[Editor: This article by W. T. Goodge was published in the Orange Leader and Millthorpe Messenger (Orange, NSW), 12 May 1900.]
The sorrows of fame.
[I ask the indulgence of the readers of the LEADER that I may ease my soul of a feeling of desperate vexation at an outrage committed by a Fiddling Jimmy in Scotland on the only decently-worded song I ever wrote. Copies of this article will be sent to the persons interested in Scotland, and if it does not please them—well, it was never intended to please them, anyhow. — W. T. GOODGE.]
There was a song written called “Call all Hands,” which first appeared last December in the Daily Telegraph, and afterwards in this paper.
It was set to music by Mr. T. H. Massey, of Bathurst, and splendidly staged in the town on the Macquarie.
It was also very well received in Orange, and the writer was called on the platform, as he also was in Bathurst.
The song, re-christened “Pipe all Hands,” has been published, with Mr. Massey’s setting, by Messrs W. H. Paling and Co.
The words, however, got abroad before Mr. Massey’s setting was published, and one gentleman, who thinks he is Mozart because he is able to distinguish between a bar of music and a bar of soap, has set it to a tune of his own and twice threatened to publish it in Auckland. Whether this threat has been carried out, the writer does not know.
Three weeks ago the Daily Telegraph was good enough to mention that the words of the song had “gone the rounds of the press of the British Empire,” and also quoted a very complimentary letter from the headmaster of an English Grammar School, who said he had taught his boys the words. The schoolmaster liked the words because they were not slang, like the words in Mr. Kipling’s clever song, the “Absent-minded Beggar.”
The writer of the song the same week received a copy of the Aberdeen Evening Express, containing a reprint of the words and some not uncomplimentary references. The paper was sent from Aberdeen, presumably by the editor of the paper.
A copy of the song, with a melody strung together by the writer, was, at the end of January, sent to Messrs Harmsworth, of the London Daily Mail, with a request that if they could arrange for a London production, the proceeds were to be paid to the Australian Patriotic Fund. No reply has yet been received from the Daily Mail, but the Sydney Daily Telegraph received, some weeks ago, a letter from T. B. Browne and Co., publishers of 163 Queen Victoria-street, London, asking to be placed in communication with the writer with a view to setting and a London publication. A letter has been sent to Messrs Browne authorising them to act at their own discretion as the writer’s agents, provided the Daily Mail had not published the song before the letter (to Messrs Browne) reached London. Well, that’s all fair business so far. But wait till we come again to the country where the bagpipes burst the ear and the burgoo doesn’t trouble when the haggis is at rest.
Last Thursday the writer of the song referred to — which, as stated before, was first entitled “Call all Hands” — received the following letter:—
“Southfield Cottage, Elgin N.B.
“To W. T. Goodge, Esq.
“My Dear Sir, — The other day I came across a poem of yours in the Aberdeen Express and I was so struck by it [the beggar would be struck by me if I got within a yard of him!] that I at once set it to music and had it performed by my Choral Society and Orchestra. The song went splendidly and has been much praised. I have been trying to find your whereabouts for some time [and yet my name, etc., was printed with the song in the Aberdeen Express!] and did not succeed till this week through the Government offices in London and I hasten to thank you for the pleasure your lines have given me in giving them a musical setting I have taken for granted, what I am sure will be the case, your permission for the publication. [How very sure they are in Aberdeen!] Unfortunately, I have been unable to get any publisher to take it up as yet [Well, that’s a blessing, anyhow!], but will send you a copy if I am successful. Part of one of your verses was of local interest only, so I incorporated with it, after adaptation by myself, part of a poem by Mr. Essex Evans, of Toowoomba, Queensland, to whom I have written. The one seemed to have been written for the other. I shall be glad to know if this has reached you safely. I am, yours very truly, Herbert Westerby.”
Now imagine the sublime impudence of a back-country Scotchman grabbing hold of a song which is in the hands of the two biggest publishing firms in London and cutting out some lines and jabbing in some others which he — the back-country Scotchman — “adapted.” The writer will await anxiously a note to learn what Essex Evans (a well-known Bulletin writer) thinks of “adaptation” as practised in Aberdeen. Mr. Westerby, as will be seen later on, was either born deaf or has had the drums of his ears split by listening to too much “Cock o’ the North” from the Highland regiments.
Mr. Westerby sends me the following from a Scotch paper, perhaps the Aberdeen Express, or it may the Elgin Haggis; he doesn’t say:—
NEW PATRIOTIC SONG.
The following are the words of Mr. Westerby’s new patriotic song and chorus composed for the Elgin Choral Society concert, written by, and adapted from, the two Australian poets, W. T. Goodge and Mr. Essex Evans. The influence of Kipling is strongly apparent:—
There’s a whisper that was borne upon the breeze,
Which the same is a just a fancy kind of fable;
As a fact, the message went across the seas
By that unpoetic agency, the cable.
All the same, it sent a sympathetic thrill
Through the Anglo-Saxon folk in other lands —
If you’re in for stormy weather,
Kindly count us all together,
And be good enough to call “All Hands.”
