . . . We all succumbed at once to her many charms . . .

After dinner the sisters sang to us sweetly. Maria sang a perfect second, though she did not know a note of music. Both the girls were good French scholars and well read, as Colonel Grey possessed a good library. Their education had been carried on under his direction, assisted by an accomplished and eccentric gentleman, who for some time employed himself as tutor to their brothers. Bessy [108] wrote some pretty poems, not without merit, and together they composed a parody on what was then a very favourite song, "The Last Whistle" - which they called "The Stockman's Last Bed." I here give a copy of it.



Whether stockman or not, for a moment give ear,
Poor Jack's breathed his last, and no more shall we hear,
The crack of his whip or his steed's lively trot,
His clear go a-head and his jingling quart pot.
He rests where the wattles their sweet fragrance shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stock man's last bed.

Whilst drafting one day he was horned by a cow.
Alas, cried poor Jack, it's all up with me now,
I'll no more return to my saddle again,
Or bound like a wallaby over the plain.
I'll rest where the wattles their sweet fragrance shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stock man's last bed.

My whip must be silent, his steed he will mourn,
My dogs look in vain for his master's return.
Unknown and forgotten, unheeded I die,
Save Australia's dark sons none will know where I lie.
I'll rest where the wattles their sweet fragrance shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stock man's last bed.

Oh! stranger if ever on some future day,
When after a herd you may happen to stray,
Where lone and forgotten poor Jack's bones are laid
Far, far from the land where in childhood he played.
Tread lightly where wattles, there [their] sweet fragrance spread,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stock man's last bed.

But it was as a "Siffleuse" that Maria most distinguished herself and astonished us. In these days she might have rivalled the lady of American fame, but when we were girls, no lady was supposed ever to do such a manly thing as to whistle, so perhaps having to listen to her with closed doors or in the open air when none of our elders were near, added a charm. Her brother Charlie was equally accomplished, and when they whistled a duet together it was inexpressively charming, unlike any music I ever heard, so thrillingly clear and effective.

ASSOCIATIONS: Annabella Alexandra Campbell Innes, Mrs. Boswell (diarist)

"MORE ABOUT GORDON. By W. FARMER WHYTE", Sydney Mail (13 November 1912), 20

. . . THE three bush poems to which, reference is here made are "The Stockman's Last Bed," "The Bushman's Lullaby," and "Careless Jim.' Of "The Bushman's Lullaby" Mr. Sladen remarks: "Attributed also to Henry Kingsley." Of "The Stockman's Last Bed;" "I have been told that it was written by the beautiful Miss Hunter, who afterwards became Mrs. Charles Rome, but I think there is better ground for supposing that it was written by her sister-in-law, Mrs. James Hunter. Mr. C. D. Mackellar, who stayed at Kalangadoo station when it belonged to the Hunters, believes that Gordon wrote it himself; and gave it to one of the Hunters." It is generally accepted that Gordon did not write them.

"AUSTRALIA'S POET", Western Mail (13 December 1912), 57 

. . . Still more ridiculous is the insertion of three "bush songs," which Mr. Sladen I says are "attributed to Gordon." Who attributes them is a mystery. Certainly not "Banjo Patterson," who printed one of them in his collection of bush songs of unknown authorship. The best and most widely known of the three - "The Stockman's Last Bed" - was, in fact, written on the Goulburn in 1846 - when Gordon was a schoolboy in England. It was even 6ung in a Cork theatre, as an interlude to an amateur dramatic performance, in 1851 - two years before Gordon saw Australia. A Victorian on a home trip sang it. He appeared in blue jumper, moleskin pants, blucher boots, and a cabbage-tree hat, and made a sensation with his stockwhip cracking accompaniment. It is a pity Mr. Sladen, whose one year in Australia seems to have given him the wildly erroneous idea that he knows the continent, was not better informed on his subject generally . . .

