Click Go the Shears

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Tom Roberts: Shearing the Rams (1890)
A set of blade shears

"Click Go the Shears" (Roud # 8398) is a traditional Australian folk song. The song details a day's work for a sheep shearer in the days before machine shears. The enduring popularity of this song reflects the traditional role that the wool industry has played in Australian life. The song describes the various roles in the shearing shed, including the "ringer", the "boss of the board", the "colonial experience man" and the "tar boy". After the day's shearing, the "old shearer" takes his cheque and heads to the local pub for a drinking session.

The tune is an adaptation of the American Civil War song "Ring the Bell, Watchman" by Henry Clay Work and the first verse follows closely, in parody, Work's lyrics as well.

The second verse in the original 19th century song is as follows:

Click goes his shears; click, click, click.
Wide are the blows, and his hand is moving quick,
The ringer looks round, for he lost it by a blow,
And he curses that old shearer with the bare belled ewe.

The usual chorus of the song is as follows:

Click go the shears boys, click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old snagger with the bare-bellied yoe

In June 2013 it was discovered that a version of the song was first published in 1891 in the regional Victorian newspaper the Bacchus Marsh Express under the title "The Bare Belled Ewe" and the tune given as "Ring the Bell Watchman." That version was signed "C. C. Eynesbury, Nov. 20, 1891,"[1] Eynesbury being a rural property located in the Bacchus Marsh area.[2] It is possible that "C.C." was the author of the song.

There was a shearers' strike in 1891 so the publication of the song in that year would have resonated with the Australian community.[3]

The song was next published in 1946 as a traditional song "collected and arranged" by Reverend Dr. Percy Jones, a professor of music. The lyrics vary widely; "bare-bellied yoe" (yoe is a dialect word for ewe) is often "bare-bellied joe" or even "blue-bellied ewe". The last line in the verse about the "colonial experience" man "smelling like a whore" is often bowdlerised to "smelling like a sewer" or completely rewritten.

The song has been recorded by many artists, notably by the American folk musician Burl Ives in 1958 on his album Australian Folk Songs. Another version was recorded by the British folklorist A. L. Lloyd. In January 2014 Chloe and Jason Roweth sang the 1891 version of the song for an ABC Television story.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The Bacchus Marsh Express 5 December 1891, Page 7. Accessed 2 March, 2014.
  2. ^ The Bacchus Marsh Express, 11 April 1896, Page 1. Accessed 2 March 2014.
  3. ^ a b ABC Television, Click Go The Shears dates from time of shearers strike in 1890s. Accessed 2 March 2014.

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