Story: Roads

Why don't you mend the roads

Why don't you mend the roads

Charles Thatcher was a singer, songwriter and entertainer of the 1860s who toured New Zealand’s goldfields. The lyrics to his song ‘Why don’t you mend the roads?’ give an impression of the traveller’s lot in Otago at the time:

‘Why don’t they mend these dreadful roads?’
I heard a stranger ask,
‘For that blessed lazy old Town Board,
It can’t be such a task.
They’ve splendid quarries close at hand,
Of stone they might get loads,
Oh Doctor Hulme what are you at,
Why don’t you mend the roads?’

You won’t, you won’t mend the roads.

‘Why don’t they mend these blessed roads?’
A Manse Street merchant cries,
‘That thoroughfare’s sea of mud,
All traffic it defies.
Deep holes engulf pedestrians, and pent up wrath explodes
And they d--n that lazy Town Board,
’Cause they won’t repair the roads.’

‘Why don’t they mend the roads?’
A lady did enquire,
As crossing to Kirkpatrick’s shop,
She sank down in the mire.
‘My feet are wet, my nice new dress
It sadly incommodes,
You naughty Mr. Cargill,
Why don’t you mend the roads?’

‘Why the devil don’t they mend the roads?’
I heard the carter say,
As starting for the diggings,
He stuck fast with his dray.
In vain with curses loud and deep,
Poor Strawberry he loads,
His axle breaks and all because
They won’t repair the roads?

Why the dickens don’t you mend the roads?
You’d better now look out,
Sir George Grey’s certain to get bogged,
If here he walks about.
Kilgour and Cargill, unto you
No good this song forbodes.
I’ll give you such a warming soon,
If you don’t mend the roads.

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Alexander Turnbull Library
Reference: PUBL-0217-frontis

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Carl Walrond, 'Roads - Funding road construction', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 25 May 2022)

Story by Carl Walrond, published 11 Mar 2010, updated 1 Mar 2016