My Photo
Location: New South Wales, Australia

Born in Yorkshire, raised in Australia. I love Poetry, Guitar (especially Spanish classical & Delta Blues), Tudor, Jacobean and Stuart England, Archaeology & good Ale. I edit The Flea & The Chimaera (with Peter Bloxsom), and Shit Creek Review

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Martin Sharp and the Yellow House

..."His work is loaded with levels of meaning, says artist Peter Kingston, who worked with Sharp on Oz in Sydney, at Luna Park and at the Yellow House artists' mecca at Kings Cross in the 1970s. "Most of the things come with humour and a sting," he says....

'He's part social commentator, part shaman' - SMH

The Yellow House and other Cross Currents - SMH

Mellow Yellow - SMH

Milesago Yellow House

Yellow House - ABC


Richard Neville visited The Royal George; I'm not sure if Martin Sharp did, but I well remember The Yellow House at Kings Cross about 1970: it was in Macleay Street, just round the corner from Frank's Cafe (in Challis Avenue), the leather shop run by many from The George's Young Push and others. There were fantastic exhibition openings/parties/concerts there: once Jeannie Lewis, whom I knew as a friend and folksinger from The George, completed the blowing of my already well-blown mind by singing at a Yellow House opening one of the sexiest, most amazing riffs I have ever heard.

Friday, September 29, 2006

In Push Society

More on the Rocks Push. The Pushes were Sydney gangs of the 19th century after whom the Sydney Libertarians ("The Old Push" or "The Sydney Push") of The Royal George were named.

This is chapter III, "In Push Society", from An Outback Marriage by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

THE PASSING of the evening afterwards is the only true test of a dinner’s success. Many a good dinner, enlivened with wine and made brilliant with repartee, has died out in gloom. The quests have all said their best things during the meal, and nothing is left but to smoke moodily and look at the clock. Our heroes were not of that mettle. They meant to have some sort of fun, and the various amusements of Sydney were canvassed. It was unanimously voted too hot for the theatres, ditto for billiards. There were no supporters for a proposal to stop in the smoking-room and drink, and gambling in the cardrooms had no attractions on such a night. At last Cordon hit off a scent.

“What do you say,” he drawled, “if we go and have a look at a dancing saloon—one of these larrikin dancing saloons?”

“I’d like it awfully,” said one Englishman.

“Most interesting,” said the other. “I’ve heard such a lot about the Australian larrikin. What they call a basher in England, isn’t it? Eh, what? Sort of rough that lays for you with a pal and robs you, eh?”

The Bo’sun rang for cigars and liqueurs, and then answered the question. “Pretty much the same as a basher,” he said, “but with a lot more science and dog-cunning about him. They go in gangs, and if you hit one of the gang, all the rest will ‘deal with you’, as they call it.

“If they have to wait a year to get you, they’ll wait, and get you alone some night or other and set on to you. They jump on a man if they get him down, too. Oh, they’re regular beauties.”

“Rather roughish sort of Johnnies, eh?” said the Englishman. “But we might go and see the dancing—no harm in that.”

Pinnock said he had to go back to his office; the globe-trotter didn’t care about going out at night: and the Bo’sun tried to laugh the thing off. “You don’t catch me going,” he said. “There’s nothing to be seen—just a lot of flash young rowdies dancing. You’ll gape at them, and they’ll gape at you, and you’ll feel rather a pair of fools, and you’ll come away. Better stop and have a rubber.”

“If you dance with any of their women, you get her particular fancy-man on to you, don’t you?” asked Gordon. “It’s years since I was at that sort of place myself.”

The Bo’sun, who knew nothing about it, assumed the Sir Oracle at once.

“I don’t suppose their women would dance with you if you paid ’em five shillings a step,” he said.

“There’d certainly be a fight if they did. Are you fond of fighting, Carew?”

“Not a bit,” replied that worthy. “Never fight if you can help it. No chap with any sense ever does.”

“That’s like me,” said Gordon. “I’d sooner run a mile than fight, any time. I’m like a rat if I’m cornered, but it takes a man with a stockwhip to corner me. I never start fighting till I’m done running. But we needn’t get into a row. I vote we go. Will you come, Carew?”

“Oh, yes; I’d like to,” said the Englishman. “I don’t suppose we need get into a fight.”

So, after many jeers from the Bo’sun, and promises to come back and and tell them all about it, Carew and Gordon sallied forth, a pair of men as capable of looking after themselves as one would meet in a day’s march. Stepping into the street they called a cab.

“Where to, sir?” asked the cabman.

“Nearest dancing saloon,” said Gordon, briefly.

“Nearest darncin’ saloon,” said the cabman. “There ain’t no parties tonight, sir; it’s too ’ot.”

“We’re not expecting to drop into a ballroom without being asked, thank you,” said Gordon.

“We want to go to one of those saloons where you pay a shilling to go in. Some place where the larrikins go.”

“Ho! is that it, sir?” said the cabman, with a grin. “Well, I’ll take you to a noo place, most selectest place I know. Git up,’orse.” And off they rattled through the quiet streets, turning corners and crossing tramlines every fifty yards, apparently, and bumping against each other in the most fraternal manner.

Soon the cab pulled up in a narrow, ill-lit street, at the open door of a dingy house. Instructing the cabman to wait, they hustled upstairs, to be confronted at the top by a man who took a shilling from each, and then was not sure whether he would admit them. He didn’t seem to like their form exactly, and muttered something to a by-stander as they went in. They saw a long, low room, brilliantly lighted by flaring gas jets. Down one side, on wooden forms, was seated a row of flashily dressed girls—larrikinesses on their native heath, barmaids from cheap, disreputable hotels, shop girls, factory girls—all sharp-faced and pert, young in years, but old in knowledge of evil. The demon of mischief peeped out of their quick-moving restless eyes. They had elaborate fringes, and their short dresses exhibited well-turned ankles and legs.

A large notice on the wall stated that “Gentlemen must not dance with nails in their boots. Gentlemen must not dance together.”

