- Making Connections in Folklore -


Australian Folklore Network


February 2011


Published for the AFN by the Australian Folklore Research Unit

Curtin University of Technology

ISSN 1833-6930


This and previous editions also available online at

Folklore Australia





The 33rd edition of Transmissions brings news of this year’s National Australian Folklore Conference, the online launch of the Western Australian Folklore Archive and a chronology of the Australian folk revival. As usual, we have news of publications and a list of useful links.

Graham Seal

The 9th annual conference facilitated by the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia, the National Folk Festival and the Centre for Advanced Studies in Australia, Asia and the Pacific, Curtin University.
National Library of Australia  9-4.30pm Thursday April 21
The conference is free to attend but it is important to pre-register by email to

On December 1, the WA Folklore Archive’s digital presence was launched at Curtin University, Perth. The archive was established in conjunction with folklore teaching and research at the university in 1985 and contains materials including student fieldwork projects, various donated collections and the results of past and ongoing projects such as the WA Folklife Project (since 2006).
Founder and director of the archive, Graham Seal, donated it to the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library in 2008 and the library has since then organised, described and begun digitizing its extensive holdings.
Other collections and current projects will also be entered into the archive and, as resources allow, will be digitised and made available for research, teaching, performance and general interest.
The archive is the only state folklore archive in Australia and provides a series of snapshots of Western Australian folklife and lore since the 1980s but also reaching back to the early twentieth century and, in some cases, earlier. These include, among other things:

Go to and explore the extensive collections so far made available.

The Australian Folk Revival: An Historical Chronology
1ST edition, December 2010. By Brian Samuels
This chronology began life as an appendix to ‘The Folk Revival in South Australia: An Historical Chronology’, a work of about 24 pages which I hope to complete and have published on the Folk Federation of South Australia’s website in the near future. It was simply intended to provide the broader Australian context for what happened in South Australia.
However, as can be the way with historical research, I kept tinkering with it and it became more detailed than I had originally planned. Specifically, I have often inserted precise sources and concise contextual statements in the entries and have also tried to record some foundation events for each State and Territory. The text below is close to the final version that will appear in the main work, except that I have inserted two South Australian items (for 1966 and 1971) from the body of that chronology.
Naturally I’d appreciate any corrections or suggestions for additions, which should be sent to me at

This chronology is designed to provide an outline of some of the key events in the development of the appreciation and study of Australia’s folk culture as defined by what is generally termed the ‘folk revival’ that began in the 1950s. It does not pretend to be comprehensive. At the State level it focuses on early groups and umbrella organizations and largely excludes folk festivals. With publications it focuses on key early ones and those that provide an overview of the field. It has been compiled principally from published (print and on-line) sources, supplemented by a few email enquiries to try and fill some gaps. I have not so far discovered the foundation dates for the Western Australian, Queensland and Top Half Folk Federations.



AB Paterson (ed) The Old Bush Songs: Composed and sung in the Bushranging, Digging and Overlanding Days (Angus and Robertson, Sydney), the first published collection of bush songs [55 of them], appeared. It did not contain any music. [The cover title was Old Bush Songs and the ‘The’ was dropped from the title page in the 4th edition. The final (8th) edition over Paterson’s name appeared in 1932.] There have been some expanded editions since, most notably D Stewart and N Keesing (eds) Old Bush Songs (1957; several reprints) and a centenary edition by W Fahey and G Seal (eds) Old Bush Songs (ABC Books, Sydney, 2005). The latter (p6) notes that ‘Banjo’ Paterson started advertising for songs in the Sydney Bulletin in 1895 and outlines the publishing history of the book on pp31-32. [See also H Anderson ‘Some Literary Sources for Old Bush Songs’, Australian Folklore no 12 (1997), pp1-39]


Old Australian Bush Ballads, ‘collected by Vance Palmer’ with ‘music restored by Margaret Sutherland’, was published by Allan & Co. It contained 13 songs, and is notable for being the first booklet of Australian folk songs to include music. Palmer’s Preface records: ‘Versions of many of the ballads included have already appeared in “Old Bush Songs”; others I have gathered gradually from various quarters; and Margaret Sutherland has arranged music for them, calling upon her own instinct for appropriate melody when there was no one who remembered the original tunes’.


