What are the lyrics to ‘South Australia’, the traditional sea shanty?

The much-loved sea shanty 'South Australia' is thought to date back to the Australian gold rush in the 19th century

Merchant ship, 18th century, Engraving. (Photo by Prisma/UIG/Getty Images)

‘South Australia’ is a sea shanty of questionable origins. It’s not clear when it was first sung, but we know it was definitely used on the boats sailing between the ports of England and Australia. It’s thought that it possibly dates back to the 19th century during the Australian gold rush, when gold was discovered across the country and trade with the rest of the world therefore increased.

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Its refrain ‘Heave away, haul away’ was sung by the men on the ships lugging heavy timber.

Although the lyrics and verse styles have evolved over time, the general story behind the sea shanty behind it has remained the same: remembering life back home and the girls they miss, as well as the girls they’ll meet on their travels around the world.

In 2019, BBC Music Magazine named it as one of the best sea shanties of all time.

What are the lyrics to ‘South Australia’?

In South Australia I was born,
Heave away, Haul away!
In South Australia, round Cape Horn,
Bound for South Australia

Haul away, you rollin’ king!
Heave away, Haul away!
Haul away, Oh hear me sing!
We’re bound for South Australia

Now as I went out one morning fair,
Heave away, Haul away!
’twas there I met Miss Nancy Blair,
Bound for South Australia!

Haul away, you rollin’ king!
Heave away, Haul away!
Haul away, Oh hear me sing!
We’re bound for South Australia

I shook her up, I shook her down,
Heave away, Haul away!
I shook her up and down the town!
Bound for South Australia!

Haul away, you rollin’ king!
Heave away, Haul away!
Haul away, Oh hear me sing!
We’re bound for South Australia

And as we wallup around Cape Horn,
Heave away, Haul away!
You wish to God you’d never been born!
Bound for South Australia!

Haul away, you rollin’ king!
Heave away, Haul away!
Haul away, Oh hear me sing!
We’re bound for South Australia

Haul away, you rollin’ king!
Heave away, Haul away!
Haul away, Oh hear me sing!
We’re bound for South Australia

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You can find the lyrics to many of your favourite sea shanties here