> Trevor Lucas > Songs > Five Miles from Gundagai

Five Miles from Gundagai

[ Roud 9121 ; AFS 64 ; Ballad Index MA095 ; trad.]

Trevor Lucas sang this ballad accompanied by Dave Swarbrick on the album The Great Australian Legend. A.L. Lloyd wrote on the LP backside:

This celebrated and much commented song has its mysteries. It seems to have bred countless variants, some far-fetched, some close to the “original” version published by Jack Moses in his Beyond the City Gates remembered from his travels as a whiskey salesman in the bush some fifty years previously. Perhaps the grandfather of the song is Bill the Bullocky, another Gundagai-dog epic whose words gained currency in the bush in the late 1850s, through being printed on a matchbox. Trevor Lucas likes to sing the morose words to the tune of Nicky Tams.

and in the accompanying booklet:

The bullock-driver with his wagon piled high with wool-bales, his eight or ten yoke of oxen, his long whip and fluent oaths, was eminent among the oldtime bushman. We hear of Slabface Bill, whose bullock team was so long, he'd a telephone wire running along the tips of the bullocks, from the polers to the lead. He'd an Aborigine for a helper, and whenever Bill wanted to stop, he would just ring through; the blackfellow would halt the lead bullocks, and twenty minutes later the polers could stop. Bill got a wrong number one day, and the team didn't halt in time and half the Tabratong wool-clip tipped into the Bogan River. Bill wasted two hours trying to ring the exchange to make his complaint; finally his curses burnt the cable and started the big bush fires of 1908.

One of the monuments of Australian folklore is the bullock teamsters' song about the dog that “shat” in the tucker-box five miles from Gundagai. On November 28, 1932, the Rt. Hon. J.A. Lyons, Prime Minister of Australia, unveiled a statue to this redoubtable dog at the point where O'Brien's Creek crosses the main Gundagai Road, the site of an oldtime bullockies' camping-ground. Dog and tucker-box are set on a plinth. [...] A dog souvenir shop is nearby, and the post-office puts on the local letters a special dog postmark. Such is fame in Australia.

Lyrics

Trevor Lucas sings Five Miles from Gundagai

I'm used to punchin' bullock teams across the hills and plains.
I've teamed outback for forty years through bleedin' hail and rain.
I've lived a lot of troubles down, without a bloomin' lie,
But I can't forget what happened just five miles from Gundagai.

'Twas getting dark, the team got bored, the axle snapped in two.
I lost me matches and me pipe, so what was I to do?
The rain it was coming on, and hungry too was I,
And me dog shat in me tucker-box five miles from Gundagai.

Some blokes I know have stacks of luck, no matter where they fall,
But there was I, Lord love a duck, no bloody luck at all.
I couldn't heat a pot of tea or keep me trousers dry,
And me dog shat in me tucker-box five miles from Gundagai.

Now, I can forgive the bleedin' team, I can forgive the rain.
I can forgive the damp and cold and go through it again.
I can forgive the rotten luck, but 'ang me till I die,
I can't forgive that bloody dog, five miles from Gundagai.