A Stranger at the U [poem by J. Crawford]

[Editor: This poem by J. Crawford was published in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901.]

A Stranger at the U.

He was guileless in his manner — ’t was a style the boys admired,
And he told, in simple language, how his feelings had been fired
By the news of nuggets waiting, in numbers not a few,
For any simple stranger that might strike the I.O.U. —
The golden I.O.U.
Where they put the wash-dirt through
The rattling, creaking shakers in the gullies round the U.

With a smile of easy confidence he told the boys around
That his native place was Albany upon King George’s Sound,
And he ’d left his father’s flocks and herds, and poison grass, and such,
To know the world in general, and come in closer touch
At the diggings on the U.
With the hardy men and true
That caught the unobtrusive weight in sieves upon the U.

It was moved by Mick M’Carthy, hailing from the Sydney side,
That O’Doolan be the stranger’s friend, philosopher, and guide ;
And that every information be furnished him about
Our little recreations when the week had given out —
For we hoped to put him through
In a manner that would do
Lasting credit to the boys that were assembled on the U.

He was led by invitation to the two-up on the flat,
That was decently conducted by a pug. from Ballarat ;
And he said, in wild astonishment, bethought that kindly Fate
Had other joys in store for him than looking for the weight ;
Yes, he would gladly do
A modest hand or two
In the interesting school that was established on the U.

It was sad to see him betting in the confidence of youth,
For the grey was rung upon him — though with disregard for truth
I could palliate my statement, yet the morals that I hold
Force me to the free confession that he was completely sold
By the boys upon the U.,
Who thought to make him rue
His first attempt at two-up, as played upon the U.

We were flush with paper money when it got too dark to play,
For the brumby changed his fivers in a wildly reckless way ;
Though it didn’t seem to strike us, in anxiety to win,
That we ’d all been taking flimsies, and were giving change in tin
To the stranger at the U.,
With the crispy notes and new
He circulated freely ’mong the diggers on the U.

Paddy Grady’s “Hessian Palace” was a scene of wild delight,
And we drank the shypoo deeply, till the lateness of the night
Suggested a retirement ; but O’Doolan swore a round
Should be drunk in grateful honour of the latest patch we ’d found ;
And he paid for the shypoo
With a crispy note and new,
He had earned by tossing pennies with a stranger on the U.

Grady took the note and scanned it, then in measured words and cold
Said the “Bank of Hope” was dying — would O’Doolan pay in gold?
And, sarcastically soothing, said he hoped the patch would give
A slightly better prospect when we put it through the sieve,
To find if one or two
Of the notes so crisp and new
Would buy a first-class coffin for the stranger on the U.

There was wailing in the shanty, and a hurried search was made
To find the gentle stranger who our kindness had betrayed ;
But he ’d vanished, taking with him as a solace to the mind
Half a hundred quid in change for all the notes he ’d left behind ;
And the boys of I.O.U.
Now with dark suspicion view
Every too-confiding stranger putting pegs in at the U.

J. Crawford.

A.G. Stephens (editor). The Bulletin Reciter: A Collection of Verses for Recitation from “The Bulletin” [1880-1901], The Bulletin Newspaper Company, Sydney, 1902 [first published 1901], pages 28-31

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