1. Burke

From the recording Frontier

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The Burke and Wills expedition was one of Australian exploration's great tragedies. Robert O'Hara Burke was chosen to lead the expedition to find a route between the south and north of Australia. This was a massive undertaking given that the country they would cross was particularly harsh in the Summer months. Burke was a policeman with no previous exploration experience. He was intent on impressing Julia Matthews, a theatre performer in Melbourne, and winning her hand in marriage. Burke, William Wills, Charley Gray and John King succeeded in reaching the northern coast of Australia, but were delayed on their return - in part because they took one day to bury Gray who had succumbed to the journey. As a result, they missed their relief party at Coopers Creek - who had been awaiting their return for close to four months - by a matter of hours. Too weak to follow, Burke and Wills perished, while King was eventually found barely alive by a rescue party after having been provided shelter and food by the local aborigines. The expedition only became known as the 'Burke and Wills' expedition following their death. Wills' father was an influential member of society, more than a little annoyed that his son had perished and wanted him to be suitably recognised.


Copyright 2016 Craig Stewart

August 20, 1860,
Seemed like all of Melbourne,
Came out to see me,
I had a chance to make my name,
Find fortune and fame,
And a girl's hand to claim,
Back home.

We were headed for the outback,
To the edge of the known map,
And to the land beyond we'd carry on,
Making up our own track.
So strap on the saddles,
Load up the camels,
We've got twenty one tonnes,
A race to run,
Three thousand miles to travel.

I'm Robert O'Hara Burke,
And the world will know my name,
I'm Robert O'Hara Burke,
The first man to cross Australia
And come back again.

Well we forged across the Murray,
Through the Mallee to Menindee,
Where we learned that Stuart turned
And the gulf was waiting for the victory.
Pushed on to Coopers Creek,
Through the desert and the heat.
With my pride at stake, and a bride to take,
I would not taste defeat.


Well we'd walked a thousand miles,
Beneath scorching Summer skies,
When the day arrived we spied the tide,
And knew we'd won the prize.
But as we made our turn for home,
There was no way we could have known,
That the hands of time had passed us by,
And the seeds of fate were sown.

So we took one day,
To bury Charley Gray.

And as we stumbled in camp, just four days later,
The coals of the fire still glowed warm.
For the partied departed, only that morning,
And the Dig Tree legend was born.

I'm Robert O'Hara Burke,
And the world knows how I tried.
I'm Robert O'Hara Burke,
And by the banks of the Cooper I died.