Clancy of the Overflow

G’Day Mob,

One of Australia’s most cherished poets is A B (Banjo) Paterson and his 1889 poem “Clancy of the Overflow” is one of his best remembered works. It tells the story of Clancy who has gone to Queensland droving ….

106 Clancy


Today I wonder if the general population gives much thought to droving and drovers. I suspect for most it is a profession lost in the romanticism of Banjo’s words.

Yet drovers are still a part of the rural landscape. Throughout the country there are designated stock routes, owned by the government and preserved, in theory, for the use of travelling stock. In reality many of these stock routes are permanently leased to landowners, or have fenced paddocks such as the one we are currently using a few kilometres from Rocky Springs.

But on occasion the big travelling mobs still come through and so was the case this summer when there were more cows than cars on our roads.

Brahman mob

The big mobs provide for much heated discussion on the use of stock routes. Some people hate the drovers, describing them as immoral opportunists who have no respect for boundary fences, who chew out grass that should be retained for locals and who treat their cattle poorly.

I sit on the other side of the fence. Maybe Banjo is resonating through the years but I love the sight of a big mob on the road. I see stock routes under utilised for many seasons where the grass has grown old and rank and useless, and when these mobs move through they eat and trample that grass, providing light and room for regenerative feed to grow once more. The paddock we are currently agisting has benefitted from having a big mob through and the small number of cattle we have there now are growing fat from the fresh grass.

Until a couple of months ago I had not had much to do with the droving mobs, other than to wait patiently as the animals moved out of my way as I drove to town. I’d not really put much thought into the logistics of the operation. How do you train a mob to the road? How do you stop them from going where they want? How do you deal with the traffic? Is the job a cross between dead boring and sheer panic?

Then Brian got a phone call …………………


8 responses to “Clancy of the Overflow

  1. Keep writing about life as you know it there along the stock routes. Words and pictures will keep the story of rural Australia alive for those who can’t be there, or choose not to, for whatever reason. But it will be recorded for future generations…

  2. That’s a fascinating glimpse into a world so far away on so many levels.

    • Stay tuned Lyle, the glimpse will get a little more detailed next post. As the financial pressures of running a farm in a drought multiply and we look for alternatives we have often discussed going droving ourselves. To us droving is still a viable alternative.

  3. I am with you on the romance of it all and also think it is important to preserve stock routes so that when there is drought cattle can be walked to areas with more grass and water. Stock routes also give an alternative for those wanting to move cattle between properties or in the case of the property I worked on, droving was fast becoming the only option to get the cattle off to market during the really wet years. Oh for that rain again.

    • I agree Anne. Another point is some of the vegetation and ecology on the stock routes is the best in the country. It just goes to show that holistic management and “crash” grazing has its place in the environmental debate.

  4. Landline did a story on this a few months ago.

    Sure wonder who will take it up in the future… Or will it just die out.

    • Thanks for the link, Andrew. That was a well presented story by the ABC and I would encourage everyone to take a look. Some of the drovers in our area have been younger people and I even saw a little bloke of about 6 riding a horse while leading another, so there is some hope that droving is not a lost art……… oh, and wait for my next post!

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