Asstrilly's Goold Fields

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"Asstrilly's Goold Fields"
Song by Edward "Ned" Corvan
Language English (Geordie)
Written unknown
Published unknown
Composer(s) Unknown
Lyricist(s) Edward "Ned" Corvan

Asstrilly's Goold Fields in Geordie dialect translates as "Australia’s Gold Fields" and sub-titled "Tommy Carr's Letter", is a Geordie folk song written in the 19th century by Edward "Ned" Corvan, in a style deriving from music hall.

This song, like “'The skipper's dream", is based on one of his "dream sequences"
It was written soon after the announcements in the press that gold (or more correctly "goold") had been discovered in 1854 in Victoria, on the continent of Australia (again more correctly "Asstrilly").
This gold find created a rush of (mainly) single men wishing to emigrate to what had previously been considered a "penal colony" and a very unpopular destination. They were all willing to make the hazardous and long sea journey for the promise of "easy" riches.

For the Tyneside workforce with the added problems of punishing industrial labour with long hours, poor conditions and low pay, or more likely unemployment, the promise was even more enticing.
This is just one of the many songs written at that time about the Australian gold rush.


This particular version is taken from the broadsheet "A collection of broadsides by North-East Music Hall artist Ned Corvan, Title : Asstrilly's goold fields; or, Tommy Carr's letter Published by W. Stewart, Head of the Side, Newcastle (possibly about 1860–62), and sold in the form of a broadsheet.[1]

Asstrilly's Goold Fields; or, Tommy Carr's Letter

Tune--"Marble Halls."
Written by Edward “Ned” Corvan

Aw dreamt that aw'd landed in Strillia's goold fields,
Wi' Bessie, maw wife by maw side;
An' aw also dreamt how aw toil'd i’ the keels
On the Tyne, still maw home an' maw pride.
Aw dreamt aw was howkin goold day an' neet,
An' fand greet big lumps in galore,
Then aw thowt ti mysel' what a rich chep aw'd be
When aw cum back to leve doon the shore !

Aw dreamt that aw landed, etc.

Aw dreamt that aw saw some aud cronies there,
All howkin for goold like mysel',
An' wishin', while sweatin' wi byens stiff and sair,
For a swag o' good Newcassel yell.
Aw also dreamt aw'd sell'd aw' maw goold,
An' getting' the brass, every scuddock;
But aw waken'd an' fand mysel' lyin', silly man,
Fast asleep doon belaw in the huddock.

Aw dreamt that aw landed, etc.

Aw was rubbin' me eyes when the Pee-de cries out,
Aw say, skipper, the keel's geyn adrift;
Where is aw, says aw, wi' a torrible shout,
Then aw gav his young backside a lift.
How, skipper, what's that for ? thou aud crazy fuil!
The Peep-de, the trash, bawls to me;
Then aw sprang-hew'd him weel, the gobby young cull,
But he danced like an imp full o' glee.

(At this stage, “Ned” would cease the singing and break into his little monologue about his brother’s letter. The above named edition went as follows :-)

Spoken—Goshcab ! the bit laddie went mad varry nigh. What's the matter wi' thee? says aw. Wey, here's a letter fra Asstrilly for thee. Blow me rags, so it was; that was just maw dream—what a queer thing dreams is, efter all. Aw say, what gobby things laddies is noo-a-days: they think man's mice, or folks is people—but aw stop a' thor jaws. Thor's a vast o' rats i' wor huddock, sir,- but aw's forgettin' the letter-- (Opens the letter) ; --it's fra Tommy Carr ; stop, aw'll read it ower.

Melbourne, Octember, aw mean Septober the 35 th, 18 hundert an' eggs an' bacon.

