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A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Sun Jun 04, 2017 10:19 pm
by Gary Harding
For anyone interested in some of the excellent Australian Bush Poetry (balladry) produced in the first half of the twentieth century then the following website may be worth a look.

It lists my collection of Traditional Bush Poetry books and associated material, meticulously gathered over a long period of time. In excess of 230 items are catalogued.

Perhaps it may be a useful roadmap for other collectors, or potential collectors who may equally develop a passion for conserving well-crafted bush/traditional Australian ballad poetry.

Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 6:58 pm
by Shelley
Hi Gary

Just had a chance to look at your collection - an impressive library indeed! I'm fortunate to have a few of these myself, and in particular "Call of the Gums" brought back memories.

This was our Grade 8 school poetry textbook and my copy is well-loved and much-read. Perhaps it is one that also dates from your school days.

Interestingly, I was recently reading Henry Lawson's "The Roaring Days" in my "Call of the Gums", and found it to be significantly different from versions in other Lawson collections which I have (and also different from the version published online at the Australian Poetry Library website). Verses are in a different order and the "Gums" version contains lines not found in other versions, whereas the other versions contain lines not found in the "Gums" version.

Perhaps Henry had more than one version on the go - I guess that wouldn't be unusual.


Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Thu Jun 08, 2017 8:22 pm
by Gary Harding
You make some interesting points Shelley.

The book Call of The Gums was really very marginal for inclusion in this Classic grouping but as you have pointed out, as a school text it has a something of a charm.

I felt that the book importantly reflected the times as they were then. A basis for comparison with what kids are taught today maybe? A record, even if not strictly a Classic book.

Henry Lawson very commonly had his work messed around with by his publishers. I recall that he wasn't always happy about that either. Even in his old books you find differences between editions (impressions being always the same).

The poem The Old Bark School has a different "version" in each edition such that there is no truly "right" poem... take your pick!!

I find in the majority of cases, time produces positive refinements which is one of the reasons I do not really chase first editions, except occasionally for fun. With a lot of books, their First Edition was their Only Edition of course.. and yet I haven't seen Only Edition printed. Now that is an idea!

Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Sat Jun 10, 2017 5:56 pm
by Shelley
Mmm - that is interesting.

I wonder what happens at a poetry performance competition when a contestant is reciting Version "A" of a certain classic poem and the judge is acquainted only with Version "B"?? When it comes to the criteria of accuracy of memorisation (a category on most judging sheets), points may well be deducted by an uninformed judge!

I rarely perform in competitions, but it's an interesting observation for those who do.


Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Sun Jun 11, 2017 9:15 am
by Gary Harding
Hi Shelley,
Because these books are spectacular, I have made some enquiries about having a local public exhibition. Most likely it will be up Bundaberg way.. eventually... will let you know when it is on if you like.
I believe that the depth and dazzling nature of the Collection warrants it.

.. for example... although I am not really a huge fan of Adam Lindsay Gordon, his special Memorial Volume is a wonder to behold nevertheless. Each individual book includes a small pocket into which is inserted a dried wildflower "from the poet's English haunts"! Gilt top edge. Beautiful art plates too. Each book of the 1000 run is numbered and signed by the Secretary and President of the Memorial Committee.
Fancy going to all that trouble in 1926! Gordon was dearly loved by his devotees to a similar extent that Lawson is today.

Imagine walking into a room with an exhibition of all these Great Australian Poets ... bush balladists.. with their beautiful, old, open books on velvet and under spotlights. Not just their books, but closely associated literary material that transports you back to their time. Happy poems. Readable. Skilfully woven as ballads.

Some poems were put to music.. and their music-publications will be on display too.

THAT is real Australian literary culture, isn't it. Unique. Not fiction by the kg. Australian balladry. The real deal. Craftsmanship with words. Heritage.

What is special with an exhibition is that it is all gathered together in one place so you are confronted and overwhelmed by the enormity of the achievements of these Australian bush poets. Why lock it all away in a collection or on dull library shelves?

Bring it to the people. It is after all their inheritance.

People will walk away saying "Gee, I did not know all those wonderful bush poets existed. Thought it was just Lawson, Paterson and Dennis.... WOW! "

You could wander around the room for ages just immersing yourself in all these characters; and believe me there are plenty of them if you work at digging them up over many years, as I have!!! No rough poems either.. no doggerel, crudity or faulty meter.... no rubbish. Precisely crafted rhyming poetry... with such enormous variations in subject and length that any browsing reader could never get bored. So emotionally moving in a positive way. Tears of laughter and tears of joy. No "poets of the tomb" here! Pleasure. From such an exhibition, you would come away with a new literary perspective.

My website only shows a list of books but each one has a fascinating story.

There is a huge interaction between bush poetry and Art too, as most people would know. The two areas partially overlap and I had planned to do an article for TAT magazine on this area of overlap. Art, and its interaction with bush poetry. Hal Gye .. right through to today's known artists who all have a go at bringing traditional poems even further to life through their lovely art.

Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Mon Jun 12, 2017 7:08 pm
by Shelley
All the best with your plans to exhibit, Gary. I hope your endeavours are successful. As you say, there are so many treasures just waiting to be discovered by people whose orbit hasn't been crossed by our eminent writers.


Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 5:51 pm
by Gary Harding
Recent additions to the Collection include the following seven (mostly poetical) works by the very well known (at least he was then) Harry Hastings PEARCE

1. The Song of Nature and Other Poems

2. On the Origins of Waltzing Matilda (Non-fiction)

3. In Memorium, John Kinmont Moir

4. Poems of the Australian Poetry Lovers Society edited H.H.P.

5. Dreams and Arrows

6. The Lament of Bungeleen

7. Lullaby to Pioneers

ALSO added are ;

The Land of the Sun BRADY, E.J.

I Recall Robert Henderson Croll (prose)

and especially

Bush Ballads. A Selection of the work of Louis H. Clark (of Clunes) 1973

ALSO Hope to do a small feature soon on Cecil Lowther ("Bannerman" d. 1957). He is a poetic son of Maryborough, Queensland, and occasionally quite a good one. He would publish about 25 poems a year in the Maryborough Chronicle and about 800 of his poems have been currently located by a local reseacher. Plus work on him by the local Historical Society. I am always sceptical of poets with numerically high volumes of work as I find the quality is usually poor, but from what very limited poems I have seen so far, this may not be the case with Cec. Should be interesting.

ALSO relenting a bit lately and buying at sales the odd Illustrated Book of Lawson's and Paterson's poems for $1 etc.... you know the sort of thing... picture book / coffee table. Purely for the art in them.

Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:08 pm
by Shelley
I knew Cecil Lowther very well, Gary. He was a teacher at Maryborough West State School, which I attended. While he didn't actually teach me, he was one of those old-fashioned school teachers who knew all the kids by name.

I had blonde curly hair - so "Goldilocks" was his name for me. ("Silverlocks" now!!)

He was a dear and lovely man, and I kept in touch with him long after his retirement and into my adulthood. He lived a long life, well into his 90s. It is only in very recent times that I discovered his "Bannerman" identity. Interestingly, "Bannerman" is the brand of my beloved piano - of which very few were imported into Australia from England. I doubt there's any connection, but it's a coincidence.

In my school autograph book I still have Mr Lowther's signature, and this is what he wrote ... from "A Farewell" by Charles Kingsley ...

Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.
Do noble deeds, not dream them all day long.


Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 9:03 pm
by Gary Harding
That is interesting Shelley.

I had believed that Cecil Lowther was a pattern maker and assistant manager at Walkers Ltd (Maryborough). He could easily have been a state school teacher too I guess.

He was very active in chronicling local events in Maryborough for the forty years leading up to his death... in 1957 !!?? which does not seem consistent with him living into his 90's and teaching at your school? You look too young! :) But Cecil Lowther would not be a common name! :) A mystery. Certainly a treasured autograph!

Kay Gassan produced a book in 2015 (Gallipoli centenary) entitled "Poems of World War One by Bannerman". It cost about $10.

Many of his war poems were sort of designed to comfort those who had lost loved ones in The Great War. But he wrote much other material as well.

I stumbled across him through a nice lady-friend who knew an old Campbell locally.(an 88yo son?) Through Meg, this Campbell supplied me with the two poems I have herein quoted. It was said that The Deputy Mayor, Fraser Coast (George Seymour) was working on a book on Bannerman.... biography and a selection of poems by him. We have corresponded and George has supplied more pieces to the mozaic of Bannerman.

His old forge now has gone for good,
And handsome shops stand where it stood,
And Robert and his gallant band
Of sturdy sons now till the land,
Not far from famous Hervey Bay,
And somewhere down Dundowran way ;
His once dark hair has changed its hue,
And Bob's a whiteman through and through.

Bannerman, Maryborough, Sept 19, 1936
from poem "Robert Campbell Esq, Dundowran"


"Vale, Bob Campbell" Maryborough 24-2-1941

May heaven comfort those who mourn
A husband, father dear.
A friend whose word was aye his bond
Amongst his neighbours here.
Farewell, old friend, sweet be your sleep,
You always played the game;
In years to come, while mem'ry lasts
We'll find Bob Campbell's name.

Fairly impressive stuff for a mere local. I live at Craignish/Dundowran. A bit close to home. "His earliest work relates to cricket, then to World War I, throughout the twenties he wrote about politics and local affairs, by the 1930s his friends and contemporaries were celebrating golden wedding anniversaries or passing away and he wrote a lot of obituaries" (like this one about Campbell).

George reckons that Cecil's poetry sort of grows on you, and I could well agree. We'll see.

George's book will come out early 2018, and I will be in the front row for a copy. (I would expect heaps of ABPA Members would similarly be queueing up.) I can then expand more on our mutual friend Mr. Cecil Lowther. aka Bannerman

Re: A Catalogue of classic Bush Poetry Books

Posted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 9:23 pm
by Shelley
Gary, you are right and I have my generations mixed up!

I had not looked into the dates involved and just assumed when I heard the identity of "Bannerman" that it was "my" Mr Lowther, because I knew of his love for poetry. I have just done some research on the family, and discovered that Cecil "Bannerman" Lowther had a son also called Cecil. So I would say mystery solved, and Cecil Lowther Jnr was the school teacher. Yes, you are right, I'm not (quite) that old!!

Cecil Lowther the school teacher never married and lived with his two sisters who likewise remained single.

Thanks for the clarifying information.