Clancy of the Overflow – Banjo Paterson

Clancy of the Overflow
I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
Just "on spec", addressed as follows, "Clancy, of The Overflow".
And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
(And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
"Clancy's gone to Queensland droving, and we don't know where he are."
In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
Gone a-droving "down the Cooper" where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.
And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
And at night the wond'rous glory of the everlasting stars.
I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all
And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
Of the tramways and the buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.
And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.
And I somehow rather fancy that I'd like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he'd suit the office, Clancy, of "The Overflow".
Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson (1864 - 1941)

Lachlan – a river in New South Wales
Overflow – the name of a sheep and cattle station in central New South Wales
droving – to move sheep or cattle long distances by walking them
Cooper – refers to the Cooper Basin a geological region in south-western Queensland and north-eastern South Australia.
stringing – the spreading out of animals in single-file as they walked.
Bush – Australians refer to any part of the country outside the major cities and towns as ‘the bush’. And there are truly vast areas of bush in Australia.

Banjo Paterson is monumental in early Australian bush poetry. This was his first poem to be published in the Bulletin Magazine in 1889 and was an immediate success. Many bush ballads abound depicting early Australian settlement and the hardship of establishing life in the severe environment. This poem does romanticize the life of the drover; a person on horseback moving cattle.

And today life in the City is compared with life in the Country by those wishing to move away from City life in such popular TV Programs as ‘Escape to the Country’.


Apparently, the poem was based on a chance experience when he sent a letter to a man named ‘Clancy‘ at a sheep station (ranch) named ‘Overflow’. The short simple reply ‘Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are’ inspired Paterson to create ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. This poem has become well known throughout Australian and is often included in school literature.


Here is some historical detail from the Internet where there is plenty of material …

Andrew Barton Paterson was born on the 17th February 1864 on the property called Narambla, New South Wales. His Father, Andrew a Scottish farmer from Lanarkshire. Young Andrew spent his formative years living at a station called “Buckenbah’ in the western districts of New South Wales. The land was unfenced; Dingo infested and was leased by his Father and Uncle from the Crown for a few pennies an acre.

His career as a journalist is well documented. His despatches from the Boer War and later the Boxer Rebellion in China were to provide invaluable details of the hardships of the men he travelled with. He travelled to London at the invitation of Rudyard Kipling and returned to Sydney in 1902. Later that year he travelled to Tenterfield NSW where he was to meet Alice Walker whom he was later to marry.

His home base was Binalong a rural community near Yass, NSW. And from the Banjo Paterson Statue in a Park of the same name in Yass you will see that ‘Banjo’ was the name of a favourite horse which he used as a pseudonym for his writing. And he is very well known for another famous poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’ .

Andrew Barton (Banjo) Paterson on Wikipedia.

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