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The Wallaby Track

[ Roud 24821 ; Ballad Index MA186A ; trad.]

According to Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal, A Guide to Australian Folklore, Kangaroo Press, 2003, p. 264, “To ‘go on the wallaby’ or ‘on the wallaby track’ was a colonial phrase for taking to the road in the manner of a swagman, usually in search of work.”

Dave de Hugard sang The Wallaby Track in 1986 on his Larrikin album The Magpie in the Wattle. He noted on this song and on The Rabbit Tracker:

I first heard these songs from Basil Cosgrove in Armidale, NSW, in 1970, Basil had tried his hand at a whole variety of rural work. He’d also been a rabbit trapper. As a yarner, leg-puller, bush fiddler and singer, he would hold his own with the best of them, He’d even had a go, ‘back in the old days’, on the stage as a Scots singer/comedian. Basil may well have put most of the words of the Rabbit Trapper together himself, and the tune has just an echo of some old Scots song. A variant of The Wallaby Track, following Basil’s words closely, but with a different tune, appears in The Big Book of Australian Folk Song (Ron Edwards, Rigby, Sydney, 1976). On this recording, the tune is not Basil’s original, but is an alternative one, that has evolved over the years and that I sometimes sing.

John Thompson learned The Wallaby Track from Dave de Hugard’s album and sang it as the 18 January 2012 entry of his blog An Australian Folk Song a Day.

Danny Spooner sang The Wallaby Track on his 2013 CD Gorgeous, Game Girls. He commented:

This song was picked up [by] a number of Australian collectors in the 1970s and I wonder if the song made its way to Australia from England. While this version is uniquely Australian, it is reminiscent of the English The Spotted Cow. But perhaps that’s just what happens in the country? Alan Scott gave me my first version of the song, but I’ve added a verse by Dave de Hugard whose lovely version has had a hand in the continuing tradition of this song.


Danny Spooner sings The Wallaby Track

One morning I rolled up the few things I’d got,
Strapped on my saddle my quart and pint pot.
Told my old boss that I might not be back,
I was off for a trip on the wallaby track.
Well, the morning was fine, though it blew rather cold
And the sun was just topping the mountains with gold.
And my favourite old dog, running close to my back,
He knew we were off on the wallaby track.

Chorus (after each verse):
With the tooraleye, ooraleye, ooraleye ay,
Whack fol the diddle ay, tooraleye day

We’d a fair way to go to an old camping place
So we rattled along at a pretty smart pace.
There were friends we would meet if the tucker got slack,
They all live quite handy to the wallaby track.
But we hadn’t gone far, a few mile I suppose,
When I met a young woman and she said, “G’day Joe.”
I said, “You’re mistaken, my name it is Jack,
And I’m off for a trip on the wallaby track.”

She said, “Get down off your horse and rest yourself now.
Have you seen on your travels my old Poley cow?
She was the one that we used to call Black,
But I think she’s gone off on the wallaby track.”
So I got off of my horse and I patted my dog
And together we sat on the stringy-bark log.
I lit the fire and I ratted the pack,
And we all had a feast on the wallaby track.

She was a fine looking girl, pretty clever and neat,
And a thump in my chest, well, fair had me beat.
She said, “Where d’you come from? When will you be back?
And why are you off on the wallaby track?”
Well I told this young woman I was searching a wife,
And how could she fancy a partner for life?
She gimme a wink and she said, “That’s a whack!”
Put the end of my trip on the wallaby track.