of interest

Original text: David M'Kee Wright, Station Ballads and Other Verses (Dunedin: J. G. Sawell, 1897): 59-63. 1578/6680 British Library. First publication date: 1897

about the author

Of Irish birth, he went to New Zealand at 18 where for some years he was a Congregational minister. He arrived in Sydney Australia in 1910. He wrote much prose and poetry in both countries, eventually becoming the editor of the Red Page in the famed Bulletin. He used pennames such as Pat O'Maori and Mary McCommonwealth and also signedhis work with just his initials.

From 1918 Wright lived in Greeanawn at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains of NSW with poet and author Zora Cross. He died there suddenly on 5 February 1928 aged 58. Zora continued to live in Glenbrook until her death in 1964. She is buried in Emu Plains with Wright.

 

 

OLD MATES

©David McKee Wright


I came up to-night to the station, the tramp had been longish and cold,
My swag ain't too heavy to carry, but then I begin to get old.
I came through this way to the diggings -- how long will that be ago now?
Thirty years! how the country has altered, and miles of it under the plough,
And Jack was my mate on the journey -- we both run away from the sea;
He's got on in the world and I haven't, and now he looks sideways on me.

We were mates, and that didn't mean jokers who meets for a year or a day,
We meant to go jogging together the whole of the blooming long way.
We slept with one blanket between us the night that we run from the port,
There was nothing above us but heaven, yet we took it as jolly good sport.
And now he's the boss of a station, and I'm -- well, the bloke that you see;
For he had the luck and I hadn't, and now he looks sideways on me.

We pegged out a claim on the Dunstan, there used to be gold in them days,
There's blokes that still sticks to the digging, but Lord only knows how it pays;
For the country as far as I've seen it's as chock full of holes as a sieve
With the Chinkies amullocking through it, and yet them coves manage to live.
But when Jack took me to the cradle, the place was a wonder to see,
We washed out a fortune between us, and now he looks sideways on me.

We both fell in love with one woman -- she worked in a pub for a spell;
It ain't the best place for an angel, but angels ain't better than Nell;
For she was as good as they make 'em and hadn't a notion of ill --
It's long years and years since we parted, and seems I'm in love with her still!
But Jack was the handsomest fellow -- I saw how the thing had to be;
He got the best wife on the diggings, and now he looks sideways on me.

I left him, I just couldn't stand it -- I knew it was better to part;
I couldn't look on at the wedding with a pain like a knife at my heart!
I never said nothing to no one -- we didn't whack out all the gold;
I wanted my mate to be happy without my own yarn being told.
So I went to the coast by the steamer, and now I'm the bloke that you see;
He told me to go to the wharˆ®, it seems he looks sideways on me.

There's steps coming down to the wharˆ® -- some other poor bloke on the road;
'Taint nothing to him to get growled at, the boss ain't a bloke that he knowed.
Too dark to make out who's a-coming -- he's crossing the plank at the creek;
The years and the whisky are telling, my eyesight begins to get weak.
What's the odds? it ain't like me to whimper, and all that's gone by had to be,
But the old times came crowding around me to see him look sideways on me.

What, Jack! Why, old man, you don't mean it? You didn't right know it was me?
I'm altered -- it ain't for the better -- never mind, never mind, let it be.
O mate, the long years since we parted -- there's a blooming great lump in my throat --
I ain't been as glad, mate, I tell you, since the time that we run from the boat.
You ain't a bit altered -- you're crying -- why, Jack, don't be sorry for me,
I'm that glad that I think I'll go cranky -- and I thought you looked sideways on me.