At the Tug-O-War – by Henry Lawson

’Twas in a tug-of-war where I—the guvnor’s hope and pride—
Stepped proudly on the platform as the ringer on my side;
Old dad was in his glory there—it gave the old man joy
To fight a passage through the crowd and barrack for his boy.

A friend came up and said to me, ‘Put out your muscles, John,
And pull them to eternity—your guvnor’s looking on.’
I paused before I grasped the rope, and glanced around the place,
And, foremost in the waiting crowd, I saw the old man’s face.

My mates were strong and plucky chaps, but very soon I knew
That our opponents had the weight and strength to pull them through;
The boys were losing surely and defeat was very near,
When, high above the mighty roar, I heard the old man cheer!

I felt my muscles swelling when the old man cheer’d for me,
I felt as though I’d burst my heart, or gain the victory!
I shouted, ‘Now! Together!’ and a steady strain replied,
And, with a mighty heave, I helped to beat the other side!

Oh! how the old man shouted in his wild, excited joy!
I thought he’d burst his boiler then, a-cheering for his boy;
The chaps, oh! how they cheered me, while the girls all smiled so kind,
They praised me, little dreaming, how the old man pulled behind.
. . . . .
He barracks for his boy no more—his grave is old and green,
And sons have grown up round me since he vanished from the scene;
But, when the cause is worthy where I fight for victory,
In fancy still I often hear the old man cheer for me.

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My name is Moya Sharp, I live in Kalgoorlie Western Australia and have worked most of my adult life in the history/museum industry. I have been passionate about history for as long as I can remember and in particular the history of my adopted home the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia. Through my website I am committed to providing as many records and photographs free to any one who is interested in the family and local history of the region.

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  1. Robert John McClelland says:

    Thankyou Moya,for all you do.My Father Jack McClelland was resident of Kalgoorlie.I was born there. My mother Catherine Anne Adamson came to Kalg at 16, Obtained special PERMISSION, to work. Was employed as Housemaid by one of the Mine Manager’s.I was born 12.2.1938

    • Hi Robert I have the following info on McLelland’s in the Goldfields, do any name look familiar:- The Dates are Dates of birth
      MCCLELLAND Doris 13-08-1928
      MCCLELLAND Doris 13-08-1928
      MCCLELLAND Eva 27-06-1906
      MCCLELLAND George 06-11-1910
      MCCLELLAND George E 06-06-1933
      MCCLELLAND Jack 15/11/1899
      MCCLELLAND Jean 15-06-1926
      MCCLELLAND Jean 15-10-1926
      MCCLELLAND Jean Beryl 15-10-1926
      McCLELLAND W Age 63
      McCLELLAND Willilam 53
      MCCLELLAND Wilma Laurel 22-09-1929

  2. John Sheridan says:

    I always enjoy Lawson’s poems. I remember at the Annual Gwalia Woodline Picnics they always had a
    tug-of-war and log-chop contest to get the drinkers out from the bar. Reckon Lawson’s poem is the best:
    The roaring days: the night too quickly passes/And we are growing old/So let us fill our glasses/And toast
    the Days of Gold/When finds of wondrous treasure/Set all the South ablaze/And you and I were faithful
    mates/ All through the Roaring Days…

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