The Collection


The Australian Bush Orchestra – Jenny lind Polka/Black Cat Piddled in the White Cat’s Eye

We have always danced. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples danced traditional and contemporary formations for social and ceremonial purposes. European settlers also primarily danced variations of dances from England, Scotland and Ireland. The military danced quadrilles and waltzes to the music of the Regimental Band. During the gold rush era, dancing girls entertained the miners, and even exotic dancer Lola Montez toured to great success.

Dancing, of course, reflected the popular music and dances of the day. The polka swept through the country, followed by barn dances, schottisches, lancers and even minstrel show-inspired cakewalks. Sailors also brought hornpipes to join the step dances from Ireland and England. Later migration saw dances from all over the world enter our tradition.

Country dances, sometimes referred to as bush dances, were an essential part of community socialising.

We have danced down through history, and we continue to dance.

The videos are quite large – be patient. They’re worth the wait!

Old Dan Tucker – Australian Bush Orchestra

Convicts and transportation


© 2005 Warren Fahey

The history of dance in Australia is also a history of social behaviour – and misbehaviour. There is also a bawdy element that befits Australia’s male-dominated pioneering past. Anyone who has attended a bush B&S (Bachelor and Spinster dance) will be able to relate endless stories about drunken, wild and weird behaviour ñ and that’s just from the females at the party! – and a continuation of the bawdy tradition, including the singing of bawdy or filthy songs. These gatherings allow the young jackeroos and jilleroos, and other rural youth, to ‘let off steam’ which usually means getting as ‘drunk as skunks’. The sight of the morning after includes ‘bodies’ littered over the surrounding area, many in dinner jackets, sleeping where they fell.
Bawdy songs have been part of the B&S for a long time and show no signs of disappearing.

From the earliest days of the colony there were two streams of dance: the polite dances for the gentlefolk and the rowdier for the commoners. The colonial military top brass and their wives gathered regularly to dance quadrilles, waltzes and polkas with music played by the military bands of the colony. These were the occasions where the eligible daughters of the colony could socially meet with acceptable young men in a socially acceptable environment. The Governor’s residence was the favoured venue and it was not uncommon for a grand dinner to be followed by a session of dancing.

On the other side of town, in the taverns and barracks, soldiers and any available wenches, many of them prostitutes, would whoop-it-up dancing set dances to the simple accompaniment of instruments like the fiddle and fife. In the convict barracks hornpipes and Irish step dances would have been performed to the sound of whistles, fiddles and Gaelic mouth-music.

As the colony developed the main dances became balls and to be invited to the Governor’s Ball was considered the social prize. The invitees included military hierarchy, British visitors, especially those reporting on the colony, and those successful landowners and business operators deemed acceptable for such grand occasions. Some wealthy residents also hosted balls, as did the military. The military bands, being permanent fixtures, created music for special occasions and some of these musical relics have been preserved in the State Library of New South Wales and the National Library of Australia.

The main colonial band was attached to the Paddington Regiment and still exists today at the Victoria Barracks.

The interior settlement of the colony was led by a mix of retired military and government officers, free settlers and ticket-of-leave convicts, all of whom had an ongoing association with the colonial government through its program of indentured convict labour, land and stock grants. Sheep and edible farm produce were the main agricultural pursuit. As the colony, including some of its furthest posts, expanded so did the need for social entertainment. It was a time for fine young girls to be ‘introduced’ to the right potential partner and, in most cases, the farm hands were not seen as suitable. Once again the social dance, even if it were staged in a newly mown paddock, was the usual meeting ground. The etiquette of England still ruled in the back paddocks.

It was the discovery of gold in the 1850s that really changed the face of Australia. It opened up the backcountry, forged new settlements in what we now know as Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland, and attracted free men and women from all over the world. The men came determined to ‘make their fortune’ in the goldfields of Bathurst, Gulgong, Ballarat, Bendigo and so many other alluvial river areas of colonial Australia. In the early 1970s I tape recorded an old prospector, Rad Dawson, who summed it up nicely by saying: “There was plenty of gold out there, but a bloody lot of earth mixed in with it.”

The shipping newspapers, the ones actually printed during the long voyage, and the many ‘Advice to Emigrants’ booklets (mostly published by church organizations), talk about the importance of dancing as an acceptable seaboard activity and also in the colony.

One can imagine the ship’s senior officers and would-be millionaires escorting the line of demure young ladies to the small ship’s dance floor and flying around the room with the latest craze, the polka mazurka.

By the late 1860s many of the goldrush tent camps had become sizeable towns, if only by the addition of hotels replacing sly grog
shanties, general stores opening and more permanent structures replacing the canvas tents. It was a very male-dominated society and the arrival of females, including many keen-eyed commercial gals, was a time for celebration. It was usual to announce the arrival of a group of females in the local newspaper. Most came to ‘perform’ at the local hotel.

Some of the hotels were quite large and many also had large ‘concert halls’ where German bands, minstrel shows and other theatrical attractions performed. There was quite a lot of money to be made as a goldfield’s entertainer. They were also large enough for dancing however the biggest demand was for girls dancing on the stage rather than the usual dance environment. These were really girly shows and the more titillating the better.

The story of femme fatale Lola Montez and her ‘spider dance’ is well documented but enough to say the dance was based on the concept of a spider, possibly a tarantula, crawling into her clothing with Ms Montez vainly trying to find it. This meant the removal of several layers of clothing and this sent the concert hall attendees wild.


And many a bearded digger bold
In scarlet shirts arrayed
Assembled in the house the night
Lola Montez played
[Quoted in an article ‘a pair of pistols ñ an actors story’ in Wattle Blossom magazine 1881]

When Lola Montez challenged a newspaper Editor, Erle Seekamp to a stockwhip cracking contest in the bar of the United Services Hotel Ballarat 1855 this song was circulated. [WF Collection]LOLA MONTEZ

Erle Seekamp’s face wore a bloody trace
Of Lola Montez’s lashHer shoulder fair it was bare
Would show a crimson gash

By all accounts Irish and Scottish step dances were popular in the bush and mostly danced by men. No doubt crossed walking sticks or shepherd’s sticks would have been as good as two swords.

As the towns grew the bush dances became bigger events. Most towns had a monthly dance with local musicians performing in the most appropriate hall be it the Railway Institute, Oddfellows, Masonic or School of Arts. Sometimes, in more remote areas it was the local woolshed where the greasy lanolin had already made the floor surface ideal for gliding, sliding and waltzing. It was at these dances that another tradition developed: men down one end and women the other. Truth was, bush men were usually unaccustomed to female company and many were painfully shy. The girls were usually not much more comfortable in their newly-made, homemade crinoline outfits. Most dances had a ‘master of ceremonies’ who also ‘called’ the set dances. The music depended who was available however most halls had a piano (piano tuners travelled the bush regularly) and this would be augmented with fiddle, concertina and accordion, and, sometimes, homemade musical instruments that could contribute to the volume.

At the dances it was also custom to have local entertainment, be it a reciter, solo singer, glee group or even someone making animal and bird noises. If you were lucky you might have even heard a gumleaf virtuoso.
Some of these dances would have been boisterous affairs where the men drank far too much in an attempt to conceal their shyness. This became known as ‘Dutch courage’
Nudgee School of Arts. Qld

Dutch courage – false courage. Numerous expressions referring to the Dutch originate in Anglo-Dutch enmity during the 17th and early 18th centuries, when there were trade disputes, naval embargoes and three wars, as a result of which Dutch became a pejorative word. Generally, it indicated a lack of genuineness: Dutch courage is that induced by drinking alcohol, a Dutch uncle gives unpalatable heavy-handed advice (which is not to say bad advice), and double Dutch is gibberish or nonsense. The first of these may also allude to the Dutch fondness for gin and the second to Calvinistic sternness. …Later expressions are less derisive and more jocular, implying the sort of quirkiness many nations attribute to their neighbours: a Dutch treat, sometimes called going Dutch, means paying one’s share of expenses (i.e. no treat at all) and I’m a Dutchman is a general expression of disbelief.

It should also be noted that this ridicule of the Dutch was extended to Australia and many ‘Double Dutch’ songs were circulated in the mid-to-late 19th century. It is further noted that one of the most popular drinks in the colony was ‘Dutch Gin’.

The song ‘Wooyoo Ball’ which later became Euabalong Ball (as fashioned and originally popularised by A. L. Lloyd) captures the atmosphere.

NLA image of dance cards [from Mrs Corry/Peter Ellis collection)]

Oh, who hasn’t heard of Euabalong Ball,
Where the lads of the Lachlan, the great and the small,
Come bent on diversion from far and from near
To cast off their troubles for just once a year.
Like stringy old wethers, the shearers in force
All rushed to the bar as a matter of course.
While waltzing his cliner, the manager cursed,
‘Cause someone had caught him a jab with his spurs.
There were sheilas in plenty, some two or three score,
Some two-tooths, some weaners, some maybe some more,
With their fleeces all dipped and so fluffy and clean,
The finest young shearlings that ever was seen.
The boundary-riders was friskin’ about
But the well-sinkers seemed to be feelin’ the drought.
If the water was scarce, well, the whisky was there,
And what they couldn’t drink, boys, they rubbed in their hair.
There was music and dancin’ and goin’ the pace.
Some went at a canter, some went at a race.
There was buckin’ and glidin’ and rootin’ and slidin’,
And to vary the gait, some couples collidin’.
Oh, Euabalong Ball was a wonderful sight,
Rams among the two-tooths the whole flamin’ night.
And many young girls will regret to recall
The polkas they danced at Euabalong Ball.

One of the most important events in the Sydney calendar was the Lord Mayor’s Ball and several songs and poems exist ridiculing the pomp surrounding its very existence.

Following song Aug 21 1844. Sydney Punch. WF Collection


For Governor Gipps & his lady were there
in close tete-a -tete with -the Mayoress & Mayor
& in trimly dressed Parker and smart Mereweather
in the train of her Ladyship chattered together
On the mayoress attended her maids of honour
& her son in pages dress waited upon her
Sir Maurice 0 Connell the forces commander
Appeared among the guests a delighted “bystander
Deas Thompson so stately & Biddell so hearty
in civic costume were attached to the party
& majors a captains attended the muster
their scarlet coats brightening the glittering cluster
& groups of fair ladies their faces unveil
and sparkle like the stars in her ladyships tail

SOURCE: Aug 21 1844. Sydney Punch. [WF Collection]

Fashion is an important part of dancing and that includes the dances themselves. In the 19th century the most popular dances were a reminder of the courtly century before where preposterously dressed men and women wearing powdered curly wigs, curtsied and bowed in set dances like mechanical figures on a calliope. Thankfully, much of the stuffiness had been set aside, especially in the rural areas, as the partners swung around the halls in the Lancers, Alberts and other set dances. The varsoviana, schottische and polka were also popular with particular dances like The Berlin Polka sweeping the country as the ‘latest dance’ from Europe. In the cities ‘dancing masters’ taught these new dances to an eager public.

The following parody of Sally in Our Alley from the
W Fahey Collection/ Australian Melodist No 21. Circa 1880, is an example of how dancing and dancers fascinated the public.

Of all the girls that are so smart
There’s none like pretty Sally;
She’s getting fifteen bob a week
For dancing in the ballet.
There is no lady in the land
On whom I’m sweet like Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley,
At seven each night she goes to work,
For little time’s allowed her
To seize her make-up box and jerk
On cheeks the paint and powder.
She’s pretty punctual, too, to time,
She leads the blooming ballet;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
Of all the days that’s in the week,
I dearly love but one day—
With no rehearsal, so to speak,
For Sally on the Sunday.
‘Tis then in my bell-bottomed pants
I walk abroad with Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
When Christmas comes about again,
My Sally, light and airy,
Will in a Melbourne pantomime
Come out strong as a fairy.
She’ll have to speak two lines or so,
And that not comic-ally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.
I study, Walter Bentley-like,
My object princi-pally
To be a Henry Irving, when
Twill be all up with Sally.
For then I’ll tell my tale of love-
Yes, then I’ll marry Sally;
She is the darling of my heart,
And she lives in our alley.

SOURCE:parody of Sally in Our Alley from the
W Fahey Collection/ Australian Melodist No 21. Circa 1880

I mentioned ‘bawdry’ in my introduction. In 2005, as part of my general collecting of bawdry, I set out to gather bawdry associated with dancing. I was encouraged to do this after realising I had a couple of examples that I had noted down in the early seventies. A case of where there’s smoke there’s fire!

In 2005 I wrote to several friends and also circulated requests to dancers and musicians, especially in the folk circuit. These yielded a few contributions but my prime source came from other collectors, especially Peter Ellis, in Victoria. Peter has done a lot of work in collecting and restoring traditional dance music in Australia.

Dance bawdry appears to have developed as colloquial expressions to remind musicians of dance names. This is a real issue with many musicians and the name of the tune is often the one thing that immediately recalls the tune. Many tune names are derived from the musical pattern of the piece so Varsoviana becomes Arse Over Anna, or simply Arso. It is a phonetic way of remembering and, considering the average player of traditional music is confronted with hundreds and sometimes thousands of tunes, especially with variants. The naming of tunes also varies across a community. For example, a traditional tune transposed to Australia in the 19th century (or last month) could have had several titles and, just as relevant, it may also have had tune variations to distinguish it from another community. Say, for example, the Irish ‘Wearing of the Green’, could have been known under that title in Tipperary but in Galway it was known as ‘Paddy Letting off Steam’, a simple play on the structure of the title. Alternatively it could very well be known in Donegal as ‘Paddy Foley’s Tune’ because everyone in Donegal knew that Paddy Foley played that tune on his fiddle. He had a certain agreed ownership that entitled the tune to carry his name. At a dance someone would simply say: “Paddy Foley’s in D” – even if Paddy was not in attendance.

