AUSTRALIA - BUSH TALES - PART 2
Bush Characters and Bush Customs
Somewhere about Mosman heights in suburban Sydney, is buried a fortune that will make the finder affluent for life. The amount is said to be more than 20,000 pounds. The money is the proceeds of Australia's first bank robbery when, on 15th September 1826, the Sydney branch of the Bank of Australia was robbed. The money was never recovered, but it was expertly planted in the vicinity of Mosman heights, so it was said. Midway between Melbourne and Ballarat still lies hidden the secret hoard of Captain Melville. That bushranger reaped a wealth of treasure from the proceeds of his daring robberies, all of which he conceded in a remote hiding-place. when he was captured he openly boasted that his booty was so well planted that it would defy discovery for hundreds of years. It is doubtless hidden somewhere in the country where Melville operated, and should be a considerable fortune. Included amongst the treasure hunters who have sought in vain to find it was Marcus Clarke, author of the Australian classic, For the term of His Natural Life. He put arduous toil into searching some of the caves in the Grampian Mountains.
Other bushrangers known to have buried the proceeds of their robberies are Ben Hall, Thunderbolt, and Frank Gardiner. Ben Hall's booty is believed to be hidden in the depths of the beautiful Bungonia Caves, about twenty-five miles out of Goulburn. Thunderbolt's spoil is said to be somewhere in the Mudgee ranges. A strange sequel is told about the loot of Frank Gardiner - 'King of the bushrangers'. Gardiner is the only bushranger buried outside Australia. When he was freed from prison he decided to go to America. There, in the United States, he became quite a respected citizen. He had operated as a bushranger in the Forbes district. A few years after his death in America there came to Forbes three husky young Americans. They did not give their names, or mention anything about themselves other than the fact that they were brothers. soon after their arrival in the district they discovered in the hilly country a hoard of bushrangers' gold. The men then packed up and returned to America. After their departure some old residents of "Forbes recalled the strong resemblance of the young men to Frank Gardiner, and now it is believed that they were his sons. perhaps he told them where he had hidden the gold and, after his death, they decided to retrieve it.
Presumably the loot was not that of the Eugowra robbery when Gardiner and his gang bailed up the gold escort and robbed it of 10,000 pounds. what became of that plunder is a mystery, but, according to a story, there is good reason for believing that two enterprising Scotsmen 'sprung' the bushrangers' loot, and got away with it to their native land. Some years ago an account was published concerning a man named Percy Faithful who, when in Scotland in 1904, was shown a cottage and told a strange tale about the man living in it. The Scot, and a friend of his, had emigrated to Australia n their young days. One night, when tramping through the country looking for work, they sought shelter in a hut, whose sole occupant was a woman. The request for a night's lodging was refused, the woman saying that the bushrangers were likely to return at any moment, they might suspect the travellers of being police spies.
Even as she spoke the gang appeared in the distance and the woman hurriedly locked the two travellers in a small room. The bushrangers, who were in a desperate hurry (police being on their tracks) handed to the woman a bag full of gold, told her to 'plant' it, and then rode away. The Scotsmen, so the story goes, took the gold from the defenceless woman and cleared out. With their doubly ill gotten booty, to the value of 10,000 pounds , the precious pair boarded at Sydney a vessel bound for the Old Country, which they reached safely, to enjoy the golden fruits of the Eugowra escort robbery. That is the tale.
Much has been written about the great pearling industry of Australia's northern tropical seas, but little has been said of the romantic Torres Strait Island that was the birthplace of the industry. Forgotten, too, is the name of Captain Banner, who, in 1868, discovered the first pearls, but whose untimely death prevented him from sharing in the fortunes that were amassed by the majority of the pioneer pearlers. Today the name of that island is Warrior Island. In the early days, Warrior Island was known by its native name of Tute. It was the home of hostile natives - noted sea warriors whose powerful fleet of huge outrigger canoes was feared throughout Torres Strait and along the coast of New Guinea. All native trading vessels travelling between New Guinea and the mainland had to pay the Warrior Islanders a 'toll' in goods before they were allowed to pass, any vessel that refused to pay was promptly sunk and the natives on board killed. Strangely enough, the first white men to visit the island received an enthusiastic reception; they were the crew of a French ship, which, in distress, called there in 1790 to repair a damaged rudder. The natives gave the visitors every assistance and treated the sailors like kings. Unfortunately the Frenchmen sailed away without offering the natives anything whatsoever for their service. The unfair treatment incensed the islanders so much that from then on they attacked every white man 's boat that neared their territory.
