The Old Bullock Dray by Banjo Patterson

Satire and Sentimentality in Paterson’s Bush Ballad

This lengthy folk ballad provides a colorful glimpse of pastoral life in colonial Australia. The narrator, a bullock driver, describes the carefree, adventure-filled existence of living and working in the bush.

The verse employs quintessential Aussie bush imagery – sheep shearing, kangaroos, the outback, damper and billy tea. Paterson romanticizes the independence and mateship of bullock drivers. Their challenging work is portrayed as a source of pride and freedom.

The Old Bush Songs

by Banjo Patterson

Underneath the bravado lies a loneliness, as the driver longs for female companionship and family. His plan to fetch an immigrant wife depicts women as a commodity but also reveals his isolation.

Paterson affectionately satirizes the crudeness of bush settler culture. The rollicking rhymes brim with good humor about rough living conditions, bawdy characters and makeshift culinary delights.

By closing with the driver considering a marriage to an Aboriginal woman, Paterson humorously tweaks racist attitudes. Overall, the ballad provides an entertaining ode to the Australian interior and its colorful pioneers. Its charm lies in nostalgically mythologizing the bushman’s lifestyle.

So while idealized, “The Old Bullock Dray” offers a boisterous poetic snapshot of Australia’s pioneering generations. Paterson celebrates their rugged individualism and perseverance with wry lyricism and endearing wit.


Oh! the shearing is all over,
And the wool is coming down,
And I mean to get a wife, boys,
When I go up to town.
Everything that has two legs
Represents itself in view,
From the little paddy-melon
To the bucking kangaroo.


So it’s roll up your blankets,
And let’s make a push,
I’ll take you up the country,
And show you the bush.
I’ll be bound you won’t get
Such a chance another day,
So come and take possession
Of my old bullock dray.

Now, I’ve saved up a good cheque,
I mean to buy a team,
And when I get a wife, boys,
I’ll be all-serene
For calling at the depôt.
They say there’s no delay
To get an off-sider
For the old bullock dray.

Oh! we’ll live like fighting cocks,
For good living, I’m your man.
We’ll have leather jacks, johnny cakes,
And fritters in the pan;
Or if you’d like some fish
I’ll catch you some soon,
For we’ll bob for barramundies
Round the banks of a lagoon.

Oh! yes, of beef and damper
I take care we have enough,
And we’ll boil in the bucket
Such a whopper of a duff,
And our friends will dance
To the honour of the day,
To the music of the bells,
Around the old bullock dray.

Oh! we’ll have plenty girls,
We must mind that.
There’ll be flash little Maggie,
And buckjumping Pat.
There’ll be Stringy bark Joe,
And Green-hide Mike.
Yes, my Colonials, just
As many as you like.

Now we’ll stop all immigration,
We won’t need it any more;
We’ll be having young natives,
Twins by the score.
And I wonder what the devil
Jack Robertson would say
If he saw us promenading
Round the old bullock dray.

Oh! it’s time I had an answer,
If there’s one to be had,
I wouldn’t treat that steer
In the body half as bad;
But he takes as much notice
Of me, upon my soul,
As that old blue stag
Off-side in the pole.

Oh! to tell a lot of lies,
You know, it is a sin,
But I’ll go up country
And marry a black gin.
Oh! “Baal gammon white feller,”
This is what she’ll say,
“Budgery you
And your old bullock dray.”

This song may require a few notes for the benefit of non-Australian
readers. A paddy-melon is a small and speedy marsupial, a sort of poor
relation of the great kangaroo family.

“Calling at the depôt to get an offsider.”–Female immigrants were
housed at the depôt on arrival, and many found husbands within a few
hours of their landing. The minstrel, therefore, proposes to call at
the depôt to get himself a wife from among the immigrants. An offsider
is a bullock-drivers assistant–one who walks on the off-side of the
team and flogs the bullocks on that side when occasion arises. The word
afterwards came to mean an assistant of any kind.

“Jack Robertson.”–Sir John Robertson, as he afterwards became, was a
well-known politician, who believed in Australians doing their best to
populate their own country.

“Budgery you”–good fellow you.

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