The fiddle was extremely popular in Australia because it was usually inexpensive and, of course, it was light and loud.

There is also the fact that musicians can be smart-arses and being separated from the main body of dancers, usually by sitting on a stage or rostrum, allowed them to make comments, often bawdy, about the dancers and individuals. Referring to certain dancers in bawdy terms was an ‘in joke’ to be shared by the musicians.

Comperes (or MC’s) also injected bawdy humour into the tradition and have been known to sing parody verses of popular songs associated with certain dances.
“First lady forward, second lady pass, third lady’s finger up the forth lady’s arse”


Circassian Circle = Circumcissional Circle
Virginia Reel = Vagina Reel

Evening Three Step … Evening Three Stumble
Barn Dance … The Cocky’s Hop
Lucille Waltz … Loosewheel Waltz.
Schottische … Short Squeeze
Gypsy tap = Tipsy Jap (all above from Peter Ellis)
Sheebeg Shemore = She Begged for More

Arsehole Brown For Tea. Ask Old Brown For Tea
Banish Misfortune = Vanish Me Foreskin (All above WF Collection)
Arse over Anna’ (Varsoviana) – from Sally Sloane, Lithgow, 1980

The grand chain figure of the Lancers, figure 5, Peter Ellis’s grandmother used to sing:THE BILLYGOAT’S ARSEThe tune being The Girl I Left Behind Me) (aka The Woodpecker’s Song. WF)’Well I stuck my nose up a billy goat’s arse,
And the smell was enough to blind me,So I took his prick for a walking stick
And his balls I left behind me.'(Frank Thompson’s variation, and his balls they dragged behind me.)

Another Lancers parody (collected by WF from P Dick, Wyoming, NSW):


Third party cross over and fourth lady pass
And the fifth lady’s finger up the sixth lady’s arse
Bow to your partners, salute one and all
And the girl with the dirty arse

Turn your back to the wall.


(Peter Ellis)to the tune ‘Babes in the wood”

“Cock your leg up Sal Brown
Let the water run down”

From Fiddle player Eileen McCoy – Tasmania,
to the tune of The Irish Washerwoman:

The Irish Washerwoman

“Oh you dirty young bugger how dare you presume
To piss in the bed when there’s a pot in the room
You should have been hit ’round the head with a broom
Before the daylight of the dawning”

Some derived dance names have no explanation for their widespread popularity and are not necessarily bawdy.

Cock O’ the North is well known as Aunty Mary Had A Canary

Aunty Mary

In many cases these tunes also attract a parody verse (or two) sung by musicians, and quite often picked up by dancers and ‘passed on’.

Aunty Mary had a Canary
Thought it was a duck
Took it behind the kitchen door and taught it how toÉÉ.
Fried eggs for breakfast, Fried eggs for lunch (and can’t remember the rest)
From John Williams via Peter Ellis

Cock o’ the North

(Aunty Mary) From Peter Ellis’s great aunt Beat

‘Aunty Mary, Uncle Charlie, I’ve lost the leg of my draws,
Aunty Mary, Uncle Charlie, won’t you lend me yours.’

And another From the late John Ottery
‘Aunty Mary had a canary up the leg of her draws,
When it came down, its beak was brown,
And it said I’m the cock of the north.’

And from John Lepley

‘Aunty Mary, Uncle Charlie,
Stood in a bucket of eggs,
Aunty Mary, Uncle Charlie,
The yolks ran down their legs.’

John Williams also contributed a bawdy parody of that 20th century dance hall favourite, Daisy, Daisy Give Me Your Answer Do. (First heard in Arab CafŽ at Lorne, Victoria, Jan 1968)


Daisy, Daisy, give me your tit to chew
I’m half crazy all for a root with you
It won’t be a stylish entry
I can’t afford a frenchie
But you’ll look sweet
Between the sheets
Of a double bed built for two

On Top Of Old Smokey

was another popular song. This contribution Rowan Webb, NSW.

On top of Old Smokey,
as everyone knows
lives Marilyn Munroe
without any clothes.And John Milce, Sydney:On top of old Smokey where nobody goes
there lies Sabrina without any clothes
Along came Roy Rogers, clippity clop
down with his trousers and out with his cock

Peter Ellis’s sister recalled this parody of She’ll Be Coming ‘Round The Mountain.

She’ll be coming round the mountain,
pissing like a fountain,
when the chain on her bicycle brakes. She’ll be sitting in the grass with the pedal up her arse and her tits playing ping-pong with the spokes.


(From John Lepley, Victoria)

Hey rig a jig, kiss a little pig, follow the band,
Follow the band, with your tool in your hand,
Hey rig a jig, kiss a little pig, follow the band,

Follow, follow the band.

I first heard this in Newcastle, late 1960s, (WF) as

‘Hey jig a jig,
Fuck a little piggy-wig
Follow the band’

Peter Ellis recalled the locals at Nariel (including David Alleway) singing a parody to the ubiquitous Spanish Waltz tune (derivative of The Cachouca) known under various names such as My Father Was A Dutchman, Mary is a-Weeping etc.

‘Once she was a virgin, a virgin, a virgin,
Once she was a virgin, but look at her now.’

Bob Michell collected a full text of the above (a variant) in the 1950s from Enos Newitt (refer tapes in W Fahey/National Library Collection). I also located a set of milder verses in the Australian Melodist Songbook (circa 1880, Melbourne)

Then American song, and popular dance tune, Redwings, also attracted a lot of parody.

‘Oh the moon shines bright on Charlie Chapman’, (sic Chaplin?) From Peter Ellis

In 1975, at Sofala, I recorded the following from Owen Judd of Wollongong.

There once was an Indian maid,
Who said she wasn’t afraid
To lay on her back for two-and-a -zack
And let the cowboys whop it up her crack

One day she got a surprise
Her belly began to rise
Out popped a nigger – and began to frig ‘er
With his arsehole covered in flies.

And another that ran the complete parody of the song:


There once was an Indian maid, and she was sore afraid
That the big buckaroo, would ram it up her flue
As on the bed she laid.
So she filled her snatch with sand, and held it in her hand
To keep the boys from forbidden joys
In Redwing’s promised land.
Oh, the moon shines bright on little Redwing, as she lay sleeping
There came a-creeping, ’twas the buckeroo with eyes a-peeping
Under the flap of Redwing’s tepee
Now that buckeroo was wise, he slipped between her thighs
He plucked and wheezed and tickled at her knees
He made Little Redwings open her eyes.
She reached for her bowie knife, to fight for her dear life
It flashed in the sky as she let it fly
And his pegging days were over.
Now the sun shines bright on Little Redwing, as she lays yawning
There hangs a warning, two balls and a prick adorning
The flap of Redwing’s tepee
Girls if you want to be wives, put away your knives
Boys like to play, have a roll in the hay
But they don’t want to pay for the rest of their lives
So mind what mother said, when you’re lying on your bed
If you want to get laid, don’t reach for the blade
Have a hell of a time instead.

SOURCE:parody of Redwings

There are quite a lot of bawdy songs about dancing and the most widespread has a very noble history in as much as the great Robert Burns contributed the model verses. It then became more bawdy over time as it described the great Ball at Kerrymuir (various spellings) including the classic verses:

Four and twenty virgins came down from Inverness
When the ball was over there were four and twenty less.
There was fookin’ in the highways and fookin’ in the drains
You couldn’t hear the bagpipes for the semen in the drains.

They were fookin’ on the stairway and fooking in the halls
You couldn’t hear the music for the clanging of the balls.

The song then goes and introduces several identities:

Sarah McGregor she was there, she had the crowd in fits
By diving off the mantelpiece and landing on her tits.

Sir Winston Churchill he was there, down behind the bar

When he couldn’t raise a fat, he used a black cigar.

Interestingly one version I found introduced a variant of the above-mentioned lines from the First set of The Lancers:

First lady forward, second lady back
Third lady’s finger up the fourth lady’s crack

Fifth lady curtsy, sixth lady pass
Seventh lady’s finger up the eighth lady’s arse.

Many of the versions of the Ball of Kerrymuir offer a common chorus of:

Who’ll do me this time, who’ll do me now?
The one that did me last time, must have used a plow
(or: cannot do me now)

Another perennial favourite was the progressive barn dance tune Sweet Violets and this too attracted many bawdy verses.

The very innocent chorus to the song is well known:

Sweet violets, sweeter than the roses,
Covered all over from head to toe
Covered all over with sweet violets.

The feature of this particular song is that it intentionally misleads the listener who is expecting a filthy ending but gets more innocence:

Susan was a nice friend, with plenty of class
She knocked the boys dead when she wriggled herÉÉ then the singer(s) goes into the chorus lines.

And another shows how far the verses can go (and they did):

Took the horse from the stable to go to the hunt
His wife in the bedroom powdering herÉ..Sweet Violets etc

Most of the Bawdy dance ditty’s I presented at one of the early Folklore
Conferences, if you have that publication.
But I’ll give you what I can from memory, you did write out your lancers
ditty for me at the time.

Peter Ellis comments: “Traditional player, Harry McQueen could never play Men of Harlech properly because of a dirty ditty where the tune had to be modified to fit the lyrics. It was played and therefore sang in Sir Roger de Coverley and sets such as Lancers, First Set and Alberts. It got so bad, the men’s voices getting too loud, the MC vetoed the musicians from playing the tune from then on.”

‘There’s the man that stuffed my daughter,
Filled her up with soapy water,
Now he’s got to pay me twelve and six a week.
There’s the man that stuffed her,
There’s the man that stuffed her,
Filled her up with soapy water,
Now he’s got to pay me twelve and six a week.

Peter Ellis comments: “Attached Song which a country and western singer gave the Gay Charmers and myself to sing at the Drovers’ Camp at Camooweal 18 months back. The young fella didn’t know what tune to use. It was obvious to us it was Sweet Violets, but he didn’t know it. Tricky to fit the lyrics to the tune but (to use a Qld expressive ending).”

THE ASSUMING SONG (to the verse of Sweet Violets)


To Yip I Addi I Ay
Introductory section not to that tune

‘Sing of joy, sing of bliss, sing of arseoles and piss’

Now to the tune, ‘Oh rip my knickers away, away,
Oh rip my knickers away, I don’t care what becomes of me,
As long as you play with me c,u,n,t.


(from Peter Ellis) – Also to the intro of Repasz

Never been done,
Clean as a bun,

Mary Queen of the Virgins.
Oh what a pity she’s only one titty
To feed the baby on.’

In 1972 I recorded the following choice parody to one of Australia’s most popular songs.

Road to Gundagai

There’s a widgie on her back,
And she’s lying on the track,

Upon the road to Gundagai.
There’s a bodgie there beside her, a
And I’ll bet my balls he’ll ride ‘er

Beneath these sunny skies.
There’s a grunt from her front
As he shoves it up her cunt,
Upon the road to Gundagai.
No more will so roam with a belly full of foam,

Upon the road to Gunadagai.

The bawdy tradition did not end at the arrival of the twentieth century, in fact, it accelerated. Liberal thought, especially in universities, encouraged such singing. In some ways it was a snub at the crusty Victorian morals of the previous century.

Frank Coughlan

Dancing, of course, went through several dramatic changes. The Charleston faze ushered in a craze for semi bawdy humour based on the ‘flappers’ – the young girls who brazenly danced the Charleston – and several rather priggish songs were created and published in a weekly magazine (Sydney) titled ‘Flapper’. Hollywood influenced the dance world after audiences saw their favourite stars including Clarke Gable, Loretta Young, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers, etc twirling around in glamorous settings. Then came the ‘dance palais’ where live jazz-based orchestras played in venues such as the Trocadero (Sydney). These were extremely popular and often broadcast live to radio. Refer to my Yesterday’s Australia series of CDs and the Frank Coughlan and Barbara James CDs for examples of this fine music. The next wave was jitterbug and, around the same time in the fifties, square dancing, then rock and roll and a flow of gimmick dances including the Twist, Madison, Huckleluck, Stomp and so many more.

The environment for all the above dances, from the WW1 period through to now, did not encourage bawdiness. The exception being the less formal dances in the suburbs and country where dances like the barn dance and sets still survived and so did the tradition of singing along, including bawdy verses. The time around WW2 certainly saw more bawdy songs being sung and my Australian Folklore Unit tapes, especially of women involved with the Land Army include several such ditties.

My father, George Fahey, also sang these songs including Sweet Violets and a bawdy song, Whollop It Home, that offered the enticing chorus:

Put your belly close to mine and wriggle your bum.

One of the songs from the 1950s concerns Kings Cross, Sydney’s late-night red light and club destination. It was set to the Darktown Strutters’ Ball. The last line is sung deliberately slow as a lament.


Well, I fucked in Cuba and I fucked in Spain
And I fucked all over the Spanish Main
But the best fuck of them all
Was when I fucked my mother-in-law
Last Saturday night at the Kings Cross Harlot’s Ball
Without her pants onÉ.
Well, they lined a hundred sheilas up against the wall
And I bet five quid I could fuck them all
But, when I got to ninety eight
I thought my poor old prick would break
So I went down town and had some oyster stew
And then came back and did the other two
And now I’m feeling fine
Got fucking right off my mind
The other night at the kings Cross Harlots Ball.
Without her pants onÉÉ
And then I went on down to hell
‘Cos me and Nick we get on well
I asked him for a glass of water
When he went out I fucked his daughter
When he came back with the glass
I shoved that thing right up his arse
And if you think that was a joke
You should have heard my penis croak,
Last Saturday night at the Kings Cross Harlots Ball.

