8. The Clancy Drovers

As the stock are slowly stringing,
Clancy rides behind them singing.

(A.B. "Banjo" Paterson,
"Clancy of the Overflow")


In 1896, Henry Lawson published "While the Billy Boils". One of the short stories in it is entitled "Hungerford". Here is an excerpt from that story:

"We camped on the Queensland side of the fence, and after tea had a yarn with an old man who was minding a flock of goats and sheep; and we asked him whether he thought Queensland was better than New, South Wales, or the other way about.

He scratched the back of his head, and thought a while, and hesitated like a stranger who is going to do you a favour at some personal inconvenience.

At last, with the bored air of a man who had gone through the same performance too often before, he stepped deliberately up to the fence and spat over it into New South Wales. After which he got leisurely through and spat back on Queensland.

"That's what I think of the blanky colonies", he said. He gave us time to become sufficiently impressed, then he said: "And if I was at the Victorian and South Australian borders I'd do the same thing".

He let that soak into our minds, and added: "And the same with West Australia - and - Tasmania". Then he went away.

The last would have been a tong spit - and he forgot Maoriland.

We learned afterwards that his name was Clancy and he had that day been offered a job droving at "twenty-five shillings a week and find your own horse". Also, find your own horsefeed and tobacco and soap and other luxuries, at station prices. Moreover, if you lost your own horse, you would have to find another, and if that died or went stray you would have to find a third -or forfeit your pay and return on foot. The boss drover agreed to provide flour and mutton when such things were procurable.

Consequently, Clancy's unfavourable opinion of the colonies."1

This is a story, and one cannot claim that the Clancy of the story was any one of the Clancys about whom I am writing. Nevertheless, the name Clancy as a drover was well known in western New South Wales and south-western Queensland - in fact, the Clancys of whom I write had a well-beaten track from south-western Queensland down through Wilcannia, Mossgiel, Booligal, Hay and on to Deniliquin where stock were trucked to Melbourne markets. They also travelled many other routes.

John Clancy (my grandfather) had given droving away at least three or four years before that story was published. But he had been a drover for many years, from as early as 1871. His brother, Thomas, was listed as a drover in 1875, and probably began some years earlier. The two brothers did droving together in their Deniliquin days. Thomas was still droving in the 1880's, but had also given it up before that story was written. By then John was 65 and Thomas 60, so either one could have been called an old man.

Three of John's sons - Jack, Duncan and Gerald - were droving, had been since the 1880's, and continued to do so until well into the twentieth century. Two other sons of John - Thomas and William also did droving for a time. I have heard William (my father) say that some owners complained if he lost any sheep on the way, even though they may have been travelling in drought conditions when both grass and water along the track were in very short supply. The "Booligal track, as the Wilcannia road was called, was particularly difficult, and frequently in local papers and the Town and Country Journal drovers were warned about the bad conditions along this track. In bad seasons, conditions were also deplorable on One Tree Plain between Booligal and Hay, and Old Man Plain between Hay and Deniliquin, to say nothing about routes in the north and west Darling country.

With so many Clancys droving along those western roads, it is not surprising that Lawson should have used the name for a drover, or that "Banjo" Paterson should have used the same name more than once to describe a drover. Paterson best expresses the drover's life in its various phases, its more pleasant times, and its times of difficulty and disappointment. When conditions were good, with stock travelling along well-grassed routes and drinking from ample supplies of water, one or the other of the Clancy drovers (for they could all raise a fair tune) could truthfully answer to Paterson's description:

"while the stock are slowly stringing,
Clancy rides behind them singing,
For the drover's life has pleasures which
the townsfolk never know."

It did have pleasures, or the various members of the Clancy family would not have followed that life for so many years. But it was not all pleasure, as they also knew. On occasion, one or the other of them has recounted experiences when they were moving sheep in times of drought, with no feed along the regular routes; with owners posting "No Trespass" notices on their properties, and placing similar advertisements in the papers, and rigorously enforcing them; with water scarce and very fetid; and with some owners expecting the impossible when they held drovers accountable for any sheep lost along the way. Yes, Paterson recognised this. side of the drover's life, and wrote about them as well as about the pleasures of droving:

"For it's weary work is droving, when they're dying every day;
By stock routes bare and eaten,
On dusty roads and beaten,
With half a chance to save their lives we have the stock away."

