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Farewell to the Gold

[Paul Metsers]

Paul Metsers recorded his own song for his 1981 LP, Caution to the Wind, with Nic Jones and Helen Watson singing harmony vocals. and Steve Turner playing treble and tenor treble concertinas. He commented:

Shotover River, New Zealand (from Wikipedia)

I think the inspiration for this song, which I probably wrote in 1968, came from when, as a teacher, I took my music class on a trip down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Part of our adventure included a day on one of the old gold digging sites, where we all panned for, and found, small flecks of the alluvial treasure. Our bus took us down the steep road from high Cardrona to the Shotover River, now known for its excellent whitewater canoeing, where many of the strikes during NZ’s goldrush era were found. The chorus of the song haunted me until I found a story to accompany it—the account of a flash flood which, in July 1863, claimed the lives of hundreds of goldminers. The old prospector and the young hopeful, who teams up with him and survives to tell the tale, are fictitious. The Shotover and Cardrona valleys are both in the South Island’s rugged and beautiful Central Otago.

Nic Jones recorded Paul Metsers' song with slightly altered lyrics a year earlier for his Topic LP Penguin Eggs. This recording was later included on the Topic anthology The Folk Collection.

James Fagan sang Farewell to the Gold with Nancy Kerr joining in on chorus on their Fellside CD of 2006, Strands of Gold. They learned it from James' parents Bob and Margaret Fagan, who heard it first sung by Nic Jones.

Jon Boden sang Farewell to the Gold as the May 1, 2011 entry of his project A Folk Song a Day. He noted in his blog:

This is a great anthemic number. I know it from Nic Jones’ version but also from James Fagan and Ian Giles. What a great chorus.

Lyrics

Paul Metsers' original version Nic Jones sings Farewell to the Gold

Shotover River, your gold it is waning;
It's weeks since the colour I've seen.
But it's no use just sitting and Lady Luck blaming,
So I'll pack up and make the break clean.

Shotover River, your gold it's waning;
And it's years since the colour I've seen.
But it's no use just sitting and Lady Luck blaming.
I'll pack up, then I'll make the break clean.

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Farewell to the gold that never I found,
Goodbye to the nuggets that somewhere abound;
For it's only when dreaming that I see you gleaming
Down in the dark, deep underground

Chorus (repeated after each verse):
Farewell to the gold that never I found,
Goodbye to the nuggets that somewhere abound;
For it's only when dreaming that I see you gleaming
Down in the dark, deep underground

Well, it's nearly two years since I left my old mother
For adventure and gold by the pound,
With Jimmy the prospector—he was another
For the hills of Otago was bound.

It's nearly two years since I left my old mother
For adventure and gold by the pound,
And with Jimmy the prospector—he was another
And to the hills of Otago we were bound.

We worked the Cardrona's dry valley all over,
Old Jimmy Williams and me.
But they were panning good dirt on the winding Shotover
So we headed down there just to see.

Well we worked the Cardrona's dry valley all over,
Old Jimmy Williams and me.
They were panning good dirt on the winding Shotover,
And so we headed down there just to see.

We sluiced and we cradled for day after day,
Making hardly enough to get by;
Until a terrible flood swept poor Jimmy away
During six stormy days in July.

Well, we sluiced and we cradled for day after day
And making hardly enough to get by.
And then a terrible flood swept poor Jimmy away
During six stormy days in July.

(repeat first verse)

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Paul Metsers and Pauline Brocklehurst for the notes and lyrics.