- Books, Literature, and Writing
'We'll All Be Rooned'
Wrote Patrick Joseph Hartigan
- alias 'John O'Brien' (his pseudonym - arguably used to protect his real identity as an Australian Roman Catholic Priest)
An avid student of Australian literature, his poetic works continued the themes embraced by predecessors such as Henry Lawson and 'Banjo' Paterson. Like them, P.J. loved to record the laconic character of the everyday man - especially in rural and bush environments.
His imagination was captured and 'fired up' by the essence of Australian mateship - a bond developed so often by the shared hardships and difficulties faced living in this harsh and unforgiving environment . Too often, the window of opportunity would be exceptionally small - to plough; to seed; to successfully grow anything. And the stock? Many perished... right along with the hearts and souls of their owners.
A 'cocky' is a common name for Australian farmers. It's a strange one if you think of the dictionary definition - 'arrogant' and 'conceited' and 'short for cockatoo' (a bird). Perhaps the more apt dictionary definition elsewhere is - 'a farmer whose farm is regarded as small or of little account'. Hmmm, little account to the rest of the world, maybe - but of total importance to that one farmer.
As yet another famous Aussie poet expressed it -
I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror- the wide brown land for me!
Thank you Dorothea MacKellar!
and thank you to Perry Middlemiss for the picture from the cover of the 1968 paperback edition of 'Around The Boree Log' - a collection of poems by Patrick Joseph Hartigan. The cover features a painting by Percy Lindsay
Quite an MFP actually
..a Multi-Functional Priest
His earliest published works in journals such as the Albury Daily News, The Catholic Press and The Bulletin were presented under the pen-name of 'Mary Ann'. I have been unable to establish the reasoning for his use of a woman's name - except, again as a 'cloak' to hide his real identity, perhaps?
As well as being a beloved and admired clergyman, ministering to the religious welfare of the people of Narrandera in NSW for some thirty years, he was a prolific poet and author. His book 'Around the Boree Log', pictured above, had five editions printed, and some 18,000 copies.
It was made popular throughout Eastern Australia, and even as far afield as Ireland and America. His works were used to make a film, and some twenty poems turned into songs.
(The song version of 'Said Hanrahan' is performed for you below.)
...the poem itself
"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 & crops & 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 & 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 singing out for rain.
"They're singing 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, & 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 & windowpane, it drummed a homely tune.
And through the night it pattered still, & lightsome, gladsome elves,
On dripping spout & windowsill, 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 & pink & 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 & lass,
Through grass knee-deep in 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, & 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."
In 'Cartoon' Style - ...This was what he imaginedClick thumbnail to view full-size
ONCE there WAS the Poem
....as a Song, and it was on YouTube
When I initially created this lens, I REALLY loved one particular rendition - it had a real 'Aussie bush' quality to it. Sounded like an old shearer and his guitar, late at night.
After a 'few' beers, shearers love to sing and spin 'yarns'. (Tell tall tales, that is) (...and drink just a few beers? I'd like to see that!!)
BUT tragically, that version is no more, I've just discovered.
NOW, the only choice is a guy plucking a guitar and sounding woeful. Sorry, can't cope with him. Maybe next time I edit there will be a worthwhile version again. In the meantime, I'm afraid you will just have to imagine those wonderful words being read or sung in the great Aussie vernacular.
Just went searching again and I've found a version to love and cherish, read by another 'golden oldie' (who's actually a glorious silvery white!). Keep reading...
And Here is the Reality of being 'ROONED'Click thumbnail to view full-size
More 'John O'Brien'
When you visit this wonderful site, make sure you are tempted to read more of John O'Brien's poetry (and just a few other famous Aussie bards, too) -
And maybe I can tempt you to look, with an excerpt like this -
THE OLD BUSH SCHOOL by John O'Brien
'Tis a queer, old battered landmark that belongs to other years;
With the dog-leg fence around it, and its hat about its ears,
And the cow-bell in the gum-tree, and the bucket on the stool,
There's a motley host of memories round that old bush school -
don't you want to read it all now?
"We'll All Be Rooned"
although author (true name P.J. Hartigan) was an optimist! Well-ll, I can't prove that, but he was renown for his understanding, humility and kindness. His preaching was said to be a pleasure to be truly enjoyed due to his poetic prowess, fine sense of humour, sincerity and strong sense of humanity and sensitivity to the needs of his parishioners.
Although he was born in Yass in New South Wales, both his parents were Irish and it would seem PJ inherited a 'touch of the blarney', as the Irish like to say, when someone has an easy and pleasing way with words. His oratory skills were highly appreciated and prized, and much in demand in far-reaching circles.
And What He Loved was -
Of course, his writing, And of course, his parish and parishioners. And it goes without saying how much he loved literature. But less known is his love of Art and cricket, horses and cars - and high on the list, the land itself.
His poetry and short stories reflect so much of an age that was drawing to a close... a gentler time of horse and buggy transport taking people everywhere - to distant friends and relatives; to do the (sometimes) monthly shopping; and to go to Church - often many miles away. But that proved no deterrent to these dedicated folk.
P J Hartigan captured the essence of these Sunday 'get-togethers' outside the Church. Of course, many came for their spiritual well-being, but you can't help but feel maybe this applied more to the womenfolk than the men. It's easy to picture all the farmers standing around, sharing their hopes and fears, their tragedies and triumphs. Swapping a few 'yarns' - telling a few lies (even on a Sunday? I think so!)
And the kids, having the best time playing marbles in the dust - or taking the opportunity to have an impromptu game of cricket. Would the families stay and have a picnic lunch? I imagine that would be a resounding yes. This was THE day out of the week... a celebration of mateship.
I Love Aussie Poets - ..but then I Love most everything Australian.
Who is you Favourite Aussie Bush Balladeer?
Truly, it's all happening, in the month of March, in the country town of Narrandera, New South Wales, Australia.
This was the very place that P.J. Hartigan, was parish priest of the town and far-flung areas for some 27 years.
Read all about the way the town celebrates and honours this man, with A Celebration of Ruination
It's on my site - ceedee country -
Hanrahan Was Not an Amazon - ...but Amazon love his poetry, too.
Once upon a Time
... I thought I saw an Angel hovering - with a bagful of Angel Dust.
Just a little floated into my eyes and made them mist over for a precious moment - and into my heart and warmed it for a very long time. But that was way back then when this was a Squidoo lens, and this is now - and it's a Hub. I like to think there's maybe a Mother Hubber angel hovering around... smiling!