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A run ashore in Oz. (Way back, even before Rummers)

The Further Adventures of a Thomas Neill, Officer’s Steward.

<<…In January, 1890, I joined the Penguin*, a surveying ship on the Australian station, and during my two years in her I saw many strange sights and visited many peculiar places…

….Another place we went to was Port Darwin, in the Northern Territory. Here, just outside the settlement, we came across an inn called the ' Traveller's Rest,' though only a stone image could have got any rest in a place teeming with flies and insects and the temperature at 115 degrees. This inn had dense bush at the back and sides, but the long front was clear and faced the railway line leading out of the town. Twice a week, early in the morning, the train came in from the mining town of Burrundie, 100 miles away, laden with miners and their families who spent a long day by the sea.

There were many visitors at the ' Traveller's Rest ' that day, and as our ship's company had been given 24 hours leave, the first for three months, the place was pretty crowded. Determining to enjoy themselves at all costs the seamen hunted up an old Irish filddler from the village, and to his music and that produced by the inn piano, which still had a few keys capable of making a noise, they started dancing in the intervals of having many drinks.

As the afternoon wore on into the evening the revellers grew weary and sought out their resting places for the night. By midnight, however, the heat, the flies and the mosquitoes proved too much for them, and in twos and threes they came out of the inn and went fast asleep with their heads pillowed on the cool railway metals.

About 6 o'clock the next morning along came the Burrundi Express, the driver of which, seeing the unusual sight of a score or so of sailors asleep on his line, blew his whistle and stopped the train. No sooner had he done so than the passengers started to alight. Among them were fifteen or sixteen bush girls, handsome, upstanding, sunbrowned young creatures. They soon gathered round the sleepy seamen and pulled them off the lines, and the sailors were not a little surprised and pleased at being wakened by such a bevy of real beauties. By this time the train was quite empty and, scenting fun, the guard, driver and stoker had also joined the merry throng.

One of the sailors thereupon produced a boatswain's pipe and shouted ' Clear lower deck!' upon which the other men came tumbling out of the hotel rubbing their eyes and the old fiddler woke up. 'The piano was then brought out into the roadway, the fiddler tuned up and the fun began.
They danced round dances and square dances, reels, jigs and polkas, and then the bush girls gave a dance of their own which they called the ' Wooloomooloo Tauranga.' Because of the heat and the dust raised it was found necessary to serve out drinks all round every few minutes.

The sailors, thoroughly enjoying themselves in the feminine society and with the liquid refreshment, lost all count of time, and had not an officer arrived from the ship to announce that it was 8 o'clock and they had already overstayed their leave by an hour, they would have made
another day of it…>>

The Naval Review - The Independent Professional Journal

*HMS PENQUIN Commissioned 23 August 1877, An Osprey class screw-driven sloop built between 1874-77. Incidentally, they were the first class of ship in the Royal Navy to use glass scuttles.



In company with a few other ships from FES on our way to Sidney FORTH had sprung a couple of leaky tubes on No 1 boiler, B boiler room so had to pull into Darwin for repairs. Ships company of about 800 drank Darwin dry within a couple of days, Jack took great pleasure in supping his issue of 2 cans on the upper scupper to wind up the dockyard maties. 68, Darwin was still a one horse town, even less when the tornado struck a few years later.
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