"ON THE TRACK. By Bill Bowyang", Townsville Daily Bulletin (23 February 1924), 11 

"Greenhide Bill" states that "Waltzing Matilda" was composed by A. B. ("Banjo") Paterson, in the Nineties at Dagworth Station, Winton, and was set to music by the Miss MaePherson who married Mr. Samuel McCowan. I am writing to Mr. Paterson regarding the authorship of this verse, and will publish his reply in the "Track." "Greenhide Bill" also kindly forwards another version of the "Stockman's Last Bed," which appears below. He states that he understood it was composed by Gordon. He first saw it in a small collection of bush songs which included "The Broken Down Squatter," "The Old Bark Hut," "Riverine," "The Wild Colonial Boy," and others. An old pedler sold this book about the (then) back country of N.S.W. . . .

THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. Whether stockman or not, to my story give ear / Poor Jack, he is dead . . .

"TO THE EDITOR", Sydney Mail (12 March 1924), 43 

. . . Mrs. P. C. Boswell, in her reminiscences, has left us some interesting information of early days in this district. She says that Miss Maria Gray, daughter of Colonel Gray (who was a regular visitor to Port Macquarie 80 years ago) wrote "The Stockman's Last Bed." The authorship of this is sometimes credited to Adam Lindsay Gordon.
Yours, etc. A. E. POUNTNEY.
Port Macquarie, March 1.

"ON THE TRACK. By Bill Bowyang . . . OLD BUSH SONGS", Townsville Daily Bulletin (14 May 1924), 9 

Since I first published in one of my articles a version of "The Stockman's Last Bed," several readers have named the author of these lines. Tt appears they were right off the track. The following is from Mr. Thomas Dunn, a resident of Charters Towers: -

Dear Bill. - In 1868 Jack Horsapple was killed at McNab's station, at the head of the Dawson. If I remember rightly his horse struck an antbed. A man named D. Rankin and myself, after listening to an account of the accident, wrote the words of the :Stockman's Last Bed." Others claiming; authorship of those verses are guilty of plagiarism.

(It is a pleasure to hear from Mr. Dunn, and his letter should set at rest all doubts as to the true authorship of the above-mentioned old bush song. I also thank Mr. Dunn, for the words of another of his songs, The Country Carrier." This will appear in my next article.)

The following is Mr. Dunn's version of "The Stockman's Last Bed."


Come stockman or not, to my story give ear . . .

"ON THE TRACK . . . OLD BUSH SONGS", Townsville Daily Bulletin (19 July 1924), 6 magazine 

"Goonah Goorah" (Townsville) writes as follows: -

I have no time for literary pirates, and I know you have had occasion personally to speak of their activities. Also I have no axe to grind, as you know, and write as an old friend and contributor to your interesting articles, which you do your best to keep as clean and reliable as possible from an Australian Journalist's point of view. I have road with much astonishment Mr. Dunn's extraordinary claim to be the author of numerous bush poems, but when he claims to be the author of the old song, "My Old Grey Mare and I" or "Carrier Joe," well Bill I cannot keep silent any longer . . .

"Old Bush Girl" (Townsville) writes: -

Re the "Stockman's Last Bed," of which Mr. Dunn claims to be the author. Between 30 and 40 years ago, one of the Southern papers published it as a supplement to a Christmas number the words, with illustration, of the above poem. The illustration showed a grave at the foot of a tall gum tree. On the trunk of the tree was carved a rough cross and the words, "Poor Jack." A stockman stood beside the grove, hat in hand, and held his horse by the bridle. The poetry was considered an old piece then. I cannot clearly remember the name of the paper, but I think it was the "Queenslander." I should, with Mr. C. Doering, like to inquire how old Mr. Dunn is.

(Further dismission on the above subject is not Invited. - "B.B.")

