Australian Folklore Network
Australian Folklore Research Unit
Curtin University of Technology


  1. From the Convenor
  2. Verandah Music
  3. Funding Sources
  4. Roadside Memorials Conference
  5. Ballad Studies List
  6. Birth of the Lagerphone by John Meredith
  7. Bill Wannan Obituary 2
  8. A Guide to Australian Folklore
  9. Folklore Library for Sale
  10. Tucker Track - New Foodways Book
  11. CD of Indigenous Songman
  12. Moonlit Road
  13. Links
  14. AFN Affiliates and Affiliation Form


Welcome to Transmissions 9. This time we bring news of another AFN project brought to fruition, useful sources of funding for community and regional-oriented projects, as well as news of an upcoming conference and websites of interest.

In this edition – which is in HTML form for those who like to click about – we also include the first of an occasional series of brief articles, extracts, etc. of general interest to Australian folklorists. Appropriately, the first of these is from the late John Meredith, an eminent folklorist and one who, it seems, was present at the birth of the lagerphone and the bush band. Essential reading.

As ever, we welcome contributions from our readers, whether they be in the form of news, information, brief articles, reviews, etc. Send them to

Graham Seal

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The Verandah Music book and accompanying CDs are away being printed/burned and are due for publication in November. ABC Radio National is producing a series to accompany the book, prepared and presented by co-editor Rob Willis, to be heard later this year. A website is also being developed at for more detailed information, links, etc. and concerts under the name will continue to be featured at festivals and locations such as the National Library.

This partnership between the National Library, Curtin University and the AFN is the second major Australian Folklore Network project to be completed, the first being the National Register of Folklore Collections

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Curtin University's Australian Regional Research Unit (ARRU) works closely with the Australian Folklore Research Unit (AFRU) and has a strong folklore and folklife orientation. As part of its community connection activity the unit compiles and maintains an HTML list of community and regional funding sources (government, industry, private) as part of its activities. The list has a WA focus but also contains information about grants and other funding sources that apply nationwide. Many of these sources are of interest to anyone looking for potential folklore project funding.

The list (HTML) can be accessed at:

Good luck.

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Roadside Memorials: a multi-disciplinary approach:

Papers are invited that examine the phenomenon of roadside memorialisation from the perspective of any relevant discipline including, for example, death studies, history, studies in religion, psychology, sociology, roadside studies, road safety, popular culture, studies in grief and mourning and studies in memorial culture. Papers on related topics, especially other forms of public memorialisation, also will be considered. It is intended that the most relevant papers will be submitted for publication as an edited collection.

The symposium will be held at the University of New England, in Armidale NSW, June 25, 26 and 27, 2004.

A 300 word proposal should be submitted to Jennifer Clark, School of Classics, History and Religion, University of New England, Armidale NSW 2351 ( by July 31, 2003.

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Interested in ballad studies around the world? Send an email to BALLAD-L@LISTSERV.INDIANA.EDU with the word SUBSCRIBE in the body and sign on to the ballad list to link in with like-minded folks.

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Written in 1977, the following article on the origin of the lagerphone (and the bush band) is from John Meredith's papers and is published here for the first time with permission of his estate. Thanks to Chris Woodland for sending in the article.


In this day and age no self-respecting Bush Band would be seen – or heard – without its lagerphone. But it was not always thus. Forty-five years ago the now ubiquitous noise maker was unknown. In fact, before nineteen fifty-two there wasn't even a bush band.

That was the year when I had a brilliant idea. I played the old traditional bush instrument called the button accordion, and my brain-wave was to con a couple of my mates, Erian and Jack into joining me to form a group which would sing old bush songs to the accompaniment of the squeeze box, as it was affectionately called.

Then Brian and I went on a visit to my family in my home town of Holbrook.

'Come up to my place tonight', said by brother Claude. 'I've got a surprise for you. Bring your squeeze box'.

In due course we arrived and I was ordered to play. 'Give us something lively', ordered big brother, going into the adjoining room. I swung into “click Goes the Shears” with Brian singing. Then there came this crashing, jingling rhythmic sound as Claudie marched in bouncing a strange looking instrument!

It consisted of a bald-headed hair broom – they were made entirely of wood in those pre-plastic years – covered with loosely nailed-on bottle tops, which covered the head and most of the handle.

As Claude bounced it along the floor to the down-beat, he alternately struck and sawed at the handle with a serrated waddy. Then he proudly pronounced those portentous words”

'Introducing – The One and Only Celebrated Lagerphone!'