TUNE: Darktown Strutters’ Ball.

Today’s fast-moving world has little time for singing and dancing has become either an antiquated art form or a move while you are blitzed style. It is certainly not conducive to bawdy song and the demand for louder and louder still has all but killed the custom of singing. You will find the lads, and some of the girls, singing at the occasional B&S, or on a bus to a footie match, or around a bushwalker’s campfire, but that’s about it. Pity. A sign of the times.

The Sydney Lord Mayor’s Ball 1844

Mitchell Library. Manuscript ‘scrapbook’ John Rae circa 1844. DSM/A827/r and 821/r

“THE following Extract from the account of the Fancy Ball, which I sent to the Herald, on the day after it took place, contains some particulars which could not be introduced into the Poem.

Sydney Morning Herald, Friday, 23rd August 1844.
The fancy dress ball of the Right Worshipful the Mayor to the citizens of Sydney took place in the Victoria Theatre on Wednesday evening, 21st instant. It was a gorgeous spectacle; and, unless we had been present, we could not have conceived it possible for Sydney, in its present condition, to have brought together such a vast variety of costly and magnificent dresses, and costumes of all nations, as greeted our eyes on the present occasion.

Ever since his Worship announced his intention of giving a Fancy Ball, considerable excitement has prevailed.  All were anxious to be present; but as the theatre could contain only a limited number, it is obvious that all could not be invited. We must give the Mayor credit for doing all that prudence could accomplish, to render the invitations as general as possible.  He acted wisely in entrusting the issuing of cards to a Committee, whose management and whole arrangements showed that they were well qualified for the task committed to their charge.

“ We are aware,”—says a writer on a similar subject, “that many persons are strongly opposed to the gaiety of such scenes—and cry out upon the vanity of heart that can induce a thinking man to bedizen himself in the trappings of a borrowed character, and to strut and fret his hour, as some foreign potentate, or defunct hero, for the edification of a few hundreds of people as simple as himself.—For our own poor part, we are of the earth, earthy ; we seek pleasure wherever she can be found with morality for her companion; whether it be in the busy bustling town, or in the one quiet street of a country village, in the brilliant saloon trembling beneath the feet of the dancers, or in the retired solitude of a sand-strewn parlour, at some road-side inn.

All times, all places are alike to us,—so long as the legitimate end of pleasure is kept in view; and whilst hilarity of heart and enlargement of feeling are the results of such associations, we do not know that we are infringing upon any divine law, by participating in that which so innocently invites us to dance and be merry.”

The Victoria Theatre never looked more brilliant. Extensive preparations had been made, to turn the capacious stage and pit into one ample Ball-room. The pit was, for this purpose, boarded over, and the extent of area enclosed from the back of the stage to the boxes, will be easily understood by any person who has visited the theatre. The excellent Band of the 99th Regiment was stationed in the centre of the upper tier of boxes, and the theatrical Band at the back of the pit. Tables for refreshment were spread at the extreme ends of the stage, which was lighted with ‘a brilliant chandelier, in addition to the usual gas-burners. From the proscenium to the back of the stage, drapery of different colours, and tastefully arranged into festoons and graceful folds, gave a gay and imposing appearance to this part of the house. Under the boxes, the columns and walls of the quondam pit were decked with wreaths of evergreens, and on facing round from the back of the stage, the scene which the different tiers of boxes presented,—so elegantly fitted up, and crowded with so many fair and happy faces, and splendid dresses,—was truly delightful.

The dress and upper circles were reserved for the invited guests; and the gallery for those who could not be asked to the ball, for want of room. They were accordingly only spectators of the carnival; and were admitted by different cards, and by a separate entrance. In the lobby was stationed a guard-of-honour, which saluted their Excellencies the Governor,—and the Commander of the Forces,—and other officers, with the honours due to their rank.

At the top of the grand staircase, fronting the principal entrance to the theatre, some members of the Corporation and the Town-clerk were stationed, to receive the company and prevent intrusion from unbidden guests. On delivery of their cards, parties might be ushered into the Ballroom at once, or retire to the dressing-rooms provided for them.

For the convenience of the ladies, a door was opened from the lobby of the dress-circle into the saloon, and the cloakrooms of the theatre were reserved for the accommodation of gentlemen.   On completing their toilet, they returned by the same staircase, and were introduced and made their bow to the Mayor and Mayoress.

The Ball was announced to commence at nine; but the Mayor, unwilling to keep the carriages waiting, and blocking up the passage to the theatre, ordered the doors to be opened at half-past eight, and the ballroom was very soon sprinkled with fancy dresses.  About a quarter past nine, His Excellency the Governor, Lady Gipps and suite, were announced, amidst the acclamations of all present, while the two Bands played the National Anthem. The appearance which the Ballroom at this moment presented was very imposing, and His Excellency might be pardoned for indulging the belief that for one night he was Governor of many nations.   The music and dancing commenced soon after; and we felt the force and beauty of the noble poet’s description of a similar scene at Brussels, on the eve of the battle of Waterloo, which with a slight alteration will describe the scene at the Theatre :—

There was a sound of revelry by night—
Australia’s capital had gathered then
Its beauty and its chivalry; and bright
The lamps shone on fair women and brave men.
A thousand hearts beat happily, and when
Music arose, with its voluptuous swell,
Soft eyes looked love to eyes which spake again,
And all went merry as a marriage-bell.
On with the dance! let joy be unconfined!
No sleep till morn, when youth and pleasure meet,
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.

In so large an assembly, where there was often scarcely walking-room, it was astonishing to see what order and regularity prevailed.   So dense was the crowd, and so large the room, that on parting with a friend there was but little chance of finding him or her again for the next half-hour; but, no sooner was the order to form for quadrilles issued, than the confused mass of human beings ranged themselves as if by magic, with as much apparent facility as if only fifty had been present, and chaos was changed into order.

The appearance of the Ball-Boom from the boxes was exceedingly picturesque and magnificent.  The eye of the spectator wandered from object to object with ever-varying pleasure. The splendour and diversity of the dresses,— the correctness of the different costumes,—the historical and dramatic – the fictitious and fanciful characters, which figured beneath, exhibited a tableau vivant, a never-ending series of living pictures of different ages and countries that could not be surpassed.  It would be impossible to give a person who was not present any idea of the elegance and costliness of the dresses, and we may refer to the subjoined List, taken from the cards, to show their variety. Among the gaudy array of Eastern garbs, glittering with Barbaric pearl and gold, there were many complete and handsome Highland costumes, which gave a cool relief to the eye and produced an agreeable contrast; and there were some characters which had never appeared on any stage before, and could not well appear on any other stage than that of Australia—we allude to those representing the Aborigines of the Colony. One of these sable heroes, arrayed in an old tattered blanket, enlivened the company, on one occasion, by bursting into the centre of a circle of waltzers, and giving a ludicrous fac simile of an Aboriginal dance.  There was another character which created much excitement, at an early part of the evening,—we mean Jack the Giant, a gentleman nine feet high, who marched into the room, and, brandishing a club, threatened to damage the chandelier, if not to take a step from the pit into the boxes.

We are quite incompetent to the task of describing the dresses of the ladies. To say that they were generally elegant and many of them gorgeous would be saying only the truth, but it would not be saying all the truth.   We were delighted to see such a large assemblage of the beauty and fashion of the metropolis; and to the fair ladies of Sydney, who took so much pains to decorate their persons, and to personify some of the heroines of other days, His Worship was indebted for the delight which was experienced by all present at the Ball.  Dancing commenced shortly after nine o’clock, and was kept up with much spirit, until six o’clock next morning.  The dances were quadrilles, and waltzes, and gallopades (sic), four double sets of quadrilles being formed at one time.

The following is a list of the company present, with the costumes assumed by the different characters printed in Italics. Where no costume is given, the parties were in plain clothes, or had omitted to state on their cards the names of the characters, which they meant to personate.

One leading and most agreeable feature of the evening’s entertainments was the total, absence of all class feeling. This must have been perceptible to all, and can be justly attributed to the excellent arrangements of the Committee.  It was gratifying to observe all classes mixing familiarly together; and we are satisfied, that meetings like this are calculated to produce good feeling among all.

The refreshments were supplied by Fielding, and, as will be seen by the bill of fare, (published in the Herald,) were both varied and plentiful. At the top of the table, there was a gilt pedestal, supporting a beautiful glass star; and between the points, and around the border of the star, the words Victoria, and Corporation, shone in letters of sugar.  On each side of the star, was a splendid pillar, surmounted by a Prince of Wales’s feather, festooned with flowers.

We are only echoing the generally expressed sentiment, that it was impossible that any affair of the kind could go off more pleasantly; but it could not be otherwise. The arrangements were excellent; everybody went determined to be pleased,— and they were pleased accordingly.

We cannot conclude, without noticing the admirable arrangements made by the Commissioner of Police outside.  To avoid confusion on the arrival of the carriages, barriers were placed across Market street and Pitt street, and the whole of the company were set down, without the slightest accident.


Here is a very comprehensive list of those who attended the 1844 ball – and the characters they went as! There are some extraordinary costume themes. What a pity the photographers weren’t there to snap them.