Paterson also knew about the ruses drovers adopted to keep their sheep alive, and he records such a ruse in "Saltbush Bill". Drovers must travel sheep at a rate of six miles a day, and when the grass is dead they keep to the half-mile track, but when it is plentiful on a run they let the sheep spread. His drover "Saltbush Bill" engaged a jackeroo in a fight while the sheep spread. That was one way, but drovers had many other ways. Gerald Clancy would meet the owner of the run, find out his particular interest, engage him in lengthy conversation (and Gerald could talk!) while some of his employees let the sheep spread out and graze. He once succeeded in this way with an owner whose interest was cricket, and it was said he was the only one who put it over this particular person.3

The more successful drovers were in delivering their sheep in good condition, the more likely they were to get further assignments. Sheep owners were always on the lookout for good drovers. Usually they could pick and choose, for there were many drovers. Jack Clancy spoke of long waits around agents' offices seeking an engagement to take sheep or other stock along some route. 4 Frequently, they were taken to the mountains when seasons were bad, and returned to the western station when the good season returned; or flocks and herds purchased by another owner were taken to his station; or stock were taken south to Deniliquin for trucking to Victorian markets; or they were driven to the boiling down works at Hay and Moama.

Most local newspapers listed the crossings of stock at the recognised river crossings. Sometimes the item would give no more than the number of sheep or cattle; sometimes the owner was named and where the sheep were moving from and to; less often the name of the drover in charge was given. These items provide a limited amount of information about the droving activities of the Clancys.

As experienced horsemen in the Deniliquin district, both John and Thomas gained their initial experience in droving by moving stock from the run on which they were employees to another run. No details have come down about this initial phase of their droving. In a poem, Thomas refers to visiting South Australia, and this possibly occurred in the 1870's. John's son, Thomas, said that when he was a boy (he was 12 in 1871, and the incident could have occurred any time after that date) he was a member of a team of drovers overlanding cattle to South Australia. They camped at a well known stopping place, called Yellow Hole, near the South Australian border. Tom left the camp to go into the bush. When he returned, he found spears in the tent.5 Even if the story grew with the passing years, the main fact that he travelled, as a member of a droving team, to South Australia, is not in question. Either his father or his uncle would have been in charge of the team. John relinquished droving when be went to McGuiggan's, only to resume it after he went to Booligal. Thomas Gerald Clancy continued droving, even after his family settled first at Echuca and later in Melbourne.

I have selected a few items from local papers which provide some information about the Clancy drovers. The earliest reference is dated 16th July 1881, and is fairly typical of many other references:

" Hay - Crossings at Hay Bridge on Friday, 8,000 store sheep from Buckingbong, for Culpaulin Station, Darling River, Mr H.C. Gillies, in charge of Mr Thomas Clancy."

This item was repeated a week later, with "8th" substituted for Friday. Sometimes one can plot the movement of the drover with his stock because of later mention at other crossing places. In the case of the stock being moved by Thomas Clancy to Culpaulin, the same newspaper on 3rd September reported:

" Wilcannia - The Buckingbong wethers (8,000) from Culpaulin crossed on the 13th."

Obviously, the reference is to the same flock, and from the two items learn that it was thirty-six days on the track from Hay to Wilcannia. During that time, the boss drover would be working out suitable camping places, riding ahead to select places where there was grass and water, arranging with owners for permission for the sheep to pass through his property, and doing many other things a conscientious drover would do in the best interests of his sheep and the men comprising his droving party. From the same papers, he would glean information about weather conditions, and would plan accordingly.

Thomas Clancy's return trip is also given in the same paper; and the following items appeared on 15th October 1881:

" Hay - Monday, 4,000 fat sheep from Culpaulin,
to Melbourne (T. Clancy in charge)."

" Narrandera - Oct 2, 4,000 sheep from Culpaulin,
to Melbourne (T. Clancy in charge)."

One week later the following item was printed:

" Deniliquin - 4,000 Culpaulin sheep are near at hand,
consigned to King and Cunningham."

It is obvious that this refers to the sheep Thomas Clancy was droving, although his name does not appear (the Deniliquin correspondent seldom, if ever, gave the drover's name). We learn to whom the sheep were consigned from this item. The newspaper on 8th October 1881 mentions another Clancy:

" Hay - September 30, 6,500 ewes from Mr Blackwood's
Hartwood station for Mr Harvey Patterson's Mena Murtie
station on the Darling River in charge of Mr D.R. Clancy
crossed on Sunday (yesterday)."