John Manifold and Ron Edwards published the Bandicoot Ballads, four broadsides of both words and music in a folder. Ron Edwards later wrote: ‘They created quite a bit of interest at the time, and were I feel, an important factor in the revival that followed. Ballads 5-8 were published in 1953, when I had returned to Victoria and was operating the Ram’s Skull Press, Numbers 9-16 came out in 1955’. [‘Bandicoot Ballads and Other Folk Songs’, Australian Tradition vol 3, no 3 (October 1966), p5]


John Meredith and some friends formed The Bushwhackers (not to be confused with the later band The Bushwackers). [Chris Kempster ‘The Bushwhackers: Some recollections’ (2002) on Mark Gregory’s Australian Folk Songs web site]


Burl Ives’ Folio of Australian Folk Songs ‘collected and arranged by Dr Percy Jones’ was published by Southern Music Publishing Company, Sydney, and contained 10 songs. Jones had begun collecting in the 1940s, assisted by journalist CS Waight’s daily column in the Melbourne Sun-News Pictorial, but unlike ‘Banjo’ Paterson, had transcribed some of the tunes. When the American Ives toured Australia for the Australian Broadcasting Commission and expressed an interest in Australian folk songs, he was directed to Jones. [See K McKenry ‘Percy Jones: Australia’s Reluctant Folklorist’, Overland no 186 (2007), pp25-33 and ‘The Minstrel Boy’, an anonymous article in the weekly magazine People, 3 December 1952, pp15-17]


Dick Diamond’s Reedy River, a musical drama that included Australian folk songs, was produced by the New Theatre, Melbourne, and subsequently interstate. The Companion to Theatre in Australia (Currency Press, Paddington, 1995) says it ‘dominated New Theatre’s repertoire for four years from 1953, playing to an estimated 450 000 people …’ (p401). [The New Theatre, Sydney, produced two editions of the Reedy River Song Book (cover title) in 1954 and 1960.]


The Australian Folklore Society held its inaugural meeting at John Meredith’s house at Heathcote, near Sydney, on 16 January following an initial meeting in December, but its journal Speewa only lasted two years (1954-55) and the Society itself ceased in about 1958. [See Speewa vol 1 no 1 (April 1954), John Meredith’s ‘Introduction’ in John Meredith & Hugh Anderson Folk Songs of Australia and the Men and Women Who Sang Them (Ure Smith, Sydney, 1967) and ‘Hunting Down the Wild Colonial Boy’ in People, 11 January 1956, pp23-6]


The Bush Music Club was founded in Sydney as a way of managing the large number of people who wanted to join the Bushwhackers. [See John Meredith’s ‘Introduction’ in John Meredith & Hugh Anderson Folk Songs of Australia and the Men and Women Who Sang Them (Ure Smith, Sydney, 1967)]


The Wattle Recording Company was formed in Sydney by architect Peter Hamilton. [Some sources say 1954] For details of its recordings see Mark Gregory’s ‘Australian Folk Songs’ web site


The Folk Lore Society of Victoria was formed in early August at a meeting of about 40 enthusiasts. [Hon. President Alan Marshall, Vice-President Norm O’Connor and Secretary Wendy Lowenstein]


The Moreton Bay Bushwhackers were formed. ‘Together with other enthusiasts [they] formed the Brisbane Bush Music Club (which eventually revamped itself into the Queensland Folklore Society)’. [Malcolm Turnbull ‘The Early Years of the Folk Revival in Brisbane’ on Warren Fahey’s Australian Folklore Unit website]


Colonial Ballads (The Rams Skull Press, Fern Tree Gully, Victoria), edited by Hugh Anderson with music arranged by Ron Edwards, was published: the first substantial book of Australian folk songs [73 items] to include music.


The first Australian Folklore Festival was organized by the Australian Folklore Society and held in Sydney on 3 September. [See John Meredith’s Letter to the Editor in Stringybark & Greenhide vol 6, no 1 (1985)]


Ron Edwards published The Overlander Songbook (The Rams Skull Press, Fern Tree Gully, Victoria), containing 58 songs. [After several editions and reprints, it culminated in Edwards’ 507 page The Big Book of Australian Folk Song (Rigby, Adelaide, 1976) containing words and music for 308 songs.]


