> Martyn Wyndham-Read > Songs > 'Ard Tack

'Ard Tack

[ Roud - ; Ballad Index PFS266 ; trad.]

Martyn Wyndham-Read, Phyl Vinnicombe, and Peter Dickie sang 'Ard Tack in 1967 on their album Bullockies, Bushwackers & Booze. They commented:

'Ard Tack was recorded at the home of Mr. Jack Davies, a pioneer soldier-settler of the Leeton District on the Murrumbidgee. He says he didn't write it, but distinctly remembers being sober the day it was written. A song any shearer would relish, particularly on that section of the Murrumbidgee where grapes and sheep are grown side by side.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Hard Tack in 1971 on the Topic album The Great Australian Legend. A.L. Lloyd wrote in the album's sleevenotes:

Published in John Fahey's Favourite Australian Ballads (1965), as “recorded at the home of Mr Jack Davies, a pioneer soldier-settler of the Leeton district on the Murrumbidgee, NSW”.

and in the accompanying booklet:

Already in the nineteenth century, in South Australia and Victoria, vineyards were being planted, mostly by German settlers. And notably in the period between the World Wars, with the establishment on Murrumbidgee Irritation Area, the orchard and vineyard districts of New South Wales began to spread and encroach on regions that formerly had been devoted to sheep. To their astonishment, shearers found themselves drinking wine instead of their famed staple beverage, beer. The culture collision between vineyard and sheep land, wine and beer, is well expressed in the Hard Tack song.

Gerry Hallom sang 'Ard Tack on his 1981 Fellside album Travellin' Down the Castlereagh.

Martyn Wyndham-Read also sang 'Ard Tack in 1992 on his Fellside album Mussels on a Tree. This track was also included in 1996 on his anthology Undiscovered Australia.

Danny Spooner sang 'Ard Tack as the title track of his 2004 album of Australian songs of toil and reward, 'Ard Tack. He noted:

A good shearer would be expected to hand shear one hundred sheep in an eight-hour day. This shearer had hoped to start gently and break in his body and arms for work in the bigger sheds. However. in this particular shed he found complications! I got the song from John Lahey‘s little book Great Australian Folk Songs (Hill of Content, 1965).

Lyrics

Martyn Wyndham-Read sings 'Ard Tack

I'm a shearer, yes, I am, and I've shorn both sheep and lamb,
From the Wimmera to the Darling Downs and back.
And I've run a shed or two when the fleece was tough as glue,
But I'll tell you where I struck the 'ardest tack.

I was down round Yenda way, killin' time from day to day,
Till the big sheds started movin' further out,
When I met a bloke by chance that I summed up at a glance,
As a cocky from a vineyard round about.

Now it seems he picked me too—well, it wasn't hard to do,
'Cause I had me tongs a-hangin' at me hip.
“Well, I got a mob,” he said, “just about two hundred head,
And I'd give a ten pound note to get the clip.”

I says, “Right, I'll take the stand”, it meant gettin' in me hand,
And by nine o'clock we'd rounded up the mob
In a shed sunk in the ground with wine-casks all around;
And that was where I started on me job.

I goes easy for a bit whilst me hand was gettin' fit,
And by dinner time I'd done about a score,
With the cockie pickin' up, and handin' me a cup
Of pinkie after every sheep I shore.

Well, he had to go away about the seventh day,
After showin' me the kind of casks to use.
Then I'd do the pickin' up, and manipulate the cup,
Strollin' round them wine-casks just to pick and choose.

Then I'd stagger to the pen, grab a sheep and start again,
With a sound between an 'iccup and a sob,
And sometimes I'd fall asleep with me arms around a sheep,
Worn and weary from me over-arduous job.

And so six weeks went by, till one day, with a sigh,
I shoved the dear old cobbler through the door,
I gathered in the cocky's pay, and staggered on me way
From the hardest flamin' shed I'd ever shorn.