Cockies of Bungaree, The
DESCRIPTION: The unemployed worker takes a job clearing for a cocky at Bungaree. He finds that the working conditions are miserable, and the cocky expects him to be at work before dawn. (Within days the singer concludes that anything is better than this, and quits)
EARLIEST DATE: 1957 (Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal, _A Guide to Australian Folklore_, Kangaroo Press, 2003, p. 68, claim it can be traced back at least to the 1890s)
KEYWORDS: unemployment work farming Australia
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (4 citations):
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, pp. 128-129, "The Cockies of Bungaree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Manifold-PenguinAustralianSongbook, pp. 104-105, "The Cockies of Bungaree" (1 text, 1 tune)
Paterson/Fahey/Seal-OldBushSongs-CentenaryEdition, pp. 264-266, "Cockies of Bungaree" (1 text)
DT, COCKBUNG* COCKBUN2*
John Greenway, "The Cockies of Bungaree" (on JGreenway01)
A. L. Lloyd, "The Cockies of Bungaree" (on Lloyd3, Lloyd08) (Lloyd4, Lloyd08)
cf. "The Stringybark Cockatoo" (plot, lyrics)
cf. "Rhynie" (theme)
NOTES [351 words]: A "cocky," according to a folk etymology I saw somewhere, is a farmer who owns land so poor that it can't raise anything but cockatoos. This may be false. Morrris, pp. 92-93, defines the term "Cockatoo": "A small farmer, called earlier in Tasmania a Cockatooer (q.v.). The name was originally given in contempt... but it is now used by the farmers themselves. Cocky is a common abbreviation.... After the gold fever, circa 1860, the selectors swarmed over the country and ate up the substance of the squatters; hence they were called Cockatoos. The word is also used adjectivally." (Morris also cites it as a verb, "To be a farmer.")
Morris, p. 93, cites many examples of how the term was originally understood; one from 1867 is typical: "These small farmers are called cockatoos in Australia by the squatters or sheep-farmers, who dislike them for buying up the best bits on their runs; and say that, like the cockatoos, the small freeholder alights on good ground, extracts all he can from it, and then flies away to 'fresh fields and pastures new.'"
On the other hand, Learmonth, p. 120, offers "Cocky. A small farmer, often qualified, e.g. as in Cow Cocky for dairy farmers. Formerly cockatoo, the origin of this use is not certain; it may date from a convict term for a petty criminal, or refer to the birds of that name in a suggested likeness of habit, in that the smaller farmer, as opposed to the squatter, had to scratch for his livelihood. Another explanation is that large numbers of cockatoos were attracted by grubs living in ring-barked trees."
Ramson offers "Chiefly used of a small farmer but now often applied to a substantial landowner or to the rural interest generally" -- and does not cite a usage earlier than 1873.
Some versions refer to the cocky's wife "whipping the cat." NewZealandDictionary, p. 313, defines "to whip the cat" as "to complain, to express useless regret, to 'cry over spilt milk.'"
Bungaree, a short way north of Melbourne, lies within a large area of such poor land. (Even in the settled parts of Australia, the majority of the land is very bad.) - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
- Learmonth: Andrew and Nancy Learmonth, Encyclopedia of Australia, 2nd edition, Warne & Co, 1973
- Edward E. Morris, A Dictionary of Austral English, 1898 (I use the 1972 Sydney University Press with a new foreword but no new content)
- NewZealandDictionary: Elizabeth and Harry Orsman, The New Zealand Dictionary, 1994; second edition 1995 (I use the 2003 New House Publishers paperback)
- Ramson: W. S. Ramson, editor, The Australian National Dictionary: A Dictionary of Autralianisms on Historical Principles, Oxford University Press (Melbourne), 1988
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