> Danny Spooner > Songs > On the Banks of the Reedy Lagoon

On the Banks of the Reedy Lagoon

[ Roud - ; AFS 149 ; Ballad Index PASB144 ; Jimmy Connors]

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Reedy Lagoon on his 1984 Greenwich Village album A Rose from the Bush. He commented in his sleeve notes:

I would take this song with me to a desert island, as it brings home so much of Australia and the smell of the bush to me. This version from Ron Edward's Big Book of Australian Folk Songs is similar to the one collected by Geoff and Nancey Wills in Queensland.

Danny Spooner sang On the Banks of the Reedy Lagoon in 2017 on his final CD, Home. He noted:

An article in 1935 identifies the author of the poem as Jimmy Connors, who is described as a prolific contributor of newspaper verses, and noted as having died a couple of years before. The song has been collected a few times from oral sources, and was included in the Joy Durst Collection put out by the Victorian Folk Music Club in 1970.

Francy Devine sang On the Banks of the Reedy Lagoon on his 2020 album An Ownerless Corner of Earth. He noted:

This song was written as a poem by Jimmy Connors, a “prolific contributor of newspaper verses” who died a year or two before the song was printed in the Queensland Times, 14 September 1893 where it was attributed to J.A.C., Redbank Plains. It was re-published by Alexander Vindex Vennard (1884-1947) in his ‘On the Track’ column in the North Queensland Register in 1923 and in one of his Bill Bowyang Bush Recitations, 1933. Vennard was born near Winton, Queensland, son of Irish-born Joseph Vennard and his Scots wife Jane Sutherland. The ill-fated Shearers' Strike of 1891 may have inspired the poem—the subsequent Shearer's Strike of 1894 inspired Henry Lawson's Freeedom on the Wallaby—and the era generally produced Banjo Patterson's Waltzing Matilda.

I certainly have dispossessed shearers in mind when singing Reedy Lagoon which I got from Fergus Russell, who once lived in Australia. The ‘Famous Muldoon’ was William A. Muldoon (1852-1933), born in Allegany County, New York, of Irish immigrants. As a youngster, Muldoon gained fame for cabertossing, weightlifting, sprinting and wrestling. A volunteer in the French Army in the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871, he took up Greco-Roman wrestling, holding the World Title from 1880-1890. From 1876-1881, he served in the NYPD. Known as ‘The Solid Man’, he was never defeated and trained heavyweight boxing champion John L. Sullivan. Once, in Sandy Bell's, Edinburgh, I was accompanied by a pianist who no one seemed to know. His accompaniment stayed with me and here Louisa Werner recreates a sense of a small bar in some outback Australian town.

Lyrics

Danny Spooner sings On the Banks of the Reedy Lagoon

The sweet-scented wattle sheds perfume around,
Enticing the bird and the bee;
As I lie at my rest in a fern-covered rest
In the shade of a currajong tree;
High up in the air I can hear the refrain
Of a butcher-bird piping its tune,
For the spring, in her glory, has come back again
To the banks of the Reedy Lagoon.

I've carried my bluey for many a mile,
My boots they are worn out at the toe;
And I'm dressing, this season, in a far different style,
To that of last season, God knows!
My cooking utensils, I'm sorry to say,
Consist of a knife and a spoon.
And I've dry bread and tea, in my battered jack-shay
On the banks of the Reedy Lagoon.

Where is old Frankie, man how could he ride,
And Johnny, the kind-hearted boy;
They tell me that lately he's taken a bride,
A benedict's life to enjoy.
And Big Mac, the Scotchman; I once heard him say,
That he wrestled the famous Muldoon:
But they're all far away, and I'm lonely today
On the bank of the Reedy Lagoon.

Now where is that lassie I oft-times caressed,
The girl with the sad dreamy eyes?
She pillows her head on another man's breast,
While he tells her the very same lies.
My bed she would hardly be willing to share,
Where I camp by the light of the moon.
But it's little I care, cos I couldn't keep square
On the bank of the Reedy Lagoon.

Francy Devine sings On the Banks of the Reedy Lagoon

The sweet scented wattle sheds its perfume around,
Enticing the bird and the bee;
I lie at me rest in me fern-covered nest
Neath the shade of a Kurrajong tree;
And high overhead I can hear a sweet strain –
'Tis the butcher-bird piping his tune,
As Spring, in her glory, has come back again
To the banks of the Reedy Lagoon.

l have carried me bluey for many’s the mile,
Me boots are worn out at the toes;
I'm dressing, this season, in different style,
To what I did last year, God knows!
My cooking utensils, I am sorry to say,
Are lacking a fork and a spoon.
I've dry bread and tea, in a battered jack-shay
On the banks of the Reedy Lagoon.

Oh, where is young Frankie, oh how he could ride!
And Johnny, the kind-hearted boy;
Old Jim, they say lately has taken a bride
A benedict's life to enjoy.
And Big Jock, the Scotsman; I once heard 'em say,
He wrestled the famous Muldoon:
They're all far away, and I'm lonely today
On the bank of the Reedy Lagoon.

I think of Bob Billy and Willie the brave,
Together we oft sang a song;
They're wrapped in the slumbers that comes with the grave
Down there neath the shades of Toowong.
That dark road I'll travel, be it sooner or late,
Let death be tardy or soon,
My probable fate I'll not contemplate
On the bank of the Reedy Lagoon.

Oh, where is the lady I oft times caressed—
The girl with the sad dreamy eye;
She nestle her head on another man's breast,
Who tells her the very same lies
My bed she would hardly be willing to share
Where I camp neath the light of the moon
But it's little I care, for I couldn’t keep square
By the bank of the Reedy Lagoon.

The sweet scented wattle sheds its perfume around,
Enticing the bird and the bee;
I lie at me rest in me fern-covered nest
Neath the shade of a Kurrajong tree;
And high overhead I can hear a sweet strain –
'Tis the butcher-bird piping his tune,
As Spring, in her glory, has come back again
To the banks of the Reedy Lagoon.