Mon, July 20, 2020
Sheldon College’s Year 5 cohort created vivid memories and brought the classic ballad of Banjo Patterson to life, by finding meaning in the text.

Mr Alastair Tomkins, Performance Manager of the Australian School of the Arts, jubilantly cycled across the campus to the College fountain on his very own penny farthing, where he amusingly engaged with the Year 5 students and recited the famous ballad ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’, while in character. 

The ballad narrates the comical experience of a jaunty young man from the Australian Outback who buys a shiny new bicycle and boasts that he is such an outstanding horseman that he can ride this newfangled machine with ease. But, as the poem relates, he is in for the ride of his life. All of which, was perfectly brought to life, by Mr Tomkins’ memorable performance.

“The purpose of the activity was part of the students' review and analysis of the ballad of 'Mulga Bill's Bicycle' and how ballads communicate a story - providing the reader with a snapshot of a particular moment in time” said Mr Anthony Sharp, Head of Year 5. 

In the coming weeks Year 5 students will also be looking at other classic Australian ballads from Banjo Paterson. The project will culminate in the students writing and reciting their own ballads in the College’s ‘Poet's Corner’ during lunch breaks. Spoken Word Poetry is a writing tool that will help students breed confidence and discover their self-identities through the act of performing and we look forward to hearing and seeing their wonderful ballads.  

Mr Tomkins said “It’s a great joy to bring these classic Australian works from the 1890’s into the modern world. If children can create a vivid memory of the work it will stay with them for years.”

Mulga Bill's Bicycle

'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that caught the cycling craze;

He turned away the good old horse that served him many days;

He dressed himself in cycling clothes, resplendent to be seen;

He hurried off to town and bought a shining new machine;

And as he wheeled it through the door, with air of lordly pride,

The grinning shop assistant said, "Excuse me, can you ride?"


"See here, young man," said Mulga Bill, "from Walgett to the sea,

From Conroy's Gap to Castlereagh, there's none can ride like me.

I'm good all round at everything, as everybody knows,

Although I'm not the one to talk - I hate a man that blows.

But riding is my special gift, my chiefest, sole delight;

Just ask a wild duck can it swim, a wildcat can it fight.

There's nothing clothed in hair or hide, or built of flesh or steel,

There's nothing walks or jumps, or runs, on axle, hoof, or wheel,

But what I'll sit, while hide will hold and girths and straps are tight:

I'll ride this here two-wheeled concern right straight away at sight."


'Twas Mulga Bill, from Eaglehawk, that sought his own abode,

That perched above the Dead Man's Creek, beside the mountain road.

He turned the cycle down the hill and mounted for the fray,

But ere he'd gone a dozen yards it bolted clean away.

It left the track, and through the trees, just like a silver streak,

It whistled down the awful slope towards the Dead Man's Creek.


It shaved a stump by half an inch, it dodged a big white-box:

The very wallaroos in fright went scrambling up the rocks,

The wombats hiding in their caves dug deeper underground,

As Mulga Bill, as white as chalk, sat tight to every bound.

It struck a stone and gave a spring that cleared a fallen tree,

It raced beside a precipice as close as close could be;

And then as Mulga Bill let out one last despairing shriek

It made a leap of twenty feet into the Dead Man's Creek.


'Twas Mulga Bill from Eaglehawk, that slowly swam ashore:

He said, "I've had some narrer shaves and lively rides before;

I've rode a wild bull round a yard to win a five-pound bet,

But this was the most awful ride that I've encountered yet.

I'll give that two-wheeled outlaw best; It's shaken all my nerve

To feel it whistle through the air and plunge and buck and swerve.

It's safe at rest in Dead Man's Creek, we'll leave it lying still;

A horse's back is good enough henceforth for Mulga Bill."