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Halamus Publishing - Archived Articles - #27, June, 2004



The Articles from the Monthly Newsletters

Written by

M. Lesley Halamek

June, 2004:–


"Ten Thousand Miles Away" – England

"A Thousand Miles Away" – Australia

"The Old Palmer Song" – Australia

"Ten Thousand Miles Away" is an English fo'c'sle song, and a convict broadside ballad. It probably referred to the convict settlement at "Botany Bay", 'ten thousand miles' from England. Botany Bay was named by Captain James Cook, who discovered the East coast of Australia in 1770. In 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip sailed to Botany Bay with the 'First Fleet' to found a penal colony. Finding insufficient fresh water in Botany Bay, he sailed north to Port Jackson, now Sydney Harbour, and landed at Sydney Cove, where the Tank Stream provided plenty of fresh water.

"Ten Thousand Miles Away" is the original song.

The tune was used for two Australian songs:
"A Thousand Miles Away" and "The Old Palmer Song", both appearing below.

"The words of "A Thousand Miles Away" were attributed to C. A. Flower by Mr R. C. Lethbridge in a letter to Stewart and Keesing when they were compiling their expanded version of A.B. (Banjo) Paterson's Old Bush Songs. Paterson had included it in his original book.

Flower ... was employed on the railroad when it was being built from Roma to Mitchell
(Roma and Mitchell are Queensland towns, between Brisbane and Charleville. Roma, c.530km or c.310miles west of Brisbane, is one of the principal towns of the famous Maranoa pastoral and agriculture district of Southern Queensland).

Flower was Accountant for Frazer, McDonald and Company, who were building the line under contract to the Queensland Government. He was familiar with the western cattle country, for he travelled widely through the far west for about six months after he left the railroad job in 1883."

"This rollicking drover's song obviously originated much later in the century than
"The Overlander" (Article #9, December, 2002).

Quite apart from the mention of the Roma railway and Cobb and Co., the export of Frozen meat was not established until the eighties. The pioneer in this field was Thomas Sutcliffe Mort, who died in 1878, just before the first successful shipment reached England. It is interesting to note that although this extremely important advance was developed in Australia, it has been the beef-producers of North and South America who, through their closer proximity to Europe, have been able to make most use of it. ...

The Flinders and the Barcoo are rivers in western Queensland, the Flinders running into the Gulf, and the Barcoo becoming the Cooper and reaching Lake Eyre every other lifetime.

The tune used in this popular drover's song is that of "Ten Thousand Miles Away," originally a convict broadside ballad."

"PALMER RIVER, a stream rising in the Main (East) Coast Range (i.e. the Great Dividing Range) in Cape York Peninsula, Qld, and flowing westward to join the Mitchell River (which flows into the Gulf of Carpentaria).

It was discovered in 1872 by William Hann while leading a Queensland Government exploring and prospecting expedition, and named by him after the Queensland Premier, (Sir) A. H. Palmer. Here Frederick Warner found scaly gold, and in August 1873 a party led by J.V. Mulligan discovered rich gold near what later became Maytown (now a 'ghost town').

In September of the same year Mulligan took nearly 3000 grams of gold into Georgetown on the Etheridge River (a tributary of the Einasleigh, and thus, of the Gilbert River), and in December a police escort went to Cardwell (on the East Coast, between Tully and Ingham) with more than 143,000 grams. At that time there were more than 500 miners on the field.

The Palmer was the most prolific alluvial goldfield in Queensland; payable quantities were found along more than 160 kilometres of the river. The discovery caused a rush and about 25,000 people were soon on the field. Production has fluctuated greatly since the yearly peak of more than 7,000,000 grams reached in 1878. The annual yield declined in 1887 but revived in 1888-9, and between 1889 and 1900 – when about 200 miners (mostly Chinese) were on the field – varied from 56,000 to 85,000 grams. In 1931 dredging partly revived the industry, though the production was relatively low, at about 28,000 grams. Production then declined until 1938, rallied until 1941, but reached a record low in 1945 with only 84 grams recorded.

"In the early days of the Palmer field the journey from Cooktown (across the Great Dividing Range) was arduous and dangerous because of the rugged country and the aggressive Aborigines of the region. Chinese, in particular, suffered at the hand of the natives, and in clashes with white men on the field. Generally, however, Maytown and other settlements were fairly orderly, though at times, as reported in the newspaper Cooktown Herald and Palmer River Advertiser and General Intelligencer of North Queensland, "Judge Lynch" tried cases of theft and other offences which were summarily punished with fists, sticks and bamboos.

FURTHER READING: R. Logan Jack, Northmost Australia, vol. 2 (1921); George Farwell, Ghost Towns of Australia, ch. 16 (1965); Hector Holthouse, River of Gold: the Story of the Palmer River Gold Rush (1967)."