We hear the bugle, calling on the British Grenadiers,
We hearken to the marching of the Irish Fusiliers,
The piping of the Highlanders is ringing in our ears,
So be kind enough to call “All hands.”
Call “All hands”; and we’ll show the doubting stranger
Albion can range her sons in time of danger;
Mistress of her destiny, there’s nobody can change her,
Pass the word and call “All hands.”
From the far Canadian forests to sunlit Sydney Bay
They have answered, and you know the answer now.
From the Britains such as these
Strewn across the world-wide seas
Comes the rally-note that makes us one to-day
We are British to the marrow, as you know,
As we’ll show you when the circumstance demands;
And we’ll do the best we’re able
If you’ll kindly send a cable
That the word is passed to call “All hands.”
A million voices answer from the corners of the earth,
We don’t forget the country where the empire had its birth,
We’ll back up old Britannia, or we’ll try for all we’re worth,
And we’re Britons when you call “All hands.”
And they talk of your “decadence,” if you please,
And the beggars never seem to have a notion
That the Britain who is mistress of the seas
Has a group of growing Britains o’er the ocean;
We prefer a reign of quietness and peace,
But if trouble comes we’ll show them how it stands —
That ten thousand miles of water
Makes the British all the tauter
When they pass the word to call “All hands.”
We’re English as the English though the waters lie between,
We’re as Irish as the Irish who are soldiers of the Queen,
We’re Scotch as any Scotchman in the town of Aberdeen,
And we’re Britons when you call “All hands.”
“Lines incorporated are underlined.”
Now it doesn’t need a knowledge of either music or of poetical composition to perceive the barbarous mutilation this unfortunate song has received at the hands of the granite-headed gentleman in Aberdeen. It is the biggest piece of cheek the writer ever heard of for Mr. Westerby to say the song is by “two Australian poets,” when he’s only put in five lines from outside the original writer and has spoiled it. The underlines are Mr. Westerby’s own, and the writer asks any person who may happen to have a copy of “Pipe All Hands” to notice the malicious mutilation. Any carpenter with a two-foot rule can measure the corresponding lines and see the tomfoolery of the alterations. Compare these two, one the first line of the first verse, the other (incorporated!) the first line of the second verse, both of which must be sung to the same music and the same number of bars:—
First line first verse:—
There’s a whisper that was borne upon the breeze
First line second verse:—
From the far Canadian forests to sunlit Sydney Bay!!!
Is this a fair thing to do to any Australian writer who’s trying hard to keep sober and earn an honest living for the sake of his wife and children? If Mr. Westerby’s orchestra played any music all for the song as printed in the Scotch paper he sends to Orange, then the orchestra instruments must have been composed entirely of bagpipes, because no other instrument on earth could manage it, unless of course Mr. Westerby wrote a new tune for the five lines he “incorporated” and “adapted.” Goodness knows what sort of vagaries they may get up to in Aberdeen in face of this performance.
No doubt the gentleman means well, but he will not be allowed to publish the song in Great Britain because the matter is already arranged in London, and anyhow the writer would not tolerate any alteration at all by anybody of the words. If any musical composer — and every man who can play the Maiden’s Prayer thinks he’s only about third to Beethoven — doesn’t approve of the words he can leave the song alone and write one of his own. He won’t be allowed to take the present writer’s lines and mangle them and mess them up in the senseless manner in which they have been mangled and messed up by Mr. Westerby of Elgin, N.B.
The Aberdeen Express, it is only fair to say, printed the whole song in full, word for word as it first appeared in Australia, so it cannot be blamed for the extreme eccentricities of the eccentric geniuses of Elgin, N.B.
The following par. from another Scotch paper seems to show that Mr. Dufton managed to struggle through the eccentricities of the few lines of “incorporation” and “adaptation,” perhaps he left some words out to make them fit the music:—
The last item on the programme was a new patriotic song and chorus by Mr. Herbert Westerby, “Call all Hands.” The solo was splendidly sung by Mr. Dufton, and the chorus and orchestra seemed determined to put their best efforts into their work. There could be no doubt of the success of Mr. Westerby’s composition. It is tuneful and dignified, and has that stirring and rousing quality which the true patriotic song never lacks. The piece had its effect on the audience, who required to hear it over again. Mr. Westerby’s work should undoubtedly become popular.
The orchestra was determined to put its best work in, was it? And to climb over all the hills and dales of uneven metre? The odds are on the chance that they were all pipers, and played as if they were storming Magersfontein.
The Scotch paper says “the influence of Kipling is apparent in the song.” The headmaster of the English Grammar School taught his boys the song because of its utter dissimilarity to the Kiplingesque banjo-nigger-minstrel method. All the same, it must be admitted that Mr. Kipling is the greatest verse-writer in the English Slanguage.
Orange Leader and Millthorpe Messenger (Orange, NSW), 12 May 1900, p. 2
The letter from a headmaster of an English grammar school, mentioned by W. T. Goodge in this article, was published in: The Daily Telegraph (Sydney, NSW), 21 April 1900, p. 5.
[Editor: Changed “reached your safely” to “reached you safely”.]