Excitedly we wrested it away from him, or rather Brian did. My hands were strapped to the squeeze box. After a couple of tunes, we paused for another beer and the obvious question: 'Where in the hell did you get that from'?

And he told us the story.

The local branch of the Red Cross Society had organised a fund-raising “Amateur Hour” concert – open to all performers, with prizes for various sections.

An old Rabbit poisoner turned up. He came from about ten miles out, where there was a little village called Lankeys Creek, and brought to the concert this, as yet un-named percussion instrument which he played to a piano accompaniment and scored a prize in the novelty section.

He certainly was novel, and brother Claude could hardly wait to get home and make one for himself. He coined the name “Lagerphone” because the words “K. B. Lager” appeared on the instrument several hundred times!

I was particularly interested in its origin, because I had had certain business connections with the local rabbit poisoners, or stiffeners, as they were called.

Most of these old characters were loners, or hatters, and either lived in a hut on a big sheep or cattle station, or camped in a tent on a creek bank They all had the reputation of being 'not the full quid”, or, as some folk put it, “a sheep short in the back paddock”.

Some months of the year they trapped the rabbits, but for most of the time, they poisoned. The poison they used was strychnine alkaloid, and it was considered that the absorption of traces of the poison over long periods of time was responsible for their madness.

The poison bait was mixed to a carefully guarded recipe and I was one of the few people who had managed to discover the secret ingredients. The basis of the mixture was either chopped raw carrots or chopped thistle roots. To a bucket of this feed would be added a time of quince jam, a couple of teaspoonsful of strychnine, plus the decoy.

The decoy was the secret ingredient and each of the old blokes had his personal favourite, which would be one of the following: Oil of Cumin, Oil of Rhodium, which was distilled from the wood of certain rose-bushes; Oil of Aniseed, or Essence of Vanilla.

I worked as a dispenser in the local chemist's shop, to which the rabbit-stiffeners would adjourn on Saturday mornings after selling their skins.

First they would ensure that none of their mates were in the shop; then, after looking up and down the street would dart in and ask in a hoarse whisper for “Two bobs worth of Oil of Cumin”, or whatever they used. When the little round bottle was safely tucked into a waist-coat pocket they would proceed to sign the poisons register and buy their ounce of strychnine. At intervals throughout the morning I would be serving the Rhodium, Aniseed, or Vanilla fanciers.

I came to realise that I was the custodian of the secret of all the decoys used in the district, and after getting approval from my boss I compounded a “Master Decoy” consisting of a blend of all the above mentioned oils and essences. I called my invention “Nevamiss Rabbit Decoy”, and sold it at twice the price of a single ingredient.

I had to do some hard selling and spin a few lies to get the old stiffeners to change over to my product, but soon everyone was using “Nevamiss” with great success.

Forty years rolled by. Our first every Bush Band, called “The Bushwhackers” was an immediate success and soon there were dozens of imitators in the field. They all used the Lagerphone and when hair brooms with wooden heads yielded to the onslaught of plastics, the instrument grew into all sorts of shapes and sizes.

A few years ago I heard of one old stiffener still living at Lankeys Creek and I decided to visit him to tape his reminiscences.

Back in the 1950s Lankeys Creek consisted of a wine shanty which doubled as a post office, and it was conducted by an old lady whom we shall call Mrs. X. She had run the place for many years, and the official title, painted above the door was “The Lankeys Creek Wine Palace”. There were several houses scattered about the neighbourhood, and a couple of miles to the south was Wantagong, a big sheep property.

To the north and the east lay two cattle stations, Coppabella and Yarrara. Between them these pastoral holdings employed thirty of forty men, and these made up the clientele of the Lankeys Creek Wine Palace.

The old rabbit poisoner's name was Sunshine Miller. He had celebrated his 80th birthday the night before our arrival and a powerful hang-over slightly dampened the brightness of his repartee!
However, he did recall the heydays of the now extinct shanty when the station hands would come riding in for a Saturday afternoon of fights and jollification. Of Mrs. X, he said they called her wine “Block & Tackle”. After four glasses, you'd walk around the block and tackle anybody! He claimed that she had more miraculous powers then Jesus, having made an omelette from one goose-egg and fed eleven men with it!

