Lazy Harry's (Five Miles from Gundagai)
DESCRIPTION: The workers set out for Sydney, but upon reaching Lazy Harry's, stop for a drink. And "the girl who served the poison, she winked at Bill and I, So we camped at Lazy Harry's on the road to Gundagai." The men revel until their money is used up.
EARLIEST DATE: 1905 (Paterson's _Old Bush Songs_)
KEYWORDS: drink money rambling
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Paterson/Fahey/Seal, pp. 253-255, "On the Road to Gundagai" (1 text)
Ward, pp. 118-119, "Lazy Harry's" (1 text)
Stewart/Keesing-Favorite, pp. 58-59, "On the Road to Gundagai" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: Bill Wannan, _The Australians: Yarns, ballads and legends of the Australian tradition_, 1954 (page references are to the 1988 Penguin edition), pp. 60-61, "On the Road to Gundagie" (1 text)
A. K. MacDougall, _An Anthology of Classic Australian Lore_ (earlier published as _The Big Treasury of Australian Foiklore_), The Five Mile Press, 1990, 2002, p. 304, "On the Road to Gundagai" (1 text)
Bill Beatty, _A Treasury of Australian Folk Tales & Traditions_, 1960 (I use the 1969 Walkabout Paperbacks edition), p. 306, "On the Road to Gundagai" (1 text)
John Greenway, "Lazy Harry's (Five Miles from Gundagai)" (on JGreenway01)
cf. "Jacksons" (plot, lyrics, portions of tune)
cf. "Jog Along Till Shearing" (theme)
NOTES [335 words]: Gundagai was a town of no particular account in itself. Its position at the midpoint of the Sydney-Melbourne road has, however, made it the setting for many folk songs.
This particular song is sufficiently well-known that Davey/Seal included "Lazy Harry" as an entry in their encyclopedia (p. 175), but they do not mention a real "Lazy Harry's"; apparently there is no record of such a place.
According to O'Keeffe, p. 161, "the Yanco" was a mansion in the Riverina owned by a famous pastoralist named Samuel McCaughey, said to have owned more property in New South Wales than anyone in history.
There is some clever use of verbs in the song. In the first verse, the shearers have a cheques that "wanted breaking down." But at the end, their check is not "broken down" but "knocked down." Morris, p. 250, says "Knock-down. v. generally of a cheque. To spend riotously, usually in drink." His first cited usage is from 1869, and every cited instance seems to involve wasteful spending, although not all involve liquor.
A "nobbler," which the girls give the shearers when they have used up their money is defined on p. 321: "Nobbler, n. a glass of spirits; lit. that which nobles or gets hold of you. Nobble is the frequentive form of nab. No doubt there is an allusion to the bad spirits frequently sold at bush public-houses, but if a teetotaler had invented the word he could not have invented one involving stronger condemnation." The first citation is from 1852.
It is noteworthy that the shearers hump their blueys at the beginning, but shoulder their matildas at the end. The term "matilda" was originally rare; elsewhere, swagmen carried swags! The term is sufficiently local that the first Australian dictionary, Morris's, does not even mention it (that's in 1898). This, to me, strongly hints that the song was written only shortly before Banjo Paterson published it -- possibly even influenced by the usage in Paterson's own "Waltzing Matilda," which did much to make the term "matilda" popular. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
- Davey/Seal: Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal, A Guide to Australian Folklore, Kangaroo Press, 2003
- Morris: Edward E. Morris, A Dictionary of Austral English, 1898 (I use the 1972 Sydney University Press with a new foreword but no new content)
- O'Keeffe: Dennis O'Keeffe, Waltzing Matilda: The Secret History of Australia's Favourite Song, Allen & Unwin, 2012
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