[Editor: A poem about an incident on a boat. Published in The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal (Braidwood, NSW), 28 August 1909.]
The Faithful Watchman.
At the sinking of the dredge recently at Araluen the faithful old watchman (who has passed the allotted span) would not desert his post, because his coat and tucker bag were on board, but had to be dragged from the sinking dredge.
The old man stood on the sinking dredge,
Whence all but he had fled,
For from his post he would not budge
Without his beef and bread.
And, oh! he made a gallant show,
As all alone he stood,
And searched for bag and old “poncho”
Amid the piles of wood.
“Come on,” “Come on,” the boatmen cried;
The creaking timbers roared;
But still the old watchman replied,
“My coat and bag are on board.”
“Come on,” they cried, “she is sinking low;”
He answered, “Hold your mag,
For from the dredge I will not go
Without my coat and bag.”
The dredge rolled on; he would not go
Without his bag and coat,
Till two strong men they had to throw
The old man in the boat.
With sweeping oars the water crossed;
They scarce had reached the bank,
When No. 1 she heaved and tossed
And ’neath the waters sank.
Ah! many a fireman’s rigging rare
That dredge to bottom did drag,
But the most lamented thing that perished there
Was that old coat and bag.
The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal (Braidwood, NSW), 28 August 1909, p. 1
It appears that this poem was styled as a parody of the poem “Casabianca” (1826), which was written by the English poetess Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835), with its well-known first line “The boy stood on the burning deck”. Whilst, in modern times, the vulgar version of the poem is more widely known than the original, the 1826 poem was standard fare in British Commonwealth and American schools from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. The first stanza of the poem by Felicia Hemans is as follows:
The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but him had fled;
The flame that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round him o’er the dead.
mag = to talk or chat; alternatively, to criticize harshly or vehemently
tucker bag = a cloth bag used for carrying food