Project Description

The Old Palmer Song is a very popular Australian folk song that is meant to be sung in a rollicking style that reflects the excitement and anticipation of hardy Australian colonials setting out in search of gold.

Following hard on the heels of the great California gold rushes (1848 – 1855) came the discovery of payable quantities of gold in Australia. The first gold rush in Australia began in New South Wales in May 1851 after prospector Edward Hargraves discovered gold near Orange, at a site he called Ophir. Other discoveries quickly followed, including those at Ballarat and Bendigo in the colony of Victoria. Then came Rosewood and Gympie (1867) in Queensland; the Gawler region in South Australia in 1868; and Halls Creek (1885), Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie (1893) in Western Australia.

One of Australia’s richest alluvial goldfields was that of the Palmer River in far north Queensland. The rush to the Palmer began in 1873 and lasted for about three years. The goldfields were nearly 100 miles inland from the small coastal settlement of Cooktown and the early prospectors had a hard time of it just getting to the field. Leaving Cooktown they crossed the coastal mangroves, then on through dense tropical rainforest, into the more open eucalypt forest beyond and then across the dry, inhospitable and rugged country of the hinterland dissected by wide and deep rivers. And always there was the risk of meeting with fierce resistance from the Aborigines whose tribal land they were travelling through.

At the height of the rush there were around 35,000 prospectors on the Palmer (including a great many Chinese). By the time the rush was over, the Palmer had yielded over 100 tons of gold!

The Old Palmer Song is set to the tune of Ten Thousand Miles Away, a shore ballad/sea shanty that probably originated in Ireland in the early 19thCentury.

The Old Palmer Song pg. 1

The Old Palmer Song pg. 2