“That blocks us,” said Gordon, pointing to the notice. “Can’t dance together, no matter how much we want to. Look at these fellows here.”

Opposite the women sat or lounged a score or two of youths—wiry, hard-faced little fellows, for the most part, with scarcely a sizeable man amongst them. They were all clothed in “push” evening dress—black bell-bottomed pants, no waistcoat, very short black paget coat, white shirt with no collar, and a gaudy neckerchief round the bare throat. Their boots were marvels, very high in the heel and picked out with all sorts of colours down the sides. They looked “varminty” enough for anything; but the shifty eyes, low foreheads, and evil faces gave our two heroes a sense of disgust. The Englishman thought that all the stories he had heard of the Australian larrikin must be exaggerated, and that any man who was at all athletic could easily hold his own among such a poor-looking lot. The whole spectacle was disappointing. The most elaborately decorous order prevailed; no excitement or rough play was noticeable, and their expedition seemed likely to be a failure.

The bushman stared down the room with far-seeing eyes, apparently looking at nothing, and contemplated the whole show with bored indifference.

“Nothing very dazzling about this,” he said. “I’m afraid we can’t show you anything very exciting here. Better go back to the club, eh?”

Just then the band (piano and violin) struck up a slow, laboured waltz, “Bid me goodbye and go,” and each black-coated male, with languid self-possession, strolled across the room, seized a lady by the arm, jerked her to her feet without saying a syllable, and commenced to dance in slow, convulsive movements, making a great many revolutions for very little progress. Two or three girls were left sitting, as their partners were talking in a little knot at the far end of the room; one among them was conspicuously pretty, and she began to ogle Carew in a very pronounced way.

“There’s one hasn’t got a partner,” said Gordon. “Good-looking Tottie, too. Go and ask her to dance. See what she says.” The Englishman hesitated for a second. “I don’t like asking a perfect stranger to dance,” he said.

“Go on,” said Gordon, “it’s all right. She’ll like it.”

Carew drew down his cuffs, squared his shoulders, assumed his most absolutely stolid drawing-room manner, and walked across the room, a gleaming vision of splendour in his immaculate evening dress.

“May I—er—have the pleasure of this dance?” he said, with elaborate politeness.

The girl giggled a little, but said nothing, then rose and took his arm. As she did so, a youth among the talkers at the other end of the room looked round, and stared for a second. Then he moistened his fingers with his tongue, smoothed the hair on his temples, and with elbows held out from his sides, shoulders hunched up and under-jaw stuck well out, bore down on Carew and the girl, who were getting under way when he came up. Taking not the slightest notice of Carew, he touched the girl on the shoulder with a sharp peremptory tap, and brought their dance to a stop.

“’Ere,” he said, in commanding tones. “’Oo are you darncin’ with?”

“I’m darncin’ with ’im,” answered the girl, pertly, indicating the Englishman with a jerk of her head.

“Ho, you’re darncin’ with ’im, are you? ’E brought you ’ere, p’r’aps?”

“No, he didn’t,” she said.

“No,” said he. “You know well enough ’e didn’t.”

While this conversation was going on, the Englishman maintained an attitude of dignified reserve, leaving it to the lady to decide who was to be the favoured man. At last he felt it was hardly right for an Oxford man, and a triple blue at that, to be discussed in this contemptuous way by a larrikin and his “donah”, so he broke into the discussion, perhaps a little abruptly, but using his most polished style.

“I—ah—asked this lady to dance, and if she—er—would be kind enough to do me the honour,” he said, “I ——”

“Oh! you arst ’er to darnce? And what right ’ad you to arst ’er to darnce, you lop-eared rabbit?” interrupted the larrikin, raising his voice as he warmed to his subject. “I brought ’er ’ere. I paid the shillin’. Now then, you take your ’ook,” he went on, pointing sternly to the door, and talking as he would to a disobedient dog. “Go on, now. Take your ’ook.”

The Englishman said nothing, but his jaw set ominously. The girl giggled, delighted at being the centre of so much observation. The band stopped playing, and the dancers crowded round. Word was passed down that it was a “toff darncin’ with Nugget’s donah”, and from various parts of the room blackcoated duplicates of Nugget hurried swiftly to the scene.

The doorkeeper turned to Gordon. “You’d best get your mate out o’ this,” he said. “These are the Rocks Push, and they’ll deal with him all right.”

“Deal with him, will they?” said Gordon, looking at the gesticulating Nugget. “They’ll bite off more than they can chew if they interfere with him. This is just his form, a row like this. He’s a bit of a champion in a rough-and-tumble, I believe.”

“Is he?” said the doorkeeper, sardonically. “Well, look ’ere, now, you take it from me, if there’s a row Nugget will spread him out as flat as a newspaper. They’ve all been in the ring in their time, these coves. There’s Nugget, and Ginger, and Brummy—all red ’ot. You get him away!”

Meanwhile the Englishman’s ire was gradually rising. He was past the stage of considering whether it was worth while to have a fight over a factory girl in a shilling dancing saloon, and the desire for battle blazed up in his eyes. He turned and confronted Nugget.

“You go about your business,” he said, dropping all the laboured politeness out of his tones. “If she likes to dance—”

He got no further. A shrill whistle rang through the room; a voice shouted, “Don’t ’it ’im; ’ook ’im!” His arms were seized from behind and pinioned to his sides. The lights were turned out. Somebody in front hit him a terrific crack in the eye at the same moment that someone else administered a violent kick from the rear. He was propelled by an invisible force to the head of the stairs, and then—whizz! down he went in one prodigious leap, clear from the top to the first landing.

Here, in pitch-darkness, he grappled one of his assailants. For a few seconds they swayed and struggled, and then rolled down the rest of the stairs, over and over each other, grappling and clawing, each trying to tear the other’s shirt off. When they rolled into the street, Carew discovered that he had hold of Charlie Gordon.

They sat up and looked at each other. Then they made a simultaneous rush for the stairs, but the street door was slammed in their faces. They kicked it violently, but without result, except that a mob of faces looked out of the first-floor window and hooted, and a bucket of water was emptied over them. A crowd collected as if by magic, and the spectacle of two gentlemen in evening dress trying to kick in the door of a shilling dancing saloon afforded it unmitigated delight.

