> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > Click Go the Shears

Click Go the Shears

[ Roud 8398 ; AFS 22 ; Ballad Index MA024 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd recorded this merry song in 1956 for the Riverside album Australian Bush Songs and in 1958 for the Wattle LP Across the Western Plains. He noted on the latter album:

Along with the Lime Juice Tub, Click Go the Shears was probably the most persistent of the old-time shearers' songs. It was still frequently to be heard in the sheds of the Western Line of N.S.W. twenty-five years ago. The theme of the dogged old shearer who'll never say die is familiar in Australian folklore (for instance, in Goorianawa, The Back-block Shearer, and in this album, One of the Has-Beens). The tune is that of the American Civil War song, Ring the Bell, Watchman!. The opening verse is a parody of that song, which Henry Lawson heard sung in the bush (see his essay: The Songs They Used to Sing). The tune was also used for the revival hymn: Pull for the Shore, and for a temperance anthem that some of us remember from meetings of a juvenile temperance guild called “The Ropeholders” where we raised out eight-year-old voices in the chorus: “Sign the pledge, brother! Sign! Sign! Sign! Asking the aid of the Helper Divine!”

The Bushwhackers sang Click Go the Shears in 1957 on their Wattle EP Australian Bush Songs. They noted:

In the last verse of Click Go the Shears rings the cry of the shearer on the spree at the end of the shearing season: “And everyone that comes along, it's come and drink with me.” Many of the shearers who sang that must have enjoyed it all the more because they knew the very serious parody of Ring the Bell, Watchman, sung by temperance crusaders in England: “Sign, sign the pledge, brother; sign, sign the pledge”!

Click Go the Shears is one of the most popular of our folk songs, most traditional singers know it. There are many more verses than those the Bushwhackers sing here, but the tune seldom varies. That is because it is set to the tune of a very popular semi-religious song, Ring the Bell, Watchman, which very many people had learnt at school, or knew from printed books.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Click Go the Shears with A.L. Lloyd helping out on chorus in 1971 on the Topic album The Great Australian Legend. Lloyd wrote in the album's sleeve notes:

The great old stand-by among shearing songs. It started out as a parody of the popular American Civil War song, Ring the Bell, Watchman! by Henry Clay Work (the bell in question was rung to signify the end of the war).

and in the accompanying booklet:

Characteristically, among Australia's mythological heroes is Crooked Mick, the giant shearer. He'd shear five hundred sheep a day; more, if it were ewes. He worked so fast, his shears ran hot; he'd have half-a-dozen pairs of blades in the water-pot at a time, cooling off. He was a bit rough, though. He kept five tar-boys running, dabbing on Stockholm tar each time he cut a sheep. They say that once, in the old Dunlop shed, the boss got annoyed at the way Mick was handling the sheep, and said: “That'll do, you're sacked.” Mick was going all out at the time, and he had a dozen more sheep shorn before he could straighten up and hang his shears on the hook.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Click Go the Shears

Out on the board the old shearer stands,
Graspin' his shears in his thin bony hands,
His bleary eyes are fixed on a blue-bellied ewe,
Sayin', “If I get you, gal, I'll make the ringer go.”

Chorus (after each verse):
Click go the shears, boys, click, click, click.
Wide is his blow and his hands are movin' quick,
And the ringer looks around and he's beaten by a blow
And he curses that old snagger with the blue-bellied ewe.

In the middle of the floor in his cane-bellied chair
Sits the boss of the board with his eyes everywhere.
He notes every fleece as it comes to the screen,
Paying close attention that it's took off clean.

The colonial-experience man, he is there, of course,
With his shiny leggins, just off his horse;
Castin' round his eyes like a real connossoor,
Brilliantine and scented soap and smelling like a whoor (Who said that?)

The tar-boy is there and waiting on demand
With his old tar-pot and in his tarry hand.
Sees an old ewe with a cut upon her back,
This is what he's waitin' for: “Tar here, Jack!”

First you take the belly-wool and niggle out the crutch,
Go up the neck, for the rules they are such,
Clean around the horns and the first shoulder down,
A long blow up the back and turn her around.

Chorus:
Click, click, click, that's how the shearin' goes.
Click, clicketty click, oh my boys it isn't slow.
A fellow pulls out a sheep and it lands him a kick,
And still you hear the shears a-goin': Click, click, click.

Now the shearin's over and we've all got our cheque,
Roll up your swags and we're off along the track.
The first pub we'll come to it's there we'll have a spree
And to everyone that comes along it's: “Have a drink on me!”

Down by the bar the late shearer stands,
Graspin' his glass in his thin bony hands,
His eyes are on the barrel which now is lowerin' fast,
He works hard, he drinks hard, and goes to hell at last!

The Bushwhackers sing Click Go the Shears

Out on the board the old shearer stands
Grasping his shears in his thin bony hands,
Fixed is his gaze on a bare-bellied ewe
Glory if he gets her won't he make the ringer go.

Chorus (after each verse):
Click go the shears, boys, click, click, click.
Wide is his blow and his hands move quick;
The ringer looks around and is beaten by a blow,
And curses the old snagger with the bare-bellied ewe.

In the middle of the floor in his cane-bottomed chair
Sits the boss of the board with his eyes everywhere;
Notes well each fleece as it comes to the screen,
Paying strict attention that it's taken off clean.

The tar boy is there and a-waiting in demand,
With his blackened tar-pot in his tarry hand;
Sees one old sheep with a cut upon its back:
Here is what he's waiting for—it's “Tar here, Jack!”

Shearing is all over and we've all got our cheques,
Roll up your swags, boys, we're off on the tracks.
The first pub we come to it's there we'll have a spree,
And everyone that comes along, it's “Come and drink with me.”

Down by the bar the old shearer stands,
Grasping his glass in his thin bony hands,
Fixed is his gaze on a green-painted keg,
Glory he'll get down on it ere he stirs a leg.

Acknowledgements and Links

Lyrics copied from Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs website and adapted to the actual singing of A.L. Lloyd.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Origins: Click Go the Shears.