"THE POETS' CORNER AT DINGLEY DELL", The Argus (26 May 1934), 9

THE SICK STOCKRIDER. By J. B. COOPER . . . In a letter he wrote to his friend, John Riddock, under date October 10, 1868, Gordon said: "I am going to send you the new 'Colonial Monthly.' It is a very good magazine. Marcus Clarke, the editor, is a very nice young fellow." Clarke at the time was 22 years of age, and Gordon was 35, and they were great friends; but their schooling in life had been different. Clarke was "a man about town," a literary Autolycus, and a clubbable companion, a man Dr. Johnson would have liked. Gordon was a man from the bush, a son of fantasy; a child of melancholy. The poem "The Sick Stockrider" first appeared under Clarke's editorship in the "Colonial Monthly" in January, 1870, and it was written at Yallum (S.A.), in January, 1869. Douglas B. W. Sladen, a hero worshipper of Gordon, and who was educated at the same school as Gordon, Cheltenham College, was for a time resident in Melbourne, Sladen wrote, in collaboration with Miss Humphris in England, a book called "Adam Lindsay Gordon and His Friends," published by Constable and Company in 1912. In this book, alluding to "The Sick Stockrider," Sladen says, "This poem is the euthanasia of Adam Lindsay Gordon." Marcus Clarke was fond of quoting the second last verse of "The Sick Stockrider," beginning with the lines, "I've had my share of pastime, and I've done my share of toil." The poem "The Sick Stockrider" is regarded as the peak of Gordon's genius. Douglas Sladen states: "There are three songs very much sung in the bush, but I think without reason, attributed to Gordon. They are 'The Stockman's Last Bed,' 'The Bushman's Lullaby,' and 'Careless Jim.'. I have been told that 'The Stockman's Last Bed' was written by the beautiful Miss Hunter, who afterward became Mrs. Charles Rome, but I think there is better ground for supposing that it was written by her sister-in-law, Mrs. James Hunter. Mr. C. D. Mackellar, who stayed at Kalangdoo Station when it belonged to the Hunters, believes that Gordon wrote it himself and gave it to one of the Hunters." I found by chance, in the newspaper, "Bell's Life in Victoria," afterwards incorporated in "The Australasian," some verses called "The Stockman's Grave." They were published on January 24, 1857, and were unsigned, and the verses are the same as those quoted by Sladen under the caption "The Stockman's Last Bed." Gordon was a constant contributor to "Bell's Life," and he probably saw the verses and committed them to memory. He had the gift, in an exceptional degree, of remembering anything he had read. To me it seems that Gordon partly owed the finished poem of "The Sick Stockrider" to the crude ideas expressed in "The Stockman's Grave," and also that Gordon was indebted to "The Bushman's Lullaby," "The Stockman's Grave" has a varying refrain. One is:

He sleeps where the wattles their sweet perfume shed,
And the tall gum trees shadow the stockman's last bed.

And also "Tread light where the wattle their sweet perfume shed." In Gordon's last verse in "The Sick Stockrider" the "tall gum trees" become the "tall green trees," and the sick stockrider asks to be allowed to "slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave." Over the stockman's grave the visitor is asked to "tread light," Gordon, essentially a poet of movement, wants his "sick stockrider" to "hear the sturdy station children . . . romping overhead."

Some time alter finding the verses of "The Stockman's Grave" in "Bell's Life," Mrs. Florence A. Gibson informed me that "The Stockman's Grave" was written by her mother, Mrs. J. Leith-Hay, nee Maria Gray, daughter of Colonel Gray, an old Waterloo officer. This information rather tends to discount Mr. Douglas Sladen's suppositions.

[Advertisement], The Advertiser (11 May 1940), 16

Tex Morton's Australian Bush Ballads and Old Time Songs.
Just out. Contains "The Black Sheep" and Tex's new Australian songs, "Eumerella Shore," and "Stockman's Last Bed," also old favorites, "Let the Rest of the World Go By," "Fatal Wedding," "Letter Edged in Black," "Face on Bar Room Floor," "Hand Me Down My Walking Cane," "The Lone Prairie," &c.,
altogether 18 songs for 2/6, posted 2/9.
Beautiful two-color portrait cover, ukulele and guitar chords.
From ALLAN'S LIMITED, Rundle street - or any Music Seller.

