Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Who is the Cunnamulla Fella?

Stan Coster was ‘ringing’ (working as a sheep-shearing “ringer”) around Cunnamulla in the 1950’s when he wrote the words of the ‘Cunnamulla Fella’.  Slim Dusty later recorded the words as a song.

So who is he? Well locals in Cunnamulla say he is the larrikin in all Australian’s. When Stan was in the region working on stations during the 1950’s and 1960’s Cunnamulla was enjoying steady prosperity due to high wool prices and increased demand for the fine merino clip produced from the Mulga country. It was the days, they claimed, when Australia was riding on the sheep’s back. Wool was fetching a pound for a pound and cattle were worth their weight in gold.

Friday and Saturday nights saw the young ringers and shearers hit Cunnamulla for a weekend of ‘drinkin, lovin and fightin’. After a week of working hard – 15 or 16 hour days were not unheard of - they also played hard. 

Mike Nicholas, an artist, was based in Cunnamulla as a policeman in the 1960’s and these young men inspired his drawing of the ‘Cunnamulla Fella’. A young man with pannikin in one hand, sitting on his rolled up swag having a yarn at the end of the day. He later recalled seeing boys as young as 14 sitting on their swag waiting for the grazier or mail truck to pick them up for another jaunt on one of the huge stations.

Since then the character The Cunnamulla Fella has grown into the legend it is today. So when you next venture west into the mulga country with its orange tinted soils and friendly outback folk check out the huge bronze statue sculptured by Archie St. Claire. He sits on the green lawn in front of the Paroo Shire Council gazing down the main street. 

There may not be as many ringers, shearers or even pubs for that matter that once overflowed with these men cashing in the weekly cheques as back when Stan was amongst them but one thing is for sure, there are still the larrikins, the yarns and the colourful characters out there.

‘Well I’m a scrubber, runner and a breaker too,
I live on damper and wallaby stew,
I’ve got a big cattle dog with a staghound’s cross,
I never saw the scrubber we couldn’t toss,
Cause I’m the Fella from Cunnamulla
Yes I’m the Cunnamulla Fella”

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