The Loading of the Pride [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in The Ways of Many Waters (1899).]


The Loading of the Pride.

Clipper ship, the Pride of Commerce, loading now with hides and wool,
Advertised to sail on Monday — stevedore must get her full;
Stevedore must have her ready, be he well or be he ill,
And, if stevedore won’t do it, we can find a man who will.
Re-a-rally! Ri-a-rally! — Twenty men to go below.
Now, my lads, I want no loafing — grafters only gets a show.
Boss I am, and boss I will be, and I’ll have no skulking here;
It’s grafting down below, men,
It’s go it all you know, men,
Till the skipper gets his papers and the ‘peter’s’ up to clear.”

Tropic climate, iron vessel, greasy wool — peculiar smell;
Down below the atmosphere is — something worse than words will tell;
Down below in shirt and trousers, sweating, swearing like a Turk,
Stevedore is stowing cargo, glad enough to be at work.
Re-a-rally! ri-a-rally! Give that screw another shake.
Agent says we’ve got to load her, ev’ry bloomin’ pound she’ll take.
Promised owner “go by Monday” and we mustn’t miss a bale —
So it’s ram her, jam her, cram her,
Fire her cargo in and damn her,
For the other boat is loading and they’ll race her for the sale.”

Stevedore is mostly idle while the winter drags away;
Now the sun of work is shining and he means to make his hay;
“Bob” an hour and sweat, half-roasted, till your socks are wet with slime;
“Bob” an hour and, if you’re lucky, one-and-six for overtime.
Re-a-rally! ri-a-rally! Why the devil don’t you sweat?
Don’t you see them after-hatches ain’t been touched at all as yet?
S’elp-me-Gawd! you make me shrivel; can’t you bend your lazy back?
If you don’t go at it quicker,
May I never drink my licker,
But I’ll go below and give you, every mother’s son, the sack!”

Skipper, in the after-cabin, has a “lady” to amuse;
Mate and friend are sipping whisky — mate is somewhat on the booze.
Purser comes aboard for dinner; “second’s” taking tally here;
Crew are for’ard making merry on some bad colonial beer.
Re-a-rally! ri-a-rally! Stand from under! Mind the slings!
Hang it! Use yer hook, you duffer! Can’t you catch her as she swings?
’Tarnal fool! he’s gone and missed it! H’ist away there, quick’s y’ can!
Why the blazing Son of Thunder
Couldn’t he have stood from under?
Leg’s broke! Can’t move! Look sharp! Fetch along a basket — and a man!”

Pulleys’ strain and winches’ rattle echoed from the rival ship;
Both must be at “home” discharging when they sell the season’s clip.
London market must be studied. “Monarch”’s waiting for the tide,
“And I’ll sink the ship or beat him,” says the captain of the Pride.
Re-a-rally! ri-a-rally re-a-ri-a-rally-ho!
Come ashore and lend a hand, lads! Slip her lines and let her go.
Yes! she draws a lot of water, but they’ll get her out by dark,
And I’ll wager half-a-crown,
That the Monarch’s deeper down,
Even if the Pride is just a leetle past her Plimsoll-mark.”

Agent on the wharf stands smiling. Says to skipper with a bow;
“We have kept our promise, captain, to her owners, you’ll allow.”
Hatches down and gangway hoisted — Pride’s in tow behind her boat,
And, his help no longer needed, stevedore puts on his coat,
Re-a-rally! ri-a-rally! Now, then, fill ’em up once more!
All the crew was drunk as niggers when the pilot kem ashore!
And the captain and the mate, sirs, was as tight as tight could be;
But we’ve earned a ‘bob’ or two,
Let her sink or struggle through,
We have crammed her to the hatches — that’s enough for you and me.”

E. J. Brady, The Ways of Many Waters, Melbourne: Thomas C. Lothian, 1909 [first published 1899], pages 20-23

Editor’s notes:
bob = a shilling (equivalent to twelve pence); after the decimalisation of the Australian currency in 1966, the monetary equivalent of a shilling was ten cents

crown = a coin worth five shillings

grafter = someone who works hard

one-and-six = one shilling and sixpence

peter = the Blue Peter maritime signal flag, which signals that the ship is “outward bound” (when a ship is in harbour, the Blue Peter flag is used to signal that all persons should report on board); it is also the signal flag for the letter P

Plimsoll-mark = Plimsoll line, a waterline marked on the side of ships, which must be visible above the water (so as to prevent ships being overloaded, subsequently settling too low in the water, and thus being liable to capsize in turbulent seas); named after Samuel Plimsoll (1824-1898), a British Member of Parliament who campaigned to make such waterlines compulsory by law, so as to prevent the heavy loss of life caused by ships being overloaded

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