Tag Archives: To Kill A Mockingbird

WWI…Maud Butler & the Troopship Suevic (Continued)

Continuing on from yesterday’s post, the saga of Maud Butler continues.

It’s hardly surprising that the discovery of Maud Butler, a young woman masquerading as a soldier on board the troopship Suevic, attracted a lot of attention. As soon as the troops on board got wind of it, she was snapped by the likes of 500 cameras and also they passed around the hat raising £600 as a “dowry” to get her home. She was mentioned in soldiers’ diaries and a couple even messages in bottles, which were hoisted overboard before they left Australian waters. Newspapers all round the country shared her story and also used her determination to get to the front, to rally men to enlist. Shame those wretched shirkers into enlisting and doing their bit. Not unsurprisingly, Maud Butler’s appearance in a man’s uniform, also raised questions about the role of women and affronted conventions of the time. However, while her actions were unconventional, to many Maud became a sort of hero.

As I said, Maud’s presence on board the Suevic attracted additional media attention to that particular voyage and details about conditions on board were captured, which (from what I can glean) often went unreported. These everyday details don’t matter much when you have thousands of men to tell the story. However, over 100 years later, their voices have fallen silent. Perhaps, it’s particularly important for those of us who had family who served to know their journey from start to finish, and to not just read the headlines. Know about the battlefield. I, for one, needed to have some understanding of what they went through. After all, I’ve always taken this quote from Harper Lee in To Kill A Mockingbird  to heart, adapting it to my own sense of walking in someone’s shoes:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Harper Lee.

As it turns out, the troops on board the Suevic produced their own on board newspaper called The Sports Company’s Gazette. It was edited by Lieutenant Webbe, a Hansard Reporter and  Lieutenant Wells and Private Tom Dawson were associate-editors. The Art Editor was Private C. V. Walters, who’d worked as a process engraver for The Sun newspaper before going into camp[1].

According to Elise Edmonds, Senior Curator, Research and Discovery at the Mitchell Library, such newspapers weren’t uncommon.:

“Articles published highlight the day to day cares and routines of the ordinary serviceman. There is much poetry – sentimental verse, along with examples of black humour, prose, photographs and drawings. Soldier illustrations often consisted of caricatures of military culture, enemy forces, or the political situation. All the articles and artwork were created whilst in trenches, at military bases and on the troopships – either heading to war, or on the way home in 1918 and 1919. Writing, illustrating and editing these publications was a good way to reduce boredom or the tension of military life.[2]

Of course, Maud Butler rated more than a passing mention in The Sports Company’s Gazette. It reads:

‘Knowing what we do, we should all be proud that Australia can breed girls heroic enough to brave the dangers of a troopship, and the terrors of war for their country’s weal. There should still be plenty of men, however, and Miss ___ goes back to Sydney with our best wishes. May she marry a man worthy of her. We give her the following as our dowry: —

A plucky young lady named Maud.

Who wished to go fighting abroad:

One day sailed away In Khaki array

And said ‘Who will think me a fraud ?’

An eagle-eyed captain we had

Who soon made poor Maudie feel sad.

He made her blush red

When next day he said

‘I think you’re a lady, me lad.’

And Maudie’s adventure was o’er;

She’s way back in Sydney once more;

She shed a few tears;

We gave her three cheers.

And wished her good things in galore[3].

The following appeared in The Sun:

GIRL ON THE TRANSPORT HUMOR AND GOOD VERSE

The newspaper Industry flourishes at sea these days. Every troopship that rides the waves produces a sheet which contains more or less newsy stuff, and it is extraordinary how the man with the touch of humor is discovered. The last paper to see the light has just come to hand. It was well edited, and handled a variety of copy capably. It recorded in quite a dignified manner the disappearance of Private H. H. Brown, of the 18th Battalion, who, it was supposed had fallen overboard at night….

The humorist showed up in a report of a concert at which he said the absence of ladies in the audience was greatly deplored, the only lady passenger having found it necessary to disembark before they said good-bye to Australia. The reference, of course, was to the adventure of Maud Butler, the little Kurri Kurri girl. How Maud was discovered is thus expressed:— A muster parade had been called, and the adjutant was gently floating round the ship looking for shirkers. Presently his eagle eye glared on a young private, and he asked, “Well, my lad, why aren’t you parading with your unit?” The lad stammered, and replied, “Sir, I cannot find my unit.” “Probably not,” said the adjutant, whose searching glare had disclosed the fact that the offender’s trilbies were not encased in service boots, while the jacket was minus battalion numbers. After a back view he said in his dry and official manner, “You are a stowaway, and it will be necessary for you to be examined by the medical officer.” Exit soldier and adjutant. It was afterwards announced that the soldier was a dear little girl. The wireless got to work, and Maud was sent by to Melbourne. She was still dressed in khaki, but carried in addition a cash belt containing £23, generously sub scribed by all on board, so that on her arrival in Melbourne she could secure the necessary raiment to enable her to resume her proper station in life. What everyone wants to know, the story concludes, Is why the adjutant objects to that delightful song entitled Come Into the Garden, Maud. The theme Is then taken up by the Limerick man, who under the title Maud of the Mercantile Marine writes: —

A certain young lady named Maud

Secreted herself on ship board.