It was not warfare that finally subdued the sea warriors in the early sixties of last century Captain Moresby of the H.M.S Basilisk managed to make friends with them by giving them presents of tobacco and other trade goods when he encountered them at sea. Later, in 1868, Captain Banner happened to call at the island and was amazed to see all the natives - men, women and children - wearing strings and ornaments of valuable pearls. The children were even using pearls for marbles. When Captain Banner's story reached civilization, the great pearl rush commenced so the then lonely and little-known seas of Australia's northern coasts. Gradually the pearl-beds of Warrior Island were worked out, and since the year 1900 the island has been forgotten.
In pearl fishing, hardship and endeavour, joys and disappointments, humour and tragedy, go hand in hand. There was one northern pearler who discovered a perfect, round pearl which was valued at 10,000 pounds. He gave the gem to his wife as guard for him until the end of the pearling season, when he intended making a special journey to London to sell it. His wife placed the pearl for safe keeping in a small bottle, which she hung on a chain around her neck, inside her dress. Then Fate intervened. On the pearlers last trip to sea for the season, his wife accompanied him, but the boat floundered during a cyclone, and all on board were drowned, with the exception of the pearler himself. His wife, with the bottle containing the pearl still hanging around her neck, went down with the boat, and although divers spent many weeks searching for her body, it was never found. The sea still holds that valuable pearl in its keeping.
Famous and Infamous Characters
The King of the Hawkesbury
There are not many more beautiful places in New South Wales than the spot where the old Northern road crosses the Hawkesbury River at Wiseman's Ferry, some fifty-two miles from Sydney. For many years it was an important station on the land route between the capital and the Hunter Valley.
Solomon Wiseman, the man who gave his name to the ferry, must have possessed some remarkable qualities. He came to the colony because he could not see eye-to-eye with certain customs men in the Isle of Wight regarding the nocturnal landing of durable goods. After serving his sentence of transportation he settled on the Hawkesbury at this spot, long before the road was made. Here he established the first ferry over the river, and it remained the only one for many years. To construct the roadway up the mountains on either side, large numbers of convicts were sent to the ferry, and Solomon Wiseman was appointed District Superintendent. This was a job of some importance, with much power and glory appertaining to it. There were also perquisites of which the astute Solomon was not slow to avail himself.
He supplied provisions to convicts on the Hawkesbury, thereby netting 4000 pounds a year, and he ruled the whole district. There is a cave on the northern side of the river, known as the Judgment Cave, where Solomon is supposed to have sat and delivered judgment. There are about twenty houses today in the village of Wiseman's Ferry - or Wiseman's, as it is called locally. The homestead of the King of the Hawkesbury is now an hotel. The original portion of this fine old building has walls about three feet thick, He built his house - as all pioneers did - with a view to its lasting. It is two-storeyed with magnificent circular steps leading up to the front verandah. Legend has it that Solomon used to throw his wives over the balcony on to those steps. Legend gives him three wives, but does not say just how many times he three each of the ladies over.
But he was a remarkable old man. To quote Judge Therry's reminiscences: 'He was quite a character - a person of great natural shrewdness and of considerable prosperity. He was very hospitable, waling round with a telescope under his arm so that he could see his visitors coming from afar. At the time I visited Solomon Wiseman (it was about 1890) he was surrounded by all the substantial comforts that a farmer with a like income enjoys in England. His household consisted of his wife, an amiable Englishwoman, and four sons, remarkably fine youths, varying from thirteen to eighteen years of age. Being inquisitive how these youths were brought up, and how he provided for their education, I found his notions on the subject of education curious and original. He said education was a point on which he was not particular; and asked me what was the good of it adding the observation that the acquisition of wealth was the main lemon of life. I told him that, amongst other things, '"Education aided in the acquirement of property". "Oh," he said, "my views are quite different. I have four sons, and I say to Richard, 'There's a heard of cattle for you', and to Tom 'There's a flock of sheep - look after them.' So, in five years' time they become rich, each the owner of large herds of cattle and flocks of sheep. Now that's what I call education, for by it they acquire means to live." It was idle to reason with mine host on the advantage of the observance of duties, and the restraints that education was designed to confer. He looked only to the one pint of material gain, and discarded every other consideration. In literacy attainments of any kind Solomon was sadly deficient, and took unmerciful liberties with the English language and English history.'