Another item was published on 19th November:

" Wilcannia - October 19, 1,200 sheep (H. Patterson's)
from Billilla to Mena Murtie, Clancy in charge."

It would seem that Patterson had another member of the Clancy family moving this smaller mob to the same station about the same time. Many other quotations could be given. Thomas Clancy moved 22,000 ewes and lambs from Ticehurst for Montherungi in November 1881, and in December Duncan moved 2,000 fat sheep from Tom's Lake to Melbourne. Thomas had been at Ticehurst earlier when moving the sheep to Culpaulin, and among his papers is a short poem dated Ticehurst, 27th August 1881. The summer brought drought conditions and by March it was reported that stock movements had stopped.6


An extant diary of Thomas G. Clancy relating to his droving in 1882 and 1883 fills out the brief newspaper items. He left Melbourne on 22nd May 1882 to do some droving in north-western New South Wales. Passing through Albury by train he notes that he had not seen it for 35 years, and he arrived in Sydney on Monday, 29th May. He was the first of the Clancy family to see Sydney, and he commented: "saw Sydney for the first time, without being favourably impressed with its appearance". He travelled by train from Newcastle to Gunnedah, then on to Narrabri, Wee Waa, then to Boolcarrol "and inspected sheep and wired Mr Guyer". He returned to Narrabri, where he received a wire counter-manding previous instructions, so he proceeded to Narrabri, via Gunnedah, where he purchased horses, dray, harness and provisions, and engaged some men.

He and Guyer went to Boolcarrol, then to Walgett, whence he sent his plant to Euroka Station, while he and Guyer inspected sheep at Bringle Gully, which they rejected, but he bought a horse for Guyer's buggy. In his son Frank's name (Frank was 15 years, and with him), he sent a telegram to his wife in Melbourne. She was living in Drummond Street, Carlton, and at that time he and she were estranged. This is referred to in a poem written in March, and entitled "Farewell":

Farewell, 'tis past; the spell is broken,
That endeared me to thy heart -
Unfeeling words in anger spoken
Rudely rent its links apart.

Where are now the hopes I cherished,
Of a happy future home;
They have gone, departed, perished;
Vanished as in ocean's foam.

Estranged though we may be forever
As strangers meeting here below,
Yet I will pray that God will never
Crush thy heart with such a blow."

Thomas went from Walgett to Llandillo, inspected and rejected sheep; then to Weetalibah, Bangate, Goodooga, Brenda and Gnomery, where he again met Guyer and Fraser, and with them inspected and accepted sheep at Woolarina. Only then, and it was now 10th July, did the droving actually commence. The diary recorded each camping place - Brenda fence, Lagoon, Triangle fence, near Wynebar (here he noted it was Mary's birthday - 25th July -and that he had written her a letter from Gnomery). Having delivered the sheep, he returned to Gnomery, settled with Fraser, then he went on to Goodooga, and from there he went by coach to Walgett, Wee Waa, Narrabri and Gunnedah, and by train to Newcastle. He returned by the Morpeth steamer to Sydney, and stayed a week, during which time he went to the Randwick races, then left by train for Booligal on 12th August.

At Junee, he met Mr Frauenfelder, "and partly arranged to take sheep to Queensland". He travelled from Hay to Booligal by coach, leaving at 8.30 pm. "Met brother John at One Tree who got me to go to "Ulonga" to take sheep to Booligal for him. Featherstonehaugh decided not to start sheep for a week, so I went on to Booligal on horseback." Doubtless John loaned the horse. In Booligal, he received telegrams from Guyer wanting him to take sheep to Sydney, and from Frauenfeider to take sheep to Queensland. While some drovers waited for assignments, this well known drover was able to choose between the two offers.

"Tuesday, 29th August. Arranged by wire to take sheep to Queensland for Frauenfelder at £8:l0:0 per week finding plant."

He engaged J. Halloran and T. Howard and started them with the plant to Tubbo, he himself following by coach the next day. John Hibbet joined the party, and he bought a horse "Tom Thumb" from Cobb and Co. for £10. He travelled by train from Hay to Darlington Point and met Mr Frauenfelder and started for Tubbo on Sunday.

