Mudcat Café message #3898809 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #9631   Message #3898809
Posted By: Jim Carroll
11-Jan-18 - 08:57 AM
Thread Name: Origins: Maid of Australia / Maids of Australia
Subject: RE: Origins: Maid of Australia / Maids of Australia
It might be worth putting the points I intended here rather that 'the other' thread
Bearing in mind that it was Professor "Bob" Thomson, who was the first to put forward the extent to which folk songs appeared on broadsides (circa 1970) and who based his PhD on the subject, who researched this song fairly extensively and linked it to the returned transportee settlement on the banks of the Ox River near Oxborough Hall in Cambridgeshire
This might have been pure speculation, of course, but without solid facts, that's as good as we've got to go on.
A major motif of the song, 'pubic symbolism', is as old as time itself and appears in several songs, including 'Bird in the Bush' and 'Little Ball of Yarn'
This latter has even entered children's folklore in the form of the American children's game described by Gershon Legman in (I think) his Vance Randolph's collection, where children would throw a ball of thread into a 'haunted house' and invite the resident 'ghost' to - "wind up my little ball of yarn"
'Maid of Australia' was almost certainly far more popular than it apparently appeared to be, but was largely missed or deliberately avoided by Victorian and Edwardian collectors because of its "unacceptable" subject matter.
None of this proves definitely that the song was of 'folk' rather than literary origins, but to me it is an indication that it's theme is one that proliferates in folk songs and tales and has deep roots in the oral tradition
Jim Carroll