A’Becket Mr. A., Staff Surgeon
Agars Councillor, Civic Costume
AIger Mr. J., Othello
Aldis Mr. and Mrs., Courtiers of Charles I,
Allardice A., Algerine
Allcock Miss, Irish Peasant
Allman Mr. G-., Assyrian,
Andrews Mr., Paul Jones
Aspinwall Mr., Modern,Greek
Aspinwall Mrs., Turkish Lady
Austin Mr. G-., Spanish Nobleman
Baldock Miss, Greek Costume
Baly Mr., Under  Graduate of Oxford
Baly Mrs., Fancy Dress
Bannatyne D., Uniform
Barbierres Madame, German Peasant
Barker E. 0., Ensign, 99th Regiment
Barker Miss, Huntsman’s Daughter
Barker Mr., Huntsman,
Barker Mrs., Huntsman’s Wife
Barker T., junr., English Peasant
Barlow E. D., Fire Sprite
Barter Miss
Bead Mr., Spanish
Beatrice Mr.
Bell Miss
Bennett Mrs. G-. Greek Lady
Bennett Or., Doctor of Medicine of Oxford
Beverley Mr. H. G., Naval Officer’s Uniform
Beverley Mrs. H. G-., VenetianLady
Bicknell Mr.
Binnie Miss
Binnie R., Costume a l’Orientale
Black J. H., Fancy Dress
Black Mrs., Fancy Dress
Blackburn Ensign, 99th Regiment
Blackman Mr., a Saxon
Blackman Mrs., Grecian
Blanchard Miss, Fancy Dress
Blanchard Mr. J
Blanchiird Mrs  J., Fancy Dress
Bland Dr., Earl of Oxford
Blaxland Mr.
Bligh Mr., Uniform Leander Club
Bloxsome Mr. 0., HenryAshton (Bride of Lammermoor)
Boulton Mr.,  Gentleman, 17th Century
Bourne Miss, Flower Girl
Bowen Miss, Fancy Dress
Bowen Mr. J., Swiss Peasant
Boyd Mr. B., Highland Chieftain
Boyd Mr. C.
Boyd Mr. J, Chinese General
Boyd Mrs. C.
Boyd Mrs., Quakeress
Bradley H. B., Roman Senator
Bradley Mr. and Mrs.
Bradley Mrs. H. B., Night
Braithwaite D. A. C. G, Yeoman
Brenan Mr. Ist Law Officer of the Crown
Brenan Mr. J., un Salteador
Brenan Mrs. Fairy
Briellat Mr. T. C.
Briellat Mrs. T. C., Spanish Lady
Broadhurst Mr. E.
Brodie Hugh
Brown A. C., Claude Duval
Brown Councillor, Huntsman
Brown H., Dr. Slammer
Brown H., Prince Orlando
Brown Miss, Madeline Lester
Brown Mr. J., Duke Aranza
Brown Mrs. 3., Duchess Aranza
Brown Mrs. A. C., Sight
Brown Mrs. W.
Brown Mrs., Grace Darling
Brownlow Miss
Bryant S. A.
Buchanan Mr., Bohemian Costume
Buchanan Mr., Fancy Dress
Buchanan Mrs., Fancy Dress
Burke Mr., Knight Templar
Burns Mr. D.
Cadddl Mr. P.
Caddell Miss, Fancy Dress
Caddell Mr.
Caddell Mrg.
Callenders Miss, White Lady of Arenel
Campbell Mr. Alexr., Scotch Factor
Campbell Mr. K., tertius
Campbell Mr. T. W.
Cape Mr. W. T.
Cape Mrs. W. T.
Carr Mr., Fancy Dress
Carr Mrs., Abbess of Chelles
Cassells Mr., Dandie Dinmont
Challis Miss, Native of Engadine
Chambers H. C., Dr. Syntax
Chambers Hugh, 1st. Jack the Giant 9 feet high
Chambers Miss Lucy, Fairy
Chambers Mrs. H. C., Fancy Dress
Chapman Mrs., Fancy Dress
Chapman W. H., Napoleon.
Cheeke A.
Chief, Warratonga
Chippendale Miss, Quakeress
Chisholm Miss, Fancy Dress
Christie Major, Mexican Ranchero
Christie Mrs., Zuleika
Clements Mrs., Fancy Dress
Clendon Capt.
Cnrtis W. B., Chinese
Cockraft Capt.
Coghill Capt.
Cohen J. J., Chinese Mandarin
Cohen Mr. Francis, Abdallah the Moor
Cohen Mr., Dr. Ollapod
Cohen Mrs., Polish Lady
Cole Mr. S., Malay
Connelly Miss, Flower Girl
Cook Miss
Cooper Mrs., Swiss Peasant
Cox Mr. John, Rifles
Coyle Councillor, Civic Dress
Coyle Mrs., Quakeress
Craig Mr.
Craig Mr. A.
Daniels Mr., German Peasant
Darling (A. C., General), Yeoman 10th Century, en blouse
Dawes Mr.
Dawes Mrs., Rachel
Dawsons Dr.
Dawsons Mrs.
Deane Miss, Flower Girl
Deioitte Mrs., Cleopatra
Deloitte Mr., Fancy Dress
Despard Lt.-Col., 99 Regt, uniform
Despard Miss, Swiss Peasant
Despard Mrs.
Desring R. B., Uniform
Dick Mr.., Frank Midway
Dick Mrs.
Dillon Mr. Moore
Dobie Dr.
Donaldson Miss, Highland Lady
Donaldson Mr. J., Uniform
Donaldson Mr. S. A., a McDonald of Glencoe
Donelly Mr. Boss, Brigand
Dowling Mr. Vincent.
Dresing C., Lieut., Uniform
Driver Miss
Driver Miss
Driver Mrs.
Dudemaine Madame, Spanish Lady
Duguid Mr. W., HarounAlraschid
Duigan Dr., an Irish Tutor
Duigan Mrs., Indian Slave
Duncan W. A., The Admirable Crichton
Dunn Miss, Fancy Dress
Dunsmure Mr. S.
Egan Miss, Fancy Dress
Egan Mr. D., Royal Arch Mason
Egan Mrs. D.| Fancy Dress
Ellard Miss, Greek Girl
Ellard Mr. junr., GreekYouth
Ellis Mr. T. Eyre
Elwin Miss, Neapolitan,
Elyard Win., Fancy Dress
Ennis Miss, Fairy
Eyre Miss
Faircloth Mr. G. Robin Hood
Faithfull Mr. Wth Regiment, Chatham Barracks
Faithfull Mrs.
Fawcett Mr. C., Cossack of the Don
Ferris H., Court Costume
Fisher Mrs-, Highland Lady
Flaherty Mr. John
Flood Alderman, Official Costume
Flood Miss, Fancy Dress
Flood Mrs. Thomas
Flood. Mrs., Fancy Dress
Forster Mr. J., German Student
Forster Mr., Scotch Undress
Forster Mrs., Fancy Dross
Foster Mr.
Foster Mrs.
Fotheringham A.
Fullerton Dr.
Galbraith G. T., Assistant Surgeon
Gall Lieut., 99th Regiment
Garling Mr.
Garling Mr., Barrister-at-Law
Gaunson Mr., Officer, Black Watch
Gaunson Mrs., Wife of Officer, Black Watch
Gibbea Mr. W., Earl of Rochester
Gibbes Colonel
Gibbes Miss M, Roman Girl
Gibbes Miss, Roman Girl
Gibbes Mr. C., Swiss Peasant
Gibbes Mrs.
Gibbes Mrs. W., Violante of Milan,
Gilchrist Mr. T.
Gilmore Mrs., Night
Gilrnore Mr., The Stranger
Gipps His Excellency Sir George
Gipps Lady
Girard Miss, Grecian Lady
Goodsir Mr,, junior, Royal Scotch Archer
Goodsir Mrs.
Gordon Colonel
Gordon Mr., Tondor 0(Egyptian)
Gordon Mrs., Asiych (Egyptian)
Gore Mr. H., Military Officer
Gore Mr. II., Windsor Uniform
Gore Mr., Collegian
Gore Mrs., Italian Peasant
Graham Mr. Robert
Grant Mr. Patrick
Grant Mr., a Greek
Green Miss, Brenda Troil
Green Mr. J., Collegian,
Greenhill Mr. H., Propria Persona
Greenhill Mrs., Fancy Dress
Gregory Mr.
Gregory Mr. J. H.
Griffiths Mr. jun., ForeignUniform
Griffiths Mr., Windsor Uniform
Griffiths Mrs., Fancy Dress
Hadsley Mr., Dr. Slammer
Hadsley Mrs., Quakeress
Hamley J. 0., Aboriginal Chief
Hankinson Miss, Neapolitan
Hanson Mrs., Forget-me-not
Hardy Mr,, Irish Lancer
Harnett Miss, Lady of the Reign, of Henry  IV of England
Harnett Mr., Official Dress
Harnett Mrs., Lady of the Reign of Queen Mary
Hatch Mr. H. J.,Marmeduke
Hawkes G. W., Bravo of Venice
Hayden Mrs , Fancy Dress
Hely Mr. H., Hunting Dress
Henderson Mr,, Fancy Dress
Henderson Mrs.
Herring Mr. J., Figaro
Hill Councillor, Official Costume
Hill Miss
Hill Miss S.
Hill Mr. E., Valentine (Two Gentlemen of Verona)
Hill Mr. R., John Forrester (The Jewess)
Hill Mrs. B., Young Widow
Hill Mrs. D., Fancy Dress
Hill Mrs. E., Silvia
Hill Mrs., Costume de la Courde France en 1790
Hindson Capt.
Hindson Mrs.
Hirst Mr., FraDiavolo
Hollingshed Mr. A-, Lord Mayor’s Coxswain
Hollingshed Mr. H. Friend
Hollingshed Mrs. H., Turkish Lady
Hollingworth Capt., Naval Costume
Hollingworth Miss E. C., Eastern Fancy Dress
Hollingworth Miss E., Albanian
Hollingworth Miss P., Flora
Hollingworth Miss, Fancy Dress
Hollingworth Mr. E., Shkepitarar of Albania
Hosking Dr., Lord Chancellor
Hosking Mr. J., King Henry v111
Hosking Mrs., Australian Lady
Hutchinson Mr. A., Prince Rupert
iBlackman Miss, Grecian
Icely Mr.
Iceton Mr., a Turk
IIanson Mr., Spanish Gondolier
Inches Dr.
Inches Mr. J.,Foxhunter
Isdell E. W., Ensign, 99th Regiment
Isdell Mr.
Jackson Major, 99th Regiment
Jaques Miss, Fancy Dress
Jaques Theodore J., Swiss Peasant
Jeffreys Mr. J.
Jeffreys Mrs. J.
Jenkins Councillor, Civic Costume
Jenkins Miss, Fancy Dress
Jenkins Mrs. W. W., Fancy Dress
Jessie Mr., Knight Templar
Johnson B.E., Gentleman, Time of Charles II.
Johnson John, Gentleman., Old School
Johnson Mr., Slasher
Johnson Mrs. John, Spanish Lady
Johnson Mrs., Young Widow
Johnson R. A.,  The Bavarian Brother
Johnson Richard, English Page
Jones Miss, Fancy Costume
Jones Miss, Tyrolean Dress
Jones Mr. J.
Jones Mr., Sportsman
Jones Mrs. J.
Jones Mrs., Fancy Dress
Joseph Moses, Napoleon
Joseph Mrs., Josephine
Josephson J. F.
Joubert Jules, Debardeur sous la Regence
Kellie Mr., Turkish Naval Officer
Kemp Mr. Charles
Kemp Mrs. Charles, Spanish Lady
Kenny Dr., Undress Gwalior Contingent
Kerr Mr. W. H.
Kerr Mrs. W. H.
Kettle Miss, Swiss Peasant
Kettle Mr., Swiss Peasant
Knight Mr.
Knight Mrs.
Laidley Miss E., Peasant of Nantz
Laidley Miss K., Peasant of Nantz
Laidley Miss, Fancy Dress
Laidley Mr. James, .Forester of Sherwood
Laidley W. 0., a Page
  Lamb Miss, Fancy Dress
Lamb Mr. E., Sailor
Lamb Mr. jun., Officer, Spanish Legion
Lamb Mrs., Fancy Dress
Lane Miss, French Peasant
Lane Mr. W., Spanish Boy
Langley Mr., Military Officer
Larnach Mr., Highland Chieftain
Lawry Mr. T., Officer Staff
Lawry Mrs. .
Lee Dr., Colonial Surgeon
Letts Mr.
Mair Lieutenant W., Riifles
Levien Miss, Gipsy Girl
Levien Mr., Highland Chieftain
Lewis J., Cavalier
Lewis Mr. jun., Sea Rover
Lewis Mr. M., Civil Officer
Lewis Mrs. M., Indian Lady
Little Councillor, Native Black
Little Mr. A., Cavalier Time Charles II.
Logan Mr., Wanderer
Long Mr. P., Court Dress of 1800
Long Mrs. P., Spanish Lady
Lord Mr. E.
Lord Mr. J.
Lord Mrs. R.
Lyall Mr., Freemason’s Costume
M’Alister Mr. L., Squatter
Mallon Dr., Galen
Malouey Miss, Swiss Peasant
Man- Mr., Highland Laddie
Mann Mrs. Or. K.., Grecian Lady
Manning Mr.
Manning Mr. Edye
Manning Mrs., Lady, Reign Louis xiv.
Mariow Mrs., Fancy Dress
Marlow Capt., Royal Engineers
Marlow Miss
Marlow Miss Catherine
Marlow Mrs., Fancy Dress
Marr Mra., Fancy Dress
Marsh Miss, Persian Costume
Marsh Mr. Melbourne JockeyCostume
Marsh Mr., GentlemaninBlack
Marsh Mrs., Fancy Dress
Marshall Capt., Long Tom Coffin
Marshall Mrs., Fancy Dress
Martin Mr., Spanish Grandee
Masters Lieut. C, C., Uniform
Matin Mr. Gr. K., Military Costume
M’Carthy Miss, Spanish Peasant
M’Crae Dr., Doctor of Medicine of Oxford
M’Crae Miss, Spanish Donna
M’Crae Mrs., Scottish Lady
M’Dermott Alderman, Half-Sergeant Half-Alderman
M’Donald Mr., Ordnance Officer
M’Donald Mrs., Fancy Dress
M’Dougall A. L., Fox-hunter
Melville Mr., German Forester
Melville Mrs., Forester s Wife
Merewether Mr.
Merewether Mr.-F. L. S.
Merewether Mrs. F. L. S.
Metcalfe J. B., Mason
M’Farlane Dr.
Michie Mr., Brigand
Michie Mrs., a Nun
Middleton C. 0. Highland Costume
Milford Miss, French Peasant
Milford Mr. Herman, Midshipman Easy
Milford Mr., Dr. Pangloss
Milford Mr., Hamlet
Milford Mrs., Morgiana
Mitchell Miss
Mitchell Mr., Commissariat Officer
M’Kenzie MT., Selim
M’Lauren Mr.
M’Lean Ii. H., Highlander
M’l’ermott Mrs., Fancy Dress
M’lntosh Miss, Fancy Dress
M’lntosh Mr., Uniform Leander Club
M’Nab Mr., Rob Roy
M’Namara Miss
M’Namara Mr. James
Moody Mr., Robin hood
Moore Capt. 11th Regiment
Morehead Mr. E. A. A.
Morgan Miss, Rebecca
Morgan Mr., Spanish Costume 2nd, Grecian Peasant; 3rd, New Zealand
Moriarty Master, Page
Moriarty Miss L., Russian Peasant
Moriarty Miss, Fancy Dress
Moriarty Mr., Naval Officer
Moriarty Mrs., Spanish Donna
Mort Mr. J., Bohemian
Mort Mrs., Georgian, Lady
MortMr. T. S., Court Dress, Reign Henry VI.
Mosking Mrs., Fancy Dress
M’Pherson Mr.
M’Pherson Mr. J., Jolly Squatter
Murphy Mr., St. John Long
Murray Dr., Legion of Honor
Murray Mr.
Murray Mrs.
M’Vitt,ie Mr., Scots-Australian
Nathan Mr., a Doctor
Newman Mr.
Newman Mrs., Maid of Athens
Nicholson Capt. J.
Nicholson Dr.
Nicholson Mrs,, Polish Lady
Norton Mr. J., Mountaineer of the Grison
Norton Mr. James, Swiss
O’Bell Mr. H., Maltese Sailor
O’Brien Mr. Henry, Shepherd
O’Brien Mrs. H., Shepherdess
O’Connell C. P., Staff Uniform
O’Connell Capt., Major of Brigade
O’Connell Capt., Uniform
O’Connell Lieut., Staff’ Uniform
O’Connell Mrs., Corfuote Costume
O’Connell Mrs., Fancy Costume
O’Connell Mrs., Fancy Dress
O’Connell Sir Maurice
O’Connor Mr., Turkish Costume
O’Dell Mr, T., Capt. Light Infantry,British Auxiliary Legion.
O’Gilby Mr.
O’Rielly Mr., Greek Corsair
O’Rielly Mrs., Greek Lady
Owen Miss, Spanish Peasant Girl
Owen Mr, P., Military Undress
Owen Mr. R., jnnr., Military Dress
Owen Mr. Robt., Quaker
Palton Mr.,  Officer
Palton Mrs., Lady Louisa,Lambton
Panton Mr.
Panton Mrs.
Pawley Councillor, Civic Costume
Pawley Mr.,junr., Huntsman
Peate Mr., Spanish Brigand
Peate Mrs., Fancy Dress
Pite Mr. J.
Plunkett Master A., Boy Jack
Plunkett Miss, Fancy Dress
Plunkett Mr. Gr.
Pooie Mr., Commissioner Lin
Poole Miss A., Sardinian
Poole Miss, Hungarian
Poole Mrs., Lady Teazle
Powell Mr. James
Powell Mrs. J.
Pratt Miss
Pratt Miss
Pratt Paymaster E.
Preston Mr.
Purefoy Mr.
Purefoy Mr. W. A.
Rae Mr. John, Highland Costume— George Douglas, of Loch Leven
Rattray Mrs.
Rattray W. G., Hussar Officer
Rav Mr. J., Jockey
Raymond Mr. James, Captain Absolute
Raymond Mr. John
Raymond Mr. R. P.
Raymond Mrs. John
‘Richardson Mr. J. G.
Richardson Mrs. J. Q.
Rickards Mr., Spanish Don
Rickards Mrs., Kate Kearney
Riddell Mr.
Rinclaud Mr. H.
Ritchie Mr. A. A., Falconer
Roberlson Mr. H., Tom Tug the Waterman
Roberts Mr. C., Sportsman
Robertson Mr., Cavalier of Charles II.
Robinson Mr. J. P., Jolly Miller
Rogers Mr. E.
Rogers Mr. E.
Rogers Mr. G. J., Dr. Pangloss
Rogers Mr. W. E., Finican
Rogers Mrs. E.
Rogers Mrs. W. E., Flora M’lvor
Rohertson Mr. H.
Row Mr. W. J., Obadiah Prim
Row Mrs. W. J., Sarah Prim
Rudd B. C., Huntsman
Rudd Mr., Freemason
Rudd Mrs. B. C.
Rushforlh Mrs.
Rust Lieut. A.
Ryan Councillor, Civic Costume
Salamon Mr. V..,SpanishCavallero
Salamon Mrs. E., Sicilian Lady
Salring Mr. S. K.
Salway Mr., Staff Uniform
Savage Dr.
Savage Mrs., Gipsy
Shields Mr., Jack Ashore
Sillitoe Mr. B. C. L.
Sillitoe Mrs., Lady Anne
Simmons Mr. J., Paul Pry
Simmons Mrs. J., Gipsy
Small Miss
Small Miss J.
Small Mrs., Fancy Dress
Smart Mrs T. W., Turkish Lady
Smart T. W., Royal Archer
Smidmore Councillor, Civic Costume
Smith Miss, Spanish
Smith Mr. C., Sportsman
Smith Mr. H., Uniform Staff Office
Smith Mrs. C., Lady of Ton
Smith W., German Hussar
Smythe Major
Statham Mr., .Reign of William the Conqueror
Statham Mrs., Fancy Dress
Stephen Miss
Stephen Mr. F., Greek
Stephen Mr. H., Chinese Ambassador
Stewarfc Mr. J. H., Highland Chief
Still Mr., Hungarian Noble
Stirling Mr., Highland Chieftain
Stirling Mr., Highlander
Stirling Mr., Scotch Fancy Dress
Stirling Mrs.
Stubbs Miss A., Gipsy
Stubbs Mr. R., Essex Farmer
Stubbs Mr., Swiss Minstrel
Stubbs Mrs. R., Spanish Lady
Stubbs Mrs., The Unknown
Sutherland- Mr., Barrister
Suttor Mr. W. H.
Suttor Mrs.
Suttor Mrs. W. H.
Swan, Assistant Commissary General, Sublime Prince of the Royal Senate
Taylor Mr.
Therry Mr.
Therry Mrs.
Thompson Dr.
Thompson Miss, .Fancy Dress
Thompson Miss, .Fancy Dress
Thompson Miss, Fancy Dress
Thompson Mr. F., Bob Acres
Thompson Mr. S., Sailor
Thompson Mr., Cavalier, Charles II.
Thompson Mr., Costume Edward IV.
Thompson Mrs.
Thompson Mrs., Fancy Dress
Thomson Mr. E. Deas, Windsor Uniform
Thomson Mrs. E. Deas, Fancy Dress
Thornton Mr., Prince of Scandinavia
Throsby Mrs.
Thurlow Councillor, Civic Costume
Todd Mr., Uniform of Leander Club
Tonson Mies, Fancy Dress
Tooth Mrs., Fancy Dress
Townsend Mr., Fancy Dress
Townsend Mrs., Fancy Dress
Treveiyan Capt., Military Officer
Trimmer Mr. (Alderman, Adelaide)
Trimmer Mrs.
Troy Miss, GrameEtille, the Genius of Ireland
Trying  Mr.    C.,  Midshipman, H.E. I.C.S.
Tyre Mr., Fancy Dress
Tyre Mrs,
Unwin Mr.
Unwin Mrs.
Vannett Mr. J. L., Reign of Louis XIV.
Waldegrave liieut.
‘Walker Mr. A. C., Uniform
Walker Mr. J.
Walker Mr., Highlander
Walker Mrs., Highland Lady
Wallis Mr. W., Foxhunter
Wallis Mrs. W., Roman Lady
Walsh Ensign, 80th regiment
Want Mr. Geo., Highlander
Want R. J. Chirurgien de la, marine Francaise
Wentworth Mr. D’Arcy, Fancy Dress
Wentworth Mrs., Fancy Dress
West A., Surgeon
Westmacott Captain, Costume du Temps de Louis XIV.
Westmacott Mrs.
Whittle Dr.
Whittle Mrs.
Wigney Mr., Huntsman
Wilford Mrs.
Wilford. Mr. Thomas
Williams Mr. John J., Robin Hood
Williamson Miss, Neapolitan Lady
Wilshire Master J. T., Page
Wilshire Miss, Fancy Dress
Wilshire Mr.
Wilshire Mr. J. W., Costume Reign of Edward VI.
Wilshire Mr. T.
Wilshire Mrs. T., Fancy Dress
Wilshire Mrs., Fancy Dress
Wilson A., Member of the Blackheath Golf Club, London
Wilson G. T.
Wise Mr., Caspar
Wise Mrs,, Neapolitan Lady
Wood Mr. John
Wood Mr., Major, British Auxiliary Legion
Woolcott Miss Lydia, Fancy Dress
Woolcott Miss, Fancy Dress
Woolcott Mr. C., Fancy Dress
Woolley Mr. M.
Woolley Mr. Thomas, Fancy Dress
Wright Mr., William (Black-eyed Susan)
Wright Mrs., Blackeyed Susan
Wyatt Miss, Fancy Dress
Wyatt Mr. J., Fancy Dress
Wyatt Mrs., Highland Lady
Wyer Mr., Proteus (Two Gentlemen of Verona)



