The Kookaburra Championship [poem by W. T. Goodge, 13 December 1908]

[Editor: This poem by W. T. Goodge was published in The Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), 13 December 1908.]

The Kookaburra Championship

By W. T. Goodge — for the “Sunday Times”

Out beyond the Bogan River on an unfrequented track,
In that vast expanse of country which the bushmen call “out back,”
Is a little one-horse township, where the mail comes once a week,
On the margin of a streamlet known as Kookaburra Creek.
There are scores of other townships whose position is the same —
Quite unknown to larger places; even some of them by name!
Far away from any railway; to the world at large unknown,
Yet enjoying social customs, fetes, and functions of their own.

But these little out-back centres, if unknown themselves, are yet
Well-informed of larger places, for the news they always get.
They discuss the Emperor William, and the Tsar of Russia gets
Pretty much the same attention as the London suffragettes!
Though the outside world ignores them in its constant roar and rush,
They are most observant people in these townships of the bush;
Shrewdly keen are their conclusions as the seasons come and go,
And their link with civilisation is the coach of Cobb and Co.!

Such a place is Kookaburra; and the present writer learns
It grew very much excited in regard to Tommy Burns
And the coming fight with Johnson! Breathless interest was shown
Until somebody suggested an encounter of their own!
’Twas received with acclamation, this suggestion, yes, indeed!
Since it flattered their importance, it was certain to succeed!
What was Burns? And who was Johnson? Decent boxers in their way,
But there’d be a local battle to be fought on Boxing Day.

Now, on Wallaroobie Station, close to Kookaburra town,
Was a splendid big blackfellow, who had won no small renown;
As a skilled and plucky boxer, who possessed no “yellow streak,”
And who said he’d knock the head off any man along the creek!
“Fetch ’em all! Black, brown, or brindle! It will make no odds!” said he.
“Fetch ’em yellow! Fetch ’em piebald! It is all the same to me!”
Which remarks seemed rather boastful, and we hoped that Paddy Flynn,
Who was backed to fight the boaster, would eventually win!

When the day arrived the umpire said, with far less truth than pride,
That the fight was for a wager of two thousand pounds aside!
But the fight was a fiasco! They had merely sparred a bit
When the black man knocked the white man out in one terrific hit!
Then the judge declared all wagers off! Said he: “Fair play I love;
So the contest was abandoned, though the winner, thunderstruck,

The Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), 13 December 1908, p. 30

Also published in:
The Referee (Sydney, NSW), 23 December 1908, p. 10
The Western Champion (Parkes, NSW), 16 July 1914, p. 34

Editor’s notes:
acclamation = loud and enthusiastic approval, assent, or praise; an affirmative vote, or form of approval, indicated by applause, cheers, or shouts (an affirmative vote gauged by a loud and eager expression of approval, instead of by an official ballot)

blackfellow = (also “black-fellow”, “blackfella”) an adult male Aborigine (“blackfellows” has also been used to refer to a group of Australian Aborigines, inclusive of women and children, e.g. “tribe of black-fellows”)

Boxing Day = the day after Christmas day, or the first week-day after Christmas day, which is generally observed as a public holiday in British Commonwealth countries; it is believed to have been named after the practice of wealthy families giving present boxes (containing money, food, or other presents) to servants, errand-boys, and tradesmen (and, in later years, to postmen and garbage men) as a way of giving thanks for their service throughout the year (the practice may be related to the tradition, from mediaeval times, of the church giving alms to the poor on St. Stephen’s Day, which is celebrated on 26 December)

brindle = a brownish, grey, or tawny colour of animal fur, with streaks or patches of darker colours

Cobb and Co. = an Australian transportation company, well-known in the late 19th century and early 20th century, which operated various lines of stagecoaches, especially to outlying areas (including to the goldfields); it was established in 1853 by four Americans, including Freeman Cobb

Emperor William = Kaiser (Emperor) Wilhelm II (William II) was the head of the German Empire, from 15 June 1888 up until his abdication on 9 November 1918, two days prior to the armistice which ended World War One (however, his official “Statement of Abdication” was dated 28 November 1918)

Johnson = John Arthur Johnson (1878-1946), an African-American boxer, who became the first black world heavyweight boxing champion; Johnson won his world title when he defeated Tommy Burns (a white Canadian) in a match held in Sydney in 1908

out back = remote rural areas; sparsely-inhabited back country; often given as one word and capitalized, “Outback” (variations: out back, outback, out-back, Out Back, Outback)

piebald = an animal (especially a horse) which has irregular patches of two colours, typically coloured with large patches of black and white

score = twenty (sometimes used in conjunction with a cardinal number, e.g. “threescore”, “fourscore”) (may also refer to an undefined large number)

station = a large rural holding for raising sheep or cattle; the term “property” is used for smaller holdings

suffragette = a woman who is a supporter of giving women the right to vote, especially referring to someone active, or militant, in the suffragette movement (taking part in organised protesting and campaigning); a member of the British suffragette movement of the early 20th century, or a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union (founded in 1903 by Emmeline Pankhurst in Manchester, England); the term “suffragette” was coined to refer to the militants led by the Pankhurst family, as distinct from the “suffragists” who had been campaigning in a quieter fashion since the 1860s

Tommy Burns = a Canadian boxer (1881-1955), born Noah Brusso (of Italian descent), who became the world heavyweight boxing champion; unlike many other boxing champions, Burns fought across the “color line”, and boxed against various non-white opponents; Burns lost his world title when he was defeated by Jack Johnson (an African-American) in a match held in Sydney in 1908

Tsar = (also “Czar”) an emperor of Russia, up until the murder of the Nicholas II (the last ruling monarch of the Russian Empire) and the Russian royal family by Communists in 1917 (the title was also applied to the rulers of the Bulgarian and Serbian empires)

yellow streak = a trait of cowardice in a someone’s character

Old spelling in the original text:
’twas (it was)

Vernacular spelling in the original text:
’em (them)

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