Nine Miles from Gundagai (The Dog Sat in the Tuckerbox)
DESCRIPTION: The singer tells of his time as a bullock driver. His worst experience happened nine miles from Gundagai, in a cold storm, with the team bogged, the fire out, (the crew fighting). As a final insult, the dog sat (or "shat") in the tuckerbox
EARLIEST DATE: 1954 (Wannan)
KEYWORDS: Australia hardtimes dog
FOUND IN: Australia
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Meredith/Anderson-FolkSongsOfAustralia, pp. 95-96, "Nine Miles from Gundagai" (1 text with no title given)
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, p. 184, "Nine Miles from Gundagai" (1 text, 1 tune)
Ward-PenguinBookOfAustralianBallads, p. 132, "Five Miles from 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. 114-115, "The Dog on the Tucker Box" (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, pp. 304-305, "The Dog on the Tuckerbos" (1 text)
Bill Beatty, _A Treasury of Australian Folk Tales & Traditions_, 1960 (I use the 1969 Walkabout Paperbacks edition), pp. 301-302, "The Dog on the Tucker Box" (1 text)
Roud #10221 AND 9121
John Greenway, "The Dog Sat in the Tuckerbox (Nine Miles from Gundagai)" (on JGreenway01)
cf. "Bill the Bullocky" (lyrics)
cf. "Camooweal Races" (tune, according to Beatty)
NOTES [331 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.
A statue in Gundagai commemorates a dog sitting forlornly on a tuckerbox (food box), guarding it for his master. According to Davey/Seal p. 89, it was made by a local sculptor, Frank Rusconi, and unveiled by Joseph Lyons, the Prime Minister of Australia, in 1932.
John Greenway, however, points out the falseness of this picture. He notes that bullock drivers and swagmen "kept dogs only to have something to kick."
He also notes, delicately, "That's what this song is about: a bullock driver who had the ultimate in bad luck -- not only did his wagon axle break and the team get bogged in the mud and his matches get soaked in the rain, but his dog capped the climax by s--itting (there is an aspirate missing) IN -- not ON -- the tucker box!"
Similarly Beatty, p. 302. Wannan, p. 115 footnote amplifies: "'Sat' is obviously a euphemism. See the volume of verses, Nine Miles from Gundagai, by Jack Moses."
Manifold, p. 97, declares, "The other favorite among bullocky songs is the one about the dog that misbehaved in the tucker-box nine miles from Gundagai. It is a great pity that Jack Moses and the composer O'Hagan should have conspired to put out a euphemistic version which robs the verse of its point." Manifold then goes on to quote a version he collected in 97 which uses, shall we say, the "sh" word (which Manifold was still required to censor slightly).
Davey/Seal, although they state on pp. 199-200 that this interpretation is correct, on pp. 89-90 claim that the "Dog Sat On" version (in which the dog is loyal) is the most popular, and in the entry on dogs (p. 90) claim that this is the most famous dog in all of Australian folklore. My guess is that the original bush version has the dog make the mess, but when city folks, who keep their dogs as pets, heard the story, they prettied it up. - RBW
Last updated in version 5.2
- Davey/Seal: Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal, A Guide to Australian Folklore, Kangaroo Press, 2003
- Manifold: John S. Manifold, Who Wrote the Ballads? Notes on Australian Folksong, Australasian Book Society, 1964
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