The following song was published after the Ball.

The Lord Mayor’s Fancy Dress Ball

For Governor Gipps & his lady were there
in close tete-a -tete with -the Mayoress & Mayor
And in trimly dressed Parker and smart Mereweather
in the train of her Ladyship chattered together.
On the mayoress attended her maids of honour
And her son in page’s dress waited upon her
Sir Maurice 0’Connell the forces commander
Appeared among the guests a delighted “bystander
Deas Thompson so stately & Biddell so hearty
in civic costume were attached to the party
And majors and captains attended the muster
their scarlet coats brightening the glittering cluster
And groups of fair ladies their faces unveil
and sparkle like the stars in her ladyship’s tail

Source: Aug 21 1844
Lyrics: ANON. 


For the most comprehensive history of social dance in Australia, I recommend Dr Heather Clarke’s website

Here is a very special page on this site. In 2012 I embarked on a project to record an album with a group of hand-picked musicians who could interpret a particular sound I had in my head and imagination – that would evoke the music of the old bush dances. You can read all about the project, the musicians and the tunes in the accompanying PDF booklet. The CD is still available as a download from iTunes and other internet platforms. If you do purchase it, and you should (there are more tunes than the ones here) make sure you also download the digital booklet.

The most wonderful thing about this project is that I was able to include actuality recordings from my oral history collection housed at the National Library of Australia. These snippets bring the tunes to life.

Bush Orchestra Booklet

Sally Sloane talks about dancing and teaching boys the steps with a ditty – recorded by Warren Fahey 1988, Lithgow, NSW. Followed by Australian Bush Orchestra (ABO) playing ‘Varso/Put Your Little Foot Here’

Susan Colley, aged 92, talks about the old dances. Recorded by Warren Fahey, 1973, Bathurst. Followed by the ABO playing ‘Ebb Wren’s Schottische/Life Gets Tedious Polka’

The ABO plays ‘Girls of Ivory/Manchester Gallop’

Susan Colley sings and plays ‘Starry Night For a Ramble’ leading into the ABO playing the tune followed by ‘Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane’

‘Jenny Lind Polka’/’The Black Cat Piddled in the White Cat’s Shoe’ played by the ABO

‘George Kyle’s Schottische/Cosgrove’s Schottische’ played by the ABO.

‘The Catodon Polka’ played by the ABO

The ABO play ‘Davy Nick Nacks/Rakes of Mallow’

Susan Colley, recorded by Warren Fahey, talks about what she wore to dances. Followed by ‘Australian Jim/Mudgee Schottische ‘ played by the ABO.

Susan Colley, recorded by Warren Fahey, plays her concertina and then the ABO play ‘So Early In The Morning/Donkey Riding’

Susan Colley talks about dancing all night. Then the ABO plays ‘The Galopede’

a case study of the Murrurundi Hospital Balls 1891 – 1899

[NOTE: click on the images for a larger view]

In October of 2005 I visited the rural property of Tim Duddy, ‘Rossmar Park’, between Quirindi and Breeza. The Duddy family have farmed this outback New South Wales area since the 1830s. Samuel Clift first settled Breeza Station in 1837. The family has been extremely active in the local community’s social calendar. During the visit I came across a rare handwritten book that resulted in this study of the Murrurundi Hospital Ball. Murrurundi. a railway junction town, was one of the major commercial centres of the 19thcentury.

The book was produced by Mrs C..M..Bell, who acted as Hon. Secretary and Treasurer from 1891 through to 1899. The information in this article has been taken predominantly from the 1897 and 1898 reports as they were extremely detailed.

These balls appear to be typical of country balls staged in Australia however it is rare to find such full reports of ticketing, expenses, attendances and costumes worn.

The minutes also show that the physical territory covered by the event was extremely large – which, of course, meant that the community had to travel rather long distances to attend. Oral histories show that attendees ‘danced all night’ and quite often until the ‘wee early hours’ but always wound their way home in time to attend to their farm duties, especially the milking and feeding of livestock.

One can envisage the excitement these balls must have created, especially with the womenfolk who handmade all the costumes, prepared the edibles, attended to hair and make-up and, between household chores, taught their families how to dance.

The following report of the costumes worn by attendees at the 1899 juvenile ball is hilarious. One can imagine the costumes and the care taken to make them ñ everyone from ‘Dame Durden’ to ‘Hungarian Gypsy’.

This list is of costumes worn by the adults ñ a witch, Cleopatra, a forget-me-Not, a Circassian Dancing Girl and one James Currie, defying description, came as ‘Pink Pills’. !!!

This list has the real spirit of community and details the ‘contributions from subscribers’.
Fowls, a case of fruit, lamb and beef tongues, lemonade, loaves of bread, jellies, eggs, cakes and ‘printing’.

In the minutes of the 5th meeting (23rd June 1897) the Secretary’s Report comments: ìThe list of contributors to Supper closed with 148 names. This is not as many as 1896, but the season had been disastrous, deaths had occurred in several families, serious illness in others, , and several consistent and liberal subscribers had left the district. The departure too was lamented of one of the ablest and most generous of the Committee women, in the person of Mrs F. O. Byrnes, now of Parramatta.

My thanks to Tim Duddy for access to the above documents.

ìC M Bell was Caroline Haydon, granddaughter of Thomas Haydon who settled at Bloomfied Blandford in 1836.
His Sydney residence was Tivoli which is that house that Kambala Girls School have on New South Head Road, Rose Bay.

He came to the head of the Hunter Valley shortly after settlement and started a private town which is the southern side of the pages river at Murrurundi.

I lived at the Haydon family house “Bloomfield” for three years and the book was given to me because it refers to many other members of my family.

The Haydon family have been intermarried and friend sof my maternal family for some six generations.î


Henry G Lamond
Published in Walkabout September 1962

The Dance of the Shearers2
 LAMOND, HENRY G(eorge) (1885-1969) was a well-known grazier and, in later life, author, particularly stories about animals. He was the lease-holder of the Molle Island group off the Queensland Coast. WALKABOUT MAGAZINE was a popular weekly magazine devoted to Australiana and tourism.

WHEN stations in western Queensland were large, numbers immense, shearings long, the cut-out concert at the end of shearing was a recognized function. It was easy to find a beneficiary: the local hospital in the nearest town was always eager and willing to have its funds supplemented. If it was easy to find a target for any gains, it was simpler to get actors.

In those days nothing under a shearing of about 100,000 sheep was considered a worthwhile shed. Fifty shearers, an equal number of rouseabouts — referred to officially as “shed-hands” — and about thirty station musterers and other odd bods, comprised a shed. Though pay was small then, compared to now, after a shed of eight or ten weeks those without money to spend had lost it in the gambling schools. As for talent, those old western sheds were just brimming over with it, hidden and otherwise. After the first hesitant refusal by a supposed star, who took little pushing to reverse his decision, talent Just poured in.

Those old-time sheds were mystery bags of humanity. Taking one at random, more or less symbolic of all, and real if nameless, a producer could select from a medley of talent. There were university graduates from Oxford., Cambridge., Dublin. There was a supposedly disqualified doctor, an unfrocked parson, an odd lawyer or two, a rejected politician, a couple who claimed to have been stage stars in their times, other odd bits. There was plenty of variety.

