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Simply Letters - archive 2

Dear Editor,
What a delightful weekend pressie! Issue 6 (Summer) has just arrived and I've already skimmed through it once (or twice) with frequent pauses at special spots. Absolutely wonderful! Unlike Macarthur, I shall be returning more than once tomorrow and Sunday.
Warmest best wishes,

I am looking for the title/singer/writer of an old song about Tasmania that has a line in it similar to "I have a mania to live in Tasmania" .
Any help would be greatly appreciated
Waratah, NSW

I am currently reading a book on Breaker Morant called "Shoot Straight you Bastards written by Nick Bleszynski and on page 105 it refers to the Bulliten magazine launching the careers of the "holy trinity" Banjo Patterson, Henry Lawson and Will Ogilvie. The first two are well known to me as they would be every Australian. But the third, Will Ogilvie is new to me. A search of the net by that name resulted in no recognition although the name "Ogilvie" returned some interesting sites both from the US and Scotland. Could you direct me to somewhere I could perhaps find more information on this gentleman.
Thank you

[Editor: Will Ogilvie was born in 1869 at Holefield House in Scotland, a property that his father leased from The Duke of Buccleuch. At the age of twenty he came out to Australia to "gain some colonial experience".He spent about 9 years here where he worked extensively in Australia as a drover and station manager. His poetry was published in the "Border Watch" Mt Gambier, and the "Bulletin" and R.M.Williams who published several books of his verse. He returned to Scotland in 1901 at the age of 32. He left a legacy of his bush poetry in Australia and died in 1963. His son George T.A. Ogilvie wrote his biography Balladist of Borders and Bush ISBN 0 952 4634 07. There is also a book on him by the late John Meredith: "Breaker's mate: Will Ogilvie in Australia", John Meredith, Kenthurst, NSW: Kangaroo Press, c1996 You can hear one of his Australian poems, How the Fire Queen Crossed the Swamp, and read a short biography an him at: There's also a copy there of his poem, Kelpies. The ABC had a CD available of his work "Tribute to a Horseman - Poetry of Will Ogilvie" ($26.95) The sites you came across on the Net may have been about him as he continued to write back in Scotland... particularly hunting poems. Interestingly, Will Ogilvie is responsible for the well known phrase, "back o' Bourke": He used it in his poem, At the Back O' Bourke:
"It's the bitterest land of sweat and sorrow
But if I were free I'd be off tomorrow
Out at the Back O' Bourke."]

Could somebody please shed some light on the origins (and or meaning) of the terms "the inside track" and "the outside track" as frequently used in Australian poetry, ballads and literature? I have heard some theories expressed as to the meaning of these terms but have not been able to gain a definitive answer.
Similarly can anyone recall the meaning of what 'Murrumbidgee Toast' was?

Since my previous inquiry re 'Murrumbidgee Toast' I have discovered it is a traditional description for a slice of bread or damper soaked in black tea and then spread with sugar. This definition is contained within a number of publications and would therefore seem to be accurate. However, I still have not been able to discover a reasonable or accurate definition of the oft quoted term "Inside and or Outside Track".

[NOTE from ED: the following reply had been sent to Vic personally: I suppose the obvious for the tracks are racing terms where the outside track is the longest etc. But the Birdsville Track has an Outside Track and an Inside Track. E, the Birdsville Track was established during the 1880s as the main stock route between Marree in South Australia and Birdsville in Queensland. It usually took about a month to traverse and as it was long and extremely harsh, cattle often didn't survive the trip. There are two routes leading into Birdsville, the Outside and Inside Tracks. The Outside Track is the one most commonly used now - the Inside Track, crosses the Goyder Lagoon and joins the main track just past Clifton Hills.]

Thank you for replying so promptly. However would you believe I now have a slightly different recipe for Murrumbidgee Toast. An old friend advises that the black tea and sugar were blended together to form a syrup and then spread on to damper or bread, much like treacle. This I think would be the more reliable definition.

Your explanation of the inside and outside track to Birdsvile would seem to fit with the way I have seen the term used though I suspect it had a broader meaning.


[ED: I've found a reference to "Inside" as being in the populated areas... it was an old Australian saying, so I expect the "outside" track would be taking the road via the least populated areas. Perhaps the other side of the Darling? I agree with you that a treacle type paste seems a likely one for Murrumbidgee Toast.]

We are getting close to solving the problem, but here is an example of the outside track (at least it is synonymous with what I am on about)

The Boss's Wife. The boss went each night to the stockman's hut,
For word of the day's work done,
And he'd stay for a smoke, or a yarn or a joke,

I take this to mean he would yarn about the good old days of his youth with the workers. I think the term has something to do with the runs closer to the coast versus the country further out BUT I still can't find a definitive answer to what must have been a very common term and I do not like to think of such terms dying out altogether.


