the not so jolly swagman

the not so jolly swagman

Does this swagman look happy to you? Look at his eyes.

My dear Madman, one of the central characters in my latest novel, was a swagman, traveling from place to place with everything he owned rolled up in a blanket on his back, his billy tied to his belt. He wasn’t on a happy-go-lucky camping trip. He was looking for work and a roof over his head – even if it was only the barn where the animals slept.

It was a hard life for many of those who helped establish Australia’s agriculture, the back-breaking work of clearing land and making it usable for crops. In the mid 1800s in Queensland, once the supply of convict labour was gone, many paupers and illiterate farmhands were imported from England on assisted passage tickets on ships to provide this labour. No free tickets home though.

For a lucky few, it was a golden ticket to prosperity. But for many, like this fellow and my character, it was only poverty in a hotter climate.

Poverty, hard work and madness.