19 comments on “Outback bachelors. 1934.

  1. Brilliant photos indeed Metan but they also make me a little sad. Anyone of these blokes could have been my dad “hitting the track” and “humping his bluey” across Australia in search of work during “The Great Depression” of the 1930’s 😦

    He “jumped the rattlers”, got knocked around as a pugilist in “sideshow alley”, stowed away on coastal steamers and did everything, and anything, to put some food in his belly… refusing to be stuck in an “unemployed workers camp” out in the bush where they stashed the young lads to stop them causing a “ruckus” in town. “Out of sight – out of mind” was the order of the day/ decade and my dad refused to play along…

    • ‘Unemployed workers camp’? My god Catherine, I had no idea they did that back then. That sounds an awful lot like the detention camps we have now. How horrible. Your Dad sounds like he was a true survivor. Isn’t it funny our sense of history now idolizes those men who did it tough on their own and we’ve swept the memory of those camps under the rug. Thank you so much for this comment!

      • Thanks acflory… yep, they were terrible times and I’m only now beginning to realise that I have a responsibility to pass on these stories before I too “fall off the twig”… The “humpies” which families constructed out of sheets of iron, anything they could lay their hands on to keep the weather out. The evictions, living on the streets, the “toffs” coming for their “Sunday drives” to stare at the desperate and homeless. The “soup kitchen” my grandmother set up to give some nourishment to the children, my grandfather begging at the Greengrocers for some veggies to go in the soup pot for the children. The layettes my grandmother made, and loaned to new mothers to “tide them over” until the “benefits” ie. rations came through for the new baby. Then washed and loaned out again.

        Yes, my dad was indeed “a true survivor”. He was one of the British boys enticed here by the “Dreadnought Scheme” to replace those many Australian workers killed in “The Great War”… and arrived just as “The Great Depression” kicked in. 😦 Dad spoke little about his 9 years of unemployment (for my Grandfather it was 11 years), nor the death of his first baby… and then his first wife because of inferior medical care for the unemployed. My mum was far more outspoken about these desperate times and my research has validated it all.

        Thanks for caring… I don’t really like remembering this part of my family history but seems I am destined to pass on this information way beyond the little I’ve written about on my Blog. Thankyou again.

        • I really think these stories have to be told Catherine. I know I always romanticized those times, and I’ll bet the current generation hasn’t even heard of them. 😦 I think when the memory of the hard times fades from public awareness, we all lose. Not just because of the history aspect, but because those stories put our own lives and ‘troubles’ into such harsh focus. Please, please write all this down!

    • When I found these photos I did wonder if they were men wandering about looking for work or if they were workers on an outback station.
      It is amazing what a hard life people lived in the past, we are so soft now aren’t we! Imagine taking the troublemaking teenagers who have drunken fights outside nightclubs of a weekend and sending them off to the country as they did back then, there would be an outcry! (although the hardship might be the wake up call some of them need).

      What stories those young men like your dad would have had. Life would have been extremely hard but I wonder if they counted their hard times as great times in their life as well. (Most) People try to make the best of what they are given don’t they?

      • Thanks Metan… they are fascinating photos indeed. Who knows if they were itinerant workers and chose this way of life or…?

        I actually have a manuscript my dad wrote and entered in a writing competition, of some sort, back in the late 1960’s about his 3-4 years “on the track” which describes clearly how the young blokes survived e.g. to “jump the rattler” you needed to get the timing right … just as the train was leaving the station and picking up speed you’d “chuck your bluey” on and swing up into the carriage without “missing your step” 😦 Of course they’d get “caught” at the next station and spend a night “in the clink” (jail) but at least they’d get a decent meal is what dad told me.

        Initially it maybe was a bit of fun/ adventure for a young bloke but 10 years taken from you, during your most productive years, did become rather too much, is how I understand it.

        Incidentally his manuscript was rejected and sent back. Maybe it would be of more interest nowadays?

        • There does seem to be a resurgence of interest in personal stories from our history these days, I wouldn’t be surprised if it recieved a warmer welcome now than it did back then. Of course there is always self-publishing….

          I agree with Meeks above, these stories of hardship really do need to be told. Soon enough anyone who remembers them will be gone and then their tales are lost forever. 10 years of being on the road wouldn’t be anyones idea of a happy life. Those times need to be remembered properly otherwise everyone will consider things like ‘Waltzing Matilda’ as a happy folk tale (he is a ‘Jolly Swagman’ after all) rather than the sad tale it is, as EllaDee and I mention further down in the comments. 😦
          People prefer the romance rather than the horrible reality don’t they.

          • Well, as I said Metan… dad was only about 3-4 years “on the track” after being lured here from England, when only 16 years old, as cheap labour to replace the many strong young Australians killed fighting England’s war in France. It was the “Dreadnought Scheme” and there’s a story about it on my blog.

            The most horrifying part of Dad’s story is that when he settled down in Port Adelaide, married and had a baby who was stillborn because of the inferior medical services dished out to the families of unemployed workers… then 2 months later, his beautiful wife, killed herself in the most horrific of circumstances… he went crazy, threatened to kill the doctor and ended up being locked up in a Lunatic Asylum until his mother-in-law went “guarantor” and signed him out…

            It’s through these real life stories Metan, and others, that I became committed to the need for workers to pull together through Unions… and now that’s all become a dirty word… just like so many other changes so many have fought hard for… and you know what??? I’m sick of the fight.

            Thankfully my children, and grandchildren know and value the stories… despite their “higher education” and PhD’s … and so I pass the baton over to them which they’re picking up with great relish.

            Now I’ll get down off my “soapbox”, pull the blankie over my head… and let all this angst pass off into the ether. Cheerio…

  2. I still can’t get my head round seeing pictures of people in short sleeves and vests at Christmas. To me even the word conjures up a feeling of cold. Great pictures Metan.
    xx Hugs xx

    • They are fantastic pictures aren’t they. You probably remember me moaning in the past about the (often) poor quality of newspaper photos from the eras I prefer, when I saw these ones I was thrilled! So nice to see candid photos too rather than posed pictures.

      In my mind the word Christmas conjures up bbq’s and sitting outside with a cold drink wishing we didn’t have to go inside and do the dishes! A few years ago we did get unexpected snow on a nearby mountain on Boxing Day though. We packed up the kids in unseasonable clothes and took the short drive there to be able to say we had a white Xmas that year! 😀

  3. You are so right, great quality photos and I also like the line drawing that accompanied them as part of the article.
    Catherine’s comment and the words “unemployed workers camp” do shed a whole new light on the possibilities of the photos.
    Take away the romance from Waltzing Matilda and the reality of it is very different.

    • Yes, Waltzing Matilda is not really a nice song is it? A lonely itinerant man steals a sheep and when the police arrive he decides that suicide is preferable to capture. What a hard life so many had. There is a huge difference between being poor these days and being poor back then isn’t there?

      I would love to know where the pictures were taken and the circumstances these men were living under.

    • It always amazes me when I find something this clear, so often the pictures in the old papers just disappoint in varying shades of black.

    • You’re welcome! 😀 They are wonderful pictures, if only all of the interestingly captioned pictures I find in the papers were as clear.

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