“The boy ran away to the city from his home at harvest time,
They were Scots of the Riverina, and to run from home was a crime.
The old man burned his letter, the first and last he burned..
And he scratched his name from the Bible,
when the old woman’s back was turned.”
It was that verse back in 2000 that I heard streaming from a song on a web site called MP3.com that started it all. One mans quest to find one song produced by a band that no longer existed.
I had been browsing the site for some new music as I was tired of the same old replayed radio tunes. The song was called Scots of the Riverina and was about a boy who ran away from home during war time which was considered a criminal act during that place and era. The story tells of his father who disowns him from the family, thereafter the boy does enlist and fights in the war but his father is still bitter and unforgiving. The son dies (and so does the old man) but you will have to read the poem or get the song in order to hear what happens to both generations.
This is where things go bad all because I was too lazy to buy the song off the site at a whopping $1.99.. I made the mistake of thinking to myself ‘I will just play the streaming version’ (which was not CD quality but it sounded good enough) and I can play it anytime I want’. After a year of listening to the song for free – that site closed it doors. Thus I lost the ability to hear it, and more importantly lost access to the name of the song and the name of the band. See when your complacent like that you tend not to remember such things because, after all, it was only a click away.
Another year had passes and I was cleaning up some things strewn around my office space and I found a sticky note that had the name ‘Scots of the Riverina’ on it and I remembered the song immediately. I thought holy crap I need to find that again, which should be pretty easy right, with the quantity of information now on the INTERNET.
So I started my search feeling confident that two years after having last listened to it on the original site, there should be some information out there somewhere. I looked and searched for hours, and I did this every night for about a week, each night trying to find any reference, lyric or index but found nothing. Just about the time I was hopelessly frustrated and going to stop is when I saw a link to a cached website page. So I decided to click on it and it brought up a page that looked like the site I had previously listened to the song on. Almost like a photo copy of the site, if you will, but all the links were broken. However, it contained a email address at the bottom and I thought that I might as well give that a try, maybe… just maybe… they still have email.
I composed an email letter asking if the band was still around and if one could still buy the self published CD they were selling. A few days later I got a response stating that the band was not together anymore, but they happened to have a few CD’s left and they would be willing to send me one. I provided them with my address and I sat back and waited. After about two months I sent a follow up email as kind of a reminder, or a bump to see if it was still possible to obtain the CD, for which I was now willing to pay more than the original $2.00 for. Disappointment lingered as I never got a response back and so I had thought that I was doomed to never hear that version of the song again. I started my search again looking for the song in general, at this point I almost didn’t care who sang it, I just wanted to get it. So again I started plundering the web for any renditions of the song. Nothing was to be found, no songs, not listing of the song, not even a pirated version of the song could I find (not that I would encourage such thing but I was hard up trying to find it) but nothing productive turned up, even in 2003 the web seem to be missing any hint of the song. So I gave up the search and stowed the song in the back of my head and listened to it in memory the best that I could remember it.
2006 came about and the song resurfaced in my head and got me to thinking surely by now there must be something on the web in reference to this song. Well I started searching and sure enough I found some articles about it being a poem. Up until this point I only knew a few lines of the song and googled such which is how I found out that this was part of an old poem originally written by Henry Lawson. This gave me hope that with now having more of the lyric information I could find the song performed by somebody else. Sure enough, I found that it was on an album sung by Hugh McDonald. Now that I had a name I searched for a sample of the song so I could hear it again hoping then find where to buy it, but as fate would have it I found another dead end, not one single sample, or even a offering to buy the song. So again my hope faded away with the virtual pages on the screen, and I moved on once more with life as it moved on in front of me.
2010, in January, some 10 years later and I stumble again on a note with the name Scots of the Riverina and I kind of laughed at myself for holding on to that note for so long. I mean it’s been about a decade, and the band from what I had been told broke up at least 8 years prior. So I started to ball up the note to toss it away and for some reason I could not let it go. I tried twice to discard it but my fingers would not open up to let it fly. So I typed it into a note pad document on the computer and then threw the tattered paper relic into the bin. A few nights later that note was still on the desktop of my computer and I said ‘what the heck if it’s not on the web now – it will never be there’. So I start searching again and search after search found only mentions of the poem, or of the few singers which had performed it that were from back in the day. Eventually I stumbled across a sample. Finally!! Unfortunately, it was not pleasing at all to my long awaiting ears. It was old and not performed very well.. you have to understand that this tale requires some emotional articulation – and the singer didn’t seem to have enough to fit the song.
If you have ever used Google, or Yahoo, then you know that when you type in an item to search you get like thousands of links that mostly have nothing to do with what you’re searching for. So, most of us click through the first, second and maybe the third result before we try another search phrase. In a fit of madness I clicked like on like fifty or something I really don’t remember, but a link had the name of the song in it and I was like really?
