Dog on The Tuckerbox

Jun 23, 2021 0 comments

One of Australia’s famous pioneer monuments is located in the small town of Gundagai about half way between Melbourne and Sydney. The monument constitutes a dog sitting on top of a tucker box, which is the Australian equivalent of a lunchbox, but larger. Erected in 1926, the memorial pays homage to the bullockies or bullock cart drivers who transported building materials and supplies to remote towns and settlements over great distances under great hardship. The statue was inspired by a doggerel poem about a bullock cart driver named Bill, whose cart got bogged down at creek, and while he swore at his bullocks, his canine friend sat on his lunchbox, or worse, and spoiled his food.

Dog on The Tuckerbox

Dog on the Tuckerbox. Photo: Zeytun Images |

Bullock teams were used in Sydney and around New South Wales in the late 18th century to haul building materials for the newly established penal colony. Bullock carts were also used by explorers Hamilton Hume and William Hovell in 1824, when they led an expedition into New South Wales to find new grazing land. Later, British officer Charles Sturt led several expeditions into the interior of the continent, and also used bullock teams during his explorations.

In the mid 19th century, before the advent of railways, bullock carts were the mainstay of transport, carrying essential food and station supplies to isolated country areas, and the produce of the land such as wheat, wool, and sugarcane to the shipping ports. Transporting materials and harvest over bullock wagons was slow, and consequently the journeys were long. The job demanded skilled and tough men who could face any adversity. Bullockies were also colorful characters, noted for their strong language and swearing. A typical bullocky wore a cabbage tree hat, a twill shirt of that period, moleskin trousers, blucher boots and carried a long bullock whip.

bullock team australia

Bullock team hauling wool on a dray, Walcha, New South Wales, circa 1918. Photo: Gooreen collection/Wikimedia Commons

bullock team australia

A bullock team carting a load of wool, circa 1909. Photo: South Australian State Library/Wikimedia Commons

The Poem

The poem is based upon the misfortunes of a certain bullock cart driver named Bill, whose cart got hopelessly bogged down at a creek, some five or nine miles from Gundagai. While trying to pull the wagon out of the bog, one of the bullocks broke the wagon’s yoke. Thereupon, Bill gave up the job and went to have his lunch, only to find that the dog had fouled the foodstuffs contained in a tucker box. The other bullockies thought it was a great joke and one of the them presumably wrote a poem about it.

The poem Bullocky Bill was first published in 1857 attributed to an unknown poet who used the pen name 'Bowyang Yorke'. The poem has many different versions, but the one that is famous today and is sung both in the bush and in the cities reads as follows:

As I was coming down Conroy's Gap,
I heard a maiden cry;
'There goes Bill the Bullocky,
He's bound for Gundagai.

A better poor old buggar
Never earnt an honest crust,
A better poor old buggar
Never drug a whip through dust.

'His team got bogged at the nine mile creek,
Bill lashed and swore and cried;
'If Nobby don't get me out of this,
I'll tattoo his bloody hide.

'But Nobby strained and broke the yoke,
And poked out the leader's eye;
Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
Nine miles from Gundagai.

This version of the poem was written by the poet and traveler Jack Moses and published in the booklet 'Beyond the City Gates' in 1923. In the original poem, Bill’s dog defecates on his lunchbox, but Jack Moses decided to sanitize the text and replaced the word “shat” with “sat”.

The Monument

Dog on The Tuckerbox

Dog on the Tuckerbox. Photo: Alex Proimos/Flickr

The first dog monument was erected by an unknown resident about 5 miles from Gundagi in 1926. Consequently, local Gundagai stonemason Frank Rusconi suggested a proper memorial be erected using the legend of the “Dog on the Tuckerbox”. The memorial was unveiled in 1932 by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Joseph Lyons as a tribute to pioneers.

Gundagai's fame was further immortalized by Jack O'Hagan in 1937 in his popular songs 'Along the Road to Gundagai' and 'My Mabel waits for me' that put the town on the world map.

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