The Sodawater Strike [poem by “Dryblower” Murphy, 21 January 1912]

[Editor: A poem by “Dryblower” Murphy. Published in The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 21 January 1912.]

The Sodawater Strike.

I’m a unionist determined,
Though I’ve never joined as one;
I ’ate the rich and ermined,
Every blarsted mother’s son.
I reckonize that Laber
’As a mission on the earth,
’Cos it makes yer love yer naber
An’ ther lan’ wot giv yer birth.
When I ’ear the proud an’ wealthy
’As its foot upon our ’earts
I kin raise up ructions healthy
Wot re-echo round these parts.
I believe in beer an’ freedom,
Wages long and howers short,
An’ the bosses wot concede ’em
’Ave my ’eartiest support.
But these min’ral-water strikers,
’Oo are full of gas an’ spout,
Are a lot of useless mikers
Wot the world can do without.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m no bigot,
Whisky banishes me woes;
I can suck it through a spigot,
Or consume it through a hose.
I’m not on the ribbon racket,
Which upon your coat they nail,
An’ I go orf like a packet
When they mention ginger-ale.
I can’t exactly tumble
Why they make a flamin’ fuss,
When the lemonade men grumble
’Cos they ain’t in line with us.
Brewin’s straight, fair-dinkum yacker,
So is whisky-makin’, too.
Like the growin’ of terbacker
For the likes of me an’ you.
I’m surprised to see there’s pickets
Where the blacklegs hide an’ hike,
’Cos the world ain’t takin’ tickets
On a soda-water strike.

To ’ear the public ’owlin’
’Cos supplies is runnin’ short,
You’d think they’d cause for growlin’
When they’ve nothink of the sort.
Wot the sulphur does it matter
If there ain’t no temp’rance drinks,
Which the barmaids spurt an’ spatter
On the blokes with wicked winks?
Lemonade ain’t good for no one,
Ginger-ale is worse, in fack;
An’ the publican’s a slow one
If ’e sells the rotten tack.
But if brew’ry strikes was started
Every man ’oo is a man
Should see beer made an’ carted
Though deadly risks ’e ran.
Though I never got a shillin’,
An’ each knock-orf meant a fight,
I would blackleg free an’ willin’
In the cause of yooman right!

— Dryblower.

The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 21 January 1912, p. 6

Editor’s notes:
blackleg = someone who works whilst their fellow employees are on strike, someone who takes over a striker’s job (blackleg labour), a strike-breaker, a scab

ermine = the dignity of a judge, noble, or high official (may also refer to 1) a weasel, or stoat, whose coat becomes white in winter, especially a short-tailed weasel; 2) white fur sourced from ermines; 3) the office, rank, or status of a judge, noble, or high-ranking official, whose ceremonial or official robe is, or historically was, trimmed or otherwise decorated with ermine)

fair-dinkum = genuine, authentic, on the level

knock-off = knock-off time, the time when the working day ends; finish work

miker = idler, loafer, scrounger (from “mike”, to be hanging about or idle)

off like a packet = “off like a packet of crackers” (firecrackers, fireworks), or “off like a packet of Chinese crackers”, to be angry and shouting, to explode into a rage

ribbon racket = the Blue Ribbon Movement, a temperance organization which originated in the USA and spread to other countries, including Australia; therefore, “blue-ribboner” came to be used to refer to teetotalers in general (i.e. non-drinkers of alcoholic beverages)

sulphur = a euphemism for “hell” (sulphur, also known as brimstone, is a yellow-coloured stone which can be made to burn, upon which it emits a nasty odour; traditionally there has been an association of sulphur with Hell, e.g. the Bible, in Revelation 21:8, refers to “the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone”)

tack = cheap, inferior, or tasteless material; may also refer to food, especially distasteful or inferior food (hardtack was a hard biscuit used as a staple diet by sailors)

tumble = become aware of, discover, notice, realise, understand

yacker = work (also spelt “yakka”, “yakker”)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
an’ (and)
’as (has)
’ate (hate)
blarsted (blasted)
’cos (because)
’e (he)
’ear (hear)
’eart (heart)
’em (them)
fack (fact)
giv (give)
howers (hours)
kin (can)
knock-orf (knock-off)
Laber (Labor)
lan’ (land)
me (my)
naber (neighbour)
nothink (nothing)
’oo (who)
orf (off)
’owlin’ (howling)
terbacker (tobacco)
ther (the)
wot (what)
yer (you)
yooman (human)

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