Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A funny thing happened on the road to Gundagai

Hands up all those who remember that quaint 1937 song 'Where The Dog Sits On The Tuckerbox (Five Miles From Gundagai)' by Jack O'Hagan, oh, not all that many!

Well let me refresh your memory.

The story has a rich history, dating back to the 1860's when Bowyang Yorke penned a poem called 'Bullocky Bill'.

'Bill lashed and swore and cried;
'If Nobby don't get me out of this,
I'll tattoo his bloody hide.
'But Nobby strained and broke the yoke,
And poked out the leader's eye;
Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
Nine miles from Gundagai'

This is a quaint little poem that tells about the trials & tribulations of a bullock team crossing the Murrumbidgee River. But there is more to this poem, which I'll elaborate on later.

In the 1920's poet Jack Moses used that poem as the inspiration for his poem 'Nine Miles From Gundagai'

'I've done my share of shearing sheep,
Of droving and all that;
And bogged a bullock team as well,
On a Murrumbidgee flat.
I've seen the bullock stretch and strain
And blink his bleary eye,
And the dog sit on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.'

Fast forward to 1932, when to raise money for the local hospital, Gundagai residents had a statue of the famous dog commissioned, moved the monument 4 miles closer to town & then enticed the Prime Minister, Joe Lyons to unveil the statue at 5 Mile Creek to honour Australia's early pioneers. In 1937, Jack O'Hagan then picked up on this & penned 'Where The Dog Sits On The Tuckerbox (Five Miles From Gundagai)'. This song was a hit & spread the fame of this faithful dog to world wide audience.

One problem, the original Jack O'Hagan song line & the Bowyang Yorke poem didn't have a dog sitting on a tucker box at all, but ...

'Some blokes I know has all the luck no matter how they fall
But there was I, Lord love a duck, no flamin' luck at all
I couldn't make a pot of tea nor keep me trousers dry
And the dog shat in the tucker-box nine miles from Gundagai'

Oops, we can't have a dog shitting on a tuckerbox, so they tweaked the words & came up with sit, instead of shat.

Now I never knew this till I stopped 5 miles from Gundagai for a 'comfort break' & unlike the dog I used the toilets at the Subway restaurant, although I was tempted to carry on the tradition!

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