Sergeant Small

I went broke in western Queensland in Nineteen Thirty One
Nobody would employ me and my swag carrying days begun
I started out through Charleville and all the western towns
I was on me way to Roma destination Darling Downs
Me pants was getting ragged and me boots was a-getting thin
And as I came into Mitchell the goods train shunted in
I could hear her whistle blowing it was mighty plain to see
She was on her way to Roma or so it seemed to me

Chorus:
I wish I was about twenty stone and only seven feet tall
I’d go back to western Queensland and beat up Sergeant Small

Now as I sat and watched her inspiration’s seeds were sown
I remembered the Government slogan: ‘Here’s a railway that you own’
And as the sun was getting low and the night was coming nigh
I shouldered my belongings and I took her on the fly
And as we came into Roma I kept me head down low
Heard a voice say “Any room mate?” I answered “Plenty ‘Bo”
“Come out of there me little man” ‘twas the voice of Sergeant Small
“I have caught you very nicely – you’ve been riding for a fall”

Chorus:
I wish I was about twenty stone and only seven feet tall
I’d go back to western Queensland and beat up Sergeant Small

The old judge was very nice to me he gave me thirty days
Saying “Maybe that will help to cure your rattler-jumping ways”
So if you’re down and out in the outback boys I’ll tell yez what I think
Steer clear of the Queensland railway it’s a short cut to the clink

Chorus:
I wish I was about twenty stone and only seven feet tall
I’d go back to western Queensland and beat up Sergeant Small

Traditional arranged by Andy Irvine – IMRO/MCPS

“Sergeant Small” is an Australian song which tells the story of an unemployed man who rides freight trains in his search for work during the Great Depression in the 1930s but gets trapped by Sergeant Small, a policeman masquerading as a hobo. This song is an amalgamation from two sources put together by Brad Tate: the recording made by Tex Morton in the 1940s and the poem written by Terry Boylan in the 1970s. Irvine first heard it sung by Seamus Gill of Canberra, a Donegal man who has lived most of his life in Australia.

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