What would it be like to be a ... Songwriter?

We asked Alex Hood – who is a favourite of ours because of his great song
‘Brumby Jack’ – about being a songwriter and especially about that song.

Alex Hood, in a photo taken back in the 1960's when he wrote 'Brumby Jack'

In what year did you write
Brumby Jack? (Angus & Daniella)

Well, Angus and Daniella, I wrote Brumby Jack in the winter of 1969 sitting in front of a roaring log fire. The song just came out in the time I took to sing it with the guitar.

How old were you when you wrote
Brumby Jack? (Jake)

Dear Jake, I was born in 1935 and I wrote the song in 1969, so you can work it out from there, and also how old I am now!

Why did Brumby Jack round up wild horses? He doesn’t seem to ever ridden them. (Sam)

Well Sam, Brumby Jack was a drover and ringer for most of his life. He really loved horses and appreciated the work that they helped him to do, so when he retired from droving he was concerned about the plight of the escaped horses known as brumbies. He decided to do what he could to look after as many of them as he could, finding feed and water for them and riding with them through the bush. He had a favourite horse named Mulga, that was the one he rode.

Have you really seen a wild bush brumby “gallop by”? If you have, where did you see it? (Adrian)

Dear Adrian, as the 'Australian Folk Theatre' my wife Annette and myself have travelled all around Australia doing performances (more than 7,000) and as we drove through the country we saw many brumbies 'gallop by' with their manes and tails streaming behind them. We have seen them in all parts of the bush in Australia, there are probably a million or more out there.

Why is he called Brumby Jack? (Ruby)

Dear Ruby, he was called Brumby Jack because of his love of the brumbies and his active protection of them. The original Brumby Jack has long since died, but many bushman have adopted or been given his name by other bushmen. There is a champion 'Blue Heeler' dog that has the same name because his breeder loved the song and the character of Brumby. This dog is now in America helping to breed many more of his kind.

Was Brumby Jack a real person? (James)

Dear James, yes he was, but did you know that wild horses were given the name ‘brumbies’ because of the horses that escaped from Major Brumby's property in Queensland back in the 19th century?

Alex and his monkey ... but where's Brumby?

The lyrics say, “From the mountain side to the distant plain …” Where is the story of Brumby Jack based? (James)

Well James, the story of Brumby Jack was not based in any specific area, just vaguely in the outback, but I think Queensland has more claim than any other state to its origin.

Do you have horses of your own? (Morgan & Simon)

No, Morgan and Simon, I do not have any horses of my own, but in the past, I have ridden horses as part of my work, and really love them.

Have you ever had horses called ‘Stumpy, Billy, Silver Dan, Pickles, Jim and Pelican’? (Ruby & Morgan)

To Ruby and Morgan, the names that you mention of the brumbies were those belonging to horses owned by a friend of mine who lived near Kurrajong in NSW, his name was Alan Black and he was very like the character Brumby Jack. Incidentally, 'Billy' had an annoying habit of rolling under wire fences!

Do you, or have you, lived in the bush? (Simon)

Yes Simon, I spent most of my life living in the bush either as a bush worker or performing shows. I even spent some time travelling with a rodeo and circus named "Gill Brothers".

Do you still do this song in your puppet show? (Jake & Angus)

Dear Jake and Angus, we find it impossible to do any shows without singing Brumby Jack because of its popularity. I even had a Chinese boy singing it back to me in his own language!

Annette, Monkey, Alex and Cocky. One great big family!

How many songs have you written? (Daniella & Archie)

Daniella and Archie, I have written hundreds of songs, 4 folk operas and had 4 children's books published, and have also had many appearances on National Television and radio.

Have you a favourite song? (Archie)

Dear Archie, I do have 100's of favourite songs from all over the world, for different occasions, but I have a real soft spot for Brumby Jack.

Do you ever get bored? (Maia)

Dear Maia, honestly, I don’t have time to get bored! There aren't enough hours in the day for me to do all the things I want to do. I love reading, sport, gardening, writing and playing music and doing shows for children. I recently have gone back on the stage and played the part of Polonius in Shakespeare's 'Hamlet', and my next stage appearance will be in December as Fagin in 'Oliver'.

I'm really impressed and flattered by your interest in Brumby Jack, and they were very good questions. I hope to see you one day in Tassie.

All the best,

Alex Hood

Thank you ever so much for your replies. We love singing the song and I hope you like our pictures of how we think Brumby Jack may have looked. We’re grateful for your time to answer our questions!

Anjali & Kavita teamed up for this portrait of Brumby, and Ruby thought Brumby would look his best in a bright red hat.

Erin thinks that Brumby may have looked a bit Hugh Jackmanish ... Maybe!

Helena, Tara and Sam didn't want to forget the Brumbies. What a great herd of horses.

Abbey and Daniella thought about the lyrics: "From the mountain side to the distant plain ..."

Brumby Jack certainly was a kind man, and Neve and Paris show this side of him.

It's wild out there in the Australian bush! Just ask Jake and Morgan as their pictures show the wilder side of herding brumbies.