Wednesday, March 17, 2021

We'll all be rooned!

For my 2021 St Patrick's Day post I am t
hinking about my Irish Catholic ancestors who lived in the Australian bush and sharing a poem by John O'Brien.  John O'Brien was the pseudonym for Catholic priest, Patrick Joseph Hartigan.

O'Brien's poems have a special meaning for me as my Grandmother, Mary Tierney, gave me when I was quite young a book of O'Brien's poems, Around the Boree Log, that she had owned. I treasure this book today as I have fond memories of reading these poems with Nanna Curry. I especially loved performing the poem I have chosen for today as I enjoyed putting emphasis on the  word "rooned" that is repeated throughout.

For people living in the bush as my Irish ancestors did the social aspect of Sunday Mass was most important. It gave them a chance to talk about the effects of Australia's harsh elements on their farming activities. I can imagine my ancestors gathered on Sundays in Dungog, Cobar, Cowra, Canowindra, Burraga and Bathurst taking part in conversations similar to those related in this poem.

You can hear a recitation of the poem, Said Hanrahan, from a recording on Youtube

The poem was first published in The Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 - 1942), 31 July, p. 19. which is available here on Trove: It was republished throughout the 1920s in many Australian newspapers and was published in O'Brien's collection Around the Boree Log in 1921. 

Following are all 21 verses of the poem.


"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
  One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
  Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
  As it had done for years.

"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
  "Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
  Has seasons been so bad."

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
  With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
  And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
  "It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  "Before the year is out."

"The crops are done; ye'll have your work
  To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke
  They're singin' out for rain.

"They're singin' out for rain," he said,
  "And all the tanks are dry."
The congregation scratched its head,
  And gazed around the sky.

"There won't be grass, in any case,
  Enough to feed an ass;
There's not a blade on Casey's place
  As I came down to Mass."

"If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
  And cleared his throat to speak -
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  "If rain don't come this week."

A heavy silence seemed to steal
  On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
  And chewed a piece of bark.

"We want an inch of rain, we do,"
  O'Neil observed at last;
But Croke "maintained" we wanted two
  To put the danger past.

"If we don't get three inches, man,
  Or four to break this drought,
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  "Before the year is out."

In God's good time down came the rain;
  And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
  It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
  And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
  Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
  A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
  Way out to Back-o'-Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
  And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  "If this rain doesn't stop."

And stop it did, in God's good time;
  And spring came in to fold
A mantle o'er the hills sublime
  Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
  With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
  Nid-nodding o'er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
  As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place
  Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
  Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
  And chewed his piece of bark.

"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
  There will, without a doubt;
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  "Before the year is out."
From Around the Boree Log and Other Verses, 1921


GenieJen said...

Happy St Patrick's day! Gosh, that brought back memories of hearing it at school and using the phrase "we'll all be rooted" in when ever could and still do.

Crissouli said...

Thank you, Chris

You made me smile... just loved this...

GeniAus said...

You must have been a wicked girl Jen


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