February 5 - 11, 2017: Issue 299

The Bards of Manly and Other Poetical Visits to Pittwater

The PBP’s page has often been utilised to celebrate Australian poets and their adventures, especially since so many seem to have been inspired by the beautiful landscapes and seascapes of Pittwater or enjoyed the ‘cosmopolitan’ Brighton-like atmosphere of ‘The Village’, or Manly when Manly was the place to be inspired by wind and saltwater songs.

This finding of all those Bards who have visited here, or there (Manly), and each place in between these two pinsula poles, has shared insights through ‘A Run to Pittwater’, the poetics of Ella McFadyen in Sands of Morning,  the prose of Gertrude Mack when describing Church Point or Alison McDougall when lilting of Elvina Bay, at Palm Beach through Ethel Turner's The Rock Pool and even a wondering over whether The Bulletin’s Archibald walked north from Manly to Narrabeen to take Mark Twain (Samuel Clements) fishing when he was in Sydney. These are just a handful of all found and 'restored' in some way by collecting them here - and proof of our area's beauty in that so many have visited and been inspired by here - many of these being some of Australia's best and most legendary poets.

In 'A Run to Pittwater' by "Viator", a nom de plume for Patrick Edward Quinn, brother of Roderic Quinn, one of the early golden ages of Australian bards is introduced through The Dawn and Dusk club, named for one of Victor J. Daley's works of the same time and formed around 1898 in Sydney, by poet Daley. Foundation members of 'the Duskers' were Daley, Fred J. Broomfield, James Philp, Herbert Low (journalist), William Bede Melville (a reporter for the Sydney newspaper, The Star), Angus Sinclair (writer), Bertram Stevens and Randolph Bedford. The club met at Broomfield's home on the corner of Ice Road and Great Barcom Street, Darlinghurst, near St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney about September, 1898. Daley was elected 'Symposiarch' of the Duskers and the seven 'heptarchs' were Lawson, Stevens, Nelson Illingworth, Frank P. Mahony, George Augustine Taylor, Con Lindsay (journalist), and Philp, who drafted the rules. Artist Norman Lindsay was also a member. 

When investigating whether Twain, Henry Lawson and J. F. Archibald really did have a fun fishing day, small inklings that more than just these poets and purveyors of prose visited our area began to appear among the threads. This inspired a further investigation into how many of these early songsters of all things Australian fell in love with Manly and wandered further north into the green and blues surrounding what was then a ‘village’ to some.

As always, the story is best told by those whose song it is:

When, your nerves are on edge, and you hunger for quiet, and the happy diabolical Children are yelling in the street, you are either sorry that the good King Herod died so early, or that you were not bred up as a professional hermit. - It is not the volume, nor even the variety, of the noise that worries you — its incalculable suddenness is what paralyses you. A pressman who has been accustomed to the experience can, so to speak, write with his ear against the machine. But if the machine is drinking —I have seen a machine in that condition, or, rather, I have seen a machinist who said his machine was in that condition it is another matter. . ? Then its inconsequential jerking exasperates you almost to the pitch of madness. This reminds me that upon one occasion, many years ago, I dropped into a little newspaper office in Hunter-street. The newspaper was called 'Society.' Its editor was Harold Grey. It lived thirteen weeks. When I went in Grey was cursing the machinist because the machine wouldn't work. The machinist was a big upstanding fellow who would have killed any outsider who said a word against Grey. But there was a limit even to his forbearance. ' How can I work the machine. without oil?' he growled. . ' ' What's become of the oil?''-said Grey. ' Well,'' said the ' machinist, 'one of your literary staff came in a while ago and demanded a drink. I hadn't a drink to give him. He said it didn't matter; and drank the machine oil!'

