Old Mates

Original Text: 
David M'Kee Wright, Station Ballads and Other Verses (Dunedin: J. G. Sawell, 1897): 59-63. 1578/6680 British Library.
3I came through this way to the diggings -- how long will that be ago now?
4Thirty years! how the country has altered, and miles of it under the plough,
5And Jack was my mate on the journey -- we both run away from the sea;
6He's got on in the world and I haven't, and now he looks sideways on me.
7We were mates, and that didn't mean jokers who meets for a year or a day,
8We meant to go jogging together the whole of the blooming long way.
9We slept with one blanket between us the night that we run from the port,
10There was nothing above us but heaven, yet we took it as jolly good sport.
11And now he's the boss of a station, and I'm -- well, the bloke that you see;
12For he had the luck and I hadn't, and now he looks sideways on me.
14There's blokes that still sticks to the digging, but Lord only knows how it pays;
15For the country as far as I've seen it's as chock full of holes as a sieve
18We washed out a fortune between us, and now he looks sideways on me.
19We both fell in love with one woman -- she worked in a pub for a spell;
20It ain't the best place for an angel, but angels ain't better than Nell;
21For she was as good as they make 'em and hadn't a notion of ill --
22It's long years and years since we parted, and seems I'm in love with her still!
23But Jack was the handsomest fellow -- I saw how the thing had to be;
24He got the best wife on the diggings, and now he looks sideways on me.
25I left him, I just couldn't stand it -- I knew it was better to part;
26I couldn't look on at the wedding with a pain like a knife at my heart!
27I never said nothing to no one -- we didn't whack out all the gold;
28I wanted my mate to be happy without my own yarn being told.
29So I went to the coast by the steamer, and now I'm the bloke that you see;
31There's steps coming down to the wharè -- some other poor bloke on the road;
32'Taint nothing to him to get growled at, the boss ain't a bloke that he knowed.
33Too dark to make out who's a-coming -- he's crossing the plank at the creek;
34The years and the whisky are telling, my eyesight begins to get weak.
35What's the odds? it ain't like me to whimper, and all that's gone by had to be,
36But the old times came crowding around me to see him look sideways on me.
37What, Jack! Why, old man, you don't mean it? You didn't right know it was me?
38Well I'm altered -- it ain't for the better -- never mind, never mind, let it be.
39O mate, the long years since we parted -- there's a blooming great lump in my throat --
40I ain't been as glad, mate, I tell you, since the time that we run from the boat.
41You ain't a bit altered -- you're crying -- why, Jack, don't be sorry for me,


1] station: "the house with the necessary buildings and home-premises of a sheep-run, and still used in that sense; but now more generally signifying the run and all that goes with it" (OED, "station," sb. 14 [quotation of 1898]). Back to Line
2] swag: bag. Back to Line
13] Dunstan: Lake Dunstan, near Cromwell, central Otago, South Island, New Zealand. Back to Line
16] Chinkies: slang name for Chinese.
amullocking: working up, messing up.
coves: chaps, fellows. Back to Line
17] cradle: "A trough on rockers in which auriferous earth or sand is shaken in water, in order to separate and collect the gold" (OED, "cradle", sb, 14). Back to Line
30] wharè: "a hut or shed; spec. on a sheep station, a building where the hands sleep or eat" (OED, "whare"). Back to Line
42] cranky: break down weakly, as if sick; lose my composure. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001.