“’Ere’s two toffs got done in all right,” said one.

“What O! Won’t she darnce with you?” said another; and somebody from the back threw banana peel at them.

Charlie recovered his wits first. The Englishman was fairly berserk with rage, and glared round on the bystanders as if he contemplated a rush among them. The cabman put an end to the performance. He was tranquil and unemotional, and he soothed them down and coaxed them into the cab. The band in the room above resumed the dreamy waltz music of “Bid me goodbye and go!” and they went.

Carew subsided into the corner, breathing hard and feeling his eye. Charlie leant forward and peered out into the darkness. They were nearly at the club before they spoke. Then he said, “Well, I’m blessed! We made a nice mess of that, didn’t we?”

“I’d like to have got one fair crack at some of ’em,” said the Englishman, with heartfelt earnestness. “Couldn’t we go back now?”

“No, what’s the good? We’d never get in. Let the thing alone. We needn’t say anything about it. If once it gets known that we were chucked out, we’ll never hear the last of it. Are you marked at all?”

“Got an awful swipe in the eye,” replied the other briefly.

“I’ve got a cut lip, and my head nearly screwed off. You did that. I’ll know the place again. Some day we’ll get a few of the right sort to come with us, and we’ll just go there quietly, as if we didn’t mean anything, and then, all of a sudden, we’ll turn in and break the whole place up! Come and have a drink now.”

They had a silent drink in the deserted club. The mind of each was filled with a sickening sense of defeat, and without much conversation they retired to bed. They thanked heaven that the Bo’sun, Pinnock, and Gillespie had disappeared.

Even then Fate hadn’t quite finished with the bushman. A newly joined member of the club, he had lived a life in which he had to shift for himself, and the ways of luxury were new to him. Consequently, when he awoke next morning and saw a man moving with cat-like tread about his room, absolutely taking the money out of his clothes before his very eyes, he sprang out of bed with a bound and halfthrottled the robber. Then, of course, it turned out that it was only the bedroom waiter, who was taking his clothes away to brush them. This contretemps, on top of the overnight mishap, made him determined to get away from town with all speed. When he looked in the glass, he found his lip so much swelled that his moustache stuck out in front like the bowsprit of a ship. At breakfast he joined the Englishman, who had an eye with as many colours as an opal, not to mention a tired look and dusty boots.

“Are you only just up?” asked Charlie, as they contemplated each other.

Carew had resumed his mantle of stolidity, but he coloured a little at the question. “I’ve been out for a bit of a walk round town,” he said. “Fact is,” he added in a sudden burst of confidence, “I’ve been all over town lookin’ for that place where we were last night. Couldn’t find anything like it at all.”

Charlie laughed at his earnestness. “Oh, bother the place,” he said. “If you had found it, there wouldn’t have been any of them there. Now, about ourselves—we can’t show out like this. We’d better be off today, and no one need know anything about it. Besides, I half-killed a waiter this morning. I thought he was some chap stealing my money, when he only wanted to take my clothes away to brush ’em. Sooner we’re out of town the better. I’ll wire to the old man that I’ve taken you with me.”

So saying, they settled down to breakfast, and by tacit agreement avoided the club for the rest of the day.

Before leaving, Charlie had to call and interview Pinnock, and left Carew waiting outside while he went in. He didn’t want to parade their injuries, and knew that Carew’s eye would excite remark; but by keeping his upper lip well drawn over his teeth, he hoped his own trouble would escape notice.

“Seems a harmless sort of chap, that new chum,” said Pinnock.

“He’ll do all right,” said Charlie casually. “I’ve met his sort before. He’s not such a fool as he lets on to be. Shouldn’t wonder if he killed somebody before he gets back here, anyhow.”

“How did you get on at the dancing saloon?” asked Pinnock.

“Oh, slow enough. Nothing worth seeing. Goodbye.”

They sneaked on board the steamer without meeting the Bo’sun or anybody, and before evening were well on their way to No Man’s Land.


The Bastard from the Bush

Attributed by some to Henry Lawson

As the night was falling slowly over city, town and bush,
From a slum in Jones's Alley came the Captain of the Push,
And his whistle loud and piercing woke the echoes of the Rocks,
And a dozen ghouls came slouching round the corners of the blocks.

Then the Captain jerked a finger at a stranger on the kerb
Whom he qualified politely with an adjective and verb.
Then he made the introduction: 'Here's a covey from the bush-
Tuck me blind, he wants to join us—be a member of the Push.'

Then the stranger made this answer to the Captain of the Push,
'Why, fuck you dead, I'm Foreskin Fred, the bastard from the bush.
'I've been in every two-up school from Darwin to the 'Loo,
'I've ridden colts and black gins—what more can a bastard do.'

'Are you game to smash a window?' asked the Captain of the Push.
'I'd knock a fucking house down,' said the bastard from the bush.
'Would you take a maiden's baby?' said the Captain of the Push.
'I'd take a baby's maiden,' said the bastard from the bush.

'Would you dong a bloody copper if you caught the cunt alone,
'Would you stoush a swell or Chinkee, split his garret with a stone?
'Would you have a moll to keep you, would you swear off work for good?'
'What? Live on prostitution? My colonial oath I would!'

'Would you care to have a gasper?' said the Captain of the Push.
'I'll take the bloody packet,' said the bastard from the bush.
Then the Pushites all took counsel, saying, 'Fuck me, but he's game.
'Let's make him our star basher, he'll live up to his name.'

So they took him to their hideout, that bastard from the bush,
And they granted him all privileges appertaining to the Push.
But soon they found his little ways were more than they could stand,
And finally the Captain thus addressed his little band.

'Now listen here, you buggers, we've caught a fucking tartar,
'At every kind of bludging, that bastard is a starter,
'At poker and at two-up, he's shook our fucking rolls,
'He swipes our fucking liquor, and he robs our fucking molls.'

