In every population in our cities and our towns,
Among our Smiths and Johnsons, Wilsons, Robinsons and Browns,
There are scandalising stickybeaks who flute across the fence
Where their backyards join the others and the dirt is often dense.
Their chiefest occupation is the tearing into shreds
Of other married couples, long grown-ups and newly-weds,
And when they gab and gossip of the dear old yester-years,
It invariably starts with —
It’s a fine old phrase for gossips who describe their neighbours’ kids;
Their pedigrees, prosperities, or lack of needed quids.
The time of day they talk the most is when the old man’s out,
Over back-fence, beer or billies, shandygaff or nursing stout.
They’re generally aproned and have soapsuds on their shoes,
And talk in furtive whispers as they ladle out the news.
But whether it is open play or secret little sneers,
It commences with the classic —
It appears that Mrs. Wobbles isn’t really wed at all,
And her daughter owes for dresses that she danced in at the ball.
It appears that Mr. Portly comes home sozzled twice a week,
For all the neighbors’ goings-on are known to Stickybeak.
In the more superior suburbs you will find the same old thing;
They know their neighbors’ naughtiness, and what their homes would bring;
They supply all sacred secrets as to rent that’s in arrears,
And the sermon kind commences —
It appears that Mr. Razzle-Dazz who puts on side and swank,
Has scarcely got a hundred to his credit at the bank;
It appears that Mr. Stay-out-late sustained that fractured face
Through rude remarks he passed about some lingerie and lace.
It appears that Mrs. Skinflint in the swagger boarding-house
Doesn’t give her staff of servants quite enough to feed a mouse,
And she steals the boarders’ dead marines that once surrounded beers,
’Cos the cook and housemaid saw her —
It appears that Mrs. Newlyrich, who passes with a frown,
Was a barmaid on the Barrier and took the miners down;
And her husband was a sly-grog bloke who ran a shanty store;
Selling dungarees and boots and things for bits of burgled ore.
It appears that Mrs. Put-on-side whose kids at concert show,
Upon her pianola owes a decent bit of dough;
And as for them there daughters, why the pretty stuck-up dears,
Once was jilted by a jockey —
The legends never lose themselves, or paler grow nor slight;
Black will grow a great deal blacker, ditto yellow, green and white;
That motor car the Murphys drive is mortgaged to the hilt,
Gordon’s gas stove is an old one, Simpson’s sink is full of silt.
The Randells round the corner had the bailiffs in last week;
The Richards, to their poor relations never nod or speak;
And every drama starting from these knowing back-yard seers,
Opens with the curtain raiser —
It appears the stuck-up Stewarts owe for milk and meat and bread;
They waste their cash on jazzing and on picture shows instead;
It appears that Mrs. Robins rarely gets her old man’s tea,
And he has to get his dinner where he happens just to be.
Payne’s piano isn’t paid for, and his son has just got the sack.
And last week Kelly took a whip and gave his wife a whack.
Old Wilson’s house is coming down, and one that’s owned by Speers,
The Council has condemned them —
It appears that Mickey Moneybags has made another will,
And he’s cutting off his daughter and her husband Shicker Bill;
It appears that Mrs. Cagman feeds her flock on fish and chips,
And the flappers at the fruit-shop pad their legs and paint their lips.
These gossips know all pedigrees, all pasts and presents too;
How the Wilsons at the wine-shop came from awful Wooloomooloo;
And, as for that there Johnson, who at every lady leers,
His wife can’t keep a servant —
The garbage gathers daily in the dust-box at the door,
But still the yap continues, still the hearers cry “Encore!”
Still the failings of all families are sorted out in tones
That vary from a whisper to the mournfullest of groans!
Still the washing-up’s neglected, still the clothes hang on no line,
While the scandalcats discuss the deeds of lying old lang-syne;
But, be it common cackle or the most sarcastic sneers,
With this the barrier rises —
Edwin Greenslade Murphy, Dryblower’s Verses, Perth, W.A.: E. G. Murphy, 1926, pages 75-77
Previously published (with some differences) in:
The Sunday Times (Perth, WA), 9 October 1921, p. 4
dead marine = an empty bottle which previously contained beer or alcoholic spirits
dough = money
flapper = a young woman, especially during the 1920s, who acted in a boldly unconventional manner, contrary to the socially acceptable standard of behavior, particularly having bobbed (short) haircuts, wearing short skirts, and dancing in what could be regarded as an improper manner
old lang syne = “Auld Lang Syne” (Scottish), “times long past” (literally, “old long since”), similar to “the good old days”; commonly known in relation to the song “Auld Lang Syne”, being the poem written by Robert Burns (and later set to music) which was based upon an old Scottish song
quid = a pound, a dollar; originally “quid” referred to the basic currency unit of a pound, however, after the decimalisation of Australia’s currency in 1966, it was used to refer to the basic currency unit of a dollar
scandalcats = scandalmongers (people who gossip a lot about scandals)
shicker = drunk
sozzled = drunk
[Editor: Added an apostrophe in “neighbors’ naughtiness”.]