The first thing, once the idea had taken root — and that was a case of spontaneous generation — was to elect a committee. That was easy: it was mainly self-appointed. Previous experience was the main essential. Then the big moment arrived: a Master of Ceremonies had to be picked, and he was invariably referred to as the Interlocutor. Bill Reilly was virtually elected before a vote was taken. He had experience, a commanding personality and a flowing moustache that would respond with spiked tips when twisted with soap. At work Bill was a piece-picker, a lowly rouseabout; but as Interlocutor and boss-in-general of the concert he ceased to be everyone’s football and was a king in his own right until the final curtain fell.

Music? A mouth organ, a concertina, an accordion would be fitting and adequate for any sing-song; but the cut-out concert demanded nobler things. If the wife of the station manager had a piano she might be persuaded to lend it, and promises of its care would be a flood tide of pledges. If the manager had neither wife nor piano, the publican in the township might be persuaded to lend his instrument, which was dumb on several notes, flat on many, tinny on all. A wagonette would be sent to the pub; the piano would arrive, tied so securely that a spider’s web would appear simple by comparison. A bodyguard would escort the thing to the wool-room; young rouseabouts edging in to strike a stray note would be kicked out of the way without ceremony.

Music without musicians has a hollow sound. There may have been, and doubtless were, some quite accomplished pianists in that collection of men. After tapping a key or two they withdrew to let someone else try to knock music out of that piano. That was easy; Joe Brady was an accomplished vamper. He could vamp for any song, sentimental or humorous; he could alter the tempo of his “Tum-tum-tum” to fit any dance. Joe Brady was unanimously elected.

There had, of course, to be a theme song. That was sung at the commencement, at the end and at other odd intervals. “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers” was the recognized theme song for such entertainments. A choir of half a dozen sufficed for that; the whole audience would certainly join in at appropriate and other times.

Before the concert took place, and with a week’s rehearsal, the theme song became so common that even the rafters of the shed rattled to it, and the sheep, if only they could have stayed long enough, would also have known it by heart: “Oh, dem golden slippers. Oh, dem golden slippers. Climb up, my chillun, climb,”

There had, of necessity, to be an audience for the concert. That was assured: every man, and the couple of women, on the station were sure to be there worth the entry fee of two shillings. Some might have had cash; “shin-plasters” were the main medium of exchange. A shin-plaster, common currency in those days, was a promissory note, an I 0 U, or some other bit of paper signed by a local businessman, storekeeper or publican. “Local”, in this in-stance, meant anybody within a hundred-mile radius. No one ever questioned the legality or financial backing of these documents; they were supported by custom and faith.

Visitors came by buggy, by horseback, a few on bikes, and an odd one may even have “pushed the knot” (the poetic way of saying he carried his swag). When they were all gathered there would be the best part of a couple of hundred people of both sexes, with the females in a most decided minority. That was their day of glory, and they knew it: they were waited on hand and foot by men starved of feminine society, who rushed gladly to fill any request, from a drink of water to a box or chair.

Those visitors had to be accommodated. They all brought their swags, which might be translated as “blankets and bed linen”. Some brought tents and made their own camp. Most of them were divided: the shearers’ mess took the sports and cream of the visiting gentry; a number were put up in the rouseabouts’ hut; the aristocracy, inside men such as station managers and the like, were, of course, the guests of the station. And the ladies? At a big shed there was always some large building, which could be emptied to provide a temporary dormitory. One essential: a bang-tail muster for hand-mirrors and other looking-glasses. They were hung in readiness for the girls.

In due course, and after the race-meeting, the cricket match, the dance and other events, the night of the cut-out concert arrived. The wool-room in the shed had been prepared. Almost invariably the press was on a higher level than the rest of the room. That served as a stage. Bales of wool were piled in tiers at the back. They, perhaps, would represent the pit where the gods gathered. Forms and other seating had been brought from odd places; they were for the saloon passengers. There was heavy work and considerable time involved in preparing the theatre. Men toiled willingly, and it would have been a distinct breach of etiquette to demand payment or hint at overtime in return for the sweat they shed. It was a Labour of Love. A curtain was easy to make: some old wool-bales sewn together, with links of hobble chains attached at suitable distances, and threaded on a wire running in front of the stage — that, with pulley-ropes and one thing and another, made a really ideal curtain. The lighting was just as easy for men with brains: kerosene tins were cut diagonally and nailed to the stage, the backs serving as reflectors and protectors. Each, with a cross cut in the bottom, and the edges turned up, held a candle as well as anything a man could buy in a shop. All that, with a few fancy touches added, was the theatre. There were NO SMOKING notices on the walls. They were quite unnecessary. Few women smoked in private in those days; no lady smoked in public. Men did not smoke without the permission of the ladies; no gent smoked in an enclosed room in mixed company.

The wool-room was packed; quivers of excitement ran through the’ audience; shouts of approval sounded as the curtain slowly rolled up. Something went wrong: it had to be lowered again. That doused half a dozen candles. They had to be relit by a nervous stage-hand, who received more applause than was commonly given a star. Next time the curtain went up without a hitch. Mr. Interlocutor, his moustache soaped to bayonet tips, stood in the middle of the stage. Messrs. Bones, Sambo, Ras’tus and Ebenezer, faces blackened with burnt cork, mouths and eyes more than twice normal size, were seated on either side of him.

Bones commenced: “Massa Interlocutor, I seen a dog runnin’ along th’ street th’ other day. An’ what do you think he had in his mouth?” Every member of the audience knew that one. But they waited in breathless suspense for the dialogue to end with the answer: “His tongue.” The ensuing applause and gales of laughter blew out a couple more candles.

Gympie Howard, that famed entertainer and shearers’ cook of western Queensland, was announced. Several candles had to be relit. Gympie came on. He knew his worth. He gave what was expected of him, and he sang “Teach-ing McFadden to Waltz” with appropriate action. He was barely off the stage when he was on again: only an atomic bomb — mercifully (to Gympie) not invented then—would have .prevented an encore. This time, with quick change nothing short of marvellous, he appeared as a Chinese gardener, then common in the west, hawking his wares from house to house. He wore the regulation pig-tail, which dated it prior to 1912, and his patter was accepted as pure Cantonese or some other dialect. The audience would have been applauding yet, had not the Interlocutor announced another artist.

The show went on. There was a humorous recitation by Mr. Bostock, who followed it with “Jacob Strauss,” supposed to be pathetic, and at which the audience laughed. Mr. Gaylow, a “soubrette,” whatever that might be, had teased the counterlining of a saddle and made himself a wig. The dress and the wig proclaimed his as a comic item. The audience was there to be amused: they complied with laughter.

Items quickly followed each other. When the barmaid from the pub in the township was announced to sing that very sentimental old ballad, “Only a Leaf,” the response from the audience, particularly from the back-benchers, was nearly deafening. Miss Perkins, who was “Maggie” at any other time, swung into her stride after a couple of false starts. Joe Brady vamped as he had never vamped before. At the conclusion of the song, after the heroine had died, the Interlocutor granted a signal honour:. he advanced to Miss Perkins, bowed, curled the tip of the right wing of his moustache, offered her his arm and escorted her off stage.

That was something so unusual in western etiquette that the crowd wanted to see more of it: they clapped until Miss Perkins appeared again and responded with “I’ll Be Your Sweet-heart.” She may even have eclipsed Gympie with the applause she received.

But the biggest hit of the evening, judging by the noise with which it was hailed, was made by Bluey Jenkins. Ever since his nomination had been accepted by the authorities, Bluey had made something of a nuisance of himself in the expert’s room: he drilled holes through pennies to attach them to the heels and soles of his dancing shoes. He wanted them for his speciality tap-dance.

The announcement that Mr. Bluey Jenkins would now oblige was received coldly and with courtesy applause only. After Miss Perkins, the audience was in no mood to be bored by Bluey. The pianist did his best, and vamped in good style. In fact, the piano shook to the stress. The audience waited. There was a jingling of copper coins rattling on the boards, and Blue, lightly tapping, pranced out.

A roar went up. Any previous acclamations would resemble a hiccough compared to the thunder-clap that now greeted him. Bluey in-tended to do things properly. Perhaps he had an idea that a tap-dance was an athletic event; for such, he felt he should be suitably attired.

He had on an athletic singlet which fitted him so closely that it might not have been there. For running trunks, or whatever he considered was appropriate, he had a pair of girl’s garments of delicacy, with lace frillings and skirted edges.

He was met with what are now classed as wolf whistles, ribald remarks — some rude and rather pointed — and invitations. No one knew if Brady was vamping or not. The din was so great that no musical instrument could be heard.

The concert ended abruptly. Some one in authority lowered the curtain with a rush, which blew out more than half the candles. In the semi-darkness the Interlocutor announced that there was tea, coffee, cocoa and brownie at both messes. He did not wait for a vote of thanks to the chair: he declared the meeting closed and the concert ended.

But the audience, one and all, agreed they had been well treated. The concert had been worth the price of admission, even without Bluey Jenkins. Some of them even admitted, and took care that no one in authority was listening, that, with Bluey’s stunt, the concert had been worth double the admission charge.


Illustrated Sydney News 8 August 1889

“Going to the spree in Lukyn’s barn to-night, Job ?”
‘ Rather,’ drawls Job ; yet with an emphasis that admits of no doubt as to his determination to ‘tread the light fantistic ‘ o’er the flooring boards of Lukyn’s barn.

It is Boxing Day in a small township down South; so small, that though provided   with a school, it has not even a public house ! Ergo, the crowd round the race- course is delightfully sober; private flasks there are, of course, but their owners have divided their contents with true bush bon- homie amongst their neighbors, with the result that none save the most hopeless old soakers are the worse for their libations.

The scene is one to inspire enjoyment in the veriest misanthrope. Imagine a well grassed paddock of moderate extent, fringed on three sides by the feathery wattles   and spiny oaks that mark the course of the river and its tributary creeks. The racing for the day is over. Owners of winning horses strut around, with the bridle that the bay mare won, hung ostentatiously over the right shoulder; or flip at the grass with the   whip of rare and notable design awarded to the local prodigy which came in such a rattling good second in the three-mile handicap.

Everyone is going to the spree. Ezekiel Mullens, the patriarch of all the country round, is an invariable feature of the Barn Dances. Ezekiel, to whom old Andrew Haley is but a stripling ; and who regards young Andrew, the father of Andy number three, as a child of tender age. For, be it known unto   the ignorant, the barn dances are enlivened by song ; and the gem of the even- ing is universally admitted to be a little ballad of some thirty odd verses, relating   to the adventures of one Timothy Tosser,   who sought the affections of a Hebrew ‘ widow, possessed of plethoric money bags, and of the final discomfiture of the swain when the lady eloped with his brother. And doesn’t Ezekiel sing this gem with side – splitting emphasis, and portentous winks, the cuteness of which is beyond description ; and hasn’t he sung this same   song every Boxing-night for nigh on thirty years, so that his hearers know exactly where the jokes come in, and laugh immoderately, never missing a point, while the women gasp : ‘ Lor’, Mr. Mullins, you’ll be the death on us yet !’ But we anticipate. It is barely a quarter to eight when little coteries may be seen, streaming   from all directions towards Lukyn’s barn. Luny is most favorably regarded by the whole countryside. He vends groceries, i.e. tea, sugar, peppermint lollies,   gunpowder, and sardines ; his best parlor is the local post-office; his farm is productive, and well attended to; and, important and. delightful fact! he always has his barn-floor cleared for Boxing Day. The ball-room is already brilliantly illuminated by the festive candle. Candles are all over the place, stuck in niches in the wall, with two or three on the corn-sheller, and a few on the harrow up at the end; the   majority, secured to patent arrangements of wood, nails, and string, which are suspended from the beams which cross from wall to wall. Around the room, corpulent bags of maize, laid sideways, form the most comfortable of seats. N.B.-One bag seats two persons, that is if they do not sit far apart ; as a general thing they don’t.

The ball opens without delay with-‘ a waltz ‘ you say ? No, my friend, with a set of quad rilles of the good old-fashioned sort. No sleepy stroll this, no languid flirtation while setting to partners : their motto is ‘ Galop,’ and galop it is, in every figure of this much neglected terpsichorean exercise, Ladies are decidedly at a premium, as, in addition to the local male population who have turned out to a man-and a boy, there are the jeunesse dorée of the whole of a numerous though scattered population who have brought their horses to the races: and, last but not least, a contingent of miners from the adjacent goldfields. Girls are snapped up at once; next come the young married women who place their sleepy babies in the hay stacked up behind the hurdles at the end of the room, while Ezekiel mounts guard over this impromptu creche and calls the mother of any infant who lifts up his voice in lamentation. Most of them, however, sleep soundly enough through all the racket-all praise to the bush baby ! Portly matrons of extensive build, foot it as energetically as anyone, while little old Mistress Haley, is amongst the briskest of the gay assembly.