In those days I had a cottage at Manly en garcon. It was furnished completely — apparently for honeymoon couples. There was a double breakfast set of innumerable pieces, and a dinner-set of seventy-two : pieces. Grey was staying with me at the time, and we never used the same bit of crockery twice. Grey was a very clean and fastidious man. When some actresses came down to see us once upon a time, we were drinking tea out of butter-boats, and all the other dishes were stacked up ready for washing. 

They called us several hard names, and then — the feminine instinct of order getting the better of them— set to and washed the whole stack of dishes. I was sleeping with a rug around me on the beach about fifty yards away. They roused me up and made me chop wood, for the fire, and they made Grey come out of the honeymoon bedroom and cook ham and eggs and make two omelettes. He was a fine cook—, a cordon bleu in his way.

Right: Portrait of Harold Grey and Victor Daley, circa 1880-1895 Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-146669281 , courtesy National Library of Australia

Four girls there were, and they insisted that I should sit at the head of the table. They had previously plundered the cupbonrd, and placed all its little potted luxuries upon the board. It was the first decently set-out meal I had faced since I took the cottage. How their tongues: wagged ! How their teeth, flashed ! . White as the foam on the beach were their teeth. And how they laughed ! And how we laughed ! And how, all of us laughed together ! Never was a merrier party in the world. 

Then when the banquet was over, we put up two bottles — we could spare them, they were empty — on two posts. One was labelled with the name of their employer; the other was labelled with the name of ours. We threw stones at them. Grey and I demolished our employer in five shots; but it took the girls half-an-hour to make flinders of Williamson. And where are now those laughing, careless girls? One is a care- worn married woman with seven children. The others— 
Where is Lesbia? 
Where is Lais? 
Where Brunhilde, with brow austere? 
Where are Cleopatra, Thais, Bertha,' Broadfoot, Guinevere? 
Where is Echo, beheld of no man, Only heard on mead and mere, 
And Lady Flora, the lovely Roman— 
But where are the snows of yester-year? 

They are gone over the horizon. Possibly they are dead. Grey, with all his light wit and wicked sarcasm, has lain 16 years asleep under green grass in the  Waverley Cemetery.
Of course, I shall see him again, and he will be the leader of a company of friends of mine in Elysium, and he will 'say ‘Well, you have been a time ! - , What kept you?' 
And I will make some feeble excuse about business. And then Morgan will come to the front and say ' He never did any business in his life. He doesn't know what business means. Ask him to have some ambrosia— I' remember !' But I remember 'Morgan' quite as well. Morgan, with his face like the face of a summer moon, was one of the most delightful men I ever met. He also was a writer, but in a different way. Many a night we passed together sending wires to the country papers. They had to be in the telegraph office at certain times up till twelve o'clock. After that time we used to eat hot potatoes and saveloys from a cart that stood outside the post office. And after that, if we could meet with one of our detective friends — we would go to, a place that was known as The Thieves' Inn. It kept open all night— a frowsy, squalid place, with crime written on its' front. I have noticed, by the way, that most kinds of crime are associated with dirt. Forgery, in its various branches, is the only exception. But the other sort of criminals, have two deadly enemies--Soap and the Police, And such faces as we saw there ! The face of the swell magsman who would take your last sovereign from you, and then leave you enough to buy yourself a clean shirt and collar ! The brutal anthropoid face of the man who would — if the coast were clear, cut your throat for the sake of, eighteen pence! The hard, harlot-face of the woman who would sell you to the police while you were asleep. The flushed young face of the woman who would die for a drink. We went there one night, and had. something to drink, and asked all of them to drink. They, drank because Sergeant-Detective Ward was with us. And they drank, slily, sullenly, furtively. All except the young woman and the gentleman in the tall hat. They brazened it out finely. There was a big scoop on at the time— a matter of £5000. 

‘Not here,' said Sergeant Ward, ' in a bigger place.'  'Excuse -me,' I remarked. 'You, mademoiselle and madame, will be good enough to take these presents.' ?' It was Christmas Eve.- I had been carrying around Santa Claus cradles and horses until I was tired of them.' They took the presents, and the woman wept, and said that they reminded her of the time when she was an innocent girl-baby in a cradle— seven thousand years ago. But the rest of the crowd looked at me suspiciously in the moonlight, and would have assassinated my shadow if it owned a pocket. 