Bruce Cameron Website
So I clicked it and it was a play list from a DJ. This DJ, whose name was Bruce, had what looked like a play list for each gig, or day, or something… but there were a lot of them with what seemed to be hundreds of songs on them. Glancing down I saw that there was an email address at the bottom and I thought I would ask if he remembered this song that was sung by a band that not longer existed, after all – it was in his play list so he would remember, right? Yeah, I was headed down wishful thinking lane again, but email is free and to ask cost me nothing. I composed yet another email in hopes it would lead to some sort of progress in my quest, but never got up my hopes as for a reply. Well I just could not let myself really believe that the person would really have the time to recall a song, or a band, from ten years ago.
“Wow” is all I can say. I sent the email on Jan 24 at 8:45 pm and I got a response back at 11:45 that very same night. Can you believe that? Not even 24 hours later, it was the same night and that is not even the best part – not only did he respond, but he knew about the band and the song! He informed me that the band had indeed parted ways, but he did some research in that short amount of time between my email and his, and found 10 copies of this self published CD on a website called Tradandnow.com. Well I have to admit that I was beside myself, I was ecstatic and I could hardly believe it would pan out, but I went to the site and there it was listed on the catalog and it even had the CD cover I remembered which confirmed that I was on the right track.
The next day I was on that site and clicking on the “order me that cd please” button. Lo and behold, as the fates would have it, right after I clicked the final order button, the website went down. Well, try as I might I could not access it for about 3 hours, so my heart dropped again and I consigned myself to wait until later that day before trying again. I did get back on the site and I sent a note explaining how I had placed the order and the site crashed while doing so and that I needed to know if it went through or not, but I was too eager to get it while I could before something else went wrong so I just could not wait for a response. No, I had to place another order right then, I guess I figured as the worst I would have two copies. Luckily that wasn’t the case because I did get a response later that night stating that the first order did not make it to processing, only the second did. Hooray!
Just when you thought everything was falling into place, you get the dreaded email notification. Cec, the store owner, sent me a message saying there was a problem in locating the CD in his inventory. I was crushed, and I said to myself “it was to good to be true”. I sent him a reply saying that I understood that after ten years it may not be possible to get a copy. Cec didn’t give up that easily though, he asked if I had the band members names, as that may be able to help, and so I dug up all the notes that I had and rummaged though them until I found what he needed and sent them his way.
February third I got an email for Cec stating “SUCCESS” and that he had found some copies and I would have one in my hands within a few weeks. Again I was elated and could not wait for the CD to get here. In my fevered impatience I had to email Cec once more just to ensure the CD was on its way, to which he assured me that it was.
February 19th I get a call from my wife, (whom, by the way, was rather weary of me calling home every single day asking if the mailman had dropped off anything for me) she said “I am calling to tell you that your package is here” as in – now don’t call me and ask me about it again. It’s her way of giving me a hard time because every time I would ask her about it was if she would be hiding it from me or something, but she didn’t do such a thing, and she called me right away as she had repeatedly reassured me she would. Boy I could not wait to get home that day and pop it into the CD player. So I get home and, well, when you have a family you just can’t drop everything and tear open your much anticipated package because the toddler in the house won’t let you… Nope we had to play, and talk, and wrestle, and do all the things that you’re required to do as a father with your young son.
About this time my wife was headed out with some of the other kids to gather us some dinner. Thus ensues – The Dance. As they pulled out of the driveway, and time permitted, I opened the CD popped in it my heart filled with longing as I waited for it to begin playing the song. The three year old started to dance slowly, just a bit, you know – the little head bobbing thing, and I closed my eyes and let the music wash over me as notes cascaded around the room, I just stood there savoring the memory, and the music as it played.
Before I knew it the song was over and life snapped back into view and the remainder of the day followed its natural course. That is, and was, my journey to obtain a song that I once thought was lost forever. So I want to thank some people for what may seem a typical task to them in their day to day lives, but was a 10 year endeavor for me.
The first “Thank You” goes to Bruce the DJ (or whatever it is he does) for having that song listed in a play list, and him being able to recall and find information on what I was seeking. Thank you for your time Bruce.
Secondly, I would like to thank Cec and TRADANDSHOW.com for “1” – having the CD listed, and “2” – for taking time out of your routines to research and find a copy of the CD.
Third, I would like to thank the Band THE POACHERS who published the CD and recorded a beautiful rendition of that poem to song. That song had lived in my head and memory for so many years until I was able to play it once again, and it sounded every bit as delightful as I had remembered. So, Thank you – Penny Boys, Cathy Bell and Andrew Heath recording this song.