"...The discovery and opening up of the Palmer field is a fascinating bit of our history, and a wealth of poems and ballads celebrate the eventů But the tune and words that were most popular proved to be this song. Set to the English tune, "Ten Thousand Miles Away", the words were probably composed either prior to boarding or on board a vessel bound for Cooktown. There is that fine air of expectation about the sentiments expressed that is characteristic of diggers before disappointment set in. "

The Traditional English Melody "Ten Thousand Miles Away"

appears on Page 15 of:

"Folksongs for the Violin", Part 3: Third Position, Modes, and Pentatones,

and an easier version,

"One Thousand Miles Away" is on Page 52 of Part 2: "The Violin in Major Keys."
(A Graded Selection of Melodies for Beginners of All Ages).

Details on the MUSIC PAGE

Ten Thousand Miles Away

Sing ho, for a brave and gallant ship, and a fair and favouring breeze,
With a bully crew, and a captain too, to carry me over the seas.
To carry me over the seas, my boys, to my true love far away,
I'm taking a trip on a government ship ten thousand miles away.

Then blow, ye winds, hi-ho, a-roving I will go,
I'll stay no more on England's shore to hear the music play.
I'm off on the morning train, across the raging main,
I'm taking a trip on a Government ship, ten thousand miles away.

My true love, she was beautiful, my true love she was young.
Her eyes they shone like diamonds bright, and silvery was her tongue.
And silvery was her tongue, my boys, but now she's far away,
And doing the grand in a distant land, ten thousand miles away.


Oh, dark and dismal was the day when last I seen my Meg,
She'd a Government band around each hand and another one round her leg.
And another one round her leg, my boys, and fifty pounds they weigh,
"Farewell," said she, "Remember me, ten thousand miles away!"


The sun may shine through a London fog and the river run quite clear,
Or the ocean brine be turned to wine, or I forget my beer,
Or I forget my beer, my boys, or the landlord's quarter-day,
Ere I forget my own sweetheart, ten thousand miles away.


I wish I was a bosun bold, or even a bombardier,
I'd take a ship and away I'd trip, and straight for my true-love steer;
Straight for my true-love steer, my boys, where the dancing dolphins play,
And the whales and sharks are having their larks, ten thousand miles away.


A Thousand Miles Away

Hurrah for the Roma railway! Hurrah for the Cobb and Co.!
And give me a horse, a good stockhorse, to carry me westward-ho!
To carry me westward-ho, my boys, out where the cattle stray,
On the far Barcoo where they eat nardoo*, a thousand miles away.

Then give your horses rein across the open plain,
We'll ship our beef both sound and sweet, nor care what some folks say.
And frozen we'll send home those cattle that now roam,
On the far Barcoo and the Flinders too, a thousand miles away.

Knee-deep in grass they've got to pass, for the truth I'm bound to tell,
How in six months those cattle get as fat as they can swell;
As fat as they can swell, my boys, and a thousand pounds they weigh,
On the far Barcoo where they eat nardoo, a thousand miles away.


No Yankee hide e'er grew outside such beef as we can freeze.
No Yankee pasture grew such stock as we send overseas,
As we send o'er the seas, my boys, a thousand pounds they weigh,
On the far Barcoo where they eat nardoo, a thousand miles away.


*Nardoo: Marsilea sp.

"The Old Palmer Song", to the tune "Ten Thousand Miles Away" was arranged by composer George Dreyfus as the theme music for the Australian (mid eighties) ABC Television Series "Rush", a series for young people, about the Australian gold rush days.

A version appeared in the Native Companion Songster in 1889. The goldfields on the Palmer River were nearly 100 miles from Cooktown, across the Great Dividing Range.

The Old Palmer Song

Oh, the wind is fair and free, my boys, the wind is fair and free,
The steamer's course is north, my boys, and the Palmer we will see.
The Palmer we will see, my boys, and Cooktown's muddy shore,
Where I've been told there's lots of gold, so stay down south no more.

So blow, ye winds, heigh-ho, a-digging we will go,
We'll stay no more down south, my boys, so let the music play.
In spite of what I'm told, I'm off in search of gold,
And we'll make a push for the brand new rush, a thousand miles away.

They say the blacks are troublesome, they spear both horse and man,
The rivers all are deep and wide, no bridges them do span.
No bridges them do span, my boys, and so you'll have to swim,
But never fear the yarns you hear, and gold you're sure to win.


So let us make a move, my boys, for that new Promised Land
And do the best you can, my boys, to lend a helping hand.
To lend a helping hand, my boys, where the soil is rich and new,
In spite of the blacks and the unknown tracks, we'll show what we can do.



"Favourite Australian Bush Songs", © 1964, compiled by Lionel Long and Graham Jenkin

"Complete Book of Australian Folk Lore", © Ure Smith 1976,
Compiled and annotated by Bill Scott

"The Australian Encyclopaedia", Vols. 1, 4, 5. © 1979 The Grolier Society of Australia Pty Ltd

The Ballad Broadsheet:
Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads
Browse or Search term: 'Ten Thousand Miles Away'

Old Palmer Song:

Digital Tradition Mirror – Ten Thousand Miles Away (music notes):;ttTHOUSMI.html

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