Ryebuck (a more tangible version of Ryebuck Shearer)


Classic Australian traditional song - arranged by Graham Dodsworth

play mp3 of Ryebuck

The basic version of Ryebuck Shearer is a rollicking campfire or pub sing-along, much loved and enjoyed in lavish quantities during the escalation of bushbands in Melbourne and Australia generally during the early 1970s and rellished by a dedicated few ever since.


guitar is tuned in DADGAD
This is one of my earliest DADGAD arrangments.
I was enjoying the feel DADGAD had lent to 'The Convict's Lament upon the Death of Captain Logan' and so decided to take the song that many people considered to be the most crass from our Australian heritage of collected song.
It was similar to lifting a dusty rock and looking to see what I could find underneath. The process, as with songwriting, involved finding and featuring the main motive of the song and removing the distractions. The traditional Ryebuck shearer had many distractions. It was a song that seemed to have grown in size due to its popularity in that people would request that it be sung again and again, at campfires or pub singalongs, for instance, until it became inevitable that more verses were spontaneously added, one by one. Verses that gave the audience more opportunities to sing the chorus but which didn't necessarily stay true to the motif until eventually the motif was obscured by the verses as well as the gusto with which the song is usually sung.

The song, upon first hearing it, always seemed to be two dimensionally about a shearer bragging about his ability to shear, faster than the all other shearers. When you peel away the gimmicky verses however, the ones added for an extra laugh, such as the billy goat pissing in a tin, or the dried up buffalo turd, you discover a song about an old shearer, older than most shearers, being ribbed by the young bucks for being so slow.
Singing the song without the extraneous verses allowed a scenario to unfold where a bunch of shearers are gathered around a campfire having some hard earned beers after a days shearing and after the older shearer, an alcoholic by this stage perhaps, begins to show the effects of the drinks more so than the young bucks, they begin, perhaps overtly, perhaps subtly, being disrespectful. Maybe he is so drunk they think he won't notice. They too could be a little drunk. They even tell him outright that the couldn't 'shear a hundred a day' like they do. He probably can't anymore, but he knows that once upon a time he could shear faster than any of them can now. He also genuinely thinks that 'one day' he'll prove how fast he can shear and as he staggers off to his bed roll, he is thinking to himself, the chorus, that if he doesn't show all these upstart larrikans how fast he used to shear, he'll give the game away for good.
The fact that he's still shearing at an advanced age supports the above concept and the lyrics of each of the sensible verses also explains exactly that.

Sawbees refers to a brand of shears used for shearing sheep during the era.
By 'stones' he's referring to his sharpening stones, used to sharpen the shear blades.
The ringer is the fastest shearer of the shed.
Ryebuck according to a shearer I spoke to shore in the Lachlan regions referred to a tough wooled sheep (Possibly because it had rye grass threaded through it's wool. I'm unsure of that detail - I'll get back to you on that).

download lyrics of Ryebuck

This version: 2016-05-22

I come from the south, my name is field,
and when my shears are properly steeled,
there's a hundred or more I have very often peeled
and of course I'm a rybuck shearer.

There's a bloke on the board, I heard him say,
I couldn't shear a hundred sheep a day.
One fine day, I'll show him the way,
and I'll prove I'm a ryebuck shearer.

If I don't shear a tally before I go,
My shears and stones in the river I'll throw,
and I'll never open Sawbees to take another blow
till I prove I'm a rybuck shearer.

One fine day, I won't say when,
I'll up off my arse and I'll into the pen.
While the ringers shearing eight, I'll be shearing ten,
and I'll prove I'm a ryebuck shearer.

(repeat refrain twice)

This recording is from the 'In Good King Arthur's Day' compact disk.

vocal & guitar - Graham Dodsworth