The story goes that Solomon flogged a convict, who died as a result of it. As he expired he cursed Wiseman. 'You will never rest!' he cried.
Years later the vault in which Solomon was buried was broken open. His coffin was smashed and his bones were scattered. Hoodlums kicked the skull of the King of the Hawkesbury in the dust. Later, what remained of his skeleton was buried in the churchyard. Thus his body did not rest. Nor could his spirit. A traveller from Europe visited the inn in the 'eighties. He was given Solomon Wiseman's bedroom He woke up with the horrid feeling that someone was in the room. Someone was. Solomon Wiseman was standing by the window. The visitor could see through him, and with a piercing shriek, he fled from the room.
A Picturesque Pioneer
In the Pittwater district, on the way to Palm Beach, New South Wales, is a locality called Stokes Point. It is named after a fine old pioneer who lived a secluded life on a little promontory across the bay. Mr Stokes had been transported to this country for being found with a stolen handkerchief in his possess. But to the end of his days protected his innocence. Often he told the story:
"It was a lovely Spring day in London, and off I went to Hyde Park to enjoy the sunshine. while I was making my way through the crowd at Piccadilly a pickpocket must have planted the handkerchief on me. Maybe he thought he was being watched, and wanted to get rid of it. Fortunately the handkerchief was worth only eleven pence. Had it been valued at a shilling or more I would have been hanged. As it was I was sentenced and transported to New South Wales as a convict."
The conduct of Mr Stokes certainly bore witness to his good character. In London he had been a ladies' shoemaker, and his neatness and tidiness were in keeping with the refinement of his early employment. On Sundays he was a resplendent sight. Always on the Sabbath he came from Pittwater to Mona Vale attired in all his magnificence. He wore a tightly fitting bottle-green coat with large pearl buttons, an amazing tall hat, and carried a walking stick that Beau Brummel might have envied. Fashion came and fashions went, but the colourful Sunday garb of Mr Stokes continued to dazzle the district.
The Queen of Scotland Island
There is very little about Scotland Island to suggest that once it was of considerable importance in the affairs of the young colony of New South Wales. Situated in the southern portion of Pittwater, not far from Sydney, it heavily timbered slopes today, save for the cleared spaces around the week-end cottages, would seem to be in almost the same condition as they were more than a century ago. In the early years of the last century the island was the scene of considerable shipbuilding activity, in addition to being the site of extensive salt-works. Andrew Thompson, a stalwart pioneer of the Windsor district, was the first owner of the island. He gave it its name, in honour of the native Scotland. In the churchyard at Windsor is the grave of Andrew Thompson; the tombstone bears a long eulogy by Governor Macquarie. Thompson had been transported to Australia for setting fire to a haystack when he was but fifteen years old, thus displaying, perhaps a singular initiative in revenging himself upon some nasty Farmer Giles. at any rate he roved an honourable and worthy addition to the land to which he was banished.
On the island he built himself his house, established a farm, and carried on a prosperous business for some years, combining ship-building with other interests. When he died in 1810 the Sydney Gazette made mention of the launching of a vessel at Scotland Island 'one of the finest ever built in the colony', and named by Andrew Thompson at the laying-down of the keel as the Geordy. After the death of Thompson many attempts were made to be found, for its isolated position rendered farming there an unprofitable venture.
For many years the island remained uninhabited; then came a romantic and mysterious person, one Arnbrof Diersknecht, a Belgian. In company with his wife he rebuilt Thomsons's cottage and established himself on the island. The pair were better known as Mr and Mrs Benns, but the latter, throughout the district, was referred to as the 'Queen of Scotland Island'. She was a little dark woman of gentle manners and great kindness of heart, but with a certain regal bearing. Her jewellery befitted her 'royal' title. She wore ornate golden earrings hanging to her shoulders, bracelets, and a magnificent necklet. Very little was known of the 'Queen' or her consort, but many picturesque tales were told of their past. There is a story that, before Mrs Benn 's death, she buried her collection of valuable jewellery somewhere on the island.
