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I'd been reading Robert Hughes' mammoth book 'The Fatal Shore', a non-fiction account of the colonisation of Australia by convicts. The women's lot, of course, was a harsh one. As a woman - and having lived in Australia for several years - I felt compelled to write the lyric. It came quickly with the melody.

BACKGROUND:
In January 1798, the 301-ton whaling ship Britannia II, captained by Robert Turnbull, set off from England with a cargo of 96 female convicts, bound for the penal colony in New South Wales, Australia. Two women died during the passage. The ship anchored in Sydney Cove on July 18. Washed and dressed in remnants of the clothing they'd worn when the ship set sail 6 months before, the women were immediately auctioned off on the upper deck. They'd been sentenced to 7-14 years servitude, mainly for theft (i.e. items like a handkerchief, a shawl, a bolt of cloth, a brooch, and so on). After military officers and subordinates had had first pick of the women, certain 'well-behaved' convicts were allowed to 'apply' for any of the ones remaining.

Al Hughson: Music/instrumentation/vocals
Donna Devine: Lyric & melody

 

 

Come Hurry Lads To Sydney Cove

Refrain
Come hurry lads to Sydney Cove
The whaler is soon to arrive
With its cargo of 96 women
God willin' they're all alive
For pickin's are small in the colony
And we've been too long deprived

V1
The Britannia weighs 300 ton
[And] she's pounded the stormy seas
'Tween England and Australia
Maybe bringin' a wife for me

V2
And after the officers take their pick
There might be a fair one behind
Oh even if she be ill of face
By evenin' she'll be mine

Refrain
Come hurry lads to Sydney Cove
The whaler is anchorin' soon
We'll go scramblin' over the bulwarks
We've been sharpenin' our harpoons
For pickin's are small in the colony
And a woman would be a boon

V3
I've me bottle of rum for the cap'n
For to set a good one aside
Someone at least better lookin'
Than the men I break rocks beside

Refrain
Come hurry lads to Sydney Cove
The whaler is soon to arrive
With its cargo of 96 women
God willin' they're all alive
For pickin's are small in the colony
And we've been too long deprived

Lift
Some will weep, a few will beg
Others will scratch and curse
They'll make a fuss, but they're here for us
In England their lives would be worse

Refrain
Come hurry lads to Sydney Cove
The whaler is soon to arrive
With its cargo of 96 women
God willin' they're all alive
For pickin's are small in the colony
And we've been too long deprived

For pickin's are small in the colony
And we've been too long deprived

� 2012 Donna Devine

 

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Very effective Donna, particularly with regards to the music you and your producers chose to use to illustrate what was happening in the lyric.  I honestly never knew about this aspect of the Australian penal colonies. Human history is often harsh and the brutality glossed over and or swept under the rug.  With all our problems today, I'd say the world we live in is by far a much better place than the past many depict in their writings.  

 

Thanks for sharing this

 

Carl

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Thank you for taking the time, Carl. ;) 

Yes, the settling of Australia by the British was a very harsh undertaking. I can certainly recommend the book 'The Fatal Shore' if you're interested in delving further into that history.

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Hello Donna 

what a story and very well done .. great work .. 

Sounds like a movie 

Theresa 

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Well done, Donna.

 

Sharpenin' our harpoons, indeed! I bet they were, I bet they were. ;)

 

--Doug

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Well done Donna. I read that same book a while ago and it was fascinating history.  I only was notified (by 23andme.com) this weekend that I have relatives in Oz and N.Z.  Those early settlers had it about as rough as it gets but they ended up building a great country! 

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Thank you, Theresa, Doug, Dan, and Kuya. :) Glad you enjoyed the listen. 

 

Doug, the crazy thing is that I never even realised the apparent entendre with 'harpoon'. :rolleyes: It was only mentioned to me by the collaborator when he was writing the music. I'd used the word simply in connection with the fact that the ship was a whaler. 

 

Kuya, good for you, reading that book. It's quite a challenge! Yes, Australia's pretty amazing. I lived there for a number of years. Only learned after I'd left - and while doing some genealogy - that in fact I'd had relatives there, and living only minutes away. Sure would love to have known that earlier.

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