Musical sources - digitised (The last whistle; The stockman's last bed)
The last whistle (William Shield, c.1807), 1
The last whistle (William Shield, c.1807), 2

The last whistle, a favourite song composed by W. Shield, sung by Mr. Steward (Baltimore: Carrs, [n.d.]) (DIGITISED)

ASSOCIATIONS: William Shield (composer; ? arranger)

"THE SAILOR'S LAST WHISTLE. AS SUNG BY MR. INCLEDON", The musical cabinet, containing a selection of all the new and fashionable songs, arranged for the voice and piano forte ( Charlestown: T. M. Baker, 1822), 55-58 (DIGITISED)

"THE STOCKMAN'S LAST BED. AN AUSTRALIAN SONG. Music arranged by S. H. Marsh", The Illustrated Melbourne Post (25 August 1865), 128 (DIGITISED)

ASSOCIATIONS: Stephen Hale Marsh (arranger)

Modern editions (The stockman's last bed, words and music)

The stockman's last bed (arr. Lavater, 1938)

"The stockman's last bed. Music [arranged] by Louis Lavater", in Swagman's treasure five camp-fire ditties; words from "Old bush songs" collected by A. B. Paterson (Melbourne: Allan & Co., 1938) (DIGITISED) (DIGITISED)

The stockman's last bed (arr. Jones, 1953)

"The stockman's last bed. Collected and arranged by Dr. Percy Jones", in Burl Ives' folio of Australian folk songs (Sydney: Southern Music, 1953) (DIGITISED)

The stockman's last bed an Australian song [arranged by] Stephen Hale Marsh; arr. & orch. Richard Divall, MS, NLA (DIGITISED)

Music concordances (The last whistle; words and music)

[Words] "An EPITAPH, to the Memory of an honest Sailor", The London Magazine (1771), 655 (DIGITISED)

An EPITAPH, to the Memory of an honest Sailor.

WHether sailor or not, for a moment avast!
Poor Tom's mixen top-sail is laid to the mast.
He'll never turn out, or more heave to the lead;
He's now all-a-back, nor will sails shoot a-head.
He ever was brisk, and tho' now gone to wreck,
When he hears the last whistle he'll jump upon deck.

[Words] "Epitaph on an Honest Sailor", Extracts, elegant, instructive, & entertaining . . . Books third, fourth and fifth (London: Printed for Messrs. Rivingtons, Lomgman et al., 1791), book 5, 323 (DIGITISED)

[Words and music]: In A voyage to India, containing fifteen original songs in that favorite entertainment now performing, by Charles Incledon of Covent Garden Theatre, at the different theatres and public places in most of the principle towns of the kingdom (London: Goulding and Co., [1807])

[Words and music]: The last whistle, a favorite song sung with universal applause by Mr. Incledon, in his new entertainment, called "A voyage to India" (London: Printed by Goulding & Co., [and] Dublin, [1807])

Whether sailor or not For a moment avast!
Poor Jack's mizen Topsail is laid to the mast.
He'll never turn out or willmore heave the lead,
He's now all a back nor will sails shoot a head,
Yet tho' worms gnaw his timbers his vessel a wreck,
When he hears the last whistle he'll jump upon deck.

Secure in his cabin, he's moor'd in the grave,
Nor hears any more the loud roar of the wave;
Press'd by death, he is sent to the tender below,
Where lubbers and seamen must ev'ry one go.
Yet the worms gnaw his timbers, his vessel a wreck,
When he hears the last whistle he'll jump upon deck.

For sixty long years was his passage thro' life,
Attended by tempests, for Jack had a wife,
To leward, adversity's current flew strong,
But ye rudder of honesty bore him along,
And the worms gnaw his timbers, his vessel a wreck,
When he hears the last whistle he'll jump upon deck.

With his frame a mere hulk, and his reck'ning on hoard,
At last he dropt down to mortality's road,
With eternity's ocean before him in view,
He cheerfully pip'd out, my messmates adieu.
For tho' worms gnaw my timbers, my vessel's a wreck,
When I hear the last whistle I'll jump upon deck.