Nor is this the only legendary treasure buried on the island. In Governor Macquarie's term of office there was a scarcity of coined money in the colony. To meet the difficulty the governor gave orders that the fire-shilling Spanish dollar, the coin then most in use, should b e punched. The small central piece so removed (called the 'dump') was made a coin worth fifteen pence; while the remaining portion, known as the 'holey dollar', was made current at the old value of five shillings. A three-legged pot full of holey dollars is said to have been hidden on Scotland Island by two men in a stolen boat full of stolen treasure in Andrew Thompson's time.
'I wonder,' the descendant of an early settler remarked, 'if any of the present generation of Australians know how the very early settlers of Sydney interpreted the musical notes of the butcher-bird? My grandfather used to tell many tales about Margaret Catchpole. One was that so many men asked her to marry them that even the butcher-birds began to mock them. If you listen to one of these birds, especially in the early morning in autumn - it is then that the butcher-bird sings his sweetest songs - it requires no stretch of imagination to hear him say:
The legends that linger round Margaret Catchpole are many and varied. It is a fact that she gained local fame in her native English village when, as a young girl, she rode bareback one stormy night to fetch a doctor, some miles distant, for the wife of one of the villagers. On another occasion she jumped fully dressed into a river to save the life of a drowning child. Margaret Catchpole was born in Seven Hills, near Ipswich, Suffolk, in 1762. She became a domestic at 6 pounds a year and keep in the services of a family named Cobbold, in which there were twenty-two children. She had a young man named will Laud, a sailor who later turned down his job for the more profitable one of smuggling. When will was caught in the act Margaret determined to be near him. Dressing herself in male attire, she took a horse from the stables of her employer and rode to London, a distance of seventy miles, in eight and a-half hours - no mean achievement. On her arrival she tried to sell the horse, but was arrested and sentenced to seven years in Ipswich jail.
Margaret has served about three years of her sentence when news came to her through the jail grape vine intelligence that her lover, will Laud, had managed to escape from prison and was in hiding, waiting for her to join him. she waited the opportunity and soon afterwards made a break. Her lover kept her in hiding but the soldiers found her whereabouts and came to arrest her. Will Lau, in attempting to shield her, was killed, and Margaret was sentenced to death - a sentence later commuted to transportation for life. And so we find her in Australia. There is some doubt as to the exact year she reached here, but Henry Fulton, a former rector of Windsor and Richmond, says that she came out in the transport Nile, which arrived in December 1801. Because of the shortage of domestic in the colony Margaret was not sent to the Female Penitentiary at Parramatta but was assigned as cook and laundress to the Community Palmer. Strangely enough she never married - and this in a community where women were at a premium. Credence is thus given to the story that she had sworn to remain faithful to the memory of her lover, Will Laud. Certain it is that one aspirant for her hand was the brilliant young botanist, George Cayley, sent to Australia as a plant-collector by Sir Joseph Banks. In her middle-age she worked as a nurse and midwife in the Hawkesbury district. some of Australia's most noted pioneers were assisted into this world by the very capable hands of Margaret Catchpole. When the terrible floods of 1806 devastated the Hawkesbury flats she was a gallant figure in heroic rescue work.
Today you can see the little slab cottage on a hill at Richmond where she spent the last years of her life. surely this is worthy of national preservation, or at least a commemorative plaque. Though she lies buried somewhere in the Richmond Cemetery, her grave is unknown. In the old register of St. Peter's Church, nearby, is the last record of Margaret Catchpole - the entry of her death, as inscribed in the year 1819, by the Rev Henry Fulton:
Margaret Catchpole, aged 51 years, came prisoner in the Nile in the year 1861. Died may 13th; was buried May 14th, 1819 - Henry Fulton.
Much of the charm of Sydney lies in its beautiful harbour. Peers and poets have proclaimed its glories.
So sang Henry Lawson. A certain British Prime Minister proclaimed Sydney Harbour as 'a paradise of waters'. But one of the first persons who is recorded as having eulogised the beauty of the harbour was a murderer named Francis Morgan. He did so from the foot of the gallows on Pinchgut Island - if tradition be true.
Everyone who has seen Sydney Harbour has noticed Fort Denison, or Pinchgut, as it was called in the early days. For short while it was used to house refractory convicts, and as these unfortunates were fed and a small weekly ration of bread and water they soon coined for it the title of Pinchgut. The island has suffered tremendous change in outline since the First Fleet entered the harbour. It was at that time a conical-shaped rocky islet, about eighty feet in height, covered with bushes and stunted trees. Governor Phillip christened it Rock Island, a literal translation of its aboriginal name Mattenwaya. Soon after the inception of the infant colony it was recognised that the shark-infested waters would make Rock Island an ideal spot for the safeguarding of refractory convicts, so accommodation was made there for them.