Dear Bobby,
Afore thoo oppens this letter thoo mon excuse maw bad spellin' : pens is varry bad here, en hoo can a body spell wiv a bad pen.
Dear Bob, wor beyth i' good hilth here, except me an' Geordie. Aw've had the yaller fever wi' gowld dust gettin up me nose while howkin ; an' Geordie's broken twee ov his legs, an' can scairshly stand on the tother yen, – wishin ye the same benefits at heyme. Aw'll mebbies be deid the next time aw write ti thee; its a' the climate here that's killin me, -[aw's warrant that's the bad beer oot there]. -.
Hinny Bob, thors bonny wark wi' the convicts an blackies oot here. If thou believes me, the time aw's wrtin this letter, aw hev a loaded pistol in one hand an' a greet lang sword i' the tother, defendin maw existence.

The next line has been removed –

Little Jimmy is nowt like his feyther noo; some hungry convicts bit off the bit laddies twee lugs, an' if thoo saw him thoo'd really think he'd been tryin ti draw' the badger.
A' kinds o' provisions is varry cheap here except vitals an' forstian jackets.
Thors nee wesher-wives here, but the bricklayers, barbers, an' women folks. Stop at heyme, bob, an' keep what thoo hes. Aw's a bushman here; an' aw can tell the, a bird i' the hand is worth twe i' the bush. But if thoo hes a mind, hinny Bob, thoo can come oot here an' keep me company back ti wor awn canny Tyne. When thoo gets this letter, thoo can gan ti Hell's Kitchen an stand a pint o' beer for me an' drinkt theesel for maw sake. Lor sine aw was heyme agein huntin doddles !-
From your confectionate brother,

Tommy Carr.
P.S. – Fat Hannah's mother's tuen the measles.

And then back to the singing –

Aw dreamt that aw landed, etc.

Noo contented an' happy at heyme aw'll still be,
Wi' Bessy, maw canny bit bride,
An' aw'll whiles hae a gill an' whiles hae a spree,
Wi' comfort at maw ain fireside;
So excuse maw bit rhyme, for some other time
Aw'll tell ye—though strange the tale seems--
'Bout the places aw've been, an' the wonders aw've seen
I' the huddock, when lyin' amang dreams.

Aw dreamt that aw landed, etc.

Comments on variations to the above version[edit]

In the early 19th century, as today, there were cheap books and magazines.
Many of these "chapbooks" were on poor quality paper to a poor standard and with poor quality print. The works were copied with no thoughts of copyright, and the work required very little proof-reading, and what was done was not required to a high standard.
Between the many versions published there are differences, some very minor, proof reading spelling errors, variations mainly in the spelling of the words, and these sometimes variations within the same edition.

In several of the later versions, there were many changes to the spoken monologue, some of which are as follows :-
The first line of the letter he called the pen "a Penxswrit" and with an aside added of "aside, Marcy what a lot o' letters he hes for spellin' pen. What a scholar he's turned; he must gan tiv a neet skeul though the day; aw shuddent wonder."

After the story about having a pistol and sword is added another aside. "The greet thick-heeded lubbert! What set him there? he wis deein' weel here, puddlin at Hawk's—three days a week overtime an' ne wages." followed by "Give maw respects te Bill Scott, the Shingler, oot at Consett, en tell him te hev a luck at the tin bottle for maw sake."

Before the story about the convicts bitting off Jimmy's ears, we have added – "Ned Corvan says he's nobbit a reet un. We hae nee tripe so we struggle wi' fustin—there's ne Butcher's meat here, except Wild Buffaloes en Yarmouth beef." followed by a slightly revised story of Jimmie's ears as "Little Jimmy's nowt like his feythor noo; some hungry convicts bit off the laddie's lugs; if ye saw him ye'd 'mawjin he'd been at Carson's drawing the Badger."
The final piece before the signature reads – –
"Nee more at present from yor Confectionate Brother,"
and the P.S. IS – P.S.- Fat Hanna's mother's wife's cousin's brother's aunt's teun the measles.


To follow


Edward "Ned" Corvan" wrote three songs altogether about "Asstrillia"

  • Asstrilly; or, The Pitman's Farewell
  • Asstrilly's Goold Fields; or, Tommy Carr's Letter
  • Tommy Carr's Adventures in Asstrilly

See also[edit]

Geordie dialect words