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Four Little Johnny Cakes

[ Roud - ; AFS 42 ; Ballad Index PFS276 ; trad.]

David Lumden sang Four Little Johnny Cakes in 1963 on his, Brian Mooney’s and Martyn Wyndham-Read’s Score album Moreton Bay.

Danny Spooner sang Four Little Johnny Cakes on his and Martyn Wyndham-Read’s 1989 album All Around Down Under and on his 2004 CD ’ard Tack. He commented in the first album’s notes:

This is [besides Our Jack] another from the Joy Furst collection still available through the Victorian Folklore Council. It is mentioned in the Bulletin in 1898 so must have been in circulation by then. The song celebrated the simple and comfortable life of an itinerant, living off the good food of the land and working his way temperately through his shearing cheque. “Men, when on the tramp through the Riverina country, often carry a piece of twine and a hook to catch cod or blackfish. This is termed Murrumbidgee whaling.” (J.C.F. Johnson, Christmas on Carringo, Adelaide 1873)

and in the second one’s:

This lovely song of the Australia itinerant worker who knew and loved the bush, was mentioned in the Bulletin of 1898 and appears in the 1924 edition of Paterson’s Old Bush Songs. It was sung in the musical Reedy River. Obviously a real bush favorite, it highlights the rewards associated with the itinerant life of hard work, freedom and a bit of swift dealing.

I got it from Jim Buchanan of the Victorian Bush Music Club.


Danny Spooner sings Four Little Johnny Cakes

Hurrah for the Lachlan, boys, and join me in a cheer
For that’s the place to go to make an good cheque each year
With a toad-skin in my pocket that I borrowed from a friend
Oh, isn’t it nice and easy to be camping in the bend?

Chorus (after each verse):
And with my little brown flour-bag sitting on a stump
My little tea-and-sugar bag looking nice and plump
I’ve a nice fat cod-fish just off the hook
And four little johnny-cakes, a credit to the cook

I’ve a loaf or two of bread and some murphies that I shook
Perhaps a loaf of brownie that I snaffled from a cook
A nice leg of mutton just a bit cut off the end
Oh, isn’t it nice and jolly to be whaling in the bend?

I’ve got a little book and some papers for to read
Plenty of matches and a good supply of weed
Now I wouldn’t be a squatter as beside my fire I sit
With a paper in my hand and my old pipe lit

Now, when shearing time comes round, I’ll be in my glory then
I’ll saddle up my moke and I’ll soon secure a pen
I’ll gallop o’er the valleys and I’ll canter o’er the plain
Shoot a turkey, stick a pig, then I’m in the bend again

Last chorus:
And with my little round flour-bag sitting on a stump
My little tea-and-sugar bag looking nice and plump
I’ve a nice fat cod-fish just off the hook
And four little johnny-cakes: I’m proud to be the cook!

Acknowledgements and Links

Transcribed by Garry Gillard