"Tie me kangaroo down sport!"
Despite three visits to Australia (Perth and Sydney) in the sixties whilst on HMS Victorious, all I'd heard or knew about Australian music could have been written down on the back of the proverbial fag packet. i.e. Rolf Harris with his Tie me Kangaroo Down, Sport and a few other tear jerkers, Charlie Drake (is he/was he an Ozzie?) with "Me boomerang won't come back" (of which my little sister Mary could do a fair imitation at the tender age of 6) The Pub With No Beer and Waltzing Matilda which every British child of my generation learned at school. I first heard And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda from one Wilfried Drygala (later a very good friend), and that was about the lot.
That was all to change after having had the great good luck in meeting Steve Kelly and his mate Simon, marine engineers, who were both wintering here whilst standing by their yacht MARGAUX ROSE (later named LOUISIANA and owned by Alan Sugar) at the Rasmussen and Abeking shipyard in Lemwerder (near Bremen) in autumn 1993.
Australia Day being in the offing, these two Victorians, with typical Digger mentality, were determined that this day should not pass unceremoniously under the cold grey skies of a bleak North German winter and planned their Australia Day accordingly. My part was to provide the music for their party at the
Pinöckel in Vegesack. Steve gave me a couple of cassettes and "The Bushwackers Australian Song Book" in order to boost my repertoire which was sadly lacking at that time with regard to things Australian.
So it came to pass that on Australia Day 1994, Steve, Simon, at least 20 foreign seamen from just about everywhere together with the Pinökel locals came together "to rant and to roar". I don't know if it could have been called music but much Foster flowed and everyone was in fine spirits in all senses of the word.
The evening made such a lasting impression on the locals that we did a repeat performance on Australia Day the following year in 1995 without a single Digger in sight!! The favourite songs were "Tie me kangaroo down", South Australia and Lime Juice Tub.
Eternal thanks to Steve, who opened this Pomm's eyes and ears to the treasures of Australian Folk-Music, and bless you where ever you are on this mad planet.
Since writing the above in August 1998, I had the opportunity of performing at a private function here in Bremen where the guest-of-honour was an Australian businessman whose name I unfortunately did not learn. I was able however to speak to him briefly and he said that he was very astonished to be on the hearing end of a short Australian programme, so far away from home, in his honour. He was very complimentary on my accent, thinking at first that I too was an Australian. His favourite song was also "South Australia". So once again, eternal thanks to Steve Kelly!!
As you browse through the various footnotes, you will find The Bushwackers Australian Song Book mentioned no end of times. This is a terrific songbook, highly informative and entertaining and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
If you are interested in Australian poetry and the poets who inspired or even wrote some of these songs then the following site is for you:
The complete poetical works of Henry Lawson a fine site of his poetry.