The King (1907)

words Jim Harper, music by Jim Low

The song The King (1907)  is an adaptation of the poem by the same name. Under the poem’s title is written in brackets – “written in 1907”. Jim Harper knew King Tommy, about whom the poem is written. The Aboriginal shared his memories with Harper about some of the floods in the district before the 1890 flood. He took him to places which the flood waters had covered. *

When white man made the Narran side
His permanent address
When these boundary ridden paddocks
Were a howling wilderness
When the old bark was hidden
In the mists of the coming years
The blacks they roamed the ridges
With their boomerangs and spears

And there was one among them
Who of worldly cares had none
Only a little piccannie
An Aboriginal mother’s son
At times perhaps she’d dreamed of a future
When her boy a man she’d see
But her dreams gave her no vision
Of what his sad end would be

For the white man crossed the Narran
And he straight way claimed their land
There was blood shed on the Narran
‘Ere they got the upper hand
But the struggle soon was over
And the blacks forced to submit
They were turned straight into beggars
So they made the best of it.

And years rolled by and as they did
The wild tribes drooped and died
Of old age, foul play, starvation
They were not to be denied
Till just a few were left to crawl
Along their idle way
And amongst them, now a grey head,
Tommy of the wild old days

And so today we see him
Poor old God forsaken wreck
Proud of the brass that dangles
From a chain around his neck
With an air of one who’s proud
Of so much matted hair and dirt
He wanders ‘round the township
In a policeman’s cast off shirt.

But I’m sure that very often
When the night is still and black
And he’s dozing near his campfire
That his memory takes him back
And conjures up a picture
That can drive away his pain
Of the old wild life that bred him
And he’s happy once again

His limbs are very feeble now
His eyes are very dim
And of worldly cares and sorrows
Few remain for him
Just a little more of suffering
And then the camp will sing
A sad and mournful melody
The death wail for a king.

  • Memories Of The Angledool, edited and published by P. Cross, Mehi, Angledool. 1996   p.14
  • Read the article Jim Harper of Mulga Land by Jim Low