"Got letter of instructions with orders to get 1,000 4 teeth ewes from Warby and 4,000 from Tubbo, the latter 2 tooth."

He took delivery of 996 ewes from J.E. Warby at Billinbah, and engaged T. Petrie. At Tubbo, he bought a blue horse for £6, then took the ewes to a hurdle plain yard and branded them. He took delivery of 4,790 maiden ewes from Tubbo, and went to Darlington Point to enquire about the crossing there for the sheep. He got 19 ration sheep for supplies on the way, and "arranged with the men to go through at 30/- a week and 20/- paid off on the road".

They started from Tubbo, camped at Darlington Point on Tuesday, 12th September, and bought two more horses from Jas Slattery. Mr Frauenfelder brought five more men. They camped at Benerembah, and he notes "Frank's time begins", his son now being signed on for the trip. On Sunday, 17th September, he wrote to his wife Kate "and also wired congratulations to her", probably for her birthday.

The diary notes the places where they camped - Bringagee, Croongal, Carrathool, Weethalle fence, on a straight fence near Owen O'Connell's selection, in a lane at Gunbar boundary, "got a break made to camp in, arranged with McPherson to allow us to cross his pre-lease", camped at log-yards near Gunbar hotel, in McKinley corner, "went to Cowl Cowl to see if sheep were ready. Got letter and cheque. Returned to camp, found Mr Frauenfelder there", camped at Wheelbah bridge. "The Cowl sheep ready (6,510). Strong wind all day and furious gale at night. Crossed Lachlan this morning." He took delivery of the Cowl Cowl sheep. The following day Frauenfelder arrived bringing killing sheep. "Got 136 sheep for rations. Arranged with Mr Frauenfelder that I should give Pearce cheques when required on the road." Many references to Pearce are made from this time on, indicating that he was in charge of one section. The following days, the drovers camped at Boonoone, Merungle old woolshed and Merri Merrigal. "Got rations by John's cart from Booligal." A count was made of the sheep, the total being 12,432. Though the Tubbo sheep have already been on the track three weeks, now really begins the long journey to Queensland.

Thomas recalled this trip fifteen years later, and wrote a poem in which he wove experiences from other droving trips. Written long after he had given up droving, he refers to Paterson's well known poem about Clancy:

"Neath the star-spangled dome
Of my Austral home,
When watching by the camp fire's ruddy glow,
Oft in the flickering blaze
Is presented to my gaze
The sun-drenched kindly faces
Of the men of Overflow.

Now, though years have passed forever
Since I used, with best endeavour
Clip the fleeces of the jumbucks
Down the Lachlan years ago,
Still in memory linger traces
Of many cheerful faces,
And the well-remembered visage
Of the Bulletin's "Banjo".

Tired of life upon the stations,
With their wretched, scanty rations,
I took a sudden notion
That a droving I would go;
Then a roving fancy took me,
Which has never since forsook me,
And decided me to travel,
And leave the Overflow.

So with maiden ewes from Tubbo,
I passed en route to Dubbo,
And across the Lig'num country
'where the Barwon waters flow;
Thence onward o'er the Narran,
By scrubby belts of Yarran,
To where the landscape changes
And the cotton bushes grow.

And my path I've often wended
Over drought-scourged plains extended,
where phantom lakes and forests
Forever come and go;
And the stock in hundreds dying,
Along the road are lying,
To count among the 'pleasures"
That townsfolk never know.

Over arid plains extended
My route has often tended,
Droving cattle to the Darling,
Or along the Warrego;
Oft with nightly rest impeded,
when the cattle had stampeded,
Save I sworn that droving pleasures
For the future I'd forego.

So of drinking liquid mire
I eventually did tire,
And gave droving up forever
As a life that was too slow.
Now, gold digging, in a measure,
Affords much greater pleasure
To your obedient servant,
"Clancy of the Overflow"."

(CLANGERALD (T.G. Clancy) 1897.)

Much of the poem is autobiographical, but not all the details refer to the trip I am now recording. Clancy did not take that mob of sheep from Tubbo via Dubbo. However, sheepowners often called on the services of the same drover, and there may have been another occasion when he did take Tubbo sheep up Dubbo way. He also worked on stations, and it is quite likely, as he says in the poem, that he did shearing somewhere along the Lachlan.