So down in Jones's Alley all the members of the Push
Laid a dark and dirty ambush for the bastard from the bush.
But against the wall of Riley's pub, the bastard made a stand,
A nasty grin upon his dial, a bike-chain in each hand.

They sprang upon him in a bunch, but one by one they fell,
With crack of bone, unearthly groan, and agonising yell,
Till the sorely-battered Captain, spitting teeth and gouts of blood,
Held an ear all torn and bleeding in a hand bedaubed with mud.

' You low polluted bastard,' snarled the Captain of the Push,
'Get back to where your sort belong, that's somewhere in the bush:
'And I hope heaps of misfortune may soon tumble down on you,
'May some lousy harlot dose you till your ballocks turn sky-blue.

'May the pangs of windy spasms through your bowels dart,
'May you shit your bloody trousers every time you try to fart,
'May you take a swig of gin's piss, mistaking it for beer,
'May the next push you impose on toss you out upon your ear.

'May the itching piles torment you, may corns grow on your feet,
'May crabs as big as spiders attack your balls a treat,
'Then when you're down and outed, to a hopeless bloody wreck,
'May you slip back through your arsehole, and break your fucking neck.'

It is uncertain whether Lawson wrote the rude poem 'The Bastard from the Bush' and cleaned it up, publishing it as 'The Captain of the Push' (The Bulletin, March 26, 1892), or whether the blue version is a parody of the published poem. (The word 'push' is a mainly Sydney term meaning a company of rowdy fellows gathered together for ungentle purposes. In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, larrikins assembled in groups called 'pushes', such as the Bantry Bay Devils, the Stars, the Golden Dragons, the Livers, the Forty Thieves and perhaps the best-known of all, the Rocks Push.)

The best evidence against the naughty version being Lawson's is that 'The Shearer's Dream' although hardly offensive, is as close as we know that he came to composing a rude poem; in fact, Lawson appears to have been somewhat puritanical in some ways – for example, he never swore unless extremely drunk and agitated, as in being arrested. However, HA Lindsay (Quadrant, Summer, 1957 - 59) asserts that Lawson "wrote the obscene version himself and circulated copies among his friends". Later, wanting some money in a hurry, he toned it down considerably and it was published under the title of 'The Captain of the Push'". Whatever the truth might be (and it seems there is no evidence either way), the profane version entered Australian folklore and is generally attributed to Lawson.

Wilson's Almanac

The Captain of the Push


Henry Lawson

As the night was falling slowly down on city, town and bush,
From a slum in Jones’s Alley sloped the Captain of the Push;
And he scowled towards the North, and he scowled towards the South,
As he hooked his little finger in the corners of his mouth.
Then his whistle, loud and shrill, woke the echoes of the ‘Rocks’,
And a dozen ghouls came sloping round the corners of the blocks.

There was nought to rouse their anger; yet the oath that each one swore
Seemed less fit for publication than the one that went before.
For they spoke the gutter language with the easy flow that comes
Only to the men whose childhood knew the brothels and the slums.
Then they spat in turns, and halted; and the one that came behind,
Spitting fiercely on the pavement, called on Heaven to strike him blind.

Let us first describe the captain, bottle-shouldered, pale and thin,
For he was the beau-ideal of a Sydney larrikin;
E’en his hat was most suggestive of the city where we live,
With a gallows-tilt that no one, save a larrikin, can give;
And the coat, a little shorter than the writer would desire,
Showed a more or less uncertain portion of his strange attire.

That which tailors know as ‘trousers’—known by him as ‘bloomin’ bags’—
Hanging loosely from his person, swept, with tattered ends, the flags;
And he had a pointed sternpost to the boots that peeped below
(Which he laced up from the centre of the nail of his great toe),
And he wore his shirt uncollar’d, and the tie correctly wrong;
But I think his vest was shorter than should be in one so long.

And the captain crooked his finger at a stranger on the kerb,
Whom he qualified politely with an adjective and verb,
And he begged the Gory Bleeders that they wouldn’t interrupt
Till he gave an introduction—it was painfully abrupt—
‘Here’s the bleedin’ push, me covey—here’s a (something) from the bush!
Strike me dead, he wants to join us!’ said the captain of the push.

Said the stranger: ‘I am nothing but a bushy and a dunce;
‘But I read about the Bleeders in the Weekly Gasbag once;
‘Sitting lonely in the humpy when the wind began to “whoosh,”
‘How I longed to share the dangers and the pleasures of the push!
‘Gosh! I hate the swells and good ’uns—I could burn ’em in their beds;
‘I am with you, if you’ll have me, and I’ll break their blazing heads.’

‘Now, look here,’ exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
‘Now, look here—suppose a feller was to split upon the push,
‘Would you lay for him and fetch him, even if the traps were round?
‘Would you lay him out and kick him to a jelly on the ground?
‘Would you jump upon the nameless—kill, or cripple him, or both?
‘Speak? or else I’ll speak!’ The stranger answered, ‘My kerlonial oath!’

‘Now, look here,’ exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
‘Now, look here—suppose the Bleeders let you come and join the push,
‘Would you smash a bleedin’ bobby if you got the blank alone?
‘Would you break a swell or Chinkie—split his garret with a stone?
‘Would you have a “moll” to keep yer—like to swear off work for good?’
‘Yes, my oath!’ replied the stranger. ‘My kerlonial oath! I would!’

‘Now, look here,’ exclaimed the captain to the stranger from the bush,
‘Now, look here—before the Bleeders let yer come and join the push,
‘You must prove that you’re a blazer—you must prove that you have grit
‘Worthy of a Gory Bleeder—you must show your form a bit—
‘Take a rock and smash that winder!’ and the stranger, nothing loth,
Took the rock—and smash! They only muttered, ‘My kerlonial oath!’

So they swore him in, and found him sure of aim and light of heel,
And his only fault, if any, lay in his excessive zeal;
He was good at throwing metal, but we chronicle with pain
That he jumped upon a victim, damaging the watch and chain,
Ere the Bleeders had secured them; yet the captain of the push
Swore a dozen oaths in favour of the stranger from the bush.

