W. T. Goodge

W. T. Goodge was a poet, author, journalist, and newspaper editor. He wrote topical poetry and humorous verse, as well as articles and short stories. He was particularly well-known in Orange (NSW), where he lived for many years, although he gained a nationwide audience when a book of his poems was published by the Bulletin Newspaper Company.

William Thomas Goodge, known to his friends as “Billy”, was born in London, England, on 28 September 1862. As a young man he obtained a position on the ship “Cathay”, and made his way out to Australia, arriving in Sydney in 1880.

Shortly after landing, he obtained work at Windagee Station, a Cobb & Co. property in country NSW (south of Walgett). According to W. E. Fitz Henry, Goodge’s first verse was “a six-line stanza giving his unprintable opinion of the manager of Windagee Station, where he was employed as a jackeroo, and the owners, Cobb & Co., was carved with a penknife on the smooth trunk of a bluegum-tree”.

Goodge soon began writing for country newspapers. He wrote poetry for the Dubbo Express, and worked as a journalist for The Lithgow Mercury. He was appointed editor of the Orange Leader (Orange, NSW), and many of his poems were printed in that newspaper (and were often reprinted in other papers). He contributed to Truth and The Bulletin (Sydney), and was known to write material under the pseudonyms of “The Colonel” and “Billy Badge”.

His poem “The Great Australian Adjective”, originally published in The Bulletin in 1897, is possibly his most famous work; it used dashes (“——”) to imply the word “bloody”, which was regarded as a terribly uncouth swear word at the time (although its usage was particularly widespread amongst the populace).

A collection of his verse, Hits! Skits! and Jingles!, was published in 1899. Reviews of the book were appreciative; however, some reviews were also quite critical — in a nutshell, saying that whilst the verses were often humorous and enjoyable, they were not of a high standard, and were not of such quality as to last long in the public’s regard.

During the Boer War (1899-1902), Goodge wrote “Sons of New Britannia”, a patriotic song, which was published in his “Nutshells” column in the Orange Leader (18 October 1899), using his pseudonym of “The Colonel”. It appears that this song was written somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but that proved no impediment to Nicholas J. Gehde, who set it to music, and it became widely popular, being sung at many patriotic events and concerts.

He wrote another patriotic song, “Call All Hands” (first published on 28 December 1899), which also became very popular; it was published in newspapers all over Australia, as well as in other British Commonwealth countries. The song was set to music by Mr. T. H. Massey, and re-titled “Pipe All Hands”. It was widely played at patriotic events and received very warmly; for instance, The Daily Telegraph (29 January 1900) reported that, when it was played at a concert in Bathurst, it “created quite a furore, the singer being thrice re-called”. The composition was resurrected during the First World War (1914-1918) when the comedian Ed. E. Ford, billed as “the Australian Sundowner”, used a slightly altered version (entitled “All Hands”) as a recitation in his tour of England, where it was a big hit.

Whilst living in Orange, W. T. Goodge joined the Labor Electoral League, and took part in the local effort to raise funds for strikers at Broken Hill. He also became involved with several local organisations, including the cricket club, the rugby union club (for which he agreed to write a song), the greyhound coursing club, the Church of England, and the Oddfellows. Goodge ran for the position of Alderman for Orange council, in a by-election, but was unsuccessful against the two other candidates, obtaining only 5 votes out of 178.

During his time as editor of the Orange Leader, William Goodge married Miss Powter (a woman from a long-established Orange family), on 21 January 1892, in the local church. However, his wife contracted typhoid fever and died, aged 22 years old, on 17 January 1895 (only a few days short of their third wedding anniversary), leaving Billy with two young children (a baby of nine weeks and a toddler just over two years old). Just a few months later, as an awful addition to his misfortunes, the hand of death struck yet again, with his baby boy (Julian Gilbert Goodge) dying in September 1895.

Three years after the death of his wife, W. T. Goodge married a second time, to Miriam Wilson, on 15 March 1898.

In 1901 Goodge moved permanently to Sydney, where he worked for the Truth newspaper. Whilst in Sydney, he contributed to several country newspapers, as well as writing the column “Bits by Badge”, which was published in The Arrow (from 1905 to 1909).

However, he had been ill for some time, and his health finally failed him. W. T. Goodge died at the North Shore Hospital (Sydney, NSW), on Sunday 28 November 1909, at the age of 47, leaving behind a widow and three children.

After his death, the Dubbo Dispatch said that Goodge was “a journalist of considerable ability… He had the gift of versification, and though some of his efforts did not transcend to jingle, yet much of it was of a high order of merit, and distinctly bright and witty. As a writer of patriotic songs the late Mr. Goodge was deservedly appreciated during the Boer War, and by his death Australian journalism suffers a loss.” The Glen Innes Examiner stated that he was “one the most brilliant verse-men in the States”.

In later years, The Richmond River Herald described W. T. Goodge as “undoubtedly the greatest country press versifier of his day”.

Note: Some sources have given the year of W. T. Goodge’s arrival on the “Cathay” as either 1880 or 1882; however, a list of the crew of the “Cathay”, leaving Melbourne for Sydney in December 1880, includes one W. Goodge, aged 18, from London.