Edwards stayed with me for a trifle of five months. He was a Welsh gentleman with a red beard and long pedigree, and the kindest simplest heart in the world!! He had no money, no occupation, no anything, but a soft, grey eye and an amiable smile, and a hallucination about a sum of one hundred pounds which he was going to receive from his sister in Wales by the next mail. He was the greatest optimist I ever met. 'Where are you off to this morning; Edwards,' I would say when I saw him brushing his faded clothes and fixing his collar. ' G.P.O., old fellow, G.P.O.— that draft is bound to be there to-day.' Of course it wasn't, and never would be. But Edwards would come back bright-and affable, and in no wise discouraged. 'She must have missed the mail,' he would say. She missed the mail for five month's, and for two years afterwards.

There was a cyclorama of the Spanish Armada about to be produced when  Edwards was staying with me, and I was engaged to write a lecture upon the subject. A lecture to be delivered upon the stage, you know. I was not very well at the time, and I sent him to the Public Library 'to hunt up authorities and make notes'. He returned with about a pound weight of paper covered with smudged writing in lead pencil. I glanced at it. 'Good heavens,' I said, 'what is this?' It was the story of Drake's voyage around the world and his capture of Panama.' 'It's a most interesting yarn,' he observed; ' I' wonder that I never read it before.' What could you do? I went to the Library and made my own notes. A year or so afterwards' I met Edwards, and asked him where he was staying. 'Well,' he replied, 'they call the place Rats' Castle. Come and see me.' I did, nnd' discovered to my unbounded amazement that he had a wife. ' She was a nursery governess in a place where I used to visit,' he explained to me, 'and. I met her in the street last week and she told me she had been discharged because of her deafness. She hadn't any money, and had nowhere to go. Well, what would you do? I couldn't take her around to the Castle because of her good name. And I couldn't leave her standing homeless in the street. So we dropped in upon a Baptist minister, and I married her.' Talk of generosity! 

I may say that Edwards was a bailiff then. Rats' Castle was an old condemned  butcher's shop, and Edwards' employer gave it to him rent free. Such a bailiff, too. He used to fall violently asleep when decent, honest people with whom he had to deal were carrying out their pianos and sewing, machines. ' I might be a bailiff,' he said ' but I am also a gentleman.'' 

Morgan always wore a flower in his coat. Rose or geranium. Always a blossom of bright, color. Keeps 'em from looking at your boots,' he would say. 
He was the merriest man I ever met, and the last I saw of him was when he was in his coffin— cold, while, and curiously strange — with lilies at his feel and lilies at his head. Died happily. Drew some money he had earned over and above his salary —  and dropped unconscious on the same night that he passed out. The shock of sudden payment perhaps! If this fatality could only happen to me! SOME PEOPLE. (1902, December 20).The Worker (Wagga, NSW : 1892 - 1913), p. 5 (THE WORKER'S Xmas Budget). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article145884640 

Manly 's Augustan Age.
(By C.R.C.)
It is an aspect of the eternal fitness of things that surfing, perhaps the most virile and most health-giving of all our sports, should have originated, as far as Australia is concerned, in a seaside village called Manly. So popular has the sport become that it is hard to realise that the right to surf was hardly won, and that it is barely thirty years since at was first admitted. Recent references to the origin of surfing, while substantiality correct, require a certain amount of amendment. 