Late next morn the captain, rising, hoarse and thirsty from his lair,
Called the newly-feather’d Bleeder, but the stranger wasn’t there!
Quickly going through the pockets of his ‘bloomin’ bags,’ he learned
That the stranger had been through him for the stuff his ‘moll’ had earned;
And the language that he muttered I should scarcely like to tell.
(Stars! and notes of exclamation!! blank and dash will do as well).

In the night the captain’s signal woke the echoes of the ‘Rocks,’
Brought the Gory Bleeders sloping thro’ the shadows of the blocks;
And they swore the stranger’s action was a blood-escaping shame,
While they waited for the nameless, but the nameless never came.
And the Bleeders soon forgot him; but the captain of the push
Still is ‘laying’ round, in ballast, for the nameless ‘from the bush.’

The Rocks Push was a notorious gang, which dominated the The Rocks area of Sydney, Australia from 1870s to the end of the 1890s. In its day it was referred to as The Push, a title which has since come to be more widely used for the Sydney Push.

The gang were engaged in running warfare with other Sydney gangs of the time such as the Straw Hat Push, the Glebe Push, the Argyle Cut Push, the Forty Thieves from Surry Hills and the Gibb Street Mob. They conducted such crimes as theft, assault and battery against police and pedestrians in the Rocks area. Female members of the Push would entice drunks and seamen into dark areas to be assaulted and robbed by the gang.

Australian authors of the time mentioned the Push in various of their works.

A poem called Bastard from the Bush, often attributed to Henry Lawson, describes (in vivid and colourful language) a meeting between a "Captain" of the Push and the "Bastard from the Bush". Banjo Paterson, in In Push Society, describes a group of tourists who go to visit the Rocks Push, and paints the following picture of the appearance of the gang members:
Wiry, hard-faced little fellows, for the most part, with scarcely a sizeable man amongst them. They were all clothed in “push” evening dress—black bell-bottomed pants, no waistcoat, very short black paget coat, white shirt with no collar, and a gaudy neckerchief round the bare throat. Their boots were marvels, very high in the heel and picked out with all sorts of colours down the sides.

Paterson also said, addressing Lawson in In Defence of the Bush:
You had better stick to Sydney and make merry with the "push",
For the bush will never suit you, and you'll never suit the bush.

One of the most famous haunts of the Rocks Push was Harrington Place, also known as the "Suez Canal" (supposedly a pun on "sewers"), one of the most unsavoury places in Sydney in its time.

During the period when the Rocks Push was active, such gang members were also known as "larrikins", but their behaviour bore little in common with larrikinism as it is commonly understood today.


The Rocks, c. 1900, from NSW Government Records - lots of great photos.

See also Picture Australia and State Library, Victoria.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Missing Links

'[Andy] Anderson wanted to check the source of the energy that was invigorating the pop scene, and aged just 16, he loaded up his green sparkly Ludwig drums and headed for Sydney, the first stop, he thought, on his way to England. In Sydney, he changed his name to Andy James and fell in with a bunch of bluesy long-hairs called the Missing Links. Anderson: "They were wild, as in head turners on the streets. Pete (Anson) and John (Jones) had the longest hair I'd ever seen. I had reasonably long hair, but these guys had shoulder-length hair. They were playing a lot of Leadbelly, and old R&B stuff I'd never heard." Anderson joined the Links after they'd released their only Parlophone single, "We 2 Could Live"/"Untrue", by which time the line-up was Ronnie Peel (bass), Dave Boyne (replaced by John Jones) (guitar), Pete Anson (guitar) and Bob Brady up front.

'"We used to play a wild pub opposite Darling Harbour, full of early beats," remembers Andy "I loved that place, I'd never seen anything like it. I first met Chris Gray (future Missing Link and sometime roadie) there. He was playing a guitar and harp, like Dylan."

'Gray was a dope smoking rich kid with bohemian leanings, but he slotted right in with James, who was living a similar-styled life in Kings Cross, Sydney's red light district. They were all habitues of the Royal George, the beat friendly pub Anderson describes above...

The Missing Links

Declan Affley

"...he sang in "low dives and pubs", such as the Royal George, Sydney and Tattersalls in Melbourne. Irish rebel songs and other folksongs were sung with great gusto in these pubs and it was here that Declan met singers such a Brian Mooney, Don Ayrton, Paul Marks and Martin Wyndham-Read.

"Declan eventually became a regular performer at the Troubadour Coffee Lounge in Edgecliff, Sydney and later at Frank Traynor's Folk Club, Melbourne. He was also a frequent guest at the "Greenwich Village", the Elizabeth Hotel - "the Liz", Pact folk, Edinburgh Castle and other Sydney folk venues. He also became a stalwart of the first folk clubs in pubs in Melbourne in the late 1960s such as Fogarty's..."


Who was who of me

So you know what you're dealing with: here I am in 1963, in one of those old photo booths (taken with my mate Garry Renshaw partly visible as we headed down to check out The Royal George).

Here aged 16 with my first girlfriend, Michele, who'd laid her head in my lap. She gave me this copy of the picture when I met her again in London in 2006: she'd cut and pasted the picture to move her head closer to mine; she also gave me back a book I loaned her in 1963, as recounted here.

This one was taken about 1965-66: my hair had grown long, been cropped, and was growing again.

This was taken in 1970 at the Nagoya Sukiyaki House, Kings Cross, with my chum John Paul Dean who was in the US First Air Cavalry, on R&R in Sydney. He came from near Big Sur, California: I often wonder what happened to him. Me in tie-dye shirt etc - I was working as a sandal-maker at the Frank's Cafe leather co-operative: we had shops in Challis Avenue, Kings Cross, at the Kings Cross Market; later at Liverpool Street near Oxford Street, and at The Argylle Arts Centre at The Rocks. Frank's Cafe grew out of The Royal George and a leather shop started by two Americans, called The Peg & Awl. It included English Paul, Dave Howie (a Scot), Dave Quint (an ex-London bobby), Chuck Cookson (who had been one of Lee Gordon's boys), Christa, Kate Cawcutt, Vyda, Vince Healey, Frank Hammond, Alan Heptinstall, Warren, Little Maxie, Christine Quirk, Jacques Baudie and Miggs (with their baby Spunky), Norwegian Eric, Henry,... many others whom I'll add as I think of them. Frequent and occasional visitors included Al Head, Lady George, Vivienne, Starlee Ford, Dutch Andie, John Sandies, Malto, Rick O'Hara, Cass and Mindless, Karolline King from Hair, Black Alan, Maid Marion, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Frank Scarfe...

