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Campbell the Swagman

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   swagman  n   Austral. and NZ  labourer who carries his personal
                         possessions in a pack (swag) while looking for work.

Occasionally when you look into somebody's face you know that they have an interesting life story to tell.
When you come face to weatherbeaten face with Campbell the Swaggie you see an encyclopaedia of Australian folklore.

During the 1930's depression in Australia, swagmen were a common sight.  Men forced by economic circumstance to walk the back roads in search of work.

Today there is just Campbell and perhaps one other remaining, both of whom do it as a lifestyle choice.
Campbell is a consummate poet, storyteller and busker.
With a majestic voice reciting from a repertoire of more than 200 Australian poems and prose, and accompanied by an entertaining acting performance, he is a national treasure.

Reputedly the son of a Maori princess and a Scottish father, Campbell has, for the last 23 years been perfecting his craft by performing at folk festivals and country shows all around Australia.

All of his possessions in life are wrapped up in a single canvas swag.

Irving Campbell:  busker, poet, writer, swaggie, entertainer,
                             unforgettable Antipodean character.

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About GOF

"Life is like a sewer. What you get out of it, depends upon what you put into it." (Tom Lehrer)

13 responses »

  1. Did you ever sing this one in your younger days, GOF? I'm a bit rusty on the words, but they seem to catch the free spirit of the swaggie very well.I was talking to a swaggie yesterday,His beard was long, his hair was silver grey,His dress was out of style, but he wore a friendly smile,And this is what the old man had to say.Now once I had a wife and everything,But a stranger came and soon we were apart,So I left my friends at home, and I hit the road to RomeAnd nicotine has mended my old heart.Now take a look at this old baccy tin,Its paint is scratched, its sides are dented in,But it's opened many a bottle in its wild and chequered life,And to me it will always be a friend.And when at last I reach those pearly gates,They say St Peter, he's a decent bloke.If I'm taken with the blessed, this will be my last request,That I must have good tobaccy when I smoke.

  2. Thank you very much for the poem Snowy.I had not read it before.Campbell might have an interesting story to tell too about what originally motivated him to hit the road. He has spent a lot of time in FNQ this year. Mrs Gof made friends with him at the Yungaburra folk festival last month by putting $5 into his billycan. He then posed for a picture (it's a bit too large to upload to Vox) and gave her an autographed postcard. It is nice to have him in our world.

  3. It was actually a song which we used to sing in my Gatton College days, GOF. I forget who recorded it.

  4. Great face; great head of hair & beard!

  5. I thought about chaps like Campbell when my youngest asked me about the Global Financial Crisis.Whenever the doom and gloom Economists start prattling on about the "worst recession ever" I think about the extreme hardship the swaggies faced and note we don't seem to have many folk forced out with their swag.Looks like his wrinkles are mostly laugh lines. Magnificient.

  6. I forget who recorded it. I'm beginning to think you might be a reclusive rock star from the 50's Snowy 🙂

  7. Great face; great head of hair & beard! The entire package is great……and unique.

  8. Dang me! I've blown my cover now. I suppose I'd better 'fess up. I used to be known as the "Muckin dill from Muckadilla". I guess you've heard of me?

  9. Looks like his wrinkles are mostly laugh lines.He's got a fantastic sense of humour Pete. Occasionally at markets we have had a stall very close to where he performs, and often as he commences his act there is no audience. In those circumstances he finishes his poem, then he'll make an assessment of his own performance "Ahh, bloody well done son" before moving on to the next poem.With this recession I don't notice any less cars in the shopping centre carparks or any less crap being wheeled out in trolleys than I did before.And if it all goes pear shapedI am sure Campbell will survive a whole lot better than most of us.

  10. "Muckin dill from Muckadilla"I heard that every Downs groupie was attracted to you like a bee to the honeypot. One of the drawbacks of pure talent.

  11. One of the drawbacks of pure talent. I bear my cross bravely…

  12. Now THAT is a face with character. He looks so cheerful and contented, living proof that maybe the rat race and constant rushing to try and make money isn't the greatest way to find happiness and fulfillment. Plus that is the finest beard I've seen in ages!

  13. He looks so cheerful and contentedHe also looks healthy for his age Vicola …..perhaps he has no need or indeed opportunity to regularly visit doctors or fill up with prescribed medication.


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