Why the Flying Pieman?
This is a dance from the wild woolly wastes of Australia, a landscape known in the local Doric as MAMBA (Miles and Miles of B****r All). The dance was invented during the 1960’s by Noreen Grunseit. After becoming interested in folk dancing in Europe in the 1950’s she returned to Australia, started the Bush Music Club and adapted many British dances for local use. It is a version of the Flying Scotsman with the chuffing noises replaced by kangaroo hops and ribald shouting – just the thing after a few lagers! The tune that is most frequently used is an as yet untraced version of an Irish jig. The dance was collected at source by a previous member of the band who spent some years in Strine Land.
The Flying Pieman was actually a real person called William King who lived in Sydney during the 19th century. He was renowned as a ‘Professional Pedestrian’. Originally from England, after various jobs he ended up making kidney, pork apple and mutton pies and selling them to passengers in Sydney Harbour who were boarding the ferry to Parramatta. He would then run the 18 miles to Parramatta and sell more pies to the same passengers as they disembarked.
He gained most fame by dressing up in colourful costumes and betting with people that he couldn’t walk to various places in a short time. His longest expedition was to walk 1,634 miles in 39 days. His quickest was 360 miles in 72 hours. To generate more interest (and money) he repeated some of these walks carrying a live dog or a live goat. During these walks he made impromptu speeches to the passers-by which became progressively more incoherent as he aged. Eventually he died in an asylum. His name was given to the dance to imbue it with a suitably Australian flavour