Teaching Roman History at Killarney Heights High, c. 1986:

Who's some of who

Beatnik Cricketers

Left to right, Standing: English Paul (Paul Clarke, Paul Adams), Newcastle John, ? , ? , Rod (from Melbourne),? , ? , ? , ? , Larry.

Middle Row: Paul (me, with bat, looking down), Terry Stanton, Rick O'Hara, ?, Zita (middle girl with sun-glasses), ? , ?.

Front row (sort of): Geoff Robertson, Swiss Walter, Katya (? - she was Estonian), Rita (? another Estonian) , Marcia, Chris "Rip-Off" Heald (aka New Zealand Chris - ?) , ? , ? (girl with hand to hair), Trevor Trueheart, ? .

Saturday, September 16, 2006

The George in the '60s

A Black Maria is usually lurking. The drinkers spill onto the footpath after "Time, Gents, please!" to sign up for a promising party. To the nearby chipshop first for chips, potato scallops, pickled onions? The evening's flirtations across the bar are pushed a stage further. Who will go to whose party with whom? Which party is she/he going to? Whose car? Yippee beans in a matchbox?

Some are too drunk to play their hands effectively; they stagger, blithering or drooling; they sway, singing or spouting nonsense. Some of these end up in the Black Maria. No party? The Folk Attic? Surf City? King's Cross? The Piccolo? A walk to Paddington? A bus or train home?

Thanks to Beatnik Casbah for the scratchboard image.

Brian Raven at The George

The drinkers were shouting happily at each other, the music was blaring, the beer and the fine talk was flowing and splashing and spilling, in the crowded Public Bar of The Royal George, one busy night in 1964. I was standing with some cronies near the door that connected the Public Bar to a passage leading to the back room, the side exit steps, and through to the Lounge.

Across the other side of the Public Bar, near the doors, a whole group of perhaps twenty blokes suddenly, as one, leapt on each other and started punching, swinging, grappling, head-locking, throttling, kneeing, gouging and generally brawling. It was such an abrupt transition: from cheery alcohol-fuelled chatting to intense fist-swinging, wrestling, stool-throwing, crashing, out-the-doors-and-into-the-street instantaneous full-on donnybrooking, as if a switch had been thrown or a signal given that all had reponded to on the instant.

The bouncers and barmen began to re-establish the rule of law as the fight tumbled onto Sussex Street. We onlookers toddled across, beers in hands, and peered out at the finale. I remember a chap called Brian Raven astride a wharfie, Brian with his hands around the wharfie's throat and attempting to throttle him. I think the wharfie was called Les - he regularly wore a baseball-type cap.

Here memory fails: I think that the main players were bundled into a Black Maria (there always seemed to be one nearby The George), but I couldn't swear to that. The image of Instant bar Brawl has stayed with me ever since.

Brian Raven. My recollection is that he was reputed to be some kind of Nazi leader or storm-trooper or some such. This I never verified, and quite frankly I wouldn't have a clue about the truth: but it was certainly the image held by many at the time. But I came across a reference to his alleged right-wing tendencies via Google on this Indymedia site, in a discussion on Brian's interest in the Ivan Milat Belanglo serial killer case. The main interest of the discussion for me is as a survey or catalogue of some of the identities that frequented The George:

Brian Raven and 'The Push'
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 2006/07/03 - 5:11pm.

Oh, what a wild crowd they made, when will their glory fade? ... You wanted a good drinking session? then find Bob Cumming, Nestor Grivas, Bunny Britton, Ron Opie, Ian Parker, Rod Streeter, John Pentony, Peter Roblin ... Or with the folk singers like Ayrton, Earls, Brian Mooney, Terry Driscoll ... For a board game, The Horse, Molnar, Maze, Ivo, John Meggitt, Lyn Speedy ... the long line of people come up from Melbourne, Lee Tonkin, Patty Dixon, Heli, Jan Miller, Marilyn Little, Ken Cobb, John Fogarty ... Medical observers and/or advisers, Ross Byrne, Rocky, Ram, gambling John, young John ... The early Argentine Ant Squad with Ashleigh Sellars, Roger Cox, Appleton, Smilde ... The later exploits of Flash Ash and Neil Shard ... the Shadforth Army of Retreat with Michael Baldwin, Chairman Gunter, Parker, Morag, Peter the Peddler, Diana Kemp ... The military man of a different colour, the Good Soldier Pattenden ... That fine anglican Churchman, Archbishop Gough, whom Libertarians would have been pleased to invent if he had not existed, who denounced Sydney academics for advocating Communism and free love, and amusingly in the resulting hubbub not only Anderson, but someone as unlikely as the University politician W.M. O'Neil, got some of the blame. Later the Archbishop sooled the police on to capture Baldwin for blasphemy, owing to his story "God in the Marijuana Patch", but the police, feeling sure that the name "Michael Baldwin" would be a pseudonym, did not look too hard in The Push pub ... the expert performer who well knew how to liven up a Push cricket match, John Cardensana ... The Bulgarian Anarchists come to Sydney, including notably Jack the Anarchist ... The eye-catching trio of Witch Girls, Kay Hancox, Lyn Gain, and Robyn Robb ... The poets like Hooton, Appleton, Lex Banning, Chester, Geoffrey Lehman, Peter Newton... the writers and literary people like Geoff Mill, Sylvia Lawson, Frank Moorhouse, Edna Wilson, Ken- Quinnell, Michael Thornhill, Michael Wilding ... The right wing drinkers in The Push, Brian Raven, Graham Royce and Cyrus ... The posters produced by the Midnight Activists criticising the police hunt for the prison escapees, Simmonds and Newcombe, and the delight of The Push when the police psychiatrist, Dr McGeorge came out with the verdict: whoever the people are who produced this poster, they are certifiably insane ... The other posters brought out at election times, such as the ones depicting a well dressed pig and bearing the caption, "Whoever you vote for, a politician always gets in; vote informal"...

A Right-Wing Drinker?
Submitted by Anonymøus on Mon, 2006/07/03 - 9:05pm.

No, Brian was no 'right-wing' drinker. He was maybe right of the left but certainly no fascist! Still, his involvement with the Sydney Push is interesting history. The Push was a predominantly left-wing subculture from the 1940s to the early 1970s. They were considered a very shocking bunch of people in their time! They rejected conventional morality and authoritarianism. The pub was their central meeting place.

My Purposes

I was a person of no importance in what was called the Young Push, but spent some time at the Royal George in the post-Bogle/Chandler days of 1963 and following, and on into a kind of off-shoot of that scene, a leather working co-operative called Frank's Cafe. Because I was one of the very first among the Young Push - I think the very first - to have his ear pierced (in August, 1964, with a gold sleeper), I was known as "Ear-ring Paul", to distinguish me from English Paul and American Paul and others; such was the naming practice at The George in the early sixties.

My purpose here is to gather as much material, as much documentary evidence as possible, relating to this era. I hope by centralising access to this evidence to provide a kind of archive, as well as a collection of links to other such sites that relate in various way to this extraordinary chapter (or rather, several chapters) in Sydney's history. One such site is Beatnik Casbah, which includes some great memoirs of this time. Cass, the writer of these, evokes the atmosphere and detail of one sector of those times with amazing colour, authenticity and honesty.

I am looking for, and would love to hear about, any other such sites; or from anyone else who can contribute to these Histories - or rather, this collection of sources. Emails may be sent to, or comments left on this site in the comment boxes.

When I have time and inspiration I will write into it my own reminiscences as well.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

The George - Photos

Image Hosted by

The Royal George, Sydney, now - increasingly gentrified and increasingly isolated by fly-overs, bridges and the like.

Image Hosted by

The Royal George in the 1980s. I do not know why it had taken on such a sideways lean.

If any one can supply me with, or point me to, images of or connected with The Royal George and The Push, I would be very grateful.

The Bogle-Chandler Murders and The George

...On New Year’s Eve, 1962, CSIRO technician Geoffrey Chandler and his wife Margaret attended a party. As befitted a fringe Push member, Chandler, `unable to accept the petty rules and regulations of society’, in his own words, approved of `open’ marriages. He had given his wife to understand that she was free to have an affair with Gilbert Bogle, who was also to attend the party. Bogle was a leading young CSIRO research physicist, working on the new field of masers and lasers. Chandler and his girlfriend, a secretary in the Sydney University Psychology Department, went on to a Push party. The bodies of Bogle and Mrs Chandler were found the next morning beside the Lane Cove River. The cause of death was never definitively established, though an LSD overdose is the leading theory. The mystery surrounding the deaths and the connections of those involved made it one of Australia’s best-known murder cases. Reporters invaded the Royal George Hotel but the Push in general refused to speak to them. Chandler was grateful to a number of Push people who hid him from the pack...

- James Franklin, The Push and Critical Drinkers

Peter Coleman on James Franklin on The Push

...Another definitive chapter deals with the Sydney Push. Franklin has little patience with its mix of anarchism and quietism. He calls it "self-serving tripe". But he also believes that some of its adepts contributed significantly to the ideology of the 1960s - and not only in Australia. Germaine Greer's anti-reformist or revolutionary feminism and Richard Neville's hippie magazine Oz in London had international influence. Franklin could have added Dennis Altman's Homosexual: Oppression and Liberation and Lillian Roxon's Rock Encyclopaedia in New York. As for its Australian influence, Franklin considers the annual Gay Mardi Gras to be the greatest triumph of its ideas (although he also notes the useful work of philosophers such as George Molnar the Younger). He does not examine the Push's critics - which means he neglects Amy Witting's memorable spoof, her story "A Piece of this Puzzle is Missing"...

- from Peter Coleman's Quadrant Magazine review of James Franklin's Corrupting the Youth: A History of Philosophy in Australia

Sex and Anarchy - the life and death of the Sydney Push

Like the grasshopper in the fable, they lazed in the sun or in the gloom of a hotel bar, gambling, drinking, fornicating and endlessly talking. Though they had a critique for every aspect of society, they had no remedies. They produced dozens of argumentative little magazines, but they created hardly any art, film or music. They were proud of their lack of illusions - their dedication to the truth seemed bracing to some, and brutal to others. They appeared to have no avarice, and they opposed violence of any sort. They could have been Zen saints dedicated to the life of contemplation and non-action, except for their sloth, lust, and jealousy. They were the Sydney "Push", a loose and changing group of bohemian intellectuals, university lecturers, adventurous secretaries, journalists, gamblers, writers, free-thinking businessmen and students.

They formed in the turmoil of the 1940s, and flourished during the conservative 1950s. They were still a force in the early 1960s, but as the decade progressed and Australian society became freer and more tolerant, their distinctiveness and their importance faded.

Eventually many of the younger members moved out of the pubs and into the streets. They attacked censorship, they fought on behalf of feminism, and they protested against the Vietnam War, corrupt police, and rapacious urban developers. The older Push philosophers disapproved of this descent into direct action, with its inevitable bargains, concessions and compromises, but they were left talking to empty chairs...

As Coombs points out, the Push ideals are full of contradictions. For a start, the Push was a Leftist movement that did not believe in the goals of the Left, and they refused to be pigeon-holed politically. They took their beliefs from a wide range of philosophers and thinkers. Wilhelm Reich pushed Freud's sexual revolution to the edge of lunacy. Max Nomad asserted the need for permanent protest, but then the Italian philosopher Pareto convinced them that a revolution only brings to the surface another power elite, and Michels propounded the "iron law of oligarchy", that even democracies produce power elites, and do so inevitably. Where could they turn, except to the pub?

