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The Flash Stockman

[ Roud 22616 ; Ballad Index FaE166 ; trad.]

The Flash Stockman was published in 1895 in the Queenslander. It was recorded by A.L. Lloyd for his 1958 Wattle album Across the Western Plains. In 1960, this track was included in the Topic LP Outback Ballads. Lloyd commented in the earlier album's sleeve notes:

This is the national anthem of that great race of country skiters who have made themselves heard ever since the first man stepped into the bush with his blanket roll, and bolstered up his courage by crying into the emptiness: “I don't have to prove I'm the best man here--I admit it!” Or perhaps he wasn't so much bolstering up his courage as laughing at his own impotence in the face of hardship and disillusion. Whatever the case boasting became a wry and double-edged part of the Australian national character. Double-edged? Listen to The Flash Stockman and see if you can make out whether it's a boost or a knock for the skiter. The tune, of course, is one that has carried a core of texts, including The Drover's Dream.

Trevor Lucas sang The Flash Stockman on both of his Australian LPs, in 1964 on See That My Grave Is Kept Clean, and in 1966 on Overlander. Another recording—Trevor Lucas sings accompanied by guitar and mouth-organ—is a live performance recorded by the BBC Transcription service (Disc #28) in 1966 as part of their Folk Song Cellar radio series from a club in south-west London. It was released on the cassette Together Again: The Attic Tracks Vol. 4. And Martyn Wyndham-Read sang this on Lloyd's, Lucas' and his album The Great Australian Legend. A.: Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

In some versions the bold boaster is “Handsome Sam” in others “Ugly Dave”, as here. Whoever he was, there's general agreement that he's the archetype of a familiar bush character, the skiter whose lies are partly a deliberate leg-pull. Behind the bold stare there's a twinkle, and behind the twinkle a shadow of unease. The tune has served for several bush songs, notably of course The Drover's Dream.

and in the accompanying booklet:

Brave men have quailed before the vast emptiness of the Australian outback. During the second half of the nineteenth century the continent was opened up for the cattle barons and the sheep kings, and the big pastoral companies began to form. But the struggle against hard nature and novel conditions, drought and distances, was a severe test of a man's character. The boaster, the blowhead, has been a familiar figure of the Australian scene ever since the first man stepped into the bush with his shears and stockwhip and bolstered his courage by shouting into the void: “I don't have to prove I'm the best man here, I admit it!” Since then, bush boasting has got wilder and wilder. The conversation is reported of three man sitting by a camp-fire on the western plain:

“You've heard of Black Andy, who carried half a ton of corrugated iron on his back up the slippery creek-bank at Wilcannia? I'm the fellow who was carrying Black Andy.”

“I ever tell you about the time I was fencing up on Cowan Downs? I was putting up a hundred posts a day, a mile apart. Hard work.”

“I'm the man who rode the crowbar through the township of Wagga. It never threw me, but I had to get off because it was developing saddle-sores.”

Martyn Wyndham-Reads sang The Flash Stockman in 1966 on his album Australian Songs and in 1992 on his Fellside CD Mussels on a Tree. The latter track was included in 1996 on his anthology Undiscovered Australia.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Flash Stockman

I'm a stockman to me trade and they call me Ugly Dave,
I'm old and grey and I only got one eye.
In the yard I'm good, of course, but just put me on a horse
And I'll go where lots of young 'uns daren't try.

I lead 'em through the gidgee over country rough and ridgy,
I loose them in the very worst of scrub.
I can ride both rough and easy, with the dewdrop I'm a daisy
And a right down bobby-dazzler in a pub.

Just watch me use the whip, I can give the dawdlers gyp,
I can make the bloody echoes roar and ring.
With a branding-iron, well, I'm a perfect flamin' swell,
In fact I'm duke of every blasted thing.

To watch me skin a sheep, it's so lovely you could weep,
I can act the silvertail as if me blood was blue.
You could strike me pink or dead, if you stood me on me head,
I'd be just as good as any other two.

I've a notion in me pate that it's luck, it isn't fate,
That I'm so far above the common run.
So for ev'rything I do you can cut me fair in two
For I'm much two bloody good to be in one.

Trevor Lucas sings The Flash Stockman

I'm a stockman to me trade and I calls me Ugly Dave,
I'm old and grey and I've only got one eye.
In the yard I'm good, of course, but just put me on a horse
And I'll go where lots of young 'uns daren't try.

I've lead 'em through the gidgee over country rough and ridgy,
I've lost them in the very worst of scrub.
I can ride both rough and easy and with the dewdrop I'm a daisy
And I'm a right down bobby-dazzler in a pub.

Oh, just watch me with the whip, I can make the dawdlers skip,
I can make the flamin' echoes roar and ring.
And with a branding-iron, well, I'm just a perfect flamin' swell,
Well, in fact I'm duke of every blasted thing.

Oh, to see me skin a sheep, it's so pretty you could weep,
And I can act the silvertail as if my blood was blue.
Oh, you could strike me pink or dead if you stood me on me head,
I'd be just as good as any other two.

I've a notion in me pate that it's luck, it isn't fate,
That I'm so far above the common run.
Well, for ev'rything I do you can split me fair in two
For I'm much two flamin' good to be in one.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sings The Flash Stockman

I'm a stockman to me trade and I call me Ugly Dave,
I'm old and grey and only got one eye.
In the yard I'm good, of course, but just put me on a horse
I'll go where lots of young 'uns daren't try.

I've lead 'em through the gidgee over country rough and ridgy,
I'll loose them in the very worst of scrub.
I can ride both rough and easy, with a brumby I'm a daisy,
And a right down bobby-dazzler in a pub.

Just watch me use the whip, I can give the dawdlers gyp,
I can make the flamin' echoes roar and ring.
With a branding-iron, well, I'm a perfect flamin' swell,
In fact I'm duke of every blasted thing.

To watch me skin a sheep, it's so perfect you could weep,
I can act the silvertail as if my blood was blue.
You could strike me pink or dead, if I stood upon me head,
I'd be just as good as any other two.

I've a notion in me pate that it's luck, it isn't fate,
That I'm so far above the common run.
So, for ev'rything I do, you could cut me square in two
For I'm much two flamin' good to be in one.

Acknowledgements

Lyrics copied from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs and adapted to the actual singing of Trevor Lucas on Overlander.