> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > South Australia
> Trevor Lucas > Songs > South Australia
> Louis Killen > Songs > South Australia

South Australia

[ Roud 325 ; AFS 12 ; Ballad Index Doe071 ; DT SOAUSTRL ; Mudcat 48959 , 139922 ; trad.]

Contrary to the jolly nature of shanties like this, shipboard life in the early days was miserable indeed.

Laura Smith collected a version of classic shanty South Australia from sailors in Tyneside and printed it in 1888 in her book The Music of the Waters.

A.L. Lloyd recorded South Australia in 1958 for his Wattle album Across the Western Plains (verses 1-5 and 7-8). This track was reissued in 1960 on his Topic LP Outback Ballads and was included in 2008 on his Fellside anthology Ten Thousand Miles Away He also sang it with Ewan MacColl joining in on chorus on their 1957 album Blow Boys Blow (verses 1-3 and 5-7).

A.L. Lloyd noted on the first album:

In the days of sail, South Australia was a familiar going-away song, sung as the men trudged round the capstan to heave up the heavy anchor. Some say the song originated on wool-clippers, others say it was first heard on the emigrant ships. There is no special evidence to support either belief; it was sung just as readily aboard Western Ocean ships as in those of the Australian run. Laura Smith, a remarkable Victorian Lady, obtained a 14-stanza version of South Australia from a coloured seaman in the Sailors’ Home at Newcastle upon Tyne, in the early 1880’s. The song’s first appearance in print was in Miss Smith’s Music of the Waters. Later, it was often used as a forebitter, sung off-watch, merely for fun, with any instrumentalist joining in. It is recorded in this latter-day form. The present version was learnt from an old sailing-ship sailor, Ted Howard of Barry, in South Wales. Ted told how he and a number of shellbacks were gathered round the bed of a former shipmate. The dying man remarked: “Blimey, I think I’m slipping my cable. Strike up South Australia, lads, and let me go happy.”

Trevor Lucas recorded South Australia for his second Australian solo album of 1966, Overlander.

Louis Killen—who was chanteyman, deckhand and ship’s carpenter on the Hudson River sloop Clearwater during her trip from her builder’s yard in Maine to her home port of New York—sang South Australia in 1970 on his South Street Seaport Museum album 50 South to 50 South. He noted:

A capstan or pump chantey. In the Clearwater it was used as a hand-over-hand halyard chantey, with the crew hauling on the mains’l halyard during the chanteyman’s solo parts as well as on the chorus parts.

The Ripley Wayfarers sang South Australia in 1972 on their Traditional Sound Recordings album Five Wells.

Stan Hugill sang South Australia in 1980 on the Folkways album Sea Music of Many Lands: The Pacific Heritage. This video shows him at the International Shanty Festival in Workum in 1990:

Johnny Collins with Dave Webber and Pete Watkinson sang South Australia in 1996 on their album Shanties & Songs of the Sea.

The New Scorpion Band sang South Australia in 2004 on their CD Out on the Ocean. Tim Laycock noted:

Also known as Rolling King, this shanty was sung at the capstan and pumps, and brings to mind the great wave of emigration to Australia in the mid-nineteenth century. This version can be found in Stan Hugill’s Shanties From the Seven Seas.

Jon Boden sang South Australia as the 6 November 2010 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day.

Port Isaac’s Fisherman’s Friends sang South Australia at the Cambridge Folk Festival 2011.

The Salts sang South Australia on their 2013 CD She Rises.


A.L. Lloyd sings South Australia

In South Australia I was born,
    Well, heave away, haul away,
In South Australia round Cape Horn
    We’re bound for South Australia.

Chorus (after each verse):
Haul away, you rolling king,
Well, heave away, haul away,
Haul away, oh hear me sing,
We’re bound for South Australia.

As I walked out one morning fair,
’t was there I met Miss Nancy Blair.

There ain’t but one thing grieves my mind,
To leave Miss Nancy Blair behind.

O when I sail across the sea,
My girl says she’d be true to me.

I rung her all night, I rung her all day,
I rung her before we sailed away.

I shook her up, I shook her down,
I shook her round and round and round.

Oh, when we wallop around Cape Horn,
You’ll wish to God you’d never been born.

I wish I was on Australia strand,
With a glass of whiskey in my hand.

Trevor Lucas sings South Australia

In South Australia I was born,
    Heave away, haul away,
In South Australia round Cape Horn
    For we’re bound for South Australia.

Chorus (after each verse):
Heave away, you rolling king,
Heave away, haul away,
Heave away, oh hear me sing,
For we’re bound for South Australia.

There only one thing grieves me mind,
That’s leaving Nancy Blair behind.

I rung her all night and I rung her all day,
Well, I rung her and tell we sailed away.

I wish I was on Australian shores,
With a bottle of whiskey in me paw.


Lyrics copied from Mark Gregory’s Australian Folk Songs and adapted to the actual singing of A.L. Lloyd and Trevor Lucas. Thanks to Immie for an assential correction.