By Frank Morton.
From The Triad, 10th November 1915.
Photo from thepiecart.com.au.
Of all the cities in which I have ever lived I love Sydney most; but when I think of papers I have served, my pleasantest memories are still of Brisbane.
It was so long ago that it half saddens one to realize how long ago it was; but there is no essential change in the addition of yards or miles of bricks-and-mortar, and I fancy that Brisbane will always be pretty much as it was when I devoted all the energies of my youth to breaking a sub- editor’s heart that time.
So long ago!
Brunton Stephens was one of the wisest and gentlest of my friends. Dr. Ward had not yet commenced his great career on the highest plane by becoming a leader-writer of the Argus, Arthur Bayldon was still young and slender and a beautiful dear thing, Horace Brinsmead was busy giving away pianos, Seymour Dicker was here and there and every- where with trousers too short for his legs and sleeves that ended before his characteristic gloves set out on the day’s work as ’t were, Mr. Claud Musson was a pillar of society just established, Bobby Byrne was whimsically editing Figaro, Fordyce Wheeler was a young bank-clerk who broke away timidly to help in a weekly paper we started, and Noah’s ark was still a prominent object on the crest of Ararat.
Brisbane owned the dustiest streets and the most amazing pieman in the world. Ikey Austin and I used to stand in the thick of the dim grey mornings and eat stewed rabbit and things more mysterious at that piemans stall. . . and now, Lord! I’ve forgotten that pieman’s name. Tom it was, or maybe Jerry. He had a confident smile and a very ready left. One night he confided to me that when he was a boy at school he had determined to become a poet. Things were not very brisk in the poet line; and for that reason and none other he had consented to become a pieman. Possibly, too, his family had social aspirations.
Loid Lamington was Governor in those days. He was a charming person who occasionally made excursions into Bohemia, and he too ate at the pieman’s stall more than once —Tom’s stall, or it may be Jerry’s. Oft in the stilly night wonderful things happened. Judge Paul and Philip Newbury would sing duets at the Johnsonian Club, where I was a persistent visitor greatly undesired. Sophonisba the daughter of Hasdrubal was toying with the dusky one who died for love. . .
So long ago it was!
But Brisbane, as I said at the beginning, is always Brisbane. The days are often scorchers, but the nights are always velvet. The men are gallant blades, and the women are queens in Sheba. Song comes more easily there than elsewhere, and sinks deeper. There is marriage and giving in marriage. There are garden parties and walks not too ridiculously moonlit. They steal their song, the lips that cling, from lips that really shouldn’t sing, as Mr. Richard Le Gallienne might prosily have fancied sometime. . . I forget. Mrs. Forrest has written a story to that same effect, anyhow.
So Brisbane, as I think of it across the years, is a dream with substance. I rather love these substantial memories. I remember Dave O’Carroll, who spilt his fountain-pen on the head of Mr. Speaker—Dave, who has passed to the majority of good chaps. I remember Jack Hamilton, and when I met him the other day and found him looking young as ever I found confirmation for my belief that Brisbane is what Brisbane was. Jack is still a youth, and it was sweet of him to express surprise at finding me so little of an elderly person. I remember the wake we held on the golden-haired Hebe, that eve of her marriage with a society blade, the wake that made Ikey so mellifluous and sad. I remember the wet Saturday afternoon when Arthur Bayldon and Brunton Stephens carried home the sucking-pig. I remember the hot still morning when Chirgwin lost his watch. I remember the midnight visitors who came along to compliment Daddy Halliwell on his singing of Elijah.
I remember the dear creditors who wrote-off my name in their books as a debtor merely celestial, one whose treasures of good intention were laid-up in heaven. I remember the quite nice dame who used to collect botanical specimens for me at Enoggera… and I hope to goodness I haven’t spelt it wrong. I have been so much puzzled since with Whakarewarewa and those other places.
Oh, I remember it all!
So if you are thinking of spending a holiday in Brisbane, why not? Prudence… she is a spectre with cold eyes. Age… it is a myth to frighten children withal. Youth… ah, she is a tender lady very patient. They steal their song, the lips that cling, from lips that do their best to sing… So long ago!. . . and still to remember! I almost remember the colour of Melchizedek’s beard.