Click Go the Shears
DESCRIPTION: A description of shearing life: The race to shear the most sheep, the boss complaining of the quality, the constant clicking of the shears. The rules for shearing are briefly mentioned. Chorus: "Click, click, click, that's how the shears go...."
AUTHOR: unknown (music by Henry Clay Work: "Ring the Bell, Watchman")
EARLIEST DATE: 1953 (collected by John Meredith)
KEYWORDS: sheep work contest
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (9 citations):
Meredith/Anderson-FolkSongsOfAustralia, p. 24, "Click, Click, That's How the Shears Go"; pp. 193-194, "Click Go the Shears" (2 texts, 2 tunes; the first of these does not use the standard Henry Clay Work tune)
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, pp. 152-153, "Click Go the Shears" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fahey-PintPotAndBilly, pp. 56-57, "Click Go the Shears" (1 text, 1 tune)
Paterson/Fahey/Seal-OldBushSongs-CentenaryEdition, pp. 180-183, "Click Go the Shears" (1 text)
Ward-PenguinBookOfAustralianBallads, pp. 120-121, "Click Go the Shears" (1 text)
ADDITIONAL: 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. 290, "Click Go the Shears" (1 text)
Bill Beatty, _A Treasury of Australian Folk Tales & Traditions_, 1960 (I use the 1969 Walkabout Paperbacks edition), pp. 291-292, "Click Go the Shears" (1 text)
Matthew Richardson, _Once a Jolly Swagman: The Ballad of Waltzing Matilda_, Melbourne University Press, 2006, pp. 45-46, "Click Go the Shears" (1 text)
John Greenway, "Click Go the Shears" (on JGreenway01)
cf. "Ring the Bell, Watchman" (tune)
NOTES [327 words]: According to Richardson, p. 45, this is the "second most popular bush song" (presumably behind "Waltzing Matilda").
There is a fair amount of specialized vocabulary in this song:
A "blade-shearer" is one who shears with hand-shears, known as "blades" (NewZealandDictionary, pp. 21-22). "Blades" were eventually replaced by mechanical shearing machinery (Ramson, p. 62).
A "blow" is a shearing stroke, "especially as 'long blow'" (NewZealandDictionary, p. 23), although Ramson typically refers to "wide blows" and "wide blades".
A "blue-bellied" ewe or "joe" has no wool on the belly and so can be sheared quickly. Some versions refer to the animal as "bare-bellied."
The "board" "is the technical name for the floor on which the sheep are shorn" (Morris, p. 40, quoting the 1893 Melbourne Herald).
A "Colonial Experience man" was "a young man learning the squatting business" (Morris, p. 94) -- in essence, a young person from the city, or Britain, or somewhere, who didn't know the habits of the bush. Similar to "Jackaroo."
The "crutch" is "the hindquarters of a sheep" (Ramson, p. 184), giving rise to a verb, "to crutch," for shearing the wool in this area.
A "Jackaroo" was "a name for a Colonial Experience... a young man fresh from England, leaning squatting.... Compare the American 'tenderfoot' (Morris, p. 215).
The "ringer" was "the man who by his superior skill and experience 'tops the score' -- that is, shears the highest number of sheep per day" (Morris, p. 389, quoting the 1890 Argus).
"Shouting" or a "Shouter": A "shout" was a free drink (Morris, p. 417), so "shouting" was offering free drinks, and a "shouter" was one who bought them.
"Tar" was like any tar in that it hardened and worked as a sealant, but it was not made from a petroleum product; the tar used on sheep was "made from fine resins and... used... for anointing cuts made in sheep's skin during shearing" (NewZealandDictionary, pp. 270-271, in the entry on "Stockholm tar")
Last updated in version 5.2
- 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)
- 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
- Richardson: Matthew Richardson, Once a Jolly Swagman: The Ballad of Waltzing Matilda, Melbourne University Press, 2006
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