'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 by the shared hardships and difficulties faced living in a 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'. Maybe, once again, as a 'cloak' to hide his real identity?
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 - a total of 18,000 copies.
Its popularity spread throughout Eastern Australia, and 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."
ONCE there WAS the Poem
as a Song, and it was on YouTube
Once upon a long time ago 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 ...and drink just a few beers? I'd like to see that!)
BUT tragically, that version is no more.
NOW, the only choice is a guy plucking a guitar and sounding woeful. Sorry, can't cope with him.
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) -
Can I 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...
Click that link to read it all now.
"We'll All Be Rooned"
although author (true name P.J. Hartigan) was an optimist!
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, his parents were Irish and PJ obviously 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 -
the rugged land he called home; his writing and literature in general, and his parish and parishioners. Less known is his love of Art and cricket, horses and cars.
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, for monthly shopping; and to go to Church - often many miles away, but proving no deterrent to these dedicated folk.
P J Hartigan provided the essence of these Sunday 'get-togethers' outside the Church. Many came for their spiritual well-being, but it's easy to imagine the womenfolk catching up on gossip, swapping recipes and child-rearing hints, and all the farmers standing around, sharing their hopes and fears, 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 a resounding yes. This was THE day out of the week... a celebration of mateship and community.