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About the author:

Henry Lawson was born near Grenfell, New South Wales, Australia on 17 June 1867. Although he has since become Australia's most acclaimed writer, in his own lifetime his writing was often “on the side” — his “real” work being whatever he could find. His writing was frequently taken from memories of his childhood, especially at Pipeclay/Eurunderee. In his autobiography, he states that many of his characters were taken from the better class of diggers and bushmen he knew there. His experiences at this time deeply influenced his work, for it is interesting to note a number of descriptions and phrases that are identical in his autobiography and in his stories and poems. He died at Sydney, 2 September 1922. He is most famous for his short stories.

“On the Track” and “Over the Sliprails” were both published at Sydney in 1900, the prefaces being dated March and June respectively — and so, though printed separately, a combined edition was printed the same year (the two separate, complete works were simply put together in one binding); hence they are sometimes referred to as “On the Track and Over the Sliprails”.

An incomplete Glossary of Australian terms and concepts which may prove helpful to understanding this book:

Anniversary Day: Alluded to in the text, is now known as Australia Day. It commemorates the establishment of the first English settlement in Australia, at Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour), on 26 January 1788.

Billy: A kettle used for camp cooking, especially to boil water for tea.

Cabbage-tree/Cabbage-tree hat: A wide-brimmed hat made with the leaves of the cabbage tree palm (Livistona australis). It was a common hat in early colonial days, and later became associated with patriotism.

Gin: An aboriginal woman; use of the term is analogous to “squaw” in N. America. May be considered derogatory in modern usage.

Graft: Work; hard work.

Humpy: (Aboriginal) A rough or temporary hut or shelter in the bush, especially one built from bark, branches, and the like. A gunyah, wurley, or mia-mia.

Jackeroo/Jackaroo: At the time Lawson wrote, a Jackeroo was a “new chum” or newcomer to Australia, who sought work on a station to gain experience. The term now applies to any young man working as a station hand. A female station hand is a Jillaroo.

Jumbuck: A sheep.

Larrikin: A hoodlum.

Lollies: Candy, sweets.

'Possum/Possum: In Australia, a class of marsupials that were originally mistaken for the American animal of the same name. They are not especially related to the possums of North and South America, other than being marsupials.

Public/Pub.: The traditional pub. in Australia was a hotel with a “public” bar — hence the name. The modern pub has often (not always) dispensed with the lodging, and concentrated on the bar.

Push: A group of people sharing something in common; Lawson uses the word in an older and more particular sense, as a gang of violent city hoodlums.

Ratty: Shabby, dilapidated; somewhat eccentric, perhaps even slightly mad.

Selector: A free selector, a farmer who selected and settled land by lease or license from the government.

Shout: To buy a round of drinks.

Sliprails/slip-rails: movable rails, forming a section of fence, which can be taken down in lieu of a gate.

Sly grog shop or shanty: An unlicensed bar or liquor-store, especially one selling cheap or poor-quality liquor.

Squatter: A person who first settled on land without government permission, and later continued by lease or license, generally to raise stock; a wealthy rural landowner.

Station: A farm or ranch, especially one devoted to cattle or sheep.

Stoush: Violence; to do violence to.

Tea: In addition to the regular meaning, Tea can also mean a light snack or a meal (i.e., where Tea is served). In particular, Morning Tea (about 10 AM) and Afternoon Tea (about 3 PM) are nothing more than a snack, but Evening Tea (about 6 PM) is a meal. When just “Tea” is used, it usually means the evening meal. Variant: Tea-time.

Tucker: Food.

Also: a hint with the seasons — remember that the seasons are reversed from those in the northern hemisphere, hence June may be hot, but December is even hotter. Australia is at a lower latitude than the United States, so the winters are not harsh by US standards, and are not even mild in the north. In fact, large parts of Australia are governed more by “dry” versus “wet” than by Spring-Summer-Fall-Winter.

(Alan Light, Monroe, North Carolina, March 1998.)

A few obvious errors in the original text were corrected, after being confirmed against other editions.

To wit:

Throughout text, where the original text uses more than three (in the middle of a sentence) or four (at the end) dots for an ellipsis, it has been standardized.

“The Songs they used to Sing”:

[ “Hoh, my heart!” then she cried. ] changed to: [ Hoh, my heart!” then she cried. ]

About half-way through, the quoted sections of songs start to be printed in italics. As these italics are unnecessary, internally inconsistent, and not repeated in later editions, they have been ignored.

“A Vision of Sandy Blight”:

[ and watched me for awhile ] changed to: [ and watched me for a while ] (This is standard English usage.)

[ sat smoking for awhile ] changed to: [ sat smoking for a while ]

[ They were very fond of each other, ] changed to: [ “They were very fond of each other, ]

“Andy Page's Rival”:

[ until a spring cart rattled up ] changed to: [ until a spring-cart rattled up ] In conformance with Lawson's usage elsewhere and sense.

“Middleton's Peter”:

[ The reader may doubt that a “sly grogshop” could openly carry on business ] changed to: [ The reader may doubt that a “sly grog shop” could openly carry on business ]

“The Mystery of Dave Regan”:

[ how he was, he said: “Ah, well! Let's have a drink.’ ] changed to: [ how he was, he said: ‘Ah, well! Let's have a drink.’ ]

“No Place for a Woman”:

[ beyond the track to the selection I heard, “Hi, Mister?” ] changed to: [ beyond the track to the selection I heard, “Hi, Mister!” ] (All other sources agree.)

[ the billies had heen scraped ] changed to: […been scraped ]

[ sit silent for awhile ] changed to: [ sit silent for a while ]

[ wait for me on the road; on — the road.” …] changed to: [ wait for me on the road; on — the road….” ]

[ The wife'll be waiting…He was off the track again. ] changed to: [ The wife'll be waiting….” He was off the track again. ]

“Bill, the Ventriloquial Rooster”:

A number of the quotation marks were off in the original — missing double-quotes or double-quotes where they should be single-quotes. These were modified.

[ Go, it, old cock! ] changed to: [ Go it, old cock! ]

“A Rough Shed”:

[ beneath me to try to climb to the proud position of “ringer” of the shed. ] changed to: [ beneath me to try to climb to the proud position of ‘ringer’ of the shed. ]

[ But what I am growling about? ] changed to: [ But what am I growling about? ]

“Payable Gold”:

[ went on externally irrespective or any variation ] changed to: [ went on externally irrespective of any variation ]

“An Oversight of Steelman's”:

[ “No — but” —— ] changed to: [ “No — but ——” ]

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