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The Shanty

Edward George Dyson 1865 (Ballarat, Victoria) – 1931 (Saint Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria)



THERE ARE tracks through the scrub, there’s a track down the hill,
And a track round the bend from M‘Courteney’s mill,
Where they slyly emerge from the bush and converge,
You’ll discover the humpy—the theme of this dirge—
That is used for the sale of O’Sullivan’s ‘purge.’
And if curses and cries,
And a blasting of eyes,
And a series of blasphemies fearful arise,
And a lunatic din,
And a racket like sin,
You can bet all you own the O’Sullivan’s in.

It’s a bark and slab hut, with a bar and a bunk,
And a man propped before it disgustingly drunk,
And a nameless galoot in a hand-me-down suit,
Straddling out on the grass, grim as death, and as mute,
Trapping millions of rabbits that run from his boot.
When eleven lie round
In all shapes on the mound,
And two navvies are fighting like fiends on the ground,
’Tisn’t needful to say
It’s the sweet Sabbath day,
And that trade at the shanty’s uncommonly gay.

Mrs. O’. makes the drinks, and O’Sullivan’s dart
Is to drink all he can to keep others in heart.
Though he’s old in the hoof, and he reckons he’s proof
’Gainst infernalest liquors, in warp and in woof,
He’s quite frequently seen howling out on the roof.
For from fungus or fruits,
From old rags or from roots,
Grass, cabbages, pickles, old bedding or boots,
Or the leaves of the gum,
Or whatever may come,
Mrs. O’. can extract the most illigant’ rum.

They’ve no peace in the hut and no peace on the hill,
Mrs. O’. never sleeps and her hand’s never still;
And old constable Mack cannot hit on the track
As a man of the law. As a stranger in black
When he finds his way there he can’t find his way back.
There’s no signboard to see,
But those fools on the spree,
Or a man in his shirt shrieking prayers to a tree.
As for licenses—yar!
They don’t know what they are,
For they drink without license at Sullivan’s bar.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:43 min read
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Edward George Dyson

Edward George Dyson, or 'Ted' Dyson, was an Australian journalist, poet, playwright and short story writer. He was the elder brother of illustrators Will Dyson (1880–1938) and Ambrose Dyson (1876–1913), with three sisters also of artistic and literary praise. Dyson wrote under several – some say many – nom-de-plumes, including Silas Snell. In his day, the period of Australia's federation, the poet and writer was 'ranked very closely to Australia's greatest short-story writer, Henry Lawson'. With Lawson known as the 'swagman poet', Ogilvie the 'horseman poet', Dyson was the 'mining poet'. Although known as a freelance writer, he was also considered part of The Bulletin writer group. more…

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