In 1796 one, Francis Morgan, was condemned to death in connection with the murder of a man on the North Shore. The place chosen for his execution was on this island. At the foot of the gallows he was asked, before the hangman placed the rope over his head, if he had anything to say. The condemned man replied nonchalantly that he did not feel disposed to speak on such a morbid subject as death, nor was he inspired to make a public confession of his sins. He said that the only thing worth mentioning was the superb view of the harbour from his high elevation, and that he was sure there were no waters the world over to compare with it for beauty.
After his execution it was decided to follow the good old British custom of gibbeting malefactors in prominent places as an example of 'Crime does not pay'. Accordingly the body of Morgan was hung in chains at the top of Pinchgut and dangled there for many months. In 1840, shortly after the transportations of convicts to Australia had ceased, Sir George Gipps, recognizing the value of Pinchgut as a site for fortification, and realizing that the supply of cheap convict labour must soon cease, began in transformation by razing the rocky formation almost to water-level. The project, however, was not sanctioned by the Home authorities and the work was abandoned in 1842 when the island had assumed the appearance of a flat area of rubble, only a few feet above the tide, and about an acre in extent. But the position altered in 1854, when Britain and France found themselves at war with Russia, and governor Denison decided that Pinchgut should be fortified. By 1857, the present Martello tower and guard rooms were finished, and the impregnability of the fortress was assured by the mounting of modern artillery capable of hitting a very large object at a very short range, if the target sat very still. The name was changed from Pinchgut to Fort Denison in honour of the Governor of the day.
The walls of the fort are twelve feet thick at the base and nine feet at the top. The Martello tower - one of the finest of its type still in existence - remains as it was when it formed Sydney's chief defence. The huge blocks of stone are locked together by small coned cross-pieces of granite, revealing true expertness in the stonemason's art. Narrow stairs wind up to the gun-room where, in perfect order, are three of the old eight-inch 32-pounders. Many people are under the impression that the cells were used for the imprisonment and torture of manacled prisoners. That is not correct. The cells were used for the storage of powder and shot. In 1900 the island was taken over by the Harbour Treat, under whose control it still remains.
Reign of Good King Joe
His name never appeared in Who's Who or any directory, but Robert Joel cooper, better known in the North as King Joe, was one of the most remarkable and colourful of our pioneers, the only white man ever to become the absolute ruler of a tribe of aborigines. King Joe's kingdom was Melville Island, North Australia, and he ruled his subjects firmly for many years. Physically and mentally he was a fine type of Australian, upright and honourable and of commanding appearance. He stood well over six feet in height and had a remarkably keen pair of blue eyes.
Cooper arrived in the Northern Territory in 1881, having come overland from South Australia, where he was born. Utterly fearless, and straight in all hi dealings, he soon won over the fierce Melvine Islanders, and before long was proclaimed Chief over the Five Tribes. He was put through all the secret rites of the aborigines, and to the day of his death never revealed them to another white man. King Joe was a man who would carry out his principles unswervingly. He was a non-smoker and a teetotaller - an exceedingly rare combination in white men who live in North Australian bush country, far removed from civilization. Before he was chosen chief, trouble was always brewing on Melville Island. The islanders were a warlike race, avoided by both whites and b lacks. Cooper took charge all this was alters. He ruled with a rod of iron, but always justly. The punishment of evil-doers he attended to personally. Wearing only a loincloth, he would take a spear, wommera and throwing-stick, and hunt down any native who had broken one of the tribal laws and had fled to escape punishment. Being a fine tracker, as well as a first-class bushman, he always returned with the offender.
