Story and Photos by Steve Cuff
LIFE on the Snowy Mountains Scheme in 1960’s was an eventful time for all the workers, many who had immigrated to Australia specifically for the scheme and others who gravitated to where the work was abundant.
Irishman Ulick O’Boyle was one such immigrant who arrived in Australia with his English wife Anne Rutherford (O’Boyle) and two children Kieran and Shannon. They would have three more children, Conn who passed away at four years of age in 1968, and Odilla and Grainne born in the 1970’s.
Ulick worked on the Snowy Scheme for about eight years, initially as a first aid officer before becoming a concrete labourer.
During his Snowy years from the mid 1960’s he captured the life of the Snowy through song which he would sing for decades after.
“He wrote over 200 songs about the camaraderie, the life, the struggles, the joy, the internationalism that was surrounded during the building of the Snowy Mountains Scheme,” said daughter Shannon.
Ulick O’Boyle was recently commemorated with a monument in Banjo Paterson Park in Jindabyne.
Family and friends of Ulick attended the ceremony with Federal Member Dr. Mike Kelly and Ulick’s daughter Shannon O’Boyle unveiling the monument. Mike Kelly said it was very special to him as his family arrived in Australia 170 years ago from Ireland.
Ulick’s wife Anne Rutherford and Paul Davey, two members of the band were in attendance with a large crowd.
Paul Davey said Ulick’s songs were absolutely iconic. “As the years have gone by I think they have become more and more of the national heritage and I think it is really worthwhile that he’s been recognised in this way and that monument will stand for all time for all to see. Nobody has chartered the history of the Snowy Scheme the way Ulick O’Boyle did with his music.”
Anne Rutherford who was married to Ulick for 20 years said when they arrived they called themselves the immigrants and at thew time Ulick was writing madly on the music. “We sang around the pubs and clubs and someone suggested we send a tape to a record company. So one rather riotous party night we made a tape and sent it to RCA and forgot about it. A month later we got this telegram saying ring RCA and we thought it was a friend kidding us.”
The telegram was from RCA and they started recording music.
Below is a story that ran in the Snowy Mountains Magazine prior to the unveiling of the monument and a photo gallery of the event at the bottom.
Ulick was part of The Settlers band of the time, which was formed with wife Anne Rutherford and Peter Barry. Paul Davey would take over from Barry in 1967. The Settlers first album, Songs of the Snowy Mountains, was recorded in 1966 and they would make one more album, More Songs of the Snowy Mountains before they disbanded.
Ulick performed for over 30 years, keeping the same band name and playing with several different musicians up until the late 90’s. He recorded more albums, West of Cooma, Snowy Rambler, Mountain Tracks, and Kiandra and Beyond.
After he passed in 2011 the family created a songbook where they had all the music professionally transcribed into proper musical notation. That book was published and launched in Cooma in 2014.
“Dad couldn’t read music, so his songs were simply written on paper with guitar chords scribbled over the words. I thought it was important to have them preserved and available in a more professional manner.”
“It’s a musical history of the Snowy Mountains, that’s what I like to say about dad, his contribution to the cultural heritage.”
This cultural heritage will now be recognised with a monument to Ulick O’Boyle after the family lobbied the former Snowy River Shire council for recognition, before taking it up with the new amalgamated council.
“Snowy Monaro Regional Council have acknowledged the cultural and music heritage of his music and contribution was an integral part of the Snowy Scheme,” said Shannon.
The monument will be placed adjacent to the Irish Harp on the Lake Jindabyne foreshore path near the Strzelecki statue. The family have paid for all associated costs to build and install the monument.
It is only fitting the monument will preside over Lake Jindabyne as the family’s local history goes back to the days of the old town.
“The first song he wrote and recorded in Australia was Farewell to Jindabyne, my first school was Jindabyne and we all lived there in the old presbytery,” said Shannon.
To read all about the Settlers and listen to songs you can view their website www.songsofthesnowy.com.au.