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Stewie Rise Up Mudcat Songbook - Australia (959* d) RE: Rise Up Mudcat Songbook - Australia 13 Dec 20

For R-J's dog and horse theme.

(Kath Tait)

I've mustered from Southland, through Central and North
In that rough barren country of tussock and gorse
And I've listened to songs that the old shearers tell
And passed them along with me own tales as well

McKenzie, McKenzie was that you I saw
Roaming them backhills just up from Benmore
With 50 odd sheep and a good shepherd's dog
Was it your ghost in the morning fog?

They tell of McKenzie, sheep stealer they say
He stole squatters' sheep and he drove them away
With one strong eyed dog who hypnotised sheep
To a far distant land where no white man had been

Some say you were criminal, some say a good man
Put down by the law and your dog it was damned
They took you to prison but you set yourself free
Then they took you again, your dog hung from a tree

Them high country gales that blow through the night
Where the musterers camp in the fire's dim light
They often bring sounds way off in the dark
Like a lone shepherd's whistle and a lone sheepdog's bark

Youtube clip

My father was an engineer on the Benmore Dam," says Kath, "and I had learnt about James McKenzie at school. I was reluctantly dragged away from the Mackenzie Country to Auckland at the age of 14, and lived in Auckland for the next 20 years. The McKenzie song was the first song I ever wrote, at the age of 17, after reading James McNeish's book The McKenzie Affair."

Phil Garland recorded it on his 'Swag of Dreams' album with an introductory verse of his own:

When evening shadows lengthen and starry skies grow bright
You rest beside your campfire, keeping warm on chilly nights
You might hear a distant whistle or a far-off wailer go
Then see a highland shepherd with a phantom mob of sheep
In an eerie silence passing so walking in their sleep
At their heels closely followed by a silent collie dog
His master's true companion before they vanish in the fog
Perhaps this ghostly vision will send shivers down your spine
While you watch this cavalcade forever tramping onwards
Down the corridors of time

Youtube clip

Phil's note:
The legend of James McKenzie displays a remarkable durability ... In 1855, McKenzie, an illiterate Scots drover, was accused of stealing 1000 sheep and hiding them in the hitherto unexplored inland basin which would later bear his name. Along with his remarkable dog 'Friday', reputed to be half dingo, half collie, he discovered and explored a huge spectacular hidden plain, surrounded on all sides by high snowy mountains. Upon capture, he was thrown into Lyttleton Gaol where the harsh conditions nearly drove him insane. His farcical trial has been described as one of the most glaring miscarriages of in NZ history. Although public opinion of the day called for him to be hanged, he was eventually pardoned some nine months later and quickly disappeared from view. Subsequently myth and legend would have us believe his loyal dog was shot, while McKenzie is believed to have returned to Australia and settled down in Queensland. The exploits of McKenzie and his dog have become so romanticised over the years that they are now firmly entrenched in NZ folklore. The vast inland plain that he discovered was given his name, MacKenzie Country (despite the different spelling). The striking bronze statue of a shepherd's dog erected in recent times at Tepako (in tribute to the legion of faithful border collies that have long mustered the vast high country runs) has also assumed something of the McKenzie legend, often acquiring (incorrectly) the popular mantle of McKenzie's dog.

Phil also recorded and put music to a poem by Joe Charles, 'McKenzie and His Dog'. You can listen to it here:

Youtube clip


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