Leave Her Johnny, Leave Her 

     

In 1989, Cobbers retired from full time performance but the band remained healthy and active. When “Big Ron” retired in 1991, he was replaced on bass by Norman McCourt, who had a long association with the band as sound engineer on several of their recordings. In 1996, Christy Cooney rejoined the band along with his brother James Cooney. James was unable to stay with the band due to work commitments but the rest of the band continued. By Australia Day, 1998 it had become clear that it was increasingly difficult for all of the members to give the commitment to the band that they all agreed was necessary. Health problems had meant that Maitland Swallow had been replaced on several shows by Martin Stride and business commitments had required substitutes for both Christy and Norman. (When Norm was overseas “Big Ron”, reliable as ever had filled the gap). The last “official” Cobber was Henry Butcher, who joined the band on fiddle for their final show at Corryong on the 18th of April 1998.

Highlights of thirty years together include performances at England’s Reading Rock Festival, O’Lunney’s in New York, The San Diego Great American Showdown, The Texas State Fair and The Louisiana Hayride, a radio show recorded live for seven and a half million listeners. At home highlights included performances at countless major festivals, extensive tours around Australia, more than 300 television appearances and the 1979 Bushland Dreaming concert, recorded at Dallas Brooks Hall during which Cobbers were made official ambassadors to the city of Melbourne by the Lord Mayor. The largest audience they played for in Australia was at Mooma when they played on a boat sailing up and down the river while an estimated 250,000 people sat on the banks. They seemed to enjoy the show, though they were mostly there for the massive firework display that was to follow. The smallest audience that they played for was one at the Rouseabout Restaurant in Footscray. Due to a mix-up there were no bookings taken that night and only one customer actually arrived. He had come specifically to see the band so they did the show anyway.

Towards the end of 1998, Cobbers held a reunion of many of the former members of the band in a concert to show the respect that each of them held for “Big Ron” Howard, who had died, and to raise money for  the Howard family. This was expected to be the last ever Cobbers performance, but it was not to be. In 2007, Maitland Swallow also died after battling kidney disease and a brain tumour for many years. This time, however, Cobbers were able to show their respect and love for this former Cobber before it was too late and a concert was organised to help Maity with his mounting medical bills. Maity joined the band on stage and though too ill to play, was with them in spirit as they rollicked through many of their old favourites. On this show, Cobbers were joined on bass by Mick de Groot who had been playing bass with John, Chris and Maity since Cobbers finished. A highlight of the performance was when the band broke away from their normal repertoire of Australian songs and sang Canadian, Ian Tyson's "Friends of Mine" to Maity. This song contains the words,

"By all those roads, my friend, we travelled down

 I'm a better man for just the knowing of you"

I guess that's the way we all feel about each other. We were, and still are, Cobbers.

 

 

"Friends of Mine" MP3 from "When They Sang Scotland The Brave" - John Armstrong