Back, then, to the trip with Tubbo and other sheep to Queensland. Day after day, Thomas recorded the distance travelled, the camping places, weather conditions, letters received and written, visits from or to Pearce, others whom they met with their flocks, which need not be given in detail. This particular droving trip did find mention in the Town and Country Journal:

" Booligal - passed at Mossgiel 8th, 12,000 ewes
from Brookong for Mt Morris, Queensland.
Clancy in charge."

A second reference to about 12,000 sheep from Brookong to Mt Morris mentions "Pearce in charge", obviously referring to the section he was taking. Later, there was another reference the same droving trip:

" Wilcannia - 12,000 maiden ewes (Frauenfelder and Co's)
from Tubbo and Cowl Cowl for Mt Morris, Q, passed on 29th October. T.G. Clancy in charge."

The same paper noted another mob, with Mr Hugh Pearce in charge, passed the next day.

Some incidents recorded in the diary may be briefly mentioned. "Scotty (Petrie) lost himself last night." "Returned to Wilcannia to hire a cook! Engaged Frank Gardiner." "Dined with Mr Munro." "Petrie lost his slut, which makes three dogs lost from the camp." "Discharged old Harry Leeman, and engaged Chas Bordwood as cook." "Bought four bags of flour at Tilpa." "Duncan Clancy camped with us on his way back, fat sheep to Murra." "Sold chesnut mare, saddle and bridle to Petrie for £13:10:0. Pearce swapped chesnut for piebald."

By 1st December, they had arrived at Ford's Bridge on the Queensland border. On the whole conditions were good, and feed plentiful. There were frequent references to counting the sheep. Sometimes the number was correct; but sometimes the tally was short, and then there was the job of finding the lost ones. "Heard of 100 of my sheep being seen in the last paddock we came through." "Counted and found 750 missing. Went in search of them, and only got 110 that Mr Murchison found yesterday." experiences like these added to the anxieties of the boss drover. His son, Frank, was frequently sent on messages to Pearce or to some other person. And one more reference to his nephew, "Camped brake where Duncan branded his lot."

He passed Cunnamulla on 30th December, and the next day camped at the Tick Fence. In the middle of January, he sent Frank to Charleville for letters. "None came." How much disappointment is expressed in those two words only those who are far from home and a long time on the road can know. Later in the month, "Mr Talbot called last night and requested me to travel slowly as he was not prepared to receive the sheep." Birthdays of members of the family are noted, and little touches like, "Wrote to Annie (his eighteen year old daughter) enclosing flowers."

There was frequent mention of thunderstorms. By early March, he was near journey's end. Mr Frauenfelder arrived and "I went with him to Puddletop and had a long conversation on station matters. He expects to take delivery of sheep next Saturday." Then followed tasks of making drafting yards and sorting sheep out. One by one, some of the men were paid off. Others were engaged in fencing. On Sunday, 15th April, "got a settlement of my account from Mr Frauenfelder." This had been quite an assignment - beginning on the Murrumbidgee in September and finishing at Barkathella (Q) in April. A little earlier he noted receiving letters from the girls and Booligal. The diary for Saturday, 10th March, records, "Pearce brought letters from Kate and Mary and Annie (his wife and two daughters) as well as from R.P. Clancy, F. Brooke and F. Kelly, to which I replied."

As opportunity offered, and as the mood possessed him, he wrote verse on this trip. He wrote two verses with the dating "Barkathella, Mt Morris, Queensland, 15.2.53 (obviously an error regarding the month, and should read "3" not "2", because he had not arrived at Barkathelia in February). The verse was in response to letters received on 10th March. It is not known what the good news was, but it may have been announcing the engagement of Fred Brooks and his daughter Annie.

"Rejoicing news, and welcome too;
Has come at length, to me, from you;
Awakening visions in my mind,
Of friends endeared, I've left behind;
Who doubtless may be thinking now;
With sorrowing hearts, and sadden'd brow,
Of him whose wandering footsteps stray,
Far, far from them, and home to-day.

Enraptured is, my heart to-day,
With tidings come from far away;
recalling faces loved in truth;
and treasured mem'ries of my youth:
Impelling me to stray no more,
But hasten to my cottage door;
For pleasant news that has achieved;
O'er care and conquest I've received.


