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Halamus Publishing - Archived Articles - # 1, April, 2002



The Articles from the Monthly Newsletters

Written by

M. Lesley Halamek

April, 2002:–

SONG:"The Rybuck Shearer" – Traditional Australian Bush Ballad

One day when I was teaching violin classes in the school whose pupils became the inspiration for my "Folksongs for the Violin" series, the Headmaster arranged a special School Assembly. That day, a well known Bush Ballad singer came with his guitar, and taught the whole school (children's age: 5 - 12) to sing

"The Rybuck Shearer".

The children enjoyed the rollicking song immensely, so I went home and looked up an old book or two, found the tune, and put pen to manuscript paper. At their next lesson, I gave the tune to my class of 7 year old pupils to play. They were most impressed!

What's more, they liked playing the song and learned it very quickly.

The song "The Rybuck Shearer" would have been written before 1888.

Machine shearing of sheep was developed in Australia between 1868 and 1887, when Wolseley and Savage introduced 6 machine stands at Normanby Station, Queensland.

Patents were granted to James Higham (1868) and Wolseley and Savage (1877). The Wolseley mechanical shears were invented by Frederic Yorke Wolesley, (1837-99), an Irish-born*, Australian (Sheep) Station Manager (and a brother of Field Marshall Lord Wolseley).

The first fully machine-shorn sheep was shorn in 1882 by Jack Grey, at Euroka Station.

In 1886-87, Wolseley machine shearing was demonstrated around the country "to the delight of wool growers and the horror of blade shearers".

In 1888, Dunlop Station became the first large "machine shed" with 40 Wolseley stands.

Dunlop Station, downstream from Louth, on the Darling River (named after Governor Darling), in western New South Wales, was a huge property running 184,000 sheep.

By 1915, most large sheds in Australia were mechanized, although some studmasters still preferred their most valuable breeding stock to be blade shorn.

* Frederick York Wolseley: born Golden Bridge House, County Dublin, on 16 March 1837. In 1854 he joined his brother-in-law who owned a station near Deniliquin, NSW."

[The Australian Encyclopaedia - Grolier, 1977   and   Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1976]

The Rybuck Shearer


1. I come from the south and my name is Field,
And when my shears are properly steeled
It's a hundred or more I have often peeled
And of course I'm a rybuck shearer.

If I don't shear a tally before I go,
My shears and stone in the river I'll throw;
And I'll never open Sawbees to cut another blow,
To prove I'm a rybuck shearer.

2. There's a bloke on the board and I heard him say
That I couldn't shear a hundred sheep in a day.
But one fine day, I'll show him the way,
And prove I'm a rybuck shearer.


3. Yes, one fine day, but I'm not saying when,
I'll up off my tail, and I'll into the pen,
While the ringer shears five, I'll shear ten,
And I'll prove I'm a rybuck shearer.


4. There's a bloke on the board, and he's got a yellow gin,
A very long nose and a wart on the chin,
And a voice like a billygoat spitting on a tin,
And of course, he's a rybuck shearer.

But if I don't beat his tally before I go,
My shears and stone in the river I'll throw,
And never open Sawbees to cut another blow,
And prove I'm a rybuck shearer.

Bloke = man, chap, guy, fellow, cove, or whatever (Australian slang)
Board = shearing floor
Blow = shearing stroke
Rybuck (also Ribuck, Rye-buck) = The genuine article, the real thing
          (19th century Australian slang, can also mean "Yes, OK",
          as used by C. J. Dennis in "The Sentimental Bloke")
Ringer = the shed's champion shearer, who shears the most sheep
          and thus earns the highest wage.
Sawbees = hand, or blade shears, probably from
          "Salisbury's", which was a brand of hand, or blade shears.

The tune for 'The Rybuck Shearer' appears on Page 5 of

"Folksongs for the Violin", Part 2: The Violin in Major Keys
(A Graded Selection of Melodies for Beginners of All Ages).

Details on the MUSIC PAGE

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