Bricky’s Sorry Song

From The Kate Kelly Song Cycle, a chamber opera by composer Ross Carey and writer Merrill Findlay, first performed in 2011. The full score is now available here >>

NEW! Listen to the first four minutes of Bricky’s Sorry Song from the premiere performance of The Kate Kelly Song Cycle at the inaugural Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival, September 2011. With Melbourne soprano Sian Prior, accordionist Elizabeth Jones, Rachel Whealy (cello), Martin Lee (violin), and Justin Screen (clarinet), with the Forbes Shire Choir and the College For Seniors Choir under the baton of musical director William Moxey. 
[Click at the left hand end of the black bar bar.]

Lyrics below.

Commentary
Bricky, or William Henry Foster, was Kate Kelly’s estranged husband, the son of Frederick and Mary Foster of No. 1 Browne Street, Forbes, NSW. He married Kate in 1888 when she was some months pregnant. More >>

The marriage was not a happy one. In May 1898, police were called to the couple’s home in Browne Street, several blocks from No. 1, to intervene in what we would now call domestic or family violence. “Wife bashing” had not yet been criminalised, so all the police could do was charge Foster with “indecent language” – because, as the arresting officer, Constable Webster, explained to the magistrate, he was heard swearing “in his own house to his wife, within the hearing of the public.” Foster pleaded guilty to this offense and was fined five pounds, four shillings and ten pence, or, in default, three months jail.

At around this time he moved to Burrawang Station west of Forbes to work as a horse tailer. On the evening of 4 October, 1898, he returned to Forbes to visit Kate and their four children, and stayed overnight. Kate disappeared the following day. Her body was found in the local lagoon more than a week later.

The Kate Kelly song cycle tells this story from several different perspectives. More >>

Bricky Foster died in Forbes Hospital in 1947 at the age of 80, having outlived his wife by some fifty years. He is remembered in Forbes as a difficult and sometimes violent man. Did he ever feel remorse for the way he treated his wife and family? Could he ever have apologized for the trauma his physical violence and verbal abuse caused them?  

Bricky’s Sorry Song

(from The Kate Kelly Song Cycle)

I’m too old to mount a horse
Too old to raise my fist
Though not too old to raise my glass
Or boast at the pub ‘bout my youth
As a drinker, a fighter, a horseman
No-one could beat me then
Except for she who’s still haunt’n me
As a ghost from the Forbes Lagoon

Kate me darlin’, what would I do
If you was ‘ere with me now?
What could I say, what could I do
To make you love me again?

She could have done better than me, I know
Could have married my brother instead
Artie was sober and straight and in love
But Kate loved horses more than we men
The only time I saw her happy
Was breakin’ in colts at South Park
Whisperin’ sweet nothin’s in their ears
Till they did whatever she asked

So what did I, a jealous man, do?
I forbade her from ridin’ again
She disobeyed me, of course
So I lashed out and hit her …

I hit the woman I cherished
Even when she was with child
Hit her and shouted abuse at her
The police couldn’t stop me
‘Cause it wasn’t against the law
But Kate, she never let me forget
What a mean mongrel I was
She even tried to kick me out …

So what did I, a jealous man,do?
I raised my hand and hit her
Knocked her to the floor

Kate me darlin’, what would I do
If you was ‘ere with me now?
What could I say, what could I do
To make you love me again?

So I got me a job at Big Burrawang
Horse tailer for Tom Edols and Co
Feedin’ and waterin’ the horses at dusk
Bringin’ ‘em back to the camp at dawn
The station was 300,000 acres then
The biggest shearin’ shed in the world
I lived in the barracks with the single men
And we drank and fought and whored

On pay day I’d ride thirty miles into Forbes
Leave some cash for Kate and the kids
And yes, it’s true
I was with her the night before the day she left
But … I did not…
I Did Not Kill Her …
Though Brigit, the wife of my brother 
Swears black and blue that I did
You drove her to her death, she said
Instead of givin’ her support
You raised your fist and hit her
Hit her. Hit her
Now hang your head in shame

Kate me darlin’, what would I do
If you was ‘ere with me now?
What could I say, what could I do
To make you love me again?

I’m too old to mount a horse
Too old to argue and fight
A lonely old bloke, a bush battler
If there’s one thing I’ve learned
In all my years
It’s that blokes like me are fools
We’ve bashed, burned, shot, polluted
Chopped down everything in our way
If I had my life over again
I wouldn’t live it in the same way

But at least I know now what I’d do
If darlin’ Kate was here with me still

I’d say I’m Sorry, Forgive Me, Help me please
And show me how to change ….

Copyright Merrill Findlay, 2011.

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Page created 3 May 2014. Last updated 19 September 2014.

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