As a rule wives dance with their husbands, and though during the evening they may bestow a few round dances on their old beaux, their husbands, in such a case, congregate round the door and smoke, not seeming to care about joining the company of dancers. The music is provided by various members of the company who perform on the tuneful concertina; and the extras are given by a miner who has brought his beloved fiddle along with him. The concertina is par excellence the music of the provinces, as it is of the forecastle. It is not patronised to any   appreciable extent by the lasses, who prefer the piano that Daddy buys them after a ‘ good year ;’ but every gay young spark in the district has his concertina. Not infrequently the performers on these instruments exhibit a rare talent for drawing music from what, to most ears, sounds almost as wild a source as the bagpipes, and many a country dance would be a thing unknown but for the unassuming ‘ screamer.’ In fact too much can hardly be said in praise of this little instrument; it is delightfully portable, and, in a district where all the traveling is done on horseback, that is the chief consideration. Then it is easy to learn, and repays in a short time all the trouble expended on it :   the aspiring musician has not time to tire of his art before he is able to launch forth into the intricacies of ‘Belle Mahone’ and ‘Jack Sheppard.’ Cases are very numerous, where a young farmer, after a trip to Sydney and a visit to the Opera, returns with his brain stocked with every aria in the piece ; and he forthwith produces them one and all on his concertina, adapting them to waltz, march or polka time as the occasion requires. Such a young man is regarded as a public benefactor by the surrounding population. In a wonderfully short space of time the whole country round rings with the more or less mutilated melodies that he has introduced, and it strikes a town visitor curiously to hear the almost untrodden hills echoing the announcement that into Parliament he must go,’ or confessing to ‘ Being as bad as they make ’em.’

mens hut dance The Boomerang' 1890

(The barn dance in the men’s hut. The Boomerang. 1890)

Let us return to the ball. The quadrilles being accomplished to the satis- faction of everybody, the partners separate and go each his and her way. If they strolled off together until the next dance, they would he looked at askance as being heartless flirts and altogether naughty, un- less, indeed, they are engaged, when they are expected to devote the whole of their time to each other. Everyone who can, gets a seat on the corn-hags; those who are not so lucky, stand-really about the wisest thing they could do. A good deal of chaff- ing goes on amongst the young folks; the girls giggle and blush distractingly, and their beaux grin a good deal and stand on one foot with the other twisted round a hoe handle or the leg of the corn-thrasher, or anything else that comes handy. These proceedings are presently enlivened by the ancient announcement about the next dance on the programme being a song, and Ezekiel takes his place in the middle of the room. . He has the remains of a rich, expressive voice, and the words of his song are at any rate more amusing than the majority of latter-day effusions ; moreover, his audience is entirely in touch with the singer, so so that he acquits himself marvelously well, and takes his seat amid terrific applause, resembling the reports of a hundred or so of many-barreled revolvers. After this, the affair is considered to be fairly opened, and polkas, mazurkas, schottisches, waltzes, varsovianas, and galops, follow each other in a breathless, enchanting haste, that has no parallel in the languid pursuit of pleasure of the weary dweller in towns. And these are regarded merely as light relaxations from the grand business of the evening. Highland Schottisches are given a place of honour, but who shall do justice to the intricacies of the Alberts (a square dance), to the curtseying, the little pirouette introduced at all stages, to the grand promenade, the mazy waltz-cotillion, and later to the wild Swedish dance, with its up the middle   and down again, and its perilous tour round the kneeling forms of the dancers, who clap, clap, clap to the time of the music.

Such a rattling pace it is from beginning to end. And when panting dancers with glowing cheeks take their seats on the corn bags, out steps a young dealer in pork, who sings a hunting song, the chorus being given by the whole strength of the company, so that the wallabies on the adjacent mountains are startled from their meal of gum leaves, and flying foxes prick their ears in the orchard half a mile away.

After another dance two ex-sailors foot a hornpipe so deftly that they bring down the house; other intervals are filled by a Highland fling, a reel, a sand shuffle, and various songs, until the shy digger with the fiddle is prevailed upon ‘to favour the company with a song.’ He won’t be beguiled into taking the floor, but keeps bis stand by the open door. There he stands silently for a moment, then dashes straight into a jolly, rollicking little nigger ditty, so spry and lighthearted that the fiddle with which he accompanies himself seems to laugh in a very abandonment of glee. The audience is intoxicated with pleasure, and the singer is compelled to respond to the vociferous encore which he seems scarcely to hear. He draws his bow meditatively across the strings, then glides into ‘ ‘”Way Down Upon the Swanee River.’ As the last word dies away the violin takes up the theme. ‘ Oh, de way am sad and weary,’ it surely speaks, right on to the end of the sad little chorus, till the music ends in a deep-drawn, quivering sigh. Eyes are dim and voices are hushed, till one of the cherubs in the hay, happening to wake, uplifts such a dolorous wail as sets the whole crowd a-laughing.

‘Now, gells, one more hop and we must be off home,’ announces Andrew Hales!

The fiddle bow seems fairly alive as the strains of ‘ Sir Roger de Coverly ‘ ring out on the cold morning air. Faster and faster moves the bow, faster also the dancers as they skim from the top of each long line to meet in the centre, then back to their places while their vis-a-vis take up the thread. The babies wake, and wonder what it’s all about, and sleepy cattle bestir themselves, and reckon that it will soon be time for the boys to come and drive them in for the morning’s milking. One last flourish of the bow, the music ceases, and the barn dance is a thing of the past. The barn dance, with its quaint rules of etiquette, its old world figurings, its flirtations behind the corn bags, its songs, its unaffected good humour, all combining in one delectable whole for the enjoyment of the lads and lasses, old men and eke old women of this southern Arcadia.

cartoon 20


This is the earliest image of Morris Dancing in Australia – from 1927 Table Talk. Dancers at Henley Lawns, Melbourne

We’ve all seen them, jumping around like mad fools, grown men and women dancing Morris and other ritualistic formation dances. They appear at shopping malls, arts festivals and folk festivals and, because of the tinkling of ankle bells, can usually be heard before they are actually seen.

These dancers are keeping alive an age-old custom of ritual dance that started around the Middle Ages, perhaps earlier. The fact it is danced in Australia makes it an even more fascinating custom.

 Sydney Morris Men (photographed by Patricia Early)

Morris is one of the earliest surviving weddings of movement to music. It is an integral part of the English tradition and has, at times, without rhyme or reason, appeared in the tradition of other cultures from Spain to Barbados.

From the early cave paintings to the art of Ancient Greece, Egypt, China and Rome, we know that our ancestors danced. The Australian Aborigines also danced and portrayed their dance forms on their early paintings. Dance, of course, is not dissimilar to folk music in as much as it travels across boundaries, often being changed in the process, and emerges to be a legitimate expression of that new culture.

Morris originally had a deep, often mysterious, ritualistic relationship to the English tradition for it was born of paganism. It celebrated the birth, death and resurrection of all that was necessary to survival. Primitive society needed to appease and celebrate their gods to ensure good seasons for the coming year and this type of dance stems directly from that need.

Two main types of dance evolved as cultures developed: social dances on occasions that celebrated births, commemorated deaths, and marked special events in between; and magical or religious dances to ask the gods to end a famine, to provide rain, or to cure the sick. Dance historian, Wendy Burke, comments, “the medicine men of primitive cultures, whose powers to invoke the assistance of a god were feared and respected, are considered by many to be the first choreographers, or composers of formal dances.”

Funk & Wagnell’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore & Mythology points out that Morris is the English version of the Moorish dance or Morisco.

The following brief description explains the basic traditional formation of each Morris dance style.

Occasionally the Morris is a solo jig which is danced in and out among two crossed pipes, however, in surviving dances, especially in Britain and Australia, it is more likely to be found as a formation of several dancers and musicians. Usually the Morris is a longways dance performed by six men with accompanying traditional characters (as in the Cotswold Morris), or by ten (Lancashire Morris).

The figures vary as follows:

a. Processional, a progressive double serpentine of the two interweaving lines.
b. Bean Setting, a stick dance with obvious agricultural symbolism in the ‘dibbling’ or floor thumping with the sticks and striking of partners’ sticks.
c. Stick Dances (Constant Billy, Rigs of Marlow, Shepherd’s hey) which involve a complex pattern of stick striking by partners, parallel across, right, left, up and down.
d. Handkerchief Dances (Blue-eyed Stranger, Country gardens) with manipulation of kerchiefs throughout the leaps and the formations.
e. Corner Dances (Trunkles, How D’ye Do, Laudnum Bunches) purely dances of diagonal cross-over formations.
f. Morris Off, a circular prelude to the dancer’s exit.
The above are the ‘traditional formations’ but it is important to note that, as with all traditions, they are open to change and, in fact, many of these dances performed in Australia have changed and continue to change. New dances have also been added.

Generally speaking a rude vigour characterises the movements: the various leaps, called ‘capers’ or ‘springs’, the various combinations of steps and hops in duple and triple time, the straight kneed kicks, the cross steps, side steps, the straddles, arm swings, and climatic high jumps with shouts. As they say: it’s enough to scare the dogs!

The tunes, known as ‘Morris tunes’, were traditionally played by a bagpipe or a wood pipe and tabor, called whittle and dub. Although these old instruments do make an appearance it is more likely the Australian accompaniment will be a fiddle and button accordion. Goat skin drums (aka: Celtic stretched drum) are also used. The jumping and shouting of the dancers is also part of the music as is the sound of the ankle bells.

The costume

The costume, formally consisting of breeches, plumed hats, blackened faces, have been replaced by white trousers, frilled shirts and top hats with feathers however, necessity being the grandmother of Morris invention, there appears to be no hard and fast rules as long as it looks right! The ankle pads have remained a firm favourite.

Some of the dances include ‘characters’ who appear to have retained much or their original identity, while often changing their names. Bessy, the man-woman, was Maid Marian and, before that, Mother Eve. The hobbyhorse rider is descended from Robin hood and, previously, St George, the dragon killer. A ‘fool’ in medieval costume or tatters has always cavorted on the outskirts, formally with a fox mask and perhaps a bladder on a stick.

The revival of Morris Dancing is usually attributed to the English folk song collector Cecil Sharp who, incidentally, lived in Adelaide, South Australia, for part of his youth.

Some of the Australian dancers also perform the ‘Mummer’s Play‘. [see Mel Ward’s script for a Mummer’s Play]
These are essentially a troupe of masked players who enact an age-old play on Christmas Day. The jumbled texts tell of St George’s victory over his infidel antagonist, of a doctor, and a resurrection. Formerly a dragon and hobbyhorse were included in the dramatis personae ? and they too are just as likely to appear in the Australian version. In addition to the enacted duel, the troupe of mummers springily circle sun-wise with sticks or wooden swords. You might also find them wearing what looks like (and usually is) shredded newspaper ? a nod to the fact that this was most probably shredded animal skin and fur ? similar to the ‘shaggy wild men’ one was likely to encounter in sideshow alley at an early carnival or local show.

Sword dancing

Sword dancing is also related to the Morris as danced in Australia.
These are men’s dances involving the rhythmic manipulation of one or several (wooden) swords, often in combination with elaborate configurations.

There is no exact evidence as to when the first Morris Dance was performed in Australia. For all we know it could have been in the early days of the colony. It is more likely, however, to have been the early part of the twentieth century, when several dance clubs were interested in ‘English folk dance’. Bob Bolton, of the Bush Music Club, has mentioned an 1796 print reference to Morris being performed at Parramatta and the ‘offending convict’ dancers being flogged.

Folk dancing was an accepted part of every Australian childhood in the first half of the 20th century and was taught at most schools and promoted as a ‘healthy’ activity. These were usually ‘quaint’ dances of the ‘Oranges and Lemons’ variety but they certainly encouraged some adults to look further and, possibly, into Morris.


(I am grateful to Rob Pilgram, archivist of the Australian Morris Ring, for this exhaustive list. Of course, just as teams come and go, so too do dancers who jump (literally) from one team to another.)

  • Active Teams
  • Adelaide Morris Men (Adelaide)
  • Bearbrass Sword (Melbourne)
  • Belswagger Morris (Brisbane)
  • Black Joak Morris (Sydney)
  • Brandragon Morris (Melbourne)
  • The Britannia Morris (Melbourne)
  • Fair Maids of Perth (Perth)
  • Fiddlestix Morris (Grafton)
  • Hot For Joe (Adelaide)
  • Jolley Hatters (Hobart)
  • Lancashire Witches (Adelaide)
  • Limestone Morris (Canberra)
  • Marlee Morris (Perth)
  • Mad Tatters Morris (Perth)
  • Ragged Band/Darkside Morris (Brisbane)
  • Red Raven Morris (Melbourne)
  • Surly Griffin Morris (Canberra)
  • Occasional Teams
  • Funnel Web Morris (Sydney)
  • Perth Morris Men (Perth) 
  • Pride Morris (Sydney)
  • Port Pirie Morris (Port Pirie) – 1 person ‘team’ who dances only at NFF
  • South East North West (Brisbane)
  • Tyler’s Oz (Melbourne)
  • Whyalla Morris (Whyalla/Adelaide)
  • Woodford Morris (Woodford)
  • Inactive Teams
  • Adelaide Hills Morris (Adelaide)
  • Albion Fair Morris (Sydney)
  • Antipodean Morris
  • Armidale Morris (Armidale)
  • Ballarat City Morris (Ballarat)
  • Black Fox Morris (Adelaide)
  • Black Stump Bedlam
  • Blackwattle Morris Men (Sydney)
  • Boadecia/Boadicea Women’s Morris (Sydney)
  • Bonny Green Garters (Canberra)
  • Border Celts (Adelaide) – Not AMR – not involved with other teams
  • Border Roughs (Sydney)
  • Brindabella Clog Morris
  • Brisbane Morris (Brisbane)
  • Canberra Morris Men (Canberra)
  • Canberry Belles (Canberra)
  • Circular Quayers (Sydney)
  • Cockatoo Morris
  • Corndolly Morris (Armidale)
  • Fast and Loose
  • Federation of Ancient English Rites (Coogee)
  • Free Settlers (Perth WA)
  • Glad Rappers
  • Glorishears (Adelaide)
  • Gone Troppo Morris (Darwin)
  • Gouldburn Morris Men (Goulburn)
  • Greenwood Morris (Hobart)
  • Hamilton Morris (Hamilton)
  • Heart of Oak Morris (Various – Interstate Jig Team for NFF Performances)
  • Hedgemonkey Morris (Adelaide)
  • Hellfire Mallets Morris (Jig Team) (Melbourne)
  • Hells Bells (Sydney team for UK tour)
  • Hobart Morris (Hobart)
  • In-Joak
  • Ladies Pleasure (Brisbane)
  • Last Chance Morris (Sydney)
  • Lobethal Primary Morris (Adelaide)
  • Logan Morris
  • Lone Star Morris
  • Longford Morris (Longford)
  • Maids of the Mill (Sydney)
  • Maids of the Murray (Albury/Wodonga)
  • Mayhem Maypole Dancers
  • Molongolo Mayhem (Canberra)
  • Moreton Bay Morris (Brisbane)
  • Morrice Rampant (Brisbane)
  • Morris West
  • Mt Isa Morris – Birds in the Bush (Mt. Isa)
  • Mt Isa Morris – Morris Miners (Mt. Isa)
  • Oak, Smash and Thorn Pagan Morris – not AMR
  • Old Thumper (Melbourne)
  • Orange Ruffies  (Orange)
  • Plenty Morris (Melbourne)
  • Princess Royal Morris Men (Albany)
  • Queensland Morris and Folk Dance Society (Brisbane)
  • Rapscallion Morris
  • Rough End of the Pineapple
  • She Oaks  (Melbourne)
  • Shrieking Violets
  • Silver City Crownsmen (Broken Hill)
  • Spinning Jennys
  • Sydney Morris Men (Sydney) (Gone but not forgiven)
  • The Blade Runners
  • Widdershins
  • Wild Mountain Morris

Here is another view of the history of Morris including the early days of the Sydney Morris Men;

The first documented Morris team was born out of the Australian folk revival in the 1970s, in Perth. Other States followed and there is now what is known as a ‘Morris Ring’ – a national organization, with a ‘chief’ known as ‘Squire’. Significantly, women were admitted to the Australian Morris at an early stage of its development.

