Banjo Paterson

(17 February 1864 – 5 February 1941 / New South Wales)

The Passing Of Gundagai - Poem by Banjo Paterson

"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 telgram 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".

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Read poems about / on: sympathy, horse, school, friend, smile, fear, lost, home, running, shopping

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 1, 2004

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