John Henry DREW lived in the Home Rule/Gulgong area in the second half of the 19th century. According to family tradition, he is supposed to have been mentioned by Henry Lawson in one of his poems (or possibly, short stories) as "old Harry Drew". Can anyone identify the source?

Hello everybody!
Thanks for a great web site!
I have actually recently returned from a 5 week walking trek in the Kimberley region of WA. I was wondering if there are any english language books on the crash of the German aviators plane the "Atlantis", and where i can purchase one from? I actually spent some time around the area of "seaplane bay" and would be keen to read about their ordeal .
Kind regards,

[Ed: Barbara.WINTER had a book published called Atlantis is Missing: A Gripping True Story of Survival in the Australian Wilderness. (Angus and Robertson, Sydney, 1979). It was the account of the Bertram-Atlantis-Expedition, the 1932 pioneer flight across the Timor Sea, and subsequent plane crash and search for Hans Bertram and Adolph Klausmann. It was cited as a reference in the a references for the article in Issue 3 of Simply Australia, Strangers on the Shore]

Hello, Could you tell me if Ion Idriess book 'Lasseters last ride' is in print, and if so how can I obtain a copy here in Sydney. ,
Thank You

[Ed: I'm not aware of it still being in print but a seach of the bookstores online will turn up some used copies. Try Abebooks

Summer has come and gone and winter is upon us, but alas, no Winter Edition to read.
Love your work look forward to more.

What an interesting publication and great articles.
Thank you,

I've just spent several hours reading this issue and then going back over the archives. I've referred my whole family to it - it's one of the best reads on the 'net. There's so much there - and my girls have learned a lot about their history and culture that I either never thought to tell them, or didn't know myself. I've asked to be added to the email list - please, pass my gratitude on to the team and tell them that they're doing a fantastic job. If there's anything I can do to support them, let me know - I'd be happy to do whatever I can for them.
Please tell me that you won't ever take the archives of-line!
Donny [Dianne]

[Ed: Thank you Donny! What a lovely letter... and you'll be pleased to know there are no plans to remove the archives... in fact, we have just expanded our sever space and plan to move to our "new home" before the next issue. note in 2009: the archives are being removed BUT they are being added to the next generation of Simply Australia and sorted into themes.]

Hi Gang,
Great Site, have subscribed. The Article about El Dorado was interesting to me; I have relatives living there. Many other articles of interest too. Looking forward to especially the old songs and lyrics.
Regards, Megs,
Nerang, Qld

Dear Editor

I recently heard about your website on a genealogy newsgroup - and I just love it!
This is a really great website and a wonderful resource for bringing alive 'the way things were' for previous generations. I particularly enjoyed reading "The Lights of Cobb and Co." by Henry Lawson as it brought back memories of having studied this poem in high school. I can still hear the voice of our english master giving enthusiastic expression to certain words or lines. His love of the english language greatly inspired me as did his enthusiasm for history, which he also taught me. Thanks, Mr C!<
With great appreciation & warmest regards

[ED: What can we say... Thanks Jan! You obviously feel like we do about our rich heritage ... and so it seems does your Mr C.]

Hello ,
I play in the Canberra City Band and one of the things we do is to play at Australia Day Naturalization Ceremony. In my reading I came across an article in the Monaro Folk Society Newsletter about the precursors of Waltzing Matilda, Bonnie woods of Craigielea (J Barr 1805, arr TS Gledhill) and Craigielea - a quick march T Bulch 1894 arr G Parker. I would like to either obtain scores or recordings of these pieces as it would be good to perform these with Waltzing Matilda at functions with an Australian flavour.
I was wondering if anyone can help with the above

[ED: That sounds like a good idea! Try the Electric Scotland site. It has 3 versions of Thou Bonnie Wood of Craigielea with the words and musical score for downloading. Craigielee, the march, appears on the National Library site in their section on Waltzing Matilda ( an arrangement from the Lyons Band Journal. Click on the small image on the following page for a larger version.]

Dear Editor,
(In issue 6) David Mulhallen said “I do not know of any actual book that has been written about Mary Bryant specifically, but Robert Hughes writes a detailed description of her exploits” . Are you aware of this fine book for young adults…reading it is what got me to your site:
"Escape from Botany Bay: The True Story of Mary Bryant" by Gerald Hausman

[ED: Thanks Maureen. For others interested in it ... ISBN: 0439403278 Subtitle: The True Story of Mary Bryant Publisher: Orchard Books (NY) ]


In reply to Iian's query in issue 7:
With reference to the parody "There'll always be an England" I remember a snippett from somewhere (Don't ask me where) that said
"There'll always be an England
While there's a BHP
For they've been paying dividends
Since 1883"
Good luck Iian

Two questions.
1. If the pile of stones at Linden was not not made by Caley, is there any evidence indicating who it was made by?
2. Would you know where I canget a copy a map indicating Cox's road, hopefully, in relation to modern points of reference so I can follow it?

