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Joe Charles came from a family with a background in writing. At various times he worked as a farmer, a publican, and in the Air Force. During his life he wrote a large number of ballads, often celebrating aspects of rural life in New Zealand during the early and middle parts of the twentieth century. His best known ballad is Black Billy Tea and many of his poems have been set to music, often by folk singers. The first two of the ballads set here celebrate drinking. Running the Cutter refers to the men left on board a ship while most of the crew were ashore. Those left behind, risking severe penalties, would sometimes 'borrow a cutter' and slip ashore themselves for a quick drink. Later the term came to be used for the job of going to the nearest licensed hotel for liquor. 'Moonshine' refers to the illicit whiskey normally brewed in rural areas. The needs for brewing were grain, water and secrecy, and the hills of Southland provided an ideal place for these. Many of the locals were of Irish or Scots descent, and whiskey was deemed an essential for life! The Hokonui Hills were one place where well-hidden stills made a wide range of whiskies of varying quality. _Mill Mud _was written when the author was living at Leigh in Northland. One of his neighbours had a small sawmill, and remarked about the particular smell and quality of the mud that sawmills generate. The ballad describes both the landscapes of the area as well as the sounds and smell of the sawmill.
- Running the Cutter
- Mill Mud
Text by Joe Charles