Maid of Australia


Although I’m struggling to imagine let alone explain the circumstances, I cannot doubt Jon’s sincerity when he says, “One of the proudest moments of my career to date was singing this song unaccompanied and unamplified at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London whilst sporting a purple beehive wig and no shirt.” A sight to behold no doubt, especially given the somewhat salacious content of this bawdy ballad.  This mainly Norfolk entry gives you an idea of the recordings made, and of those Jon again refers to Peter Bellamy as his source, as does Martin Carthy. Both Sides Then is starting to look like a worthwhile CD purchase for those wishing to explore the singer’s art further, although I’m sure many of you out there will have it already. This wasn’t on the original LP but is on the CD and I’m almost sure it won’t be the last time we’ll reference it. The Mainly Norfolk link is especially appropriate as English variants of this song seems to have been found exclusively in that region. As you’d expect, there’s some Mudcat stuff debating the Australian/English provenance. It rests on whether the river banks should be those of the Hawkesbury, just North West of Sydney, or Oxborough (Oxberry)as in Oxborough Hall on the banks of the River Gadder near Kings Lynn.  The lyrics would seem to point to the former, with the reference to “the forests of native Australia.” The latter is perhaps the Anglicisation of it, possibly due to the Eastern sea ports connection with the transports and the through flow of both the sailors and those returning having served their sentence. Any further evidence will be appreciated.

The buy links should now work properly. We had some problems with a duplicate track and everything needed to be updated, but I’ve just tested them and they are now OK!

You can buy the digital album now from the following stores:


20 Responses to “Maid of Australia”

  1. Maureen Musson says:

    I was at the RFH that night – St Valentines Day 2009. The show was entitled “A Dirty Weekend with Bellowhead.” Jon singing this song was one of very many highlights of that evening!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Shelley Rainey, Jon Boden. Jon Boden said: Latest Post: Maid of Australia […]

  3. Shelley says:

    Yes, that was a great night. Nice to have the memory revived!

  4. SRD says:

    That provoked a chuckle, I do love a good bawdy ballad.

  5. Hilary says:

    Ah yes! A Dirty Weekend recollected in tranquility … I too was there, and giggling my head off. I hope no-one describes this one as grim!

  6. Nick Hallam says:

    More about Maid of Australia from the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at the English Folk Dance and Song Society.

    There are 15 records of Maid of Australia, 14 from Norfolk sources, including the great Harry Cox and 1 from Canada.

    We used the Roud number to cross reference against different titles for the song. When searched on Roud No. there are 21 records, still predominantly from Norfolk and only 1 from Australia where it is known as The Maids of Australia. Other versions are recorded as The Bush of Australia.

    If you wish to see more detail on each record, change the ‘output’ to ‘record’ and press ‘submit query’.

    There are no records of the song in the Take 6 Archive

    We use the Roud index and the Take 6 online collections in the search for information on Jon’s selections.

    For more information, or to carry out your own search for songs, please visit
    If you need any help accessing the library online or have any questions, please contact the VWML on 020 7485 2206 or

  7. muzza says:

    Loved it……………..I could listen to this performance again and again just for the exhuberance of hearing Jon throwing his head back in the middle of the woods and hitting those high notes in the second to last line of each verse..Auuuusttraaaalia!

  8. Anna says:

    I was there too, and still giggle to myself every now and then when it pops into my mind. Thank you for putting this one on.

  9. Phil says:

    Ugh – delete my previous comment, somebody. (Bad HTML. No biscuit!)

    I was convinced that the reference to the bush of Australia (oo-er) was a Revival addition, but no – that line is there in the copy in the Bodleian collection, which dates from some time between 1863 and 1885. Smutty Victorians! (Mind you, looked at another way that line of thinking goes back to John Donne – O my America! My New-Found-Land!)

  10. edith lewis says:


  11. muzza says:

    the girls were “handsome and gay”………………..Ummmm….how long would you have to be marooned in the outback before you actually found them attractive?
    How language and the meanings of words change over the years……..but it’s still a great little song.

  12. Jane Ramsden says:

    Very nice to hear ‘sporting in play’ sung about without the angst of a blacksmith courting or the terrible consequences of a cruel mother, Lucy Wan, a blood-y gardener or banks of red roses! Though generally, I have to admit to a fondness for the supposedly ‘grim’. I think my July vote is going to go to A Blacksmith because it’s sung to the tune of Pil-grim – hahahaha!
    And I still don’t know how people put their little photos on this site! Could one of the clever ones please tell us how it’s done?

  13. Diana says:

    I think this would have gone down well in the Music Hall shows of yesteryear – a rather cheeky little ditty. Jon seemed to enjoy singing it as well. I enjoyed listening to him.

  14. Ray Padgett says:

    Harry Cox I believe! well sung Jon ~ evocative mind boggling ~ it’s all in the mind especially the older you get

    Ray ~ lol

  15. Old Muzza(N.W.Surrey) says:

    Blimey Ray…..welcome aboard………..Linda and I have been ploughing a lonely furrow for a couple of years now!

  16. inda says:

    Lovely to hear this cheeky ditty again…….

  17. Linda says:

    Lovely cheerful and cheeky song just what we need……

  18. John Bryson says:

    Couldn’t agree more Linda.

    The more I hear this song the more it grows on me, and I agree with the view that you could picture this being performed in the Music Hall

  19. OldMuza(NWSurrey UK) says:

    Hey you lot….I’ve just re read the comments and now I gather that this is a risqué sort of song!……never occurred to me before………now where did I put that passport!

  20. OldMuzza (NW Surrey UK) says:

    Time to have a good old holla….Auuuussssstraaaaaaaalia!
    go on….you know you want to!….(nobody is listening!)

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