With My Swag All On My Shoulder is one of the best-known of Australian folk songs. The first documented version of the song was published in 1924, when Banjo Paterson included it in his Old Bush Songs. But it is almost certain that the song was around long before Paterson published it.
Its popularity is probably due, in large part, to the version performed and recorded by Australian group The Seekers. It was released in 1964 on their self-titled album The Seekers.
The song talks about the news reaching England and Ireland of the 1850s gold strikes in Australia. Stories of lumps of gold lying about painted an enticing picture for people “back home” in the UK. Soon, hundreds of ships swarming with fortune seekers set out for Australia. Some of the emigrants struck it lucky – most did not and had to find other means to survive. Many spent their time wandering around the country-side hunting, gathering, begging, and stealing. Showing up at a squatter’s station could result in a generous handout, especially if the swaggies (as they were called) stayed around for a time to help repair fences, shear sheep, or muster cattle.
These two arrangements of With My Swag All On My Shoulder are part of a larger collection of choral arrangements of 20 Australian folk song titles. The works were commissioned in 2022 by the Queensland Kodály Choir as a legacy project of Australian Choral Music and are collectively available in a two-part anthology titled On a Distant Shore.
The Queensland Kodály Choir has generously determined that these anthologies and all of their associated resources should be made freely available to anyone who would like to make use of them. To facilitate this, whilst each of the arrangements is copyright, the full set of project resources has been licensed under Creative Commons International Licence, meaning that they can be freely shared, copied and/or redistributed.
Conductors/choirs wishing to access the Anthology – Parts 1 & 2 – and/or the companion rehearsal tracks, can do so by following the link to the Cuskelly College of Music website. The complete individual titles (including cover title page, vocal score, piano accompaniment, extracted instrument parts, performance notes and glossary of terms) are available in the Anthology Catalogue on this website.
Perusal and download copies of the two arrangements of With My Swag All On My Shoulder are available below.
Featured Image: “Down on His Luck” by Frederick McCubbin. Public domain via Wikimedia.