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The Outside Track

[words Henry Lawson, tune Gerry Hallom]

Gerry Hallom sang The Outside Track to his own tune in 1984 on his Fellside album A Run a Minute. This track was also included in 1996 on his anthology Undiscovered Australia II. He noted:

Another Lawson poem which fits conveniently into song. To me it captures the sadness and emptiness when parting company from friends when futures are uncertain. The traveller at least has his adventures before him to soften the parting, but those on the quayside have only the loss.

James Fagan sang The Outside Track in 2002 in Nancy Kerr's and his Fellside album Between the Dark and Light. A live recording of this song was included in 2019 on their live CD An Evening with Nancy Kerr & James Fagan. They noted:

Great Australian writer Henry Lawson (1867-1922) wrote The Outside Track about his colleagues and friends, the “careless men” with whom he contributed to Sydney's Bulletin newspaper. Gerry Hallom wrote the beautiful tune. Thanks to Chris Kempster for his tireless and thorough compiling of the musical settings of Lawson, and to Marg Walters for inspiration.

John Bowden and Sheafknot sang The Outside Track in 2015 on Vic Shepherd & John's Hallamshire Traditions album Still Waters. They noted:

Our friend Gerry Hallom put this beautiful tune to a poem by Henry Lawson (1867-1922), one of Australia's best-known and most popular authors, and recorded it on his 1983 LP A Run a Minute. Gerry omitted the first and last verses of the original poem to emphasise the poignant tale of a group of friends who, one by one, break up and go their separate ways, leaving behind the memories of happier times. In the past few years Gerry's setting has deservedly become a favourite with singers and audiences all over the world and has been recorded innumerable times.

Lyrics

Henry Lawson's poem The Outside Track James Fagan sings The Outside Track

James Fagan sings The Outside Track

There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,
And one on the for’ard hatch;
No straighter mate to his mates than he
Had ever said: “Len’s a match!”
“’Twill be long, old man, ere our glasses clink,
’Twill be long ere we grip your hand!”—
And we dragged him ashore for a final drink
Till the whole wide world seemed grand.

There were ten of us there on the moonlit quay,
And one on the forward hatch.
No straighter man to his mates than he
Had ever said: “Lend us a match!”
“'Twill be long, old man, till our glasses clink,
'Twill be long ere we grip your hand!”—
And we dragged him ashore for a final drink
Till the whole wide world seemed grand.

For they marry and go as the world rolls back,
They marry and vanish and die;
But their spirit shall live on the Outside Track
As long as the years go by.

The port-lights glowed in the morning mist
That rolled from the waters green;
And over the railing we grasped his fist
As the dark tide came between.
We cheered the captain and cheered the crew,
And our mate, times out of mind;
We cheered the land he was going to
And the land he had left behind.

The port-lights glowed in the morning mist
That rose from the waters green;
And over the railing we grasped his fist
Till the dark tide came between.
We cheered the captain and cheered the crew,
And our mate, times out of mind;
We cheered the land he was going to
And the land he had left behind.

Chorus (after each verse):
For they marry and go as the world rolls back,
They marry and vanish and die;
But their spirit shall live on the Outside Track
As long as the years roll by.

We roared Lang Syne as a last farewell,
But my heart seemed out of joint;
I well remember the hush that fell
When the steamer had passed the point
We drifted home through the public bars,
We were ten times less by one
Who sailed out under the morning stars,
And under the rising sun.

We roared Lang Syne as a last farewell,
But my heart seemed out of joint.
I well remember the hush that fell
As the steamer passed the point.
We drifted home through the public bars,
We were ten times less by one
Who had sailed out under the morning stars,
And under the rising sun.

Chorus

And one by one, and two by two,
They have sailed from the wharf since then;
I have said good-bye to the last I knew,
The last of the careless men.
And I can’t but think that the times we had
Were the best times after all,
As I turn aside with a lonely glass
And drink to the bar-room wall.

And one by one, and two by two,
They have sailed from the wharf since then.
I have said goodbye to the last I knew,
The last of the careless men.
And I can’t but think that the times we had
Were the best times after all,
As I turn aside with a lonely glass
And drink to the bar-room wall.

Chorus


But I’ll try my luck for a cheque Out Back,
Then a last good-bye to the bush;
For my heart’s away on the Outside Track,
On the track of the steerage push.

Final chorus:
But I’ll try my luck for a cheque Out Back,
Then a last good-bye to the bush;
For my heart’s away on the Outside Track,
On the track of the steerage push.

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed by Garry Gillard from James Fagan's singing.

See also the Mudcat Café threads Origin: The Outside Track (H Lawson/G Hallom) and Lyr/Chords Req: The Outside Track (Henry Lawson) and the discussion on The Outside Track at All Poetry.