Edge of the Milkyway (Humping my Drum).

play Edge of the Milkyway

Edge of the Milkyway is an Australian Folksong based on
the traditional song, Humping My (or The) Drum.

Humping The Drum is an expression generally used to describe taking to the road on foot, with a swag of essentials, seeking work. 'Waltzing Matilda' is another way this phenomenon was expressed.

play song or download lyrics

Verses of Humping The Drum first appear in a newspaper, the North Queensland Register, on the 15th of February, 1926, to resurface in 1932 courtesy of Bill Bowyang's 'Old Bush Resitations' and in 1957 via Stewart and Keesing's well known 'Old Bush Songs and Rhymes of Colonial Times', and elsewhere (auslit.edu.au, AUSLIT, National Library of Australia and The University of Queensland).
Humping a swag, humping bluey and humping my (or the) drum, are all expressions commonly used before and around the turn of the 20th century, including within other poems and songs such as 'The Poor Bushman' printed in The Queenslander on Saturday 6th October 1894 which mentions both 'humping old bluey' and 'humping my drum' in reference to travelling 'with a swag on my back' (reprinted 10 days later in the Clarence and Richmond Examiner, page 6, also supplied by G W Beaudesert).
Although the Bowyang version contains the lines regarding milkyway, shearer's strike, fields of corn, merry crowd, flying stakes etc., the final verse I sing and various other lines are relatively contemporary. Clearly a person born in the 1870s, to be old enough to slink away from the shearer's strike, is going to be in his 70s before he can refer to The Great War as 'World War One', there having to be two world wars for that to be relevant (WWI 1914-1918 & WW2 1939-1945) Although this is possible, Prof Graham Seal constructed most of the final verse of my version.

I chose this version because of the way, to some degree, it sums up an era via a phrase like 'the hungry years' and the alternate attitude to the shearer's strike.
The city of the plains is Bathurst, although the photo is another of Bendigo. All other photos are far more closely aligned. The bridge, for instance, 'is' the Condamine, in last verse period pics are of Omeo, Bendigo and back of Burke.
The crowd shots are of striking shearer's in the 1890s and the line of troopers on horseback were sent to quell the strike. More significantly, the troopers shown at Dagworth station (written below pic) are very likely those that precipitated the death of jolly swagman depicted in Patterson's 'Waltzing Matilda'.
The tune is a cross between 'Star of the County Down' and predominantly 'Samhradh' (Summer) . . . possibly a Carolyn tune or older.

I play a Brian de Gruchy handmade guitar and sang thru a Studio Projects microphone & Eurorack UB1204 by Behringer.
My guitar pedals include a Zoom A2 and a Roland Space Echo RE-20.
All connected to a Toshiba Satelite laptop computer.


download lyrics of Edge of the Milkyway

I've humped my drum from Kingdom Come
To the edge of the Milky Way
I've camped out rough, from the cape to the gulf
And starved on Christmas Day
To make the weight for the Flying Stakes
and dodge the lynching crowd.
I wheeled my bike from the Shearer's Strike
not wanting a funeral shroud.

I dropped a line in the Condamine
while dossed in the pouring rain
I laughed aloud with the merry crowd
In the city of the plains
I've worked from morn in fields of corn
Till the sun was out of sight.
I waved farewell to my Sydney Belle,
When we sailed to join the fight.

I carried a gun through World War One
Then went on the track again
From Omeo through Bendigo
To Bourke and back again
I shed a tear in the hungry years
When jobs were short and few
I packed up a swag and my old tucker bag
There was nothing else to do.

This recording is a high quality, casual recording, as yet unreleased.

vocal & guitar - Graham Dodsworth