Saturday, April 17, 2021



About the song:

  • The song is also known as “The Queensland Drover”.
  • The song has been in circulation in a number of versions for over 150 years, the earliest surviving one being current in the 1840s.
  • It was published in the Queensland Camp Fire Song Book in 1865 with text by one Russel Ward that the lyrics "All sorts of men I had, from France, Germany and Flanders, Lawyers, doctors, good and bad, in my mob of overlanders" was an indication of the mixture of educated and professional men among outback workers and the high standard of outback literacy. It also states it shows the nomadic habits of these people and their disrespect for policemen and the law.
  • Some versions use the phrase “pass the billy ‘round boys”, in others, the bottle or the "wine cup" are used.



Someone who travels overland, that is, off road and usually in isolated country.  In Australia, its past meaning was one who drove livestock overland.

the Gulf

The Gulf of Carpenteria, located on the northern coast of Australia between the northernmost parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory.


Drover is the Oz equivalent of the US cowboy, persons who moved mobs of animal stock overland via a road or track from one place to another. In the olden days, before semi trailer road trains and rail,  huge herds of cattle and mobs of sheep would be moved about in this manner. Thousands of miles would be covered.


A billycan, often shortened to billy, is a lightweight cooking pot in the form of a metal bucket commonly used for boiling water, making tea/coffee or cooking over a campfire or to carry water.

Swaggie with billy

The term "billycan" is derived from the large cans used for transporting bouilli or bully beef on Australia-bound ships or during exploration of the outback, which after use were modified for boiling water over a fire.  There is also a suggestion that the word may be associated with the Aboriginal billa (meaning water; cf. Billabong).

In Australia, the billy has come to symbolise the spirit of exploration of the outback and is a widespread symbol of bush life, although now regarded mostly as a symbol of an age that has long passed. (Although, back in my bushwalking and camping days, the billy was the numero uno requisite, along with a sleeping bag and pack).


A container, typically with a handle, that holds a pint (of beer, etc) for drinking.


Anger, temper


A horse, from the late 18th century altered form of Dutch paard, meaning ‘horse’.


In Australia, a collective term for cattle, kangaroos etc


Area in southwest Queensland


Performances of the Song:

Version by famous Oz folk singer Gary Shearston, who was singing folk songs when Noah was a lad and long before folk songs became popular:

The following rendition is by the Botany Bay Singers:

Paul Carroll:


The Overlander


So pass the billy round boys,
Don't let the pint pot stand there
For tonight we'll drink the health
Of every Overlander.

There's a trade you all know well
And it's bringing cattle over,
On every track to the gulf and back
Men know the Queensland drover.

I come from the Northern plains
Where the girls and grass are scanty
Where the creeks run dry or ten feet high
And it's either drought or plenty.

There are men from every land
From Spain and France and Flanders
They're a well mixed pack, both white and black
The Queensland Overlanders.

When we've earned a spree in town
We live like pigs in clover
And the whole dam cheque pours down the neck
Of many a Queensland drover.

As I pass along the road,
The children raise my dander
Shouting "Mother dear, take in the clothes
Here comes an Overlander".

There's a girl in Sydney Town
Who said "Please don't leave me lonely"
I said "it's sad, but my old Prad
Has room for one man only.

But I'm bound for home once more
On a Prad that's quite a goer
I can find a job with a crawling mob
On the banks of the Maranoa.

1 comment:

  1. Good job. One phrase you didn't explain: "crawling mob". What does that mean?


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