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Past Caring

[ Roud - ; Mudcat 127162 ; words Henry Lawson, music Steve Ashley / Phyl Lobl]

Australian poet Henry Lawson (1867-1922) wrote Past Caring about the hardships of women in the Australian bush.

Steve Ashley wrote a few settings of Lawson poems for The Bushwackers Band, amongst them Past Carin’. They recorded it in 1979 for their album Bushfire and later live on their 25 Year Anniversary album Jubilee with Shanley Dell singing.

There are a lot of other cover versions but I don’t know of any recording of this song by Steve Ashley himself.

Mara Kiek covered Past Carin’ on her Mara! albums Images (1984) and Ruino Vino (1995).

The folk band Banjacks covered it on their eponymous album Banjacks.

Martin and Jessica Simpson sang Past Caring in 1987 on their album True Dare or Promise.

Andree Greenwell included Past Carin’ in 2006 in her Australian ballad opera, Dreaming Transportation with Amie McKenna singing.

Another Australian artist, Kristen Cornwell (now based in Belgium), recorded a jazz version on her 2008 album, Distant Skies, by The Kristen Cornwell Quintet.

Dobe Newton of the Bushwackers released a new cover version in 2010 on his album A Convict Can’t be Trusted.

Besides Steve Ashley’s version, Phyl Lobl also did her own setting in the late 1960’s. Martyn Wyndham-Read sang this version of Past Carin’ on his 2010 CD Back to You. He noted:

I have the greatest admiration for the early pioneering colonial women who left their cosy English homes and set out for an unknown life in the harsh Outback of Australia. The men would often be away for long periods of time, and those women had to cope stoically on their own with every conceivable problem that would, and so often did, present itself, with their neighbours many miles distant. Originally a poem by Henry Lawson, 1899, and so empathetically put to music by Phyl Lobl in the late 1960’s. This song is included in our production Down the Lawson Track, a celebration of the great Australian poet Henry Lawson, 1867-1922.

In autumn 2008, Jackie Oates played the violin in a few performances of Down the Lawson Track and learned Past Caring there. She recorded in in 2009 for her CD Hyperboreans.

Dempsey Robson Tweed sang Past Carin’ on their 2016 CD Dirt Road. Carolyn Robson noted:

Having had the good fortune to work with Martyn Wyndham-Read over the past few years, one of his projects that I was involved in was a show performed at Whitby Folk Festival called Ladies of the Outback. This was one of several moving songs in that show depicting the hardship of those pioneers who first settled in Australia. Poem written by Henry Lawson in 1899 and tune by Phyl Lobl.


Martyn Wyndham-Read sings Past Carin’

Well, up and down the sidling brown the great black crows are flyin’
And just below the spur I know another milker’s dyin’.
The crops have withered from the ground, the tank’s clay bed is glarin’
Yet from my heart no tear or sound for I have grown past carin’.

Through death and trouble, turn about, through hopeless desolation,
Through flood and fever, fire and drought, through slavery and starvation,
Through childbirth, sickness, hurt and blight, through loneliness and scarin,
From being left alone at night I have grown to be past carin’.

Our first child took in days like these a cruel week in dyin’,
All day upon her father’s knees or on my breast a-lyin’.
The tears we shed, the prayers we said were awful, wild, despairin’
I’ve pulled three through and buried two since then, and I am past carin’.

’Twas ten years first, then came the worst, all for a barren clearin’,
I thought, I thought my heart would burst when first my man went shearin’.
He’s drovin’ in the great North West; I don’t know how he’s farin’,
And I, the girl who loved him best, have grown to be past carin’.

My eyes are dry, I cannot cry, I have no heart for breakin’,
Where it was in days gone by is empty dull and achin’.
My last boy ran away from me; I know my temper’s wearin’,
But now I only wish to be beyond all signs of carin’.
Past bothering, past carin’, past feeling and despairin’,
And now I only wish to be beyond all signs of carin’.


Thanks to Steve Ashley for the comprehensive list of recordings of his setting of this fine poem.