Old Palmer Song

My favourite folksong when I first came to Oz. A great tune which ended up as the theme for the series “Rush”. It’s about mining in Queensland and searching for gold and things like that. It just sort of came to mind for no reason I can think of.

Old Palmer Song

The wind is fair and free, my boys, the wind is fair and free
The steamer’s course is north, my boys, and the Palmer we will see
The Palmer we will see, my boys, and Cooktown’s muddy shore
Where I’ve been told there’s lots of gold, so stay down south no more

So, blow ye winds, heigho
A-digging we will go
I’ll stay no more down south, my boys
So let the music play
In spite of what I’m told
I’m off in search of gold
I’ll make a push for that new rush
A thousand miles away

I also came across this looking for the above on youtube which is “The Old Maid’s Song” this time sung by someone named Clive Palmer. Have I mentioned that as part of my life on the left, I learned to play the banjo like all good children of comrades and naturally from Pete Seeger’s instructional manual. This is a great tune and well done but by today’s standards very non-PC.

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, the theme song from Rush was written by George Dreyfus but there ought to be no doubt that he was taking it from “The Old Palmer Song”. Lots of composers drew on folk song tradition. Here is Dreyfus’s version. And please do note the lovely sounds of the banjo.

FURTHER UPDATE: Again pointed out in the comments that the tune comes from an English sea shanty. But the “Ten Thousand Miles” of the title are about a lad who follows his true love off to Australia after she’s been shipped out as a convict. And if you go into this link on the history of the tune on disk, you can see a number of versions of the lyrics and one more video of the song being played. But if you are in England, the only place Ten Thousand Miles Away is Botany Bay so it may really be ours after all.

ABSOLUTELY FINAL UPDATE: Turns out it is neither a folk song nor a sea shanty but an music hall song from the nineteenth century which even comes with the name of the person who wrote it. I missed this on the discography I linked to before.

Written for the Music Hall by Joseph B. Geoghegan (1816-1889). He was born in Barton upon Irwell, Lancs, and probably wrote his songs while manager of the Star and Museum Music Hall in Bolton. More usually known as Ten Thousand Miles Away, it’s found—though infrequently—all over the English-speaking world, with 47 Roud entries.

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