NOTE: Entered at Stationer's Hall on 25 August 1807 in A voyage to India . . . fifteen original songs (Goulding and Co.); and separately 29 August 1807 as The sailor's epitaph (see Kassler 2013, 591)

ASSOCIATIONS: William Shield (composer; ? arranger); Charles Incledon (tenor vocalist)

NOTE: On Incledon's entertainment, A voyage to India, see "LARGE THEATRE, LYCEUM. VOYAGE TO INDIA", The cabinet; or monthly report of polite literature (September 1807), 129 (DIGITISED)

Mr. Incledon's Entertainment, not unaptly called a Voyage to India, for it is likely to make him as rich as a Nabob, was presented on the 26th of August, to a crowded and fashionable Theatre. It consists of fifteen songs, composed by Mazzinghi, Davy, Bishop, Sir John Stevenson and Shield, accompanied on the Piano by Mr. Kellner, Jun., and interspersed with Recitations by Mr. Bartley, who very ably acquits himself in the delivery. It is needless to say that Incledon exerts his best powers in the execution of the several airs.

[Words and music]: The last whistle, a favourite song composed by W. Shield, sung by Mr. Steward (Baltimore: Carrs, [n.d.]) (DIGITISED)

[Words]: "THE LAST WHISTLE. A POPULAR NAUTICAL BALLAD. Composed by Mr. Shield, and sung by Mr. Incledon, with universal applause", in Fairburn's Naval Songster, or Jack Tar's Chest of Conviviality for 1812 (London: J. Fairburn, 1812), 27 (DIGITISED)

[Words]: "The Sailor's Epitaph", The musical miscellany: being chiefly a collection of popular comic songs (Ramsgate: Langley & Company, [n.d.]), 216 (DIGITISED)

[Words and music]: The last whistle, popular song, composed by Shield (London: The musical bouquet, no. 3452, [1864] 

Recordings (The stockman's last bed)

The stockman's last bed, Tex Morton (c. 1940) (STREAMED) (STREAMED)

Bibliography and references (The last whistle; The stockman's last bed)

"THE LAST WHISTLE", Notes and queries 9/6 (18 August 1900), 129 (DIGITISED)

This song, set by W. Shield, was published in "The Musical Bouquet," No. 3452. The words are in "The London Braham," published in 1818. I wish to know the name of the author and the date when first published.

John Manifold and Ron Edwards, 55 bandicoot ballads (1951)

The Queensland centenary pocket songbook (Brisbane: Queensland Centenary Publications Committee, and Federation of Bush Music Clubs, 1959)

Hugh Anderson 1962, Colonial ballads (2nd edn.), 217

John Manifold 1964 (and later editions), The Penguin Australian song book, 84-86 (words and music), 110 (notes)

Gives 2 versions of the melody

Michael Kassler, Music entries at Stationers' Hall, 1710-1818 (2013), 591

Lists the Goulding first edition of Shield's The sailor's epitaph (as above), entered 29 August 1807

Graeme Smith, "Australian songsters and the folk song movement", in Paul Watt, Derek B. Scott, and Patrick Spedding (eds), Cheap print and popular song in the nineteenth century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), 227-28 (PREVIEW)

Cites the George Moran 1863 claim, as in the 1888 Bulletin article above; Smith's note 21 appears to confuse The last whistle", sometimes headed "Sailor's epitaph", with Charles Dibdin's "Sailor's epitaph", i.e. Tom Bowling.


The Dying Stockman [sic]; "Whether stockman or not," First known date: 1888 [sic]; AustLit 

The Stockman's Last Bed; "Be ye stockman or no, to my story give ear," The Stockman's Lone Grave; First known date: 1888 [sic]; AustLit 

"The Bulletin attributes this verse to C. E. Bowler and others, while the Australian treasury of popular verse attributes it to George Moran. It seems likely that the verse has it's origins as a bushmen's song and that it has been retold and adapted over the years. Ron Edwards states that "Two claims to authorship have been made for this song, one through the Bulletin in 1885, which nominated a George Moran as author, and another . . . from an unmarked newspaper cutting which makes the claim for the surveyor, Thomas Townsend. There are indications that this cutting is from The Queenslander of about 1895". The overlander songbook p. 107.

"Stockman's Last Bed, The", in Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle, The ballad index (2023) 

© Graeme Skinner 2014 - 2024