Click Go the Shears
Tracey Petersen wrote: "Click go the Shears is a song about sheep shearing by hand." (Tracey's explanation of the song and Australian vocabulary is below the lyrics.)
Click Go the Shears
Out on the board the old shearer stands,
Grasping his shears in his long, bony hands,
Fixed is his gaze on a bare-bellied "joe"
Glory if he gets her, won't he make the ringer go.
Click go the shears boys, click, click, click,
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick,
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And he curses the old snagger with the blue-bellied "joe".
In the middle of the floor in his cane-bottomed chair
Is the boss of the board, with eyes everywhere,
Notes well each fleece as it comes to the screen,
Paying strict attention if it's taken off clean.
The colonial-experience man he is there, of course,
With his shiny leggin's, just got off his horse,
Casting round his eye like a real connoisseur
Whistling the old tune "I'm the Perfect Lure".
The tar-boy is there, a-waiting in demand,
With his blackened tar-pot and his tarry hand,
Sees one old sheep with a cut upon its back,
Hears what he's waiting for "Tar here Jack!"
Shearing is all over and we've all got our cheques,
Roll up your swag for we're off on the tracks,
The first pub we come to, it's there we'll have a spree,
And everyone that comes along it's, "Come and drink with me!"
Down by the bar the old shearer stands,
Grasping his glass in his thin bony hands,
Fixed is his gaze on a green-painted keg
Glory, he'll get down on it, ere he stirs a peg.
There we leave him standing, shouting for all hands,
Whilst all around him every shouter stands,
His eyes are on the cask, which is now lowering fast,
He works hard, he drinks har,d and goes to hell at last.
-The board is the floor of the shed where the sheep are shown.
-A "joe" is a ewe, a female sheep. When a joe has a bare belly (no wool on its belly or hind legs) it's easier/quicker to shear her.
-The 'ringer' is the shearer who shears the most sheep in that shed. He is the most experienced specialist in the shed and he is being beaten by one 'blow'.
-The "blow" is referring to his arm movement, the cutting sweep of the shears.
-A "snagger" is an unskilled shearer.
-The "boss of the board" is the contractor who employs all the shearing workers.
-The "tar boy" is a young boy who was employed to stand by with a pot of hot tar and dab it on any sheep that had been cut while being shorn to stop it bleeding.
-A "swag" is a rolled up blanket used for camping in the bush.
-The 'Colonial Experience' man is a reference to a young man sent from England to the colonies to get some colonial experience before returning home to take a role in the family or corporate business.
(Note: shears do not really make a clicking sound- poetic license is used here.)
According to the book, "Outback Songs" by Norah Kersh, the words to this song have an anonymous author and the music was by Henry Clay Work (1832 – 1884).
Thanks and Acknowledgements
Many thanks to Tracey Petersen for contributing and commenting on this song!
The image above is from a painting called "Shearing the Rams" by Tom Roberts (1856 - 1869).
Thank you very much!