At the time of writing this overview (2005) the Australian Morris Ring included the following groups: (location is quoted as State capital city or major city)

* Adelaide Morris Men (Adelaide)
* Hot For Joe (Adelaide)
* Albion Fair (Sydney)
* Jolley Hatters Morris (Hobart)
* Ballarat City Morris (Ballarat)
* Lancashire Witches (Adelaide)
* Bellswagger Morris (Toowoomba)
* Logan Morris (Brisbane)
* Brandragon
* Longford Morris (Tasmania)
* Brindabella Clog Morris (Canberra)
* Molonglo Mayhem Border Morris (Canberra)
* Britannia Morris Men (Melbourne)
* Moreton Bay Morris (Brisbane)
* Canberra Morris Men (Canberra)
* Morris & Country Dance (Melbourne)
* Fair Maids of Perth (Perth)
* Morrice Rampant (Brisbane)
* Glorishears (Adelaide)
* Perth Morris Men (Perth)
* Hedgemonkey Morris (Adelaide)
* Sydney Morris Men (Sydney)
There appears to be some confusion as to which groups are still dancing as the AMR site seems to be in need of an update. I therefore asked John Milce (SMM) if he could indicate any dance groups that were around and have now disappeared: His account is tongue-in-cheek as fitting Morris humour.

“The SMM were formed following the Numeralla FF in Jan 1975. Our first foot up was the Friday after the Steeleye Span gig at the Hordern Pavillion mid 1975. I’m pretty certain that Perth started before then, but you would ha. There have been several sides that have come and gone over the years (and in most cases – thank Christ). Here’s a sample:-

* Boadacia (however you want to spell it): Sydney ladies Cotwold side extant around late 70’s maybe early 80’s
* Maids of the Mill – as above, but started earlier and lasted longer
* Blackwattle – Sydney mens cotswold side, again around the 70’s/80’s
* Border Roughs – An all male border side consisting of members of SMM & Blackwattle, subsequently subsumed into SMM
* Free Settlers (at least I hope they are extinct) A bunch of wooses who formed a mixed side in WA in early 80’s
* Maurice Rampant – An offshoot of the SE Qld Morris scene in the 90’s, men’s Cotswold, danced very fast and energetically, which perhaps explains why they folded after a year or 2
* Plenty Morris: Melbourne mixed Cotswold side, quite big in 70’s and possibly into the 80’s but then went the way that all mixed sides should go.
* Bringabella (Brindabella?)- Canberra ladies Clog side in the 80’s

Gail Miller, Squire of the Australian Morris Ring comments:

 “Anyway, about the Australasian Morris Ring: This is the blanketing group (it is incorporated) that Morris Sides can join and be covered by that crazy 10 Million dollar public liability policy we have so that we can dance in safety. In order to keep it manageable for sides to keep performing, we split the bill between as many as will pay. Also, AMR is in charge of keeping people in contact, getting Morris people together and in some cases, settling disputes. It is the Morris Club. You don’t have to be a member, but you will probably get more out of your Morrising if you are. We are trying to get our newsletter back up and running, and I am getting contacts OS for us as well, to try and get more global communication going on so that we can leran new dances and traditions.Some sides have their dances published online, some are very strict about who can dance dances and what not.”
   “The AUSTRALIAN” May Day 1987
click on the image for a larger view

The Australian Morris Ring stages an annual gathering at the National Folk Festival which is staged in Canberra every Easter. This is an occasion to meet old friends, make new ones and, of course, ‘contest’ the various dances. People preen their outfits and ‘sharpen’ their (wooden) swords and, for onlookers, the sight of so many outfitted dancers is indeed a surprising and jolly sight. There is also a good deal of very good-humoured ridicule aimed at the dancers by non-dancing members of the folk revival community. You will often hear jokes about Morris Dancing as soon as the bells are heard. Often these are made my singers and musicians on the stage and, in most cases, the audiences join in the fun. They are usually seen as buffoons, which, in a way, is in keeping with the tradition of the ‘fool’. It is all in good fun and the dancers participate with a certain amount of pride.

The various Morris groups operate as a ‘social club’ of sorts and, apart from the serious side of practice and public dances, also stage regular gatherings called ‘Ales’.

Here is a typical notice publicising an ‘Ale’ – (taken from the Australian Morris Ring website November 2005). Note that the ‘Ale’ is calling on existing teams and two now defunct teams – the Free Settlers and the Black Stump. Also note in ‘Coming Events’ that they will be performing at Government House, the Fairbridge Folk Festival and, at the time, were making arrangements for performances on St George’s Day and May Day.

SMH 1931

Perth Morris Men’s Ale

20th March 2005

An open invitation to all present and past Perth Morris Men and to their wives, husbands, partners, mistresses, paramours and friends.

Also to all other present and past Morris Dancers, particularly the Fair Maids of Perth, the Free Settlers and the Black Stump, but also to any others interested in folk or Morris dancing in Western Australia or visiting from other States or countries.

What do you need to bring?
We will provide beer, soft drinks, food and some seating. If you want special drinks, eg wine, lite beer, whisky, etc., you will need to provide your own. Also folding chairs would be a good idea for those who want to sit, although we should be able to seat about a score of you. If you play a musical instrument, you may wish to bring that too.

Those that still can, will be expected to dance. Perth Morris Men are only too aware how age, infirmity, incompetence, incontinence, etc. can prevent former dancers from cutting capers, but we would still like to see you, and maybe you could entertain us some other way – singing, magic tricks, stories, sparkling conversation… There will also be the presentation of the Morris Man of the Year Cup and the Rory Thompson Award.

WHEN: Sunday 20 March. We are dancing at Government House from 11.00-1.00, so the event should start about 1.30 pm.

WHERE: At Dave Parker’s place in Mount Lawley. The address will be revealed when you RSVP, mainly because I can’t lay my hands on it right now.

RSVP: Please let me [ED: See Below] know by the end of February with the exact number of who you are bringing (including yourself of course) for catering purposes. Please pass this message on to anyone you think might be interested, since I do not have everyone’s address and there’s a good chance some of these email addresses will be out of date.

Perth Morris Men

Other Dates of interest

* Wed 2 March practice 7 pm
* Weekend 5-6 March Nannup
* Wed 16 March practice 7 pm
* Sun 20 March Govt House 11-1; ALE 1.30 till…
* Weekend 2-3 April Fairbridge
* Wed 6 April AGM and practice 7 pm
* Wed 20 April practice 7 pm
* Sat 23 April St George’s Day – to be decided
* Sun 1 May Mayday celebrations Kings Park

As a folklorist I was interested in why people danced these old formation dances and how the Australian teams had developed as part of the continuing tradition.

I wrote to as many areas of Morris as I could muster in order to get a wide perspective. I am grateful to those dancers and organisers and observers who contributed to this collection process.

At the time of assembling this study the Dance Section of the National Library of Australia had nothing related to Australian Morris and for that reason alone, it provides an anecdotal history that, hopefully, will be useful to future researchers.

Dear XYZ
I am still following through my work in documenting Morris and other British/Celtic dance forms in Australia.I have now had confirmation that the National Library of Australia is very interested in housing the collection alongside their other dance form documentation. This is very important and, I believe, a positive step in preserving a part of our culture.After broadcasting my request I had several enthusiastic responses from most states however, as yet, few have delivered. I am after the following:* early and recent photographic images of Morris dancers and also Morris dancers at play.
* any printed material that includes Morris – newspaper and magazine reports, reviews, posters, newsletters etc
* jokes about Morris dancing and dancers
* personal reminiscences – how people got interested in Morris, memories of their first dance (watching or participating), memorable Morris gatherings.
* other ceremonial dances in Australia including garland, maypole, sweep, jack-in-the-green etc
* notes on music accompaniment for Morris including any photographs and tune lists.
* names of dances – I would like to compare all dance names and also, if any, any derivative or alternative names including bawdry.
* nicknames of Morris dancers.
* disused embroidery badges, bells etc that could be given to the Library for display purposes,
* any video footage.
I realise this is a large shopping list but this is a cry for help! As far as photographic and other printed materials the Library would obviously prefer the originals and they are happy to digitally copy and return to owners. Alternatively, if easier, such items could be scanned and put on disc for the collection.

Finally, thank you to those dancers who have emailed me contributions and also a reminder to those who generously offered to forward material.

Australian Folklore Unit
Warren Fahey



While going through the Mel Ward papers I found a hand-typed (by Ward including scribbled notations) the script of a complete MORRIS MUMMER’S PLAY. It is highly likely Ward would have written this adaption and produced it using either local school boys or friends. Either case it is interesting to see this age-old British ritual play in an Australian context. I would estimate it dates from circa 1940-50.


Here come I, Old Father Christmas,
Christmas or not,
I hope Old Father Christmas
Will never be forgot,
A room…..make room here, gallant boys,
And give us room to rhyme,
We’ve come to shew activity
Upon a Christmas time.
Acting youth or acting age,
The like was never acted on this stage.
If you don’t believe what I now say,
Enter St, George, and clear the way.


Here come I, St. George, the valiant man,
With naked sword and spear in hand,
Who fought the dragon, and brought him to the slaughter,
And for this won the King of Egypt’s daughter.
What man or mortal will dare to stand
Before me with my sword in hand;
I’ll slay him, and cut him as small as flies,
And send him to Jamaica to make mince-pies,


Here come I, a Turkish knight,
In Turkish land I learned to fight,
I’ll fight St, George with courage bold,
And if his blood’s hot, will make it cold.


If thou art a Turkish knight,
Draw out thy sword, and let us fight.
(A battle is the result;) the Turk falls, and ST. GEORGE,
struck with remorse exclaims:
“Ladies and Gentlemen,
You’ve seen what I’ve done.
I’ve cut this Turk down
Like the evening sun.”

Is there any doctor that can be found,
To cure tins knight of his deadly wound?


Here come I, a doctor,
A ten-pound doctor;
I’ve a little bottle in my pocket,
Called hokum, shokum, allicampane;
I’ll touch his eyes, nose, mouth, and chin,
And say; “Rise, dead man,” and he’ll fight again.
(After touching the prostrate Turk, the latter leaps up, ready again for the battle.
St. George, however, thinks this to be a favourable opportunity for sounding his own praises, and rejoins:

“Here am I, St. George, with shining armour bright, I am a famous champion, also a worthy knight,
Seven long years in a close cave was kept,
And out of that into a prison leaped,
From out of that into a rock of stones,
There I laid down ray grievous bones.
Many a giant did I subdue,
And ran a fiery dragon through.
T fought the man of Tillotree,
And still will gain the victory.
First, then, I fought in France,
Second, I fought in Spain,
Thirdly, I came to Tenby,
To fight the Turk again.

(A fight ensues, and St, George, being again victor, repeats his request for a doctor…..
Ladies and gentlemen,
You’ve seen what I’ve done,
I’ve cut this Turk down
Like the evening sun:
Is there any doctor that can be found,
To cure tins knight of his deadly wound.?

(The Doctor performs the miraculous cure.)


Here come I, Oliver Cromwell,
As ye may suppose,
Many nations I have conquered,
With my copper nose.
I made the French to tremble,
And the Spanish for to quake,
I fought the jolly Dutchmen,
And made their hearts to quake,
I fought the jolly Dutchmen,
And made their hearts to ache.


Here come I, Beelzebub,
Under my arm I carry a club,
Under ay chin I carry a pan,
Don’ I look a nice young man?


Ladies and gentlemen,
Our story is ended,
Our money-box is recommended
Five or six shillings will not do us harm,
Silver or copper, or gold if you can.

The Flash Mob

The button accordion, fiddle and melodeon squeezed out tunes
Pioneer Polka played by the Australian Bush Orchestra