At a Sydney reunion of pioneer members of the Royal Life Saving Society, it was stated that there is still a law on the Statute Book of New South Wales which forbids bathing in view, of the public and that this law was challenged, in 1904, by ‘Mr. W H Goucher,' with the result that an agitation in favour of bathing followed and the law has never since been enforced, the village Hampden referred to was Mr. W. H. Goacher (not Goucher) who, at the time, was editor of the local paper unless my memory is sadly at fault (and I was one of the crowd of spectators who aided and abetted him). Goacher was prosecuted in 1903 for the breach of a regulation framed under the Police Offences Act. Though fined in the Water Police Court, Mr. Goacher declared that he would continue to bathe in proper costumes and it was then discovered that the Police Regulation was ultra vires. It was to this, and not to any magnanimity en the part of the authorities, that Sydney people owe their right to surf. - At that time, Manly occupied a narrow isthmus and though it was still affectionately referred to as 'The Village.' it had already commenced to sprawl across the heights to the north and south. The first six years of the present century might aptly be termed the Augustan Age of Manly. Even before the ban on surfing had been lifted, men and boys were allowed to bathe on the Ocean Beach before seven in the morning. Like Wolley’s 'little wanton boys' we youngsters would enter the water, clad only in ‘trunks'. The official who used to chase us shorewards after seven was, appropriately enough, the municipal council's inspector of nuisances, and we wanton little boys saw to it that his job was no sinecure. 

Even before the dawn of the century, Manly, had been the home of giants. Cardinal Moran's Palace and the College for the training of Roman Catholic priests towered on the southern heights. On the northern ' height was the ibid home of W. B. Dalley, built in the form of an English' castle, and still called 'Dalley Castle,' though it' has passed out of the hands of the Dalley family many years since; Its builder, W. B. Dalley, the father of the novelist J. B. Dalley, was a distinguished lawyer and politician who was prominent in the trial of the bushrangers and who was responsible for the sending of a contingent from New South Wales to the Sudan. It was stated at the time that a little boy in Manly had donated the contents of his money box to the patriotic fund raised in connection with the contingent. At all events, following an amount in a published subscription list, were the words 'A Little Boy |from Manly.' Political opponents said that the little boy was none other than W. B. Dalley himself, and the incident provided the Sydney 'Bulletin' with one of those stock mythical figures which were the delight of our fathers and grandfathers. Sir Edmund Barton, afterwards Prime Minister of Australia and a Justice of the High Court, was another well known resident of The Village during the Nineties. 

Forlorn Hopes. 
It was just after ;the Boer war that W. B. Goacher commenced to edit a paper called 'The Manly News.' He was one of those lovable fire-eaters whose lifetime was spent in the fighting of forlorn hopes. He was more an artist than a journalist, and not very successful in painting or writing as, in looking after the interests of others, he neglected his own. Certainly, as the Sydney speaker said, surf clubs throughout Australia should do something to perpetuate his memory. He has yet another .claim to distinction. He was Manly's first Labour candidate. There had been a redistribution of seats in New South Wales, and Manly, formerly part of Wahringah, became part of the constituency then called Middle Harbour. In 1904, just after the redistribution, Goacher: came out as a candidate for Middle Harbour. His campaign was of the whirlwind variety. His meetings were always crowded. His oratory, and gift for repartee provided entertainment for the masses, but he; polled only thirty-three votes. The handicap of a tall hat and a frock coat was too great for a Labour candidate to carry in those days. Next week, in his paper, he returned thanks to 'the thirty-three intelligent electors of Middle Harbour. Poor Goacher's finances were never in a healthy condition and the loss of his deposit ruined him. He disposed of his paper to “Billy” Melville and went to live in Sydney.

Melville was one of the older school of Bulletin writers. He sang the praises of Manly in season and out of season. It was probably through his personal influence that Victor Daley and Henry Lawson came to live in 'The Village. I think Roderick Quinn lived there for a little while also. Quinn, if not an actual resident, was a frequent visitor to the others. I remember how we awe-struck youngsters used to gaze at the four poets strolling down the street arm in arm— and taking its width in their stride. One of Daley's, sons was enrolled as a pupil at the Manly Public School. When asked his father's occupation young Daley replied 'writer,' and the headmaster who was a Master of Arts and an honours man in literature cheerfully wrote 'signwriter' in the school admission register. 

