Corny Bill 

I have always had the greatest admiration, as I have said many times, for the Swagmen and Women of Australia. This set of words by the great Henry Lawson sums up their characters. The tune that I came up with, when I read this poem, is a very close relative to the Morris tune Princess Royal and then links well with Australia, not that I am saying that all Morris Men and Women are Swagmen or Swagwomen. Martyn.



Words Henry Lawson    

Melody M. Wyndham-Read

His old clay pipe stuck in his mouth his hat pushed to the brow

His clothes best suited for the south I think I see him now

And when the city streets are still and sleep upon me comes 

In dreams I think of me and Bill a humpin of our drums. 

I mind the first time that I came a stranger to this land 

And I was stumbled sick and sore when Bill took me in hand 

Old Bill was what chap would call a friend in poverty 

For he was very kind to all and very good to me. 

We’d camp beneath the lonely trees and sit beside the blaze 

A nursin’ of our weary knees and smokin’ of our clays 

And when we’d journey’d near and far and clouds were in the sky 

We’d camp in some old shanty bar and sit a tellin’ lies. 

‘Though time had writ upon his brow and rubbed away his curls 

He always was and maybe still a favourite with the girls 

I’ve heard bush women scream and squall I’ve seen them laugh until

They could not do their work at all because of Corny Bill. 

Old Bill he was the jolliest chap that ever you did see 

And often at some bush kick up they’d make old Bill MC

He’d make them dance and sing all night and make the music hum 

But he’d be gone by morning light a humpin’ of his drum. 

(Humpin’ of his drum means “carrying his swag”)