A Conscription Meeting at Crossley [poem by “Kookaburra”, 24 November 1916]

[Editor: A poem by “Kookaburra”. Published in The Evelyn Observer, and Bourke East Record, 24 November 1916.]

A Conscription Meeting at Crossley.

(Crossley is in Belfast Shire near Killarney, Victoria.)

A very lively meeting that nearly came to a dead end for the Chairman.

Extract from “The Age”:— “A conscription meeting was held at Crossley shortly before Referendum Day in the Roman Catholic Hall, but ended in a riot. The Member of Parliament was not allowed to speak and left in a hurry. The audience wanted to hang the Chairman, Mr. Gordon, but as a rope was not available they let him go. The Sergeant said it was a lot safer in the trenches.”

In the non and con campaign,
When the language was so plain,
At a little town called Crossley they’d a meeting.
There were splendid speakers there,
And a Gordon in the chair,
But the speakers high and lowly got a most alarming greeting.

For the reason there’s a loss,
But the people got so cross,
Which itself is no great wonder for the town is Crossley too.
As they kept on getting crosser,
Each man’s mouth was like a saucer,
Full and brimming over with the froth of Carlton brew.

They’d have no conscription bosses,
For they’d had enough of losses,
And they stamped and roared and shouted till one couldn’t hear himself.
Promised death to all the speakers,
Called them traitors, thieves and sneakers,
Who would sell Australia’s freedom for the sake of boodler’s pelf.

Then the Member took the hint,
And he made a famous sprint.
There’s no doubt he topped a record to the door.
But the Chairman sat it out,
Though to whisper he must shout,
While the people most unruly took possession of the floor.

Then their Irish blood got hot
When they found the Member’d got,
And they swore they’d hang the Chairman to a tree.
When they saw they had no hope
To procure a piece of rope
They decided to postpone it, so the Scotty got off free.

Now, the Sergeant too was plucky,
But he said that he was lucky
That he wasn’t made the subject of a ’quiry.
It was safer o’er in France,
Where the shells and bombs do dance
And the gas is ever frequent and the liquid flame is fiery.

So they all went quickly home,
And decided if they’d roam,
They’d go many miles around it, if they got near Crossley town.
For to meet the Income Tax
All the cockies now grow flax,*
And the butcher knives are planted that could cut a fellow down.

The Reason.

Now for fighting they are zealous,
So perhaps they were but jealous
That a Scotchman was appointed to preside.
Had the Parish Priest been chosen,
Then their hot blood would have frozen,
They’d have been as mute as dead uns; that is — till they got outside.

— The Kookaburra.

* Is also used in the manufacture of halters and leg-ropes.

The Evelyn Observer, and Bourke East Record (Kangaroo Ground, Vic.), 24 November 1916, p. 3

Editor’s notes:
boodler = a corrupt official who takes bribes or illicit payments (especially refers to politicians)

Carlton brew = a beer made by Carlton & United Breweries, such as Carlton Draught, Foster’s Lager, and Victoria Bitter

got = got away, left the area

o’er = over (pronounced the same as “oar”, “or”, and “ore”)

pelf = wealth or riches, especially when dishonestly acquired; from the Old French term “pelfre” for booty (related to “pilfer”)

’quiry = enquiry

un = (vernacular pronunciation) one (plural, “uns”)

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