For a white man to be made a chief of wild aborigines was an honour not easily won. Even when Cooper had been accepted by the tribes, two native pretenders to the 'throne' challenged him to combat. Both were powerful young athletes famed for their prowess as warriors. Cooper accepted their challenge and prepared for a battle in which he was to fight both men in turn. Surrounded by hundreds of natives, he and his first opponent faced each other. They wore loincloths and carried only spears and a wommera each. They were separated by about 100 yards, and at a given signal each began to creep up on the other. The white man had learned to throw spears when quite a lad and was an expert in the art. However, the native knew all the tricks, too. so agile were the pair that this first test ended in a stalemate neither drew blood. The council of the old men of the tribes then decided that, as both were evenly skilled, they should come to grips with waddies. These weapons are about six feet in length, and shaped like a straight sword with two cutting edges. They are made from ironwood. The handle is carved to give a good grip, generally being held by both hands. The thickness of native's skull is abnormal; it can withstand a blow which would kill a European. Cooper was well aware of this, but so great was his confidence and fighting skill that he managed to evade the aborigines attacks until he found his opportunity to bring home a tremendous smash on the skull of his opponent. The fight was over. Though the native was not killed, he was knocked unconscious, and the white man was proclaimed victor.
The following day was set aside for the next trial by battle, but the second challenger had lost heart and confidence, and in the first round of the spear-throwing received a wound in his left thigh which put him out of action. King Joe had established himself in the only fashion understood by his subjects. Cooper married a full-blooded native of Melville Island, who proved herself to be an excellent wife and devoted mother. She presented him with a son and two daughters. There was hardly a dialect between Darwin and the Gulf of Carpentaria with which Robert Joel Cooper was unfamiliar, buffalo-shooting he outclassed even America's famed Buffalo bill. Altogether, he accounted for 27,000 buffaloes during his reign. In the museum at Adelaide there is a rifle with which he shot 3,000 of them. King Joe was extremely fond of his son, Reuben. Like his great father, Reuben was tall and well-built, and a wonderful athlete. He was educated at Prince Alfred College, South Australia. Just before World War I the noted Australian athlete, Snowy Baker, chose Reuben, with some other young outstanding sportsmen, to tour the world giving exhibitions of physical culture. Cooper senior was justly proud of this, and when the war caused the abandonment of the project he was a very disappointed man.
Before his death, the white ruler was acknowledged by all the people of the North as a man who had done more good for the former fierce Melville Island natives than anybody else who ever entered the Territory. His descendants today have proved themselves worthy children of a notable sire.
In spite of the penalties attached to playing the game, Two-up remains an Australian tradition; all the king's horses and all the king's men would find extreme difficulty in stamping it out.
Two-up is a gambling game that is as Australian as a wool-shed and as sudden in its outcome as the crack of a drover's stockwhip. It is played well-screened from the eyes of the law in back-rooms, laneways, secluded paddocks. The Great Australians Game finds its roots well-sunk into the tradition and heritage of the nation. It was a game born of the monotony and boredom of colonizing - an escape from the tiresome job of digging postholes or mine shafts. It was played on the goldfields of Victoria and the West; in the shearing sheds and the drovers camps; in Europe, the Middle East and the Far East, wherever Australian troops landed and battled, the two pennies rose from the kip, spun in the air and landed, accompanied by mixed language and suppressed elation.
An old yarn worth repeating concerns the Frenchman who saw the game played for the first time when the Aussies landed in France during World War I. 'Never have I seen a people so devout! They gather in small groups along the waterfront. Then at a signal from their leader they raise their faces to heaven only to humble themselves immediately by bending in the dust. Mon Diueu! Such devotion!'
The game can be played in low denominations and requires no elaborate equipment. There is no limit to the number of players. According to those who lay it, Two-u is the fairest gambling game in the world. It is impossible to corrupt a ring, indicative of the rise of the game's popularity throughout the low income groups which placed the sport on a national basis. Its history is confused, but according to some authorities it is an offshoot of the English game, Chuck-farthing. Other investigators give it a Chinese origin. Certainly, in its hundred years and more of laying, the game has not altered. It's still the same old toss and spin that attracted gold miners and drovers to the ring, and its language is as individual as the game itself. The layers assemble in a ring and one man, chosen or voluntary, takes the centre of the floor where he is given a kip - the small, flat piece of board on which the pennies are placed for sinning. The spinner hands to the boxer (one of the organizers) the sum for which he wishes to spin and then goes about attempting to spin three heads in a row. some schools lace two pennies on the kip, others three. When three pennies are used it is considered 'sudden death', meaning that there is no possibility of having to repeat the throw.