Books by W. T. Goodge:
1899: W. T. Goodge, Hits! Skits! and Jingles!, Sydney: Bulletin Newspaper Company
1965: W. T. Goodge, The Great Australian Adjective, London: Sheed & Ward (published posthumously; selections from Hits! Skits! and Jingles!, with illustrations by Norman Lindsay)

Selected poetry by W. T. Goodge:
[Arranged by date of publication.]
* = Minor poems (typically 8 lines or less)

“——!”: The Great Australian Adjective [by “The Colonel” (W. T. Goodge), 11 December 1897]
The Governor’s Xmas Party [25 December 1898]
* Army Nurses [by “The Colonel” (W. T. Goodge), 18 October 1899]
* John L. Fegan [by “The Colonel” (W. T. Goodge), 18 October 1899]
* The New Test [by “The Colonel” (W. T. Goodge), 18 October 1899]
* Premier Lyne [by “The Colonel” (W. T. Goodge), 18 October 1899]
* Simply Want to Fight [by “The Colonel” (W. T. Goodge), 18 October 1899]
The Bush Missionary [in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901]
The Tugs of Simpsonville [in The Bulletin Reciter, 1901]
The Little Brown Egotist [14 June 1903]
In Memoriam: Victor John Daley [31 December 1905]
The Kookaburra Championship [13 December 1908]
The Dog in the Manger [7 February 1909]

Selected songs by W. T. Goodge:
Sons of New Britannia [by “The Colonel” (W. T. Goodge), 18 October 1899]
Call All Hands [30 December 1899]

Selected articles by W. T. Goodge:
The sorrows of fame [12 May 1900]
Farrellesque reminiscenses [22 January 1904]

Articles about W. T. Goodge:
New publications [review of “Hits! Skits! and Jingles!” by W. T. Goodge, 11 June 1899]
“Call All Hands” [letter, 21 April 1900]
[Obituary: W. T. Goodge] [The Bulletin, 2 December 1909]
W. T. Goodge [by A. G. Stephens, 11 December 1909]
In Memoriam: W. T. Goodge [poem, 21 December 1909]

Cathay of Sydney, William Malcolm Robbie, Master, burthen 1884 tons: From the port of Melbourne to Sydney, New South Wales, 3ST DEC. 1880”, Mariners and ships in Australian Waters
W.T. Goodge”, Austlit (“Arrived in Australia: 1880”)
W.T. Goodge (1862—1909), Oxford Reference (left his ship in Sydney in 1882)
Letter by Norman Lindsay to Alec H. Chisholm 1964.09, Perry Middlemiss (see footnote: “W.T. Goodge came to Australia in 1882 aged twenty”)
W.T. Goodge (1862-1909), Perry Middlemiss (“arrived in Sydney in 1882 after working his passage as a steward”)
Orange peelings”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 2 September 1891, p. 2 (ran for the position of Treasurer of the Labor Electoral League in Orange)
Orange peelings”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 28 November 1891, p. 2 (Church of England activities)
The same old story”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 22 January 1892, p. 2 (marriage to his first wife)
The Broken Hill strike”, Evening News (Sydney, NSW), 26 August 1892, p. 4
Athletics: Cricket Gossip”, The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), 17 September 1892, p. 661
Orange peelings”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 17 April 1894, p. 3 (agreed to write a song for the football club)
Down with typhoid”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 16 January 1895, p. 2 (illness of his first wife)
Death of Mrs. W. T. Goodge”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 18 January 1895, p. 2 (death of his first wife)
Orange”, The Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal (Bathurst, NSW), 19 January 1895, p. 3 (death of his first wife)
The late Mrs. Goodge”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 19 January 1895, p. 3 (funeral of his first wife; Oddfellows member)
Orange peelings”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 6 September 1895, p. 2 (death of his son)
Coursing: The question of amalgamation”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 10 February 1897, p. 2
Orange Peelings”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 6 April 1897, p. 3 (council election)
Affairs at Orange”, The Australian Star (Sydney, NSW), 13 April 1897, p. 5 (council by-election results)
Three Country Representative Teams”, The Sydney Mail and New South Wales Advertiser (Sydney, NSW), 10 July 1897, p. 73 (rugby union club)
Marriage of a journalist”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 16 March 1898, p. 2 (marriage to his second wife)
Enthusiasm at Bathurst”, The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 29 January 1900, p. 6
[Miscellaneous news items], The Cootamundra Herald (Cootamundra, NSW), 1 December 1900, p. 2 (move to Sydney)
Mr Goodge’s departure”, The Leader (Orange, NSW), 1 August 1901, p. 2 (permanent move to Sydney)
Passing notes”, The Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette (Wyalong, NSW), 17 August 1901, p. 4 (move to Sydney)
Our wires: Death of W. T. Goodge”, The Glen Innes Examiner (Glen Innes, NSW), 30 November 1909, p. 5
Death of Mr. W. T. Goodge”, Dubbo Dispatch and Wellington Independent (Dubbo, NSW), 1 December 1909, p. 2
Personal”, The National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW), 1 December 1909, p. 2
The late Mr. W. T. Goodge (“Billy Badge”)”, The Referee (Sydney, NSW), 8 December 1909, p. 12 (long illness prior to death)
Pipe all hands”, The Arrow (Sydney, NSW), 10 February 1917, p. 3 (Goodge as the writer of “Bits by Badge”; Ed. E. Ford touring England with Goodge’s song)
The Voice of the “Anzacs”: “All Hands””, [no publication details], [undated, ca. 1915-1917] (re. Ed. E. Ford)
In the Gay 90’s: Jack Moses and W. T. Goodge”, The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser (Coraki, NSW), 10 April 1942, p. 6
W. E. Fitz Henry, “John Webb”, The Bulletin (Sydney), 22 December 1948, p. 2 (col. 2)

Further reading:
W. T. Goodge”, Wikipedia

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