Walkabout Jack

Words & Music: Pat Drummond

For Jack Riley

Dateline: The Panorama Hotel, Bulli Escarpment near Wollongong, NSW, 13/1/90

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Walkabout Jack is dedicated to all those Australians who can no longer afford to live in the houses that their parents owned. In its way, it's a song of dispossession but it is equally a song of freedom. Being one man's story it demonstrates that remarkable Australian trait of being able to cut through the 'Gordian knot' with an attitude of sheer irrepressibility. It has been said by some of the more cynical commentators that the only thing Australia has ever given the world is hedonism. I believe it is more spiritual than that. Australian hedonism is a very special blend that fundamentally re-evaluates our priorities in life and challenges us about what is worth trading our energies for; and what is definitely a waste of time.


Old Jack's gone back on the wallaby track.

He said the 'rat pack' had to go.

With the underpaid and the runaways.

He's a man of no abode.

He said to me, "A man's not free

while he's shackled to the things he owns!"

He was funny old Jack he'd say things like that;

made you wonder if the bugger was stoned!

Walkabout Jack'd say things like that.

Made you wanna be off and gone.


Chorus: Walkabout Jack.

Walkabout Jack.

Walkabout Jack ... imagine that!


I first met Jack about ten years back.

He was workin' on the Water Board loads;

Doggin' 'em up on the Robo truck,

workin' pipe along the road.


But he said "I doubt that I'll stick this out,

I feel the 'walkabout' gettin' strong

and this land's too wide and wonderful

to stay one place much too long."

Walkabout Jack would say things like that.

Made you wanna be up and gone.



We got cards from the mustering yards

when he worked on the Barrington Tops.

Ten months later, up in W.A.,

he was workin' on the lobster pots.

'85 in The Barossa; '87 up in Isa;

he was working in the open cut mines.

My letters went back with a sense of lack

written in between the lines.

Thinkin' 'bout Jack and the life he's had,

God, I wonder what happened to mine.


You see, I made my life with the kids and the wife

in the murk of Wollongong

where the smelters scour the sky to grey

and the working days are long.

Where a hundred thou' gets a fibro house

that you buy with the bank's consent.

But old Walkabout Jack, he's got none of that.

He doesn't owe the bloody bankers a cent!

Thinkin' 'bout Jack and the life he's had,

God, I wonder where mine went.


You see I wanna' go back on the wallaby track.

I wanna' pack my traps and go.

With the underpaid and the runaways,

I'll live out on the road. And I'll trade this trap

for a pack on my back and the whistle of the wanderer's song.

I used to think that Jack was crazy. How did I ever get that so wrong?

Walkabout Jack on the wallaby track had it figured out all along.




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