Singabout, the magazine of the [Sydney] Bush Music Club, was established. [Ceased 1967]


Hugh Anderson’sAustralian Song Index, 1828-1956 was published by Ron Edwards’ Rams Skull Press. It contained 375 items. [It was followed by Edwards’ Index of Australian Folk Song 1857-70 [1971; 1,200 entries] and its four subsequent editions, culminating in Edwards’ 12 volume 6th edition of 2005, containing 4,680 entries. See his Introduction and preliminary pages to that edition for a potted history.]


D Stewart and N Keesing (eds) Old Bush Songs and Rhymes of Colonial Times (Angus and Robertson, Sydney; several reprints), an expanded version of AB Paterson’s Old Bush Songs (see entry for 1905 above), was first published.

By 1959

The Federation of Bush Music Groups was formed in Queensland with John Manifold as Chairman. In 1959 the Group produced the Queensland Centenary Pocket Songbook (Edwards & Shaw, Sydney), containing words and music for 30 ‘Old Bush Songs’.]


The Victorian Bush Music Club was founded. [Name changed to Victorian Folk Music Club in 1964]


Gumsuckers’ Gazette published jointly by the Victorian Bush Music Club and the Folk Lore Society of Victoria as their newsletter. [In 1963 it became a monthly magazine which included songs and in 1964 changed its name to Australian Tradition. It ceased in 1975.]

By 1961

The Queensland Folklore Society was formed. [See also entry for 1950s above]


The Western Australian Folksong Society was formed. [‘Inspired by the work of the Bush Music Clubs in the east, and determined “not to be left out of the national movement”, a handful of enthusiasts gathered together to form the Western Australian Folksong Society - a collection and preservation body - in August 1963’. - Malcolm Turnbull ‘Recollections of the Folk Boom in Perth’ on Warren Fahey’s Australian Folklore Unit website.]


John Manifold’s Who Wrote the Ballads?: Notes on Australian folksong (Australasian Book Society, Sydney) and The Penguin Australian Song Book (Penguin Books, Ringwood, Victoria) were published. [See R Hall JS Manifold (UQP, St Lucia, 1978)]


The Folk Lore Council of Australia was formed in Victoria. [Disbanded 1995]


Northern (from 1968 National) Folk, edited by Ron Edwards, was published in Cairns. [Ceased 1971]


The National Folk Festival Trust was established. [It evolved into the Australian Folk Trust, which disbanded in 1995 and was superseded by the Folk Alliance Australia.]


‘The Folklore and Folk Music Society of South Australia started from an advertisement in the newspaper inserted by Stan Armstrong, Eric Brooks and Rob McCarthy, inviting all and sundry to “an informal folksinging night!” The gathering being a success, a committee was formed, which added Bill Rigdon, John Munro, Pauline Axford and Elizabeth Robertson to the above three.’ [Australian Tradition no 15 (December 1967), inside front cover, summarizing a report by Elizabeth Robertson in Northern Folk no 17 (September 1967), which said the Society started ‘thirteen months ago’.]


John Meredith’s and Hugh Anderson’s Folk Songs of Australia and the Men and Women Who Sang Them (Ure Smith, Sydney) was published. [Keith McKenry advises that while the book gives its year of publication as 1967, it didn't appear until 1968.]


The Port Phillip District Folk Music Festival, effectively the first National Folk Festival, was held in Melbourne on the weekend of 11 & 12 February. ‘The National’ has been held annually since then. The next year’s was also held in Melbourne, but on the Australia Day weekend. It then rotated around the States and Territories until 1991 (Adelaide). It has been held in Canberra since 1992.


The NSW Folk Federation was established in the wake of the success of the Port Jackson Folk Festival (the 4th National Folk Festival) held earlier in the year. [See D Watson ‘Sydney Folk News’, Music Maker, June 1970, p35]


The Monaro Folk Music Society was established in Canberra. (The word ‘Music’ was dropped from the Society's name in 2001.) [See D Meyers A Score and a Half of Folk: Thirty Years of the Monaro Folk Music Society Inc. (Sefton Publications, ACT, 2004)]

By 1971

The Western Australian Folk Federation was established.


The Top End Folk Club was established in Darwin. [See Stringybark & Greenhide vol 3 no 2 (May 1981), pp20-21]


The South Australian Folk Federation was formed in the wake of the Fifth National Folk Festival held at the Flinders University of South Australia. The South Australian Folk Federation Newsletter No. 6 (August 1972) indicates that the Federation began around August. [Name changed to Folk Federation of SA between April 1974 and 9 January 1975, when it incorporated under that name.]

