Don Henderson Project

He was the doyen of the Bush Music Club. Duke Tritton the old shearer, boxer, singer who had returned to circulation the missing lines of "Goorianawa"; lines so long lost that even an advertisement by A.B. Paterson in the "Bulletin" had failed to draw a response. John Meredith had found "The Duke" though and the Australian Folk Music revival was on its way.

I was the mug lair who sang with a Wooloomooloo Yank accent who had probably only come to the meeting to see if he could, at the end of the evening, get one of the younger women onto the pillion of his big black motorbike.

Guitars were frowned on generally as a post Gold Rush import and not really suited to the violin, banjo and concertina idiom of Australian bush music.

A guitar as backing was of course alright from a naturally toned nylon strung instrument, played in the classical arpeggio manner. However, during the choruses, when Duke called on people to "put a bit of venom in it", it was the plectrum buck and jump of my big mother of pearl and sunburst Hillbilly steel strung that would catch his ear and draw his approving, "That's right. Give it to them, son." from the rugged old timer.

And as he did then went on to sing, "I could close my shears with a quiet century." Got the joke. Heard the boast. Even with the beautiful investment cast Sunbeam blades I could set up razor sharp, there is no such thing as "a quiet century". Just to drag the prerequisite one hundred sheep across the board would be a day's work for most of these office Johnnies rugged out in moleskins and straw hats for the night of Old Bush Songs.

"A Quiet Century" was a shearer's vernacular to be understood perhaps by his peers only, that no matter what rate the union and the squatter or the union and the government had negotiated, he was going to have the tally to always earn himself a pen. "A Quiet Century" was flat strap. Believing that in our evolvement all people probably spoke somewhat similarly, language became our first flags. We chose to create our own way of saying things so that when the occasion required, we could recognize our mob from theirs. Maybe Goorianawa had been lost for so long because those people who created it no longer wished to be recognized with it and had taken their flags down.

I didn't know that then of course. I knew nothing about folk music, but having for many years studied the subject, have a clearer view. Aspects of that view will become more positive as this book progresses. At the time too, as a writer, I had a few dogs chained up in the bush myself and with a few of the right breaks I might have an international hit and be away.

The breaks never quite happened and the international music publishing business is a pretty rough playground. It didn't matter; I was single, with no commitments, a motorbike that did 50 m.p.g. and handskills such that a few days work per week provided all I needed. I decided not to worry about publishing the songs I wrote but to subject them to this folk process so widely written about. This time though I'd do all the polishing and it would be a one man folk process. Then one day when a hundred songs were as good as I could get them, I'd put them in a book and that would be my Quiet Century. With two children grown and working, the time seemed as right as any.

So here they are. As you read them and the tunes remember Duke Tritton though and put a bit of venom into it. I did.

dhproject: email