[ REPLY from John Low -
The general concensus seems to be that the original pile of stones mis-attributed to Caley may have been of Aboriginal origin (though other explorers' names have been bandied about eg. Bass, Hacking etc.) It is also generally doubted that the present pile is actually the original! In September 1913 members of the Royal Australian Historical Society identified some scattered stones at Linden as the remains of the original pile known as Caley's and rebuilt it. This is what you see today. However, there has been argument about the correctness of their decision ever since. For example, Springwood Historical Society's research officer Allan Searle (now deceased) argued in his book "Historic Woodford & Linden" (published in 1980 and still available) that the correct site was actually near the Woodford Trigonometrical Station. Perhaps the most recent assessment of the relic is found in the work of historian and archaeologist Siobhan Lavelle. You can find her "Caley's Repulse: Explorations in Desire" in the Journal of Australian Studies No. 67, 2001.

There has also been debate as to the exact route of Cox's Road in places where its remains have all but disappeared. Thus, there is really no single, clear map showing the route of the road in its entirety that I can recommend. However, some years ago (1988) the Crown Lands Office commissioned archaeologist Grace Karskens to prepare "An Historical & Archaeological Study of Cox's Road and Early Crossings of the Blue Mountains, NSW" as a Bicentennial Project. This is probably the most comprehensive study of the road and its construction available. It identifies a number of 'precincts' where remains are extant and maps of these precincts are included in the report.

The route down the western escarpment is also available in an accessible tourist map form. Also, I have in the Blue Mountains City Library's Local Studies Collection an interesting depiction of its route across the area near the Glenbrook Lagoon contained on an old Blue Mountains Shire map that dates from about 1907.

If any of these maps are of interest drop me a line. I may be able to organise some photocopies for you.]


Hi Folks,
A short note of congratulations to Valda on the Sally Sloane article. The "e-zine" is always great - this piece is wonderful work - thank you very much.

Dear Editor,
I must congratulate you on the wonderful article on Sally Sloane; it is a great tribute to a very important woman. I only scanned it quickly when I first opened the latest issue, but finally found time to read it thoroughly just now. I must admit to being somewhat lost in deciding who actually put the work together until the very end. As a folklorist you should know how important it is to know who produces what!! Thanks for your effort;I know Merro would have been pleased with it.
Keep well and keep up the good work.

Dear Editor,
I have just enjoyed your #7 issue and hope to read more of them.
Iris, War Bride from Australia
Member: WWII War Brides Association

Hi there ,
Just to say hullo and how much I enjoy your web site.
So many good yarns and songs. A fresh breeze with no sleeze. Great to know there are still kindred spirits in the outback. You are providing a much needed opportunity for people to record folklore that in time to come will be a treasure trove for future generations.

[Ed: Thanks Hod. Your words echo many of the letters we receive and it is good to know the magazine is appreciated. For those who wish to see some of Hod Cay's wonderful poetry, see our Poetry section.]

Dear Simply Australia,
I have been trying to locate a poem that my husband's grandmother recited for us a few years back before she died. We think the heading is "A Ride For A Ransom", but we are not sure. It starts -

Twas a still clear night and the risen moon
Was shining with radiance clear,
When the sudden bay of a distant dog,
Smote on my anxious ear,
And then from the kennels loud and clear
A chorus of warning rang,
And I knew that at last we were marked for prey
By Starlight and his gang.

It continues on about the wife having to ride their faithful horse Sir Greysteel into town and return with the ransom. If she didn't return by the set of the sun her husband Gerald would be killed. I saw your (David Mulhallen's) Bill Bowyang article and am hoping that you can shed some light on this poem.
Thankyou so much

In regards to Loren's letter trying to locate a poem possibly called 'A Ride For A Ransom':
I cannot advise on the poem but I can advise on a source that will identify the poem. The poem refers to an actual event that occurred in NSW Australia in the late 19th century. The novel ‘Robbery Under Arms’ by Rolf Boldrewood (a pseudonym) fictionalizes many of the events of this time. In Chapter XLV (45) the home of Goldfields Commissioner, Mr Knightly, is captured by Starlight and his gang. Mr Knightly’s wife, mounted on a ‘gray’ and accompanied by a member of Mr Knightly’s household is sent to Bathurst to collect a ransom of ‘a hundred fivers - £500 in notes – by tomorrow at four o’clock’ in exchange for her husband’s life.