By 1973

The Queensland Folk Federation was established. It was created by the committee formed to run the Moreton Bay Folk Festival of 1969 [the third National Folk Festival] later deciding to change its name to the Queensland Folk Federation (Mary Brettell and Anne Infante - email correspondence 29 July 2010). [The QFF died in 1983 and was re-established in 1985.]


Larrikin Records was established by Warren Fahey. [By the time he sold it to Festival Records in 1995 the company had released over 500 Australian recordings.]


‘Sunday Folk’, produced and presented by David Mulhallen, was first broadcast on ABC-FM radio (lasted until 1987). [‘Radio and television programmes’ in GB Davey & G Seal (eds) The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore OUP, Melbourne, 1993.]


The Australian Folklore Society (the second to bear that name – see 1955 above) was formed, with membership limited to collectors. It began publishing the Australian Folklore Society Journal under the editorship of Ron Edwards in 1984.


The Australian Children’s Folklore Collection was established at the Institute of Early Childhood Development in Melbourne by June Factor and Gwenda Davey. [Now housed at Museum Victoria]


Stringybark & Greenhide, billed as the ‘Folk Magazine of Australia’, was first published out of Newcastle by Lester Grace and Cecily Burns and others. [Ceased 1986]


Van Demonian Folk Association established 29 July. [Stringybark & Greenhide, vol. 1 no. 2 (1979), p5 and Beth Sowter – email 15.8.10]


The Folk Song and Dance Society of Victoria was incorporated.


Australian Children’s Folklore Newsletter (biannual) was founded by June Factor and Gwenda Davey. [Renamed Play and Folklore in 1997]


First National Folklore Conference was organized by the Australian Folk Trust (AFT). [2nd 1986, 3rd 1988, 4th 1990, 5th 1992 and 6th 1994 (5th & 6th called ‘Folklife’)] All the proceedings were subsequently published. Following the demise of the AFT the conference was continued by the Australian Folklore Association (7th 1996, 8th ‘Folklore/Folklife’ 2000; some conference papers were published in the journal Australian Folklore). [Similarly titled conferences began again in 2005 – see below.]


The Western Australian Folklore Archive was established at the Western Australian Institute of Technology (WAIT) by Professor Graham Seal as a repository for the fieldwork projects of WAIT (later Curtin University of Technology) students enrolled in a Folklore unit as part of the Bachelor of Arts in Australian Studies course. Its role was subsequently expanded. [See]


Music Deli was first broadcast on ABC Radio in July and was presented by Paul Petran and Stephen Snelleman.


The Tasmanian Folk Federation was established on 13 December at a meeting at Ross.  On 9 February 1987 the name was changed to the Folk Federation of Tasmania Inc to prevent confusion with the Tasmanian Folk Festival and the Tasmanian Farmers Federation. (Beth Sowter – email 15.8.10)


Folklife: our living heritage, the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Folklife in Australia, was published. [The committee comprised Hugh Anderson (chair), Gwenda Davey and Keith McKenry. Its recommendations were never acted on by the Commonwealth Government.]


Australian Folklore, an annual scholarly journal, was established by Graham Seal and David Hults and published by the Centre for Australian Studies at the Curtin University of Technology, Perth. [and since 1992 by the Australian Folklore Association]


‘On the Wallaby Track’, produced and presented by David Mulhallen and Murray Jennings, began being broadcast on ABC-FM radio (lasted until 1990). [‘Radio and television programmes’ in GB Davey & G Seal (eds) The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore OUP, Melbourne, 1993.]


The Australian Folklore Association was formed at the Third National Folklore Conference held at the National Library of Australia in Canberra.


J Factor Captain Cook Chased a Chook: Children’s Folklore in Australia (Penguin Books Australia, Ringwood, Victoria, 1988) was published.


G Seal The Hidden Culture: Folklore in Australian Society (OUP, Melbourne) was published. [2nd edition Black Swan Press, Perth, 1998]


The Victorian Folklife Association was established with State government funding. [Disbanded in 2003 when the funding was withdrawn]


'The Songs and Stories of Australia', produced and presented by David Mulhallen, began being broadcast on ABC-FM radio. [Lasted until 1994]


GB Davey & G Seal (eds) The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore (OUP, Melbourne) was published.


