THE SONG OF THE SHINGLE SPLITTERS
A poem written by Henry Kendall in 1874, sums
up the conditions of the early timber worker.
Kendall was appointed as the first Inspector of
Forests in 1881.
In dark wild woods, where the lone owl broods
And the dingoes nightly yell —
Where the curlew’s cry goes floating by,
We splitters of shingles dwell.
And all day through, from the time of the dew
To the hour when the mopoke calls,
Our mallets ring where the woodbirds sing
Sweet hymns by the waterfalls.
And all night long we are lulled by the song
Of gales in the grand old trees;
And in the brakes we can hear the lakes
And the moan of the distant seas.
For afar from heat and dust of street,
And hall and turret and dome,
In forest deep, where the torrents leap,
Is the shingle-splitter’s home.
The dweller in town may lie upon down,
And own his palace and park:
We envy him not his prosperous lot,
Though we slumber on sheets of bark.
Our food is rough, but we have enough;
Our drink is better than wine:
For cool creeks flow wherever we go,
Shut in from the hot sunshine.
Though rude our roof, it is weather-proof,
And at the end of the days
We sit and smoke over yarn and joke,
By the bush-fire’s sturdy blaze.
For away from din and sorrow and sin,
Where troubles but rarely come,
We jog along, like a merry song,
In the shingle-splitter’s home.
The poem captures the richness of the forest.
Forest workers had access to clean drinking
water, protection from the sun and animals
to eat. In the difficult times of the early 20th
century, the forest was a great source of
nourishment and shelter.