We Have Seen the Last Great Shearing

By George Meek, in Station Days in Maoriland and Other Verses, 1952

We have seen the last big shearing, we have baled the last big clip;
We have railed the last big tally from the sheep’s back to the ship;
We have seen the last big muster, with its hundred thousand sheep,
The last big pastoral holding, with its thousand square-mile sweep.

The ivy-clad, old home-stead still peeps quaintly through the trees;
The oak, the ash, and sycamore, still beckon with the breeze;
The shearing shed is standing yet, where rouseabouts were we –
In fancy, when I’m riding past, they seem to wave to me.

It doesn’t seem so long ago (though this I sometimes doubt),
Since I first struck a job outback, as station rouseabout;
It seemed a wrench to leave the crowd, to wear a broomie’s crown –
How times have changed, the car now brings the backblocks to the town.

When some town stranger brought the news – a year old and a day,
It seemed as if the city were, a million miles away;
We rarely heard a bagman’s tale – the saddle made him sore,
But nowadays, by farmer’s dogs, he’s hunted from the door.

The bush road to Little Valley, a rough-ridin’ bullock track,
(At the dawn you had to saddle if at sunset you’d be back)
Is to-day a spanking highway, sealed with some new patent tar,
And the flivvers scoot along it, like a frantic shooting star.

The sly Manuherikia, now bridged from bank to bank;
I have seen the drovers ford it, when head high from flank to flank;
We have crossed it in the flood time in the station shandradan,
And last year I glided over in a swanky six sedan.

The old jittery iron-tyred rattler, yoked behind two thoroughbreds,
How they flung the miles behind them, when you gave the pair their heads;
And though flivvers travel faster, and MAY get you round the bends,
With a “pair” you’re never lonely, and they’re man’s two whitest friends.

The swell dances in the woolshed (Ah! I think we’d best forget).
When the ringer called the figures, for the “Lancers” and “The Set”;
And we sat around on woolbales, or just squatted on the floor,
While some shearer sang a ballad of the golden days of yore.

And we all joined in the chorus, just to give a bloke a hand;
While the cook’s mate led the music, with his concertina band;
The girl friends took round the supper, and the boss he gave the pound;
And the rouseys in their shirt-sleeves passed the pannikins around.

It was rough and it was homely, but with nothing to regret,
For the spirit was the standard of the station etiquette;
So, along the human journey – in the smooth or in the rough,
Let us never lose the spirit, and we’ll find things right enough.

The gruff, hardy old-time squatter, in the main has journeyed West;
The refrigerating bus’ness has since changed the sheepman’s quest;
And will serve its useful purpose, ’till more scientific ways
Are devised, then it will vanish, like the good old station days.

Blade shearing, Illustrated New Zealand News, December 1883