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Conroy’s Gap
by [?]


This was the way of it, don’t you know —
Ryan was ‘wanted’ for stealing sheep,
And never a trooper, high or low,
Could find him — catch a weasel asleep!
Till Trooper Scott, from the Stockman’s Ford —
A bushman, too, as I’ve heard them tell —
Chanced to find him drunk as a lord
Round at the Shadow of Death Hotel.

D’you know the place? It’s a wayside inn,
A low grog-shanty — a bushman trap,
Hiding away in its shame and sin
Under the shelter of Conroy’s Gap —
Under the shade of that frowning range,
The roughest crowd that ever drew breath —
Thieves and rowdies, uncouth and strange,
Were mustered round at the Shadow of Death.

The trooper knew that his man would slide
Like a dingo pup, if he saw the chance;
And with half a start on the mountain side
Ryan would lead him a merry dance.
Drunk as he was when the trooper came,
To him that did not matter a rap —
Drunk or sober, he was the same,
The boldest rider in Conroy’s Gap.

‘I want you, Ryan,’ the trooper said,
‘And listen to me, if you dare resist,
So help me heaven, I’ll shoot you dead!’
He snapped the steel on his prisoner’s wrist,
And Ryan, hearing the handcuffs click,
Recovered his wits as they turned to go,
For fright will sober a man as quick
As all the drugs that the doctors know.

There was a girl in that rough bar
Went by the name of Kate Carew,
Quiet and shy as the bush girls are,
But ready-witted and plucky, too.
She loved this Ryan, or so they say,
And passing by, while her eyes were dim
With tears, she said in a careless way,
‘The Swagman’s round in the stable, Jim.’

Spoken too low for the trooper’s ear,
Why should she care if he heard or not?
Plenty of swagmen far and near,
And yet to Ryan it meant a lot.
That was the name of the grandest horse
In all the district from east to west
In every show ring, on every course
They always counted the Swagman best.

He was a wonder, a raking bay —
One of the grand old Snowdon strain —
One of the sort that could race and stay
With his mighty limbs and his length of rein.
Born and bred on the mountain side,
He could race through scrub like a kangaroo,
The girl herself on his back might ride,
And the Swagman would carry her safely through.

He would travel gaily from daylight’s flush
Till after the stars hung out their lamps,
There was never his like in the open bush,
And never his match on the cattle-camps.
For faster horses might well be found
On racing tracks, or a plain’s extent,
But few, if any, on broken ground
Could see the way that the Swagman went.

When this girl’s father, old Jim Carew,
Was droving out on the Castlereagh
With Conroy’s cattle, a wire came through
To say that his wife couldn’t live the day.
And he was a hundred miles from home,
As flies the crow, with never a track,
Through plains as pathless as ocean’s foam,
He mounted straight on the Swagman’s back.

He left the camp by the sundown light,
And the settlers out on the Marthaguy
Awoke and heard, in the dead of night,
A single horseman hurrying by.
He crossed the Bogan at Dandaloo,
And many a mile of the silent plain
That lonely rider behind him threw
Before they settled to sleep again.