South Australia is an English sea shanty (sometimes written chanty) that has become a popular folk song. Like many such songs its origins are obscure. It was first documented in a compilation by Laura Smith and published in The Music of the Waters in 1888. She collected the song with lyrics from sailors in Tyneside, England. Two other versions, one described as a halyard chanty, and the other a capstan chanty were included in J.S Manifold The Penguin Australian Song Book (Adelaide, Griffin Press, 1964, pp. 2-4). The song was said to be popular on the clipper ships that traded wool and wheat between Australia and Britain. Like most such songs there are several variants in both music and lyrics. One version still commonly sung in South Australia begins:
In South Australia I was born,
Heave away, haul away,
In South Australia round Cape Horn,
And we’re bound for South Australia, etc
The song has been recorded by many different artists. Listen to a recent version produced and performed by Michael Mills for Heaps Good Productions.
The lyrics that follow here are from Manifold. He includes two versions of the first verse and two sightly different tunes.
(Solo lines only)
Fishermens Friends sing (Bound for) South Australia on YouTube: