West and away from Auckland town,
A man rode out one day,
A Tall dark man, with eyes deep brown,
Who spoke in a foreign way.
For gumland he was seeking,
And on he rode until,
He came to a place that bears his name yet,
They call it DON BUCK'S HILL.
When I asked the old gum digger,
He shook his frosty head,
"They weren't the true gum diggers,
On Don Buck's Hill " he said.
"Just wasters and ne'er-do-wells
Who cut up rough in town.
Were told to quit the boundaries,
Before the sun went down,
The man who couldn't hold his drink,
And tried to start a fight
Remittance man, his cheque all spent,
And no bed for the night.
Well, Don Bucks was the nearest place,
Such like could earn a crust,
Their bunk and gear and grubsteak free,
The rest would be on trust.
Don Buck was very seldom crossed,
For you can bet your life,
They knew that he was Spanish,
And lightning with a knife.
Emanuel Figuaro, I think that was his name,
Some say Randoff Francisco,
But now its all the same.
People went by nickname then,
More than they do today,
Jimmy-the-Devil was one of that mob,
Bushranger once they say.
There was one quiet bloke called Lonely Joe,
He lived in a whare apart,
The roses he grew were a sight to be seen,
But his face, it would break your heart.
Remittance man, by rights a Duke,
With a cat called Buntuk Jim,
Starved himself for that blessed cat,
Yet his folks wouldn't do that for him
Don Buck was tough but he was fair,
And treated each man the same,
Never asking the whys and wherefores,
Or even a fellows name.
They lived in a fair sized bunkhouse,
With a ditch and wall around,
Where he weighed the gum they brought him,
And paid them by the pound.
Then shedfull by shedfull he stored it,
And sold when the price was right.
What he did with his money was anyones bet,
But the diggers they mostly got tight.
Now a decent place like Sinton's camp,
Allowed no drink at all,
And this was wise, for on Don Buck's hill,
One night they had a brawl,
They couldn't remember next morning,
What had been done or said,
They only knew that one of the crew,
Driscoll by name, was dead.
It all came out in the papers,
But the Judge didn't close the camp down,
The jail was too small to hold them all,
Far better they stay out of town.
And righteous folk and passers by,
Gave the place wide berth,
'That infamous place," the Judge had said,
Was a blot on God's own earth.
Yet a little man from Lebanon,
Planted grapes nearby.
"You can't grow grapes on gumland, mate""
Said Don Bucks boys, "why try?"
But Assid Corban smiled and said,
"I'll grow grapes on this land.
They grow them back in Lebanon
On dust-dry-rock and sand".
West and away from Auckland Town,
A man rode out they say,
But only a few of the ones who knew,
Can tell the tale today.
The others lie forgotten,
In graves unmarked, uncrossed,
Their diggers gear has rusted,
Their stories are ever lost,
Past vineyards named Mt. Lebanon,
Where grapes are growing still,
A signpost clearly point the way,
Beyond ------to DON BUCK'S HILL.
THE BALLAD OF DON BUCK'S HILL
by MARIANNE SIMPKINS ©1977