The last four lines make me wonder whether the news related to the ending of the estrangement between him and his wife, thus paving the way for a reconciliation, and making him more keen than ever to "hasten to my cottage door". At the same time as he wrote those verses he wrote an acrostic, the first letter of each line spelling out DEAR KATE, and addressed to his wife. It begins:

"Do not think that I'll forget thee,
Even though from thee I stray."

Thomas reached Charleville on 19th April, where he met Mr Aeschiman, to whom he sold his plant. While there he made enquiries about a butchering business, but did not proceed with a purchase. "Eat sweet potatoes yesterday for the first time and liked them very much." He then travelled to Roma, where he caught the train to Brisbane, and put up at the McGuire's New Market Motel. "Obliged to stay indoors for want of a hat. Went in the evening to look at the river, and afterwards to Church, but finding a stated price for admission left it."

The next day he bought hat and braces, and booked a passage on Coree for Sydney, after which he ascended the Observatory "and viewed the city and surroundings". The following day he sailed and was sea-sick at the commencement of his journey. He arrived in Sydney at 1.00 pm and left the same evening for Melbourne, where he met Mary, Annie and the two men they were to marry, F. Kelly and F. Brooks.7

He had been away almost twelve months, during which time he did two droving trips. Not all trips were as long as these, or separated the drover from his family for such a lengthy period. But the diary gives insights into the life of a drover, indicating the kind of experiences the Clancy drovers had from time to time.


A drover named Clancy (no initials given) moved through Warren in February 1883 with 18,000 wether weaners from Calga and J.C. Ryrie's Weemabah and Euromedah. The following month Duncan Clancy passed through Aramac (Q) with 7,000 ewes from Baika Lake (NSW) for Strathdarr (Q). Mr A. Crombie previously of Till Till, near Mossgiel, purchased Strathdarr and occupied it in 1882.8 (Duncan Clancy had been appointed pound-keeper at Booligal in December 1882, but obviously did not retain that position for very long.)

In November 1883, Duncan Clancy passed through Wilcannia with 6,500 ewes belonging to Harvey Patterson, taking them from Hartwood to Mena Murtle. The same month, Clancy (no initials) passed through Wilcannia with 26,000 stores from Kilfera proceeding to the mountains. At that time, the condition of the Booligal-Hay road was in a very bad state, and carcases were lining the road. John Clancy passed through Hay in September 1883 with 18,122 wethers, moving them from Ulonga to Wagga Wagga.

In April 1886, Duncan Clancy was travelling down the track from Wilcannia to Booligal with 9,000 wethers from Billilla. In August 1886, Clancy (no initials) passed through Wilcannia bound for the Melbourne market with 5,000 fat wethers belonging to Desailley and Co. Feed was short along the road, but water was plentiful.

In January 1887, Duncan Clancy made a long detour with 17,000 mixed sheep from Wilcannia to Mr Fisher's station near Walgett. The creek was in flood, so he travelled up the Paroo. When he arrived at Cunnamulla, he reported having seen three rabbits some 30 miles below Eulo on the Paroo. He also observed indications of the presence of rabbits between there and the border. This was newsworthy because it showed that the rabbits which had wrought such ravages in many parts of New South Wales were now heading for Queensland. It is not to be wondered at a week later the following article appeared in the paper which had reported the sighting of the rabbits:

"The Queensland Govemment accepted tenders for the erection of 127 miles more of rabbit-proof fencing from the western point of the present fence. This will make the fence from Hungerford to the western end 207 miles. The intention is to proceed with more fencing.!'

Duncan Clancy was taking Fisher's sheep to Noondoo on the Ballonne River.

The following month, John Clancy was on the road taking 16,000 sheep described as "a very fine lot" from Murra to Burrenda for the Western Queensland Pastoral Company. In Hay, Clancy (no Initials) passed Wilcannia with 4,000 Netallie sheep. Netailie station was owned by Alf Desailley, whose daughter married Edward B.L. Dickens (son of Charles Dickens) who had an agency in Wilcannia, and who could have had business dealings with some of the Clancys.9

Duncan Clancy passed through Wilcannia in September 1888 with 8,000 sheep belonging to G and J. Riddick of Werenteriga station, travelling via Louth, and bound for Mungindi. At that time, conditions were very bad for travelling stock. The Bourke correspondent wrote in June 1889: "12,000 wethers passed down the Warrego last week, bound for Thurulgoona station; these sheep left Thurulgoona during the drought travelling for feed and water, and are now returning. Clancy in charge." (Probably Duncan.)

