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Stewie Rise Up Mudcat Songbook - Australia (966* d) RE: Rise Up Mudcat Songbook - Australia 13 Nov 20


This is the song of the digger
The song of the seeker of gum
Sung in the kerosene twilight
To the sound of the kerosene drum

The hooking is done in the summer
It's done in the winter as well
The finer the weather the better
For the scrub when it's wet gives you hell

It's hard, bloody hard, is this scraping
Which goes on for most of the night
If you ever sat round just waiting
You'd never get the bloody thing right

O Mary, O Mary, sweet Mary
Tell me how do your pink rosies grow
I remember one morn in the dairy
I beheld your black hair hung low

Father was never a digger
I learned of the trade myself
A bottle is by me to swigger
And the candle is up on the shelf

Above is the full version as printed in 'Song of a Young Country'. The lyrics were attributed to William Satchell and the tune was reconstructed by Neil Colquhoun.

Colquhoun noted that what the digger scraped was miscalled kauri gum for it was not gum but a true resin - a solidified turpentine.

Kauri gum is formed when resin exudes from a crack in the bark of the kauri (Agathis australis) and hardens on exposure to air.

Pieces of various sizes, some weighing a kilogram or more, collect in the axils of the branches and in the debris at the base of the tree. Maori and early Europeans found pieces of gum lying on the ground It was recognised overseas as a suitable resin for manufacture of a slow-drying varnish with a hard finish and in 1853, 829 tons of gum were exported,

When all the kauri gum lying on top of the ground had been collected, Maoris and Europeans began to dig up the big lumps near the surface. Over 4,000 tons, averaging 40 a ton, went overseas in 1870.

Spades were the first implements of the gum-diggers; then the spear and hook were devised. The "gum-spear" was a long steel rod attached to a spade handle and tapering to a sharp point. A pikau, or sack, for carrying gum, completed the "tools of trade" of the early gumdigger.

In 1885 about 2,000 diggers were at work, mainly in areas north of Auckland, although the best gum came from the Coromandel Peninsula. The highest export for any year was reached in 1899, with 11,116 tons.

By 1900, hundreds of "Dalmatians", immigrants from Croatia, were on the gumfields, where they camped together in groups. Joseph Smith and his family dug for gum near Dargaville, " a house of nikau palm with doors of sacking, and matresses of bush creeper. We spent the whole day hookin' gum and the evening scrapin' it, and singin'. But our singin' was not as hair-raisin' as that further down the track at the Dallie gumdiggers' camp".
From NZ Folk Song site.

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