Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"For pity's sake, don't shoot 'em"

With my current research into a group of forgotten participants in the Boer War who lie in a small cemetery in Zimbabwe, this ABC News item is timely as it tells of a great find of items at a rubbish tip in New South Wales which are connected to Harry Harbord Morant, known as the "Breaker" who is a legendary and controversial figure in the history of Australia and perhaps better known for the manner of his death than his life with a -
" ...reputation as horse-breaker, drover, steeplechaser, polo player, drinker and womanizer, from 1891 he contributed bush ballads to the Sydney Bulletin as 'the Breaker'. When the South African War broke out in 1899 he enlisted in Adelaide in the 2nd Contingent, South Australian Mounted Rifles ..."  [Australian Dictionary of Biography.]
Click here for a video link (may not be available in all countries) in which an expert verifies the items as connected to Morant, included his bandolier which perfectly matches that shown in this photograph.

The "Breaker", copyright Australian War Memorial

Morant was famously (and very briefly) married to another controversial Australian legend, the anthropologist, Daisy Bates (see my companion blog about women, The History Bucket).

He was also the subject of a major Australian film Breaker Morant.

The Poetry of Breaker Morant

The last poem -


by Harry ("Breaker") Morant

In prison cell I sadly sit,
A d[amne]d crest-fallen chappie!
And own to you I feel a bit -
A little bit unhappy!

It really ain't the place nor time
To reel off rhyming diction -
Whilst waiting cru-ci-fiction!
But yet we'll write a final rhyme.

No matter what "end" they decide -
Quick-lime or "b'iling ile", sir?
We'll do our best when crucified
To finish off in style, sir!

But we bequeath a parting tip
For sound advice of such men,
Who come across in transport ship
To polish off the Dutchmen!

If you encounter any Boers
You really must not loot 'em!
And if you wish to leave these shores,
For pity's sake, DON'T SHOOT EM!

And if you'd earn a D.S.O.,
Why every British sinner
Should know the proper way to go

Let's toss a bumper down our throat -
Before we pass to Heaven,
And toast: "The trim-set petticoat
We leave behind in Devon."

At its end the manuscript is described as The Last Rhyme and Testament of Tony Lumpkin.

First published in The Bulletin, 19 April 1902.

The closing credits of the movie are particularly moving, with Edward Woodward singing Soldiers of the Queen.

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