Gerald Clancy's name appears in print for the first time in 1890. He was then 22 years old. He told his family he commenced droving when he was l0 and a half years old, probably with his father, and this would mean while they were still living at Forbes. Though his schooling finished early, Gerald had a great love of books, and always had some in his bags.10
The item reads:

"Bridgewater (Vic), 12,000 store merino wethers, from Mossgiel and Willandra, travelling to John Catto's Menore Estate. G. Clancy in charge."

John Clancy passed through Hay in December 1890 with 5,300 store wethers from Alma for Victoria. In the same month, Clancy (no initials) passed through Hay with 500 weaners from Willurah to Booligal. G. Clancy also took 9,000 mixed sheep from Tarwong and Freshwater to Moama Boiling Down Works, but he was back in Booligal for the "Bank" Station Ball in December. Immediately afterwards he took 3,000 fat wethers from North Merowne to Deniliquin.

In May 1895, Thomas Clancy (John's son) travelled 4,500 wethers, and the following month he was droving 5,000 wethers from Bynya to Deniliquin. In August, Gerald Clancy took 3,600 of Mr Naughton's sheep from Pine Grove to Kroondrock, whilst Thomas Clancy took 5,000 ewes from Clare to Deniliquin for the same owner.11

In January 1896, Gerald Clancy took 6,598 sheep from Ulonga to Deniliquin. At the same time, William Clancy appears for the first time as a boss drover (he being 22 years old). Previously he had been with his father or older brothers, but on this occasion he took 236 lambs from Booligal to the Hay Boiling Down Works. This was a time of financial crisis, as well as worsening weather conditions, and many owners were finding it more profitable to send their sheep to Boiling Down Works.

It is not known whether it was the father or the son (both named John Clancy) who took sheep in 1890 from Alma to Victoria, but it was the son Jack who took 5,000 wethers from Conoble station and Cameron's homestead lease to Deniliquin in September 1896, for the father was then mining at White Cliffs. The same month, Gerald Clancy was on the road with 5,000 fat wethers from Conoble to Newport Freezing Works in Victoria; and William was droving 2,020 sheep from Mossqiel to Hay for trucking to Sydney, for the owner, C. Powell.

Jack Clancy next moved 4,000 sheep from up the river to Merungle, and at the same time, Gerald took 8,000 fats from Boondarra to Melbourne. By this time, Duncan had moved into the north-west corner, probably still droving, but his name no longer appears in the papers I have consulted. Once when Jack Clancy was overlanding sheep into Queensland, he had to travel them over a narrow suspension bridge, and this proved very difficult when the bridge began to sway, frightening the sheep. But through much patience and persistence he succeeded.12

Droving, Courtesy Mitchell Library, Sydney

A Drover and Mob of Sheep

Courtesy Mitchell Library, Sydney

These references, taken from newspapers over many years are sufficient to indicate the number of Clancys from the one family who were droving during the last three decades of the last century. In each case, it is only the boss drover who was named. Other Clancys in their younger years would have been members of droving teams. What has been written is but a small portion of their total activity. With the information given in Thomas Gerald Clancy's diary, one can in imagination fill in a great deal of the detail that was the lot of these drovers, remembering that there were good times when Clancy did "ride behind them singing", and there were times of extreme difficulty when he was weighed down with anxiety.

The Clancys - two brothers, John and Thomas, plus five sons of John and one son of Thomas - played a not inconsiderable part in the great droving tradition that developed during the second half of the nineteenth century, knowing as they did that "the drover's life had pleasures which the townsfolk never know", knowing, too, that it had miseries beyond the comprehension of those who have a secure occupation and certain income.

Yes, Paterson must have heard of the Clancy drovers, and Thomas Gerald Clancy in his poem goes so far as to refer to the "well-remembered visage of the Bulletin's "Banjo"". Whether Paterson personally knew any of them does not greatly matter. The fact remains that the persons about whom I have written were real flesh and blood men, giving substance to Paterson's typical "Clancy, cropping up here and there, the overlander".13

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