This is obviously the same event as Loren’s poem. An annotated copy of ‘Robbery Under Arms’ (it exists, as I have seen one) will certainly give further references to the facts applicable to this particular event. From then it should be a simple piece of detective work to track down the name of the poem and its author.
Good Hunting

A relative, one "Porter French", was Mate on the "Waterwitch" of Sunderland, England, from 20 Aug 1846 to Apr 1847. These dates seem to contradict your dating of the "Waterwitch"'s appearance in Australia, but Porter's dates are from his "Testimonials And Statement Of Service, From Time Of First Going To Sea". It would seem to be EXTREMELY unlikely that there would be two ships of the same name, both British, sailing the seas at the same time!
Your comments would be very welcome.

[ REPLY from John Low: The main source I used for the historical information on the "Waterwitch" was the book by J. E. Philp, Whaling Ways of Hobart Town (published in 1936). However, another source I checked, Log of Logs: A Catalogue of Logs, Journals [etc.] ... for Australia & New Zealand & Surrounding Oceans by Ian Nicholson, also places the "Waterwitch" in Sydney "for hands & refit" during January - February 1842. A report in the Sydney Morning Herald 24th December 1841 is referenced.

The Hobart Town whaler (and subject of the song) known as "Waterwitch" was a barque. Do Porter French's papers indicate what kind of vessel his "Waterwitch" was?

A quick look in the local library at a couple of volumes of shipping arrivals in Australia during the late 1830s, 1840s and early 1850s reveals (besides the whaling barque) several different schooners and at least one cutter sailing under the name "Waterwitch" and another schooner, cutter, brig and barque recorded under the variant spelling "Water Witch".

It would seem therefore that, on the contrary, it might well have been possible for more than one vessel to be registered under the name "Waterwitch" at the time Porter French was employed as Mate. His vessel may not have been a barque. What do you think?]


Have been enjoying your site. Dad came to Canada in 1913.

With the broadsheets I have looked at there has not been mention of the tunes used. Is it possible to
1. find out the tunes used
2. obtain the music for them

I enjoyed the current (#7) issue of Simply Australia, referred from the Mudcat Cafe site, just a small query. In Valda's article on Sally Sloane she says that Sarah Alexander (Sally's grandmother) was born in Belfast, yet in the sleeve notes of the LP "A Garland for Sally" Warren Fahey writes that Sally's grandmother "came from Kerry County" - which is correct?
Best regards John Kaneen,
Isle of Man

[ED: I'm pleased to hear that you enjoyed the latest issue of Simply Australia. The information re- Sally's grandmother came from a FROST relative in Scotland who luckily happens to also be a professional genealogist. He has the marriage certificate for Sarah Alexander and George Dean. This shows her age at marriage and her birth place which she would have provided. That is why I have put her birth as around 1916 - give or take a year. I have the sources for the article so if there's anything else you'd like to know I'm happy to help where I can.]

Does anyone have any information about Hillgrove, NSW which was a booming gold mining town from about 1880 to 1920. Now a ghost town. My mother was born there and I have her school book from 1910. Have been there many times and am currently writing about it. The Scarf family (Scarf's suits) originated there and many others. Most of the houses were removed and taken into Armidale at the beginning of its demise. My mother used to tell me stories of how at one stage Hillgrove had more pubs than Armidale and it also had electricity before Armidale (served by the Dangar Falls, a hydro electic scheme). Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Regards and thanks for a great site
Margaret Hille

This forum has asked questions about the great buckjumping horse Dargin's Grey, at times wrongly recorded as Dargan's Grey. The terror was given its show name by its third owner Arthur Dargin. I was told many years ago that its "paddock name" was Misty. However, the horse was named after Arthur Dargin and as such the name Dargan should not be used. The poem on the forum tells that Jack Barron rode the four-legged Satan and this I very much doubt. If the poet was correct then the well known Jack Barron rode Skuthorpe's Dargin's Grey. Lance Skuthorpe named this grey horse in honour of the TRUE Dargin's Grey. Horsemen of the day told that Lance's grey was but a pig rooter and cow kicker. Lance admitted that his Dargin's Grey was an inferior horse to the real thing. It's is asked did Dargin's grey travel up to Qld? Both did. "Martini" ( Martin Breheny) the showman came to obtain the grey and his show was all about Qld. including Thursday Island.

I have only seen the one photograph, drawing I think of the grey. It was is 1963. I do not recall in what publication it was, and at the time I was not collecting too much. Getting about the country with a swag restricts that sort of thing. It was a good article and I have kicked myself in recent years for not collecting more in those days.
I trust that these few snippits help.
Jim McJannett.

[Ed: Jim has been a wonderful find. He has a wealth of information and we are fortunate that he is so willing to share it with our readers. There will be an article on Jim's research in future issues of Simply Australia, including his work on Dargin's Grey. Thanks Jim!]