Man from Ironbark: Charged 1/6 for haircut: Complains to police [25 February 1924]

[Editor: An amusing human interest story. Published in The Morning Bulletin, 25 February 1924.]

Man from Ironbark.

Charged 1/6 for haircut.

Complains to police.

A favourite recitation years ago was a poem entitled “The Man from Ironbark,” the author being Banjo Patterson, who is no relation to “Battler” of that ilk, who is probably better known in Central Queensland than Banjo. In the poem mentioned Banjo narrates how “The Man from Ironbark” wandered into an elaborately fitted up barber’s saloon in Sydney. He had “bush” written all over him and one of the “smart Alecks” thought he would take a rise out of him. When the barber got Woop in the chair, preparatory to shaving him, he dipped his razor into the hot water and drew the back of the blade smartly across Woop’s throat. “Murder, bloody murder, yelled the Man from Ironbark,” and though “the life blood was pourling from him” reckoned he would have a clean up. What he did to that barber and the saloon was an epic in devastation.

Last week a full brother to “The Man from Ironbark” strayed into the city. The recent bounteous rains have made the lot of the man on the land a bit easier and, no doubt, our friend thought that it was up to him to see the white lights once again. Like the grass, his hair had grown and he felt like a haircut. So he duly selected a saloon and took one of the vacant chairs. The tonsorial artist tried his best to make talk, but his customer was very unresponsive. He was emphatic that he did not require any face massage, brush ups, round ups, whip ups, or the other mysterious operations performed on luckless and easy going clients. Perhaps he had read about those victims in Sydney who had been bled to the tune of a fiver before they were allowed to quit the saloon. Nor did he want any oil, though he admitted he would not mind getting the “dinkum oil” for Saturday. After the operation he was given a red counter and told to pay at “the counter.”

Not like Samson, when his locks were horn, the brother to “Ironbark” felt pretty fit when he braced the bar, or rather counter. “One and six please” remarked the proprietor as he picked up the red counter. “One and six” roared Ironbark the Second in a voice which set all the telephone wires outside jangling and sent the tonsorial artists in the saloon scurrying into the yard, fleeing from the wrath to come. “One and six for a hair cut. Do you know what you are? You are nothing but a bowelless profiteer. Ned Kelly was a gentleman alongside you.” He got fairly moving and “shark,” ‘thief,” “robber,” “Uncle from Fiji” and other well-known expressions were freely quoted, and emphasised with the great Australian adjective. Also he smote the counter with a pair of hefty hands and stamped his number tens on the floor. Finally he stopped to take breath and the proprietor tried to tell him that 1s. 6d. was the regular, fixed and legal charge and that everyone paid without protest. “Protest,” roared “Ironbark.” “A man ought to do more than protest against such extortion. He oughtn’t to pay.” Eventually he carefully counted out 1s. 6d. and said he would go to the police about it.

“Ironbark” was as good as his word, for he went round to the police station, where a much harassed official listened to his tale of woe, told with much emphasis. A member of the force was despatched to make inquiries and he returned with the information that 1s. 6d. was the recognised charge and the saloon proprietor had not attempted to “put one across him.” But “Ironbark” was still unsatisfied and announced his intention of calling upon the Inspector. So far he has not done so.

Meanwhile the saloon proprietor has so far recovered from the shock that he is now able to sit up and take a little nourishment. But he is wondering whether “Ironbark” was really what he looked or a professional politician in disguise. His daily prayer now is that some of the others will get “Ironbark’s” custom the next time he hits this burg.

The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Qld.), 25 February 1924, p. 5

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