Saturday, 12 August 2017

John Meredith – Click Go The Shears

- a correction by John Meredith

It was good to see the old Folk Lore Society archives being given an airing, particularly the P.F. Collins broadsides. The complete collection of these may be found in the Meredith Papers in the National Library of Australia.

There is one small error in the reproduced archives I would like to correct, just to put the record straight. The fragment (one verse and chorus) of ‘Click goes the Shears’ may have come via Russel Ward, but was actually collected by me, during Christmas I955, and copies sent with other collected items to both Russel Ward and Nancy Keesing

The occasion when I got that fragment was during my first visit to Gulargambone, and was the one occasion when I met Bill Reddington.

I went to Gulargambone with a work mate, Kevin Skinner, who came from there and invited me to spend the holiday season with his family. There were four Skinner brothers, Kevin, Noel, Alan and Jack, but they never used those names.

Nick names were the regular thing in that town and the Skinners were called Rat, Kanga, Hickey and Sax. Three of their drinking mates were Bun, Manny and Longtack - the latter being applied to Bill Reddington. Before the first day was over, I was being called Merro, a name I have born ever since!

While playing the accordion in Mousey Walker’s pub, I did ‘Click goes the Shears’, and Longtack sang that fragment. I borrowed a pencil from the barmaid and scrawled down the words on the inner surface of the outside slide of a Turf cigarette 20s pack.

We went to Armatree to attend the Boxing night dance, where I had promised a Koori lady accordionist, Ollie Armstrong, to help out with the music. We had a few beers with Longtack at the Armatree pub, then went on to the dance, leaving him at the bar.

This was the occasion when I learnt the Brown Jug Polka and took it back to Sydney to the Bush Music Club. Ollie played the tune in 6/8 time, and at a very steady pace. This gave the dancers time to spring in the air as they did the slip-steps and the swing, causing the floor of the hall to go up and down under their combined weight, while the stage rocked along with it!

Next day Rat and I had to leave on the midday rail motor from Gulah station, so we assembled at Mousey’s for farewell drinks.

Several people asked the whereabouts of Longtack who never made it to the dance. Just then, he turned up. Showered, shaved and resplendent on freshly ironed white shirt and trousers and bowling shoes. In answer to the inquiries, “Hey, where did you get to last night, Longtack responded:

‘Well, you wouldn’t want ter know! I woke up this morning and couldn’t work out where I was. I thought it was a big church or a cathedral - great high roof and narrow windows - so I thought I oughter say my Hail Mary’s. When I got down on me knees I found I was kneeling in wheat! I’d passed out in the bloody Armatree Silos!’

This raised a great laugh and somebody gave Longtack a friendly push on the chest that sent him sitting back onto an empty 18 gallon keg that was sitting in the corner. There was black stencilling on the top of it, and somebody had spilt beer on it. Longtack came out to the bar for a final handshake, and as he turned to re-enter the pub, the big, circular black stain on the arse of his white pants gave us another good laugh.

I never saw him again. He was working on a fencing contract, and while attempting to lift a heavy strainer post single-handed he suffered a heart-attack and was D.O.A. at the local hospital.
Vale Longtack!

Cited in Ron Edwards Australian Folk Song Index pp.  470-71.

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