It was through Melville, that I came to meet both Lawson and Daley. I knew Daley the better of the two. Lawson could not remain long in any place, and while in Manly he met with a peculiar accident. While strolling along the Fairy Bower cliffs, he fell over the rim and broke a few ribs. The usual people said the usual thing about the accident, but I honestly believe that in his absent-mindedness Lawson walked too near the edge and overbalanced. Daley, though a severe critic, was a kindly one. I once had the temerity to call at his house and show him a short story I had written. The place was almost unfurnished, but Daley received me as though he were conducting me into a palace. Incidentally he tore the story to shreds, which embarrassed me considerably because there was another man present, a grim silent looking man whom I thought must be some distinguished editor. I found out afterwards that he was a bailiff. Daley made me sit down there and then and rerwrite the story. The next day, he took me up to Sydney and personally introduced me to the editor of the Bulletin, who also said scathing things about the story — but printed it. 

Various Arts. 
All the arts were represented, in Manly during those years. Hilder had lived there for many years- even at that time, and was painting his delicate water-colours and battling against ill-health and genteel poverty. Charlie Bryant was still a schoolboy but was just beginning to make a name for himself in black and white work. W.H. Whiddon, afterwards Deputy Commissioner for Taxation in New South Wales, used to gather the aspiring vocalists of the village and drill them in light opera. As a choir-master and a producer of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, he did much to raise the standards of musical taste, not only in Manly, but throughout the whole State. Another notable resident was an exponent of an older and even more individual art. This was Larry Foley, the veteran pugilist. Somewhere about 1904, he established a boxing academy at his residence on the cliffs overlooking the Manly Lagoon. He gathered round him quite a school of fighting, neophytes but none of them achieved fame. Old Larry, it was said, had become crotchetty in his old age and very Spartan in his methods of instruction. If he did not think a pupil worth bothering about any further, a knock out blow ended that pupil's course of training and inclined him towards another career. For a season or two Larry's square stocky figure and his mutton chop whiskers were frequently seen on the promenade. It was a sight for the gods to see him and his great friend and fellow-Hibernian, the genial Dan O'Conner, disporting in the breakers. They were two of the few Manly great ones who remained distinguished looking in bathers. Dan O'Connor had ended his political career by that time. He provided the Bulletin with another of that paper's stock phrases. While Postmaster-General of New South Wales he had to decide upon the appointment of a minor official in his department; There were many applicants, several of whom were strongly recommended. The P.M.G. decided the matter in a laconic and- phonetic minute-— 'Appoint Maloney.' And Maloney was appointed. He habitually wore the tall hat and frock coat of the period, and his flowing white beard would have been the envy of any Druids’ lodge. But to see him rising from the waves, in his red and blue striped bathers, with that avalanche of whiskers wet and bedraggled, was to obtain an idea of what Father Neptune must have looked like. Though a politician, he was a patron of the arts. He it was who spoke at Sydney's welcome to a famous French actress, and referred to the guest as 'La Belly Franzase.' SURFING AND CELEBRITIES. (1933, February 18). The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32585829 


The camp of high-class spielers,
 Who sneered in summer dress,
And doo-dah dilettante,
 And scornful "venuses"--
House agents, and storekeepers,
 All eager they to "bleed"--
The bards who tackled Manly,
 Were plucky bards indeed!

With shops that feared to trust them,
 And pubs that looked askance;
And prigs who read their verses,
 But gave them not a glance;--
When all were vain and selfish,
 And editors were hard--
The bard that stuck to Manly
 Was sure a mighty bard.

What mattered floors were barren,
 And windows curtainless,
And our life seemed to others
 But blackguard recklessness?
We wore our clothes for comfort,
 We earned our bread alway,
And beer and good tobacco
 Came somehow every day.