At the back of the shanty, under a big pepper tree, stood a shed, containing a big old double bed, covered with wheat-sacks for a mattress. This was the “Dead House” where the drunks were put when they passed out. “It held six corpses if yer put 'em on crosswise”, said Sunshine, “And the next morning when they woke up, she used to charge them two-and-six for accommodation!”
But time brings its changes. Except for Sunshine the old stiffeners are all gone. The Two cattle stations have been bulldozed and planted with radiata pines, which the locals call “Green Slime”.

The Wine Palace was burnt to the ground in a bush fire. All that remains is the big stone fireplace, with its six-foot wide opening and the great pepper tree in the yard.

But the Lagerphone – the old rabbiter's gift to the nation – flourishes mightily and can be heard throughout the land.

John Meredith 16/1/97

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In Transmissions 8 we included a brief obituary of folklorist Bill Wannan. Warren Fahey's obituary published in the Sydney Morning Herald is available at:

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AFN members Gwenda Beed Davey and Graham Seal have recently published A Guide to Australian Folklore (Simon & Schuster, Sydney, 2003), available at all good bookshops, or direct from the publisher.

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Warren Fahey has recently moved house and edited his vast library. Many of these books have been part of his life for over 30 years but go they must. The books cover early days of the folk revival, songbooks, music reference indexes, history, autobiographies and everything else in between. The music includes bluegrass, celtic, blues, jazz and, of course, folk and traditional music. There are many rare folklore theory, books some purchased from American folklorist Professors' Goldstein and Wilgus. An interesting part of this collection is the large number of self-published regional folk poetry

A price has been put on each publication based on content, quality, rarity and condition. The prices are extremely reasonable.

Offers to purchase the entire collection would be considered at a reduced Rate.

If you would like a copy of the complete list of 350 books on offer please email Warren direct on

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Tucker Track is the name of a new book by Warren Fahey on the folklore of food in Australia. The book is Warren's second book on the subject (When Mabel Laid the Table was published in the mid-nineties by State Library of NSW Press) however the new work attempts to identify folklore surrounding various foods and herbs used in Australia. It will be published later this year by Outback Books for the University of Central Queensland.

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Rouseabout Records is a small record label based in Paddington, NSW. A new release is of particular interest to folklorists. Nyalgodi Scotty Martin is a traditional songman from the Kimberley region of West Australia. Recorded by Dr Linda Barwick of Sydney University, the recording is well-documented and tells Scotty's stories including transcripts of the language and music. Titled 'Traditional Songman of the Dreamtime' the release on compact disc is an important contribution to Australian musicology. Contact

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An excellent American website that uses spooky folktales to interest the young, and not-so-young, in folklore. Have a squiz if you dare at:

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Folklore Australia - resource base
Australian Folklore Research Unit - Australia Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology
Simply Australia Online magazine of folklore and social history
National Library of Australia Oral History/Folklore Archive
Trad&Now - Australian Folk Music magazine
Play and Folklore- Australia's journal of children's folklore
Australian Folklore - journal of folklore studies

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Australian Children's Folklore Collection, Museum Victoria
Bill Scott
Bill Wannan (dec.)
Bob Bolton
Brian Dunnett
Brian Shepherd
Brian Wilkins
Bruce Cameron
Bob Rummery
Bush Music Club
Campbell Irving
Chloe Roweth
Chris Kempster
Chris Woodland
Chris Wright
Christine Mimmocchi
Colin McJannett
Dani Rocca
Danny Spooner
Dave Hults
David De Santi
David Mulhallen
Dawn Anderson
Dieter Bajzek
Folk Alliance Australia
Graham Seal
Gregan O'Leary
Gwenda Davey
Hugh Anderson
Ian Russell
Jan Orloff
Jason Roweth
Jenny Gall
J D A Widdowson
Jeff Corfield
Jim Low
John Harpley
John Low
J S Ryan
June Factor
Karl Neuenfeldt
Katie Andrews
Keith McKenry
Kel Watkins
Luisa Del Giudice
Mark Cranfield
Mark Gregory
Mark Moravec
Martin Chatfield
Martin Goreing
Mike Martin
Moya McFadzean
Museum of Childhood, Edith Cowan University
Noris Ioannou
Olya Willis
Patrick Watt
Peter Ellis
Phyl Lobl
Rob Willis
Roger Hargraves
Ron Brown
Ron Edwards
Ruth Hazleton
Social Science Department, Aranmore Catholic College
Steve Gadd
Susan Faine
Terry Clinton
Top End Folk Club
Valda Low
Vic Orloff
Victorian Folklife Association
Warren Fahey
Wendy Corrick
Western Australian Folklore Archive