The Folk Alliance Australia was established in the wake of the Australian Folk Trust disbanding in 1995.


The Australian Folklore Network was established and convened and coordinated through the Folklore Australia Research Unit at Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia. The Network arose from ‘the ongoing concerns of Australian folklore collectors, researchers and performers about the continued absence of a formal institution for the collection, study and dissemination of Australian folklore, in all its many varieties'. [Transmissions 1, January 2002]


Transmissions was first published by the Australian Folklore Network.


Trad&Now commenced publication as a quarterly magazine published by Donald Keys and edited by Dave De Santi. Its cover proclaimed it to be ‘The Australia-wide folk magazine celebrating culture, community and creativity’. [Became bi-monthly in June 2006 and monthly from February 2008]


GB Davey & G Seal A Guide to Australian Folklore: from Ned Kelly to Aeroplane Jelly (Kangaroo Press, NSW) was published.


G Smith Singing Australian: A History of Folk and Country Music (Pluto Press Australia, North Melbourne) was published.


A ‘Folklore Collections’ conference was organized by the Australian Folklore Network, the National Library of Australia and the National Folk Festival and held at the National Library (and annually thereafter). [From 2006 known as the National Australian Folklore Conference.]


The two principal sources used to compile this chronology were Keith McKenry's 'Origins of the Australian Folk Revival', a tribute to the pioneer field collectors of the 1950s from a concert at National Folk Festival, Canberra, Friday 10 April 1997 (available on-line at and GB Davey & G Seal (eds) The Oxford Companion to Australian Folklore (OUP, Melbourne, 1993). GB Davey & G Seal A Guide to Australian Folklore: from Ned Kelly to Aeroplane Jelly (Kangaroo Press, NSW, 2003) was also useful, as were some items in the ‘Articles’ section of Mark Gregory’s ‘Australian Folk Songs’ web site and Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘The History of the Australian Folk Revival’ on Warren Fahey’s Australian Folklore Unit website. I am also grateful to those individuals who responded to my emails regarding elusive foundation dates and other queries.



The Tunes of John McKinnon: The simpler the tune, the sweeter the music.
Written and music transcribed by Alan Musgrove and designed and compiled by David De Santi.
A collection of 45 jigs, set tunes, polkas, mazurkas, waltzes and schottisches and 2 songs. 54 pages
Available from Illawarra Folk Club Store for $20 plus postage and package.

John McKinnon is a traditional dance musician from the Ecklin South district of Victoria, between Colac and Warnambool. When John was about ten or eleven his father bought him a Nightingale German accordion in Melbourne which he quickly learnt to play. At twelve years old, John McKinnon played at his first dance.
John began playing around the districts of Ecklin, Dixie, and Ayrford. There was plenty of opportunity with regular dances, welcome home parties, and kitchen teas which were popular parties to honour an engaged couple and their families. John was keen to help a new generation of young musicians to take over the dance bands which were in great demand due to the revival of old time and new vogue dancing.  He was also anxious to acknowledge his debt to the musicians and dancers who helped him to become one of Australia’s foremost dance band musicians.  John McKinnon’s tapes were enormously successful, selling all over Australia.
Australian folk music collectors John Meredith, Alan Musgrove and Edgar Waters have recorded John McKinnon’s traditional accordion music. The tapes are housed in the Oral History Section of the National Library of Australia in Canberra.
This is a rare collection of some fine old tunes - worth preserving and playing.
The Wongawilli Colonial Dance Club is a non-profit association and has published and promoted the folk music and dance of Australia's European settlers since 1990. (See Links section below). The Club has produced 16 collections of tune and song books and recordings, all available from the Illawarra Folk Club Store,

The Mounted Butchers: Some Songs and Verses of Eureka
Compiled by Hugh Anderson; music edited by Stephen Hutton. Studies in Australian Folklore No. 10, 2010. Red Rooster Press PO Box 2129 Hotham Hill 3051. Limited edition 150 copies.$25.00 RRP.
The 10th in the ongoing series that began with Frank the Poet by John Meredith and Rex Whelan.

The Launch of the SS Great Britain and other broadside ballads
Edited by Hugh Anderson. Studies in Australian Folklore No 14, 2010. Red Rooster Press PO Box 2129 Hotham Hill 3051 $16.20 incl p+p.
These and many other important studies in Australian folklore available from Red Rooster Press at the above address.