Came kindred souls to Manly--
 Outsiders that we knew,
And with them scribes and artists,
 And low comedians too;
And sometimes bright girl writers--
 Called "Tommy", "Jack", or "Pat"--
(Though each one had a sweetheart
 The rest knew nought of that).

'Twas not the paltry village
 We honoured unaware,
Or welcome warm, or friendship,
 Or "tone" that took us there;
We longed to sing for mankind,
 Where heaven's breath was free
We only sought the grandeur
 Of sea-cliff, sands and sea.

And we were glad at Manly,
 All unaware of "swells",
Of doctors and of nurses,
 And private hospitals;
With little fear of bailiffs,
 And great contempt for greed--
The bards who lived at Manly,
 They were a healthy breed.

Oh! moonlit nights at Manly,
 When all the world was fair!
In shirts and turned-up trousers
 We larked like big boys there.
Oh! glorious autumn mornings--
 The gold and green and blue--
We "stripped" as well as any,
 And swam as strongly too.

The artist had a missus,
 Who rather loved the wretch,
And so for days together
 He'd stay at home and sketch.
And then--I fear 'twas only
 When things were getting tight--
The bards would shun each other,
 And hump themselves--and write.

When bailiffs came to Manly
 They'd find no "sticks" to take,
We'd welcome them as brothers--
 Their grimy hands we'd shake;
We'd send for beer in billies--
 And straightway send for more--
And bailiff nights in Manly
 Were merry nights of yore.

There are some things that landlords
 And law can't do at all:
They could not take the pictures
 We painted on the wall;
They could not take the table--
 The table was a door;
They could not take the bedsteads--
 The beds were on the floor.

The door of some old stable--
 We'd borrowed for a drink--
A page of rhymes and sketches,
 And stained with beer and ink;
A dead hand drew the portraits--
 And, say, should I be shamed,
To seek it out in Manly
 And get the old door framed?

They left the masterpieces
 The artist dreamed of long;
They could not take the gardens
 From Victor Daley's song;
They left his summer islands
 And fairy ships at sea,
They could not take my mountains
 And western plains from me.

One bailiff was our brother,
 No better and no worse--
And, oh! the yarns he told us
 To put in prose and verse,
And sorry we to lose him,
 And sorry he to go--
(Oh! skeletons of Pott's Point,
 How many things we know)!

The very prince of laughter,
 With brains and sympathy;
And with us on the last night
 He spent his bailiff's fee.
He banished Durkin's gruffness,
 He set my soul afloat,
And drew till day on Daley's
 Bright store of anecdote.

He said he'd stick to business--
 Though he could well be free--
If but to save poor devils
 From harder "bums" than he,
Now artist, bard and bailiff
 Have left this vale of sin--
I trust, if they reach Heaven,
 They'll take that bailiff in.

The bards that lived in Manly
 Have vanished one and one;
But do not think in Manly
 Bohemian days are done.
They bled me white in Manly
 When rich and tempest-tossed--
I'll leave some bills in Manly
 To pay for what I lost.

They'd grab and grind in Manly,
 Then slander, sneer, and flout.
The shocked of moral Manly!
 They starved my brothers out.
The miserable village,
 Set in a scene so fair,
Were honester and cleaner
 If some of us were there!

But one went with December--
 These last lines seem to-night
Like some song I remember,
 And not a song I write.
With vision strangely clearer
 My old chums seem to be,
In death and absence, nearer
 Than e'er they were to me.

Alone, and still not lonely--
 When tears will not be shed--
I wish that I could only
 Believe that they were dead.
With hardly curbed emotion,
 I can't but think, somehow,
In Manly by the ocean
 They're waiting for me now.
Henry Lawson
From For Australia (1913) and:
THE BARDS WHO LIVED AT MANLY. (1906, February 17). The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 - 1909), p. 6 (LATE SPORTS). Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article229653964
The Bards of Manly and Other Poetical Visits to Pittwater - threads collected by A J Guesdon, 2017.

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