Before spinning is commenced, side bets by the watchers are taken. When 'all is set on the side', there is a call from the ring-keeper, 'Up and do 'em, Sinner!' or 'Come in, Spinner!' and the spinner tosses the coins into the air. Should any member of the school consider the toss to be a foul he is at liberty to shout 'bar' and the spinner is compelled to respin. The boxer and the ringy are in complete control of the school and any disputes are within their office. They call the results of the spin and fill the centre with bets. (Among the many phrases most confusing to the newly initiated is 'another sway in the guts', meaning another two rounds is wanted in the centre before the spinner is able to go.)
It is a hard game to beat. Years of thought have been given to the possibility of cheating and the only logical method is the application of a double-headed penny or a 'nob ', or a double-tailed penny, which is a 'grey'. But this is fairly impossible as a 'Picker-up', a man nominated from the watching crowd, picks up and checks the coins. some of the more skilled players have learnt to 'butterfly' the coin in which case the coins give the illusion of spinning but are merely fluttering. Such a malpractice is, however, easily spotted by the players and spins of that nature are barred.
Many Australian novels have featured Two-up in some way or other, but C. J. Dennis with his language of the digger captured the true spirit of the game. In his Songs of a Sentimental Bloke and the Moods of Ginger Mick he makes the casual, unpointed reference to the game which is exactly how it is treated by Australians. It will never die out as a game. No matter how you look at it, Two-up is tradition.
The Tub Races
The 'Tub Races' were a highlight of Sydney's aquatic sporting events in the sixties and seventies of last century. They were held by the fishermen who lived on the east side of Woolloomooloo Bay. The tubs were made by cutting large hogsheads in halves. Low stools were fixed into them and on these the competitors sat as they sculled from the Bay wharf around Pinchgut Island and back. The champions could make remarkably fast times and sometimes the 'photo-finish' results would end up in a fight with sculls.
Considerable skill was needed to handle the tubs. A novice would get nowhere in one of them, and indeed would simply revolve on the one spot. The champion sculler was a fisherman named Hastie, who could send a tub at great speed and on a dead-straight course. The Woolloomooloo fishermen were mostly Australian-born (in those days the Southern European fish merchants had not migrated to these shores), and they sold their catches at the old Woolloomooloo Municipal Market. The fish were dumped on the floor in fifty or sixty lots and bought by hawkers who carried them around Sydney suburbs in baskets.
Early Water Wizards
Wooloomooloo Bay was the scene of the first swimming championship to be held in Australia Saturday, 14th February 1846, was the memorable day for the sporting fraternity of Sydney Town.
Few people nowadays are aware that Australia was the first country to hold a world's swimming championship. It was held on Saturday, 9th January 1858, during the days of the great Victorian gold rush. The venue was St. Kilda, Melbourne, where Captain Kenney had established his bathing ship on similar lines to Robinson's Domain Baths in Sydney. The latter was an enclosure formed by mooring an old colonial trader, the Cornwallis, some 50 yards offshore and connecting bow and stern to the shore by means of wooden paling fences. The world championship was won by Joe Bennett, a Sydney-sider and outstanding swimmer of his day, from Charles Steedman, ex-champion of England, and Bennett's brother John. A record crowd of over 1000 witnessed the contest. For nearly 100 years since then Australian swimmers have contributed greatly to the improvement of swimming technique.
In the early fifties, G. W. Wallis, a Sydney lad, was taught the aboriginal side-stroke by a full-blooded native at Woolloomooloo Bay. In 1855 the boy visited England with his father and while there swam in baths owned by Professor Beckwith, who, impressed by the lad's speed and unusual style, induced him to teach him his stroke. Beckwith, in turn, imparted it to H. Gardiner, who, employing it, became champion of England soon afterwards. The Australian 'crawl' stroke was first swum by a 12-year-old lad, Alick Wickham, in a 66.2/3 yards handicap at Bronte Baths, Sydney; he completed the distance in the then remarkable time for a junior of 44 seconds. So astonished was George Farmer that he shouted: 'Look at that kid crawling!' and the old-time coach's remark was responsible for the stroke being dubbed 'the crawl'.
Like the aboriginal stroke, the 'crawl' was modified and improved and later superseded by other styles until the golden age of Australian swimming began in 1897 with such world champions as the Cavills and F. C. Lane, followed by an astonishing array of record-holders. It was the early water wizards, however, who pioneered modern speed, and who set high standards of sportsmanship for the swimmers of the future.