Their centre was Sydney, and their philosophy didn't travel well, or find acolytes in other cities. Germaine Greer in 1959 and Wendy Bacon in 1966 had to move from Melbourne to Sydney to discover the Push. It had no influence overseas.

Margaret Fink has called them "a dreary lot who wore dreary clothes, drank in dreary pubs and lived in dreary dwellings with nothing on the walls." True - Push people had little liking for art. To many of them, the creative life was woolly and lacking in intellectual rigour. Their taste in music was also a blank: folk songs and "trad jazz" was their idea of fun, and the rich delights of modern jazz and rock'n'roll were lost on them.

Women were treated as equals, in the male-dominated Push. They were expected to swear, fornicate freely, and drink in the public bar with the men (forbidden in most Sydney hotels until the late 1960s). But the focus on sex and status meant that when they had children, they lost their place at the bar. Nor were they encouraged to address political discussion groups, or to develop a career. The feminism of the late 1960s and early 1970s encouraged many of these women to grow and develop, and to work for success in their field. The feminist women in this book stand out as achievers, though it would seem they had to leave or outgrow the Push to do their best work - Wendy Bacon, Eva Cox, Germaine Greer, Lillian Roxon, Lynne Segal, and many others.

And for many of the men, the price of success in the Push was relative lack of success in their life outside it. This wasn't the case in similar movements overseas: the French Existentialists, the American beats, the English "Angry Young Men" of the 1950s all produced industrious, successful and famous writers and thinkers. Why didn't we?

Coombs puts her finger on the cultural psychology behind it: achievement requires ambition and dedicated effort, and ambition is still regarded by many Australians with suspicion. Art was for sissies, business was tainted with capitalism, and in politics, "careerism" was a dirty word. I feel this "futilitarianism" began with our convict past: if you tried to get on, you had to side with the English ruling class, and before long your fellow-convicts as well as your gaolers put you back in your place.

It's easy to criticise the Push for failing to achieve anything tangible, but to oppose conventional morality and politics was not easy in the 1950s. It should be pointed out that, as children, the people of the Push were taught to salute the flag at the weekly school assembly, to attend Scripture classes once a week even in state-run schools, and to stand for the national anthem and the image of the Queen of England at the start of every session at the movies - or the "pictures" as they were called then. For all their faults, it should be remembered that they were better people in many ways - more frank and honest, more socially aware and concerned - than those who chose the way of conformity and the compromises and hypocrisy that went with it...

- This is an excerpt from poet John Tranter's review of Anne Coombs' Sex and Anarchy

Paddy McGuinness on Germaine and The George

A push back to the 1950s, with our Mary

May 18, 2004

So Mary Donaldson and her Prince met at the Slip Inn in Sussex Street and everything ended in a fairytale wedding. Good luck to them - after all, years ago the same kind of thing happened to quite a few patrons of that establishment, which was in my youth known as the Royal George Hotel.

It was there that in its heyday the Sydney Push, one of our best known bohemian groups, used to meet and no doubt some of them also were in search of something like a fairytale wedding.

Not the least of its one-time patrons was Germaine Greer, and indeed she met her prince there - he was one of the senior gurus of the Push, the two or three blokes known to their irreverent juniors as "the Princes of the Push". She did, after all, want to seize a prominent role in whichever group she found herself in. Not that Greer married her prince, nor did they live happily ever after.

Marriage was definitely not highly thought of in those circles, nor was lifelong fidelity. Or even affair-long fidelity. But then perhaps Greer was more like another fairytale princess, who after a glittering fairytale wedding in Westminster Abbey began to behave more like the Push girls of those days. Happily, Greer has not come to such a tragic end...

- More


...To understand Paddy you've got to understand the Sydney Push and the philosophy called contrarianism. The Push was a rooting club, pseudo-intellectual drinking circle and philosophical talk shop and that flourished in Sydney from just after World War II to the late sixties. In hindsight it was mainly a support network for desperados and bullshit artists who were waiting for well-paid careers as apologists for the prevailing order.

They called themselves libertarians. Some talked out of the left side of their mouth and some out of the right, but when you get down to it, contrarianism was the most lasting intellectual product of the Push. It is a philosophy tailor-made for professional ideological provocateurs or "controversialists" as they are called in the industry...

When Push comes to Shove at Nick Possum's wonderful blog.

The Sydney Push

The Sydney Push was a predominantly left-wing intellectual sub-culture in Sydney from the late 1940s to the early '70s. Famous associates of "The Push" include Wendy Bacon, Eva Cox, Liz Fell, Germaine Greer, Clive James, John Flaus, Harry Hooton, Robert Hughes, Frank Moorhouse, Lillian Roxon, Sasha Soldatow, Margaret Fink and Jim Staples. In 1961-2, poet Les Murray resided in Brian Jenkins's Push household at Glen Street, Milsons Point, which became a mecca for associates visiting Sydney from Melbourne and other cities...

More at Wikipedia

Germaine Greer at The George

For Germaine, [the Push] provided a philosophy to underpin the attitude and lifestyle she had already acquired in Melbourne. She walked into the Royal George Hotel, into the throng talking themselves hoarse in a room stinking of stale beer and thick with cigarette smoke, and set out to follow the Push way of life — 'an intolerably difficult discipline which I forced myself to learn'. The Push struck her as completely different from the Melbourne intelligentsia she had engaged with in the Drift, 'who always talked about art and truth and beauty and argument ad hominem; instead, these people talked about truth and only truth, insisting that most of what we were exposed to during the day was ideology, which was a synonym for lies — or bullshit, as they called it.' Her Damascus turned out to be the Royal George, and the Hume Highway was the road to it. 'I was already an anarchist,' she says. 'I just didn't know why I was an anarchist. They put me in touch with the basic texts and I found out what the internal logic was about how I felt and thought'.

- Wallace, Christine, (1997), Germaine Greer: Untamed Shrew, Faber & Faber, 1999, ISBN 0-571-19934-8