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'Reedy River' - An Australian Musical Play

Armidale Ex-Services Club

August 1988

Stage Direction by Gus Plater

Musical Direction by Colin Grigg

Produced by Beryl Hamel

By Dick Diamond


The price of wool was falling in eighteen ninety-one,
The men who owned the acres saw something must be done,
We will break the Shearer's Union and show we're masters still
And they'll take the terms we give them or we'll find the men who will.

From Claremont to Barcaldine the Shearers camps were full,
Ten thousand blades were ready to strip the greasy wool,
When through the west like thunder, rang out the Union's call,
The sheds'll be shore union or they won't be shore at all.

Old Billy Lane was with them his words were like a flame,
The flag of blue above them thay spoke Eureka's name,
Tomorrow said the squatters, you'll find it does not pay,
We're bringing up free labourers to get the clip away.

Tomorrow said the shearers, you may not be so keen,
We can mount three thousand horsemen to show you what we mean,
Then we'll pack the west with troopers from Bourke to Charters Towers,
You can have your fill of speeches but the final strength is ours.

Be dammed to your six-shooters, your troopers and police,
The sheep are growing heavy the burr is in the fleece,
Then if Nordenfeld and Gatling won't bring you to your knees,
We'll find a law the squatters said that's made for times like these.

To trial at Rockhampton, the fourteen men were brought,
The judge had got his orders, the squatters owned the court,
But for every one that's sentenced, a thousand won't forget,
Where they jail a man for striking it's a rich man's country yet.


"Reedy River" is an Australian Musical first produced in Melbourne in 1956. The story is set in the 1890's in the aftermath of the unsuccessful shearer's strike of 1891.

"Reedy River" linked together some of the traditional folk songs and dances. The show facilitated the revival of interest in Australian folk music. This interest has been increased further during Australia's Bicentennial Year.

It is significant that, in assembling a cast to first present "Reedy River" in Armidale in the late 1950's, interest was stimulated to reform the Armidale Musical Society. Now the society, nearly three decades later, has been invited by the Armidale Ex-Services Club to revive the musical as part of a week of Australian Bicentennial Celebrations.


Act I

Scene I: A bullock driver's camp on Brodie's Run, shearers are sitting around a camp fire.

Scene II: Verandah of "Reedy River" pub. A swagman opens the scene singing "My Old Black Billy".

Act II

Scene I: Outside the shearer's shed on Brodie's Run, the shearers are sitting around after just having arrived. Includes a flashback to Mary and Joe's early married life.


Scene I: The crowd is singing and dancing in an air of gaiety at the "Reedy River" school house.

Scene II: Outside the "Reedy River" pub.


'The Ballard of 1891' - Chorus
'The Eumarella Shore (Wollomombi)' - Chorus
'Reedy River' - Joe
'The Reedy Lagoon' - Joe and Mary
'My Old Black Billy' - Swagman
'Wake Up Landlord' - Elderly Character
'Wild Rover No More' - Chorus
'The Ryebuck Shearer' - Shearers
'The Union Way' - Shearers
'Lazy Harry's' - Shearers
'Widgegowerra Joe' - "Widgee"
'Click Go The Shears' - Joe and Chorus 
'My Man's A Shearer' - Mary
'The Banks Of The Condamine' - Chorus
'Four Little Johnny Cakes' - Swagman


La Rouse Quadrille
Barn Dance
Country Bumpkin
Jacaranda Dance


Bullock Drivers: Dixon: John Hamel, Alf: John Whittley, Shearers: Bill: Bill Meers, Thomo: Derek Norton, Mac: Colin Grant, Snowy: Norman Macey, Joe Collins, An Itinerant Worker: Peter Sypkens, Mary, Joe's Wife: Cheryl Yeomans, Brodie, A Squatter: Ray Blanch, Glover, Brodie's Ropuseabout: John Goode, Bob, A Swagman: Duncan Grivas, Rose, A Barmaid at the Reedy River Pub: Fiona Hale, Miss Andrews, A School Teacher: Rhonda Davies, An Elderly Character, A Farmer prominent in local affairs: Colin Grigg,Widgeegoweera Joe, The Back Block Shearer: Bruce Whan

Townspeople: Jane Manalo, Beryl Hamel, Sandra Powys-Kerr, Malcolm Rixon

Armidale Colonial Dancers: Betty Ridley, Bev Whittley, Jim McMillan, Margaret Rock, Audrey Heatwole, John Goode, Robyn McLennan, Charlie Ross, John Whittley

Instrumentalists: Piano: Wilma Gentle, Violin: Barry McDonald, Lagerphone: Malcolm Rixon, Tambourine: Beryl Hamel


Director: Gus Plater
Musical Director: Colin Grigg
Producer: Beryl Hamel
Choreography: Jennifer Clark
Rehearsal Pianist: Wilma Gentle
Stage Manager: Frances O'Brien
Lights: Tony Marjoram
Make-up: Sandra Powys-Kerr
Costumes: Rhonda Davies, Sylvia Pink
Stage Crew: Doug Hewitt, Roger Hanson
Prompts: Sandra Powys-Kerr, Ray Blanch
Usherettes: Shirley Falconer, Sue Holland, Sandra Edmonds

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