The dear little duck

Had plenty of pluck,

But the venture turned but quite a fraud.

She climbed up a rope in the dark,

The adventurous, giddy, young spark;

But the adjutant wise

Had piercing brown eyes,

And so put an end to her lark.

When discovered she

Shed a small tear,

Which proves she’s a woman, the dear!

Then the ____came

Her person to claim,

So exit sweet Boadicea.

The sheet had its sporting page conducted by “Bill” Corbett’s understudy, and it also dealt with the ceremony associated with crossing the line, as well as getting off a great many good-natured hits at the expense of officers and men alike. The sheet was edited by Lieutenant Webbe. Lieutenant Wells and Private Tom Dawson were associate-editors, and Private C. V. Walters, who before he went into camp was a member of the Sun process engraving staff was the art editor. ‘

A touching poem  At Sunset by George A. Aldworth, of the 20th Battalion. Also appeared in the Suevic’s  Sports Company’s Gazette. However, I felt George warranted his own post so stay tuned.

Do you have any connection to Maud Butler or someone who served onboard the Suevic? Or, perhaps your loved one also served in WWI? If so, please leave details and links in the comments below.  

If you are interested in Maud Butler’s story, here’s a couple of posts of interest.

There’s  Maud Butler: Teenage Stowaway – Victoria Haskins a history professor at the University of Newcastle.

Message In A Bottle Hunter- Maud Butler

A children’s book https://www.cessnockadvertiser.com.au/story/5014176/book-pays-tribute-to-mauds-fighting-spirit/ has also been written and I’m about to place my order. Hunter historians John Gillam and Yvonne Fletcher and illustrator Paul Durell have brought Maud’s extraordinary story to life in the new book “You Can’t Fight, You’re a Girl!”

As I mentioned in my previous post, my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy served in France, but my husband Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French was Killed in Action in France. We also have quite a few other family members who have served. Our son will be visiting the battlefields of France as part of a history tour with his school next year and will be spending ANZAC Day at Villers-Bretonneux and I wanted him to have some idea of what happened before he left.

After all, we talk about “Lest we forget”, but a hundred years later, we don’t remember. We don’t know. Of course, we can’t know everything about the past, but for me it’s not only important from a point of respect and gratitude. It’s also helpful to know what these people went through and how they handled this dreadful period in history provides valuable life lessons, which are just as relevant and needed today.

I also needed to know what it was really like for them to be there. Not from us imposing our own interpretations over the top. Rather, I needed to hear their stories directly through their own voices. Despite studying Australian History at Honours level at university and being gripped by Australian and family history most of my life, what they told me was quite different and much more complex than I expected. They needed to be heard.

Stay tuned.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References

[1] Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Saturday 22 July 1916, page 1

 

[2] https://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/blogs/first-world-war-troopship-and-unit-newspapers

[3] Arrow (Sydney, NSW : 1916 – 1933), Saturday 22 July 1916, page 1

 

Natural Justice…Friday Fictioneers

As far as George Bates was concerned, “the only good Indian was a dead Indian”. Yet, his wife was always nagging him with the words of that blasted do-gooder, Atticus, from To Kill A Mocking Bird:”You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

That was how he found himself spending a week out in Cherokee territory, sleeping in a tee pee and mingling with their people.

However, George was a slow learner. Had to be taught a lesson instead.

….

99 Words

As an Australian who has never been to America, I found it difficult to grapple with the Native American theme in this week’s prompt. From where I sit, it seems that Native Americans are largely invisible and it’s very rare that you see Native Americans on TV or discussed as part of  the political process. This has concerned me for some time and aroused my curiosity. I had to do a fair amount of reading tonight before these ideas started peculating through. I was quite shocked to read that “the only good Indian was a dead Indian” is line from Laura inglus Wilder’s  Little House on the Prairie.

I read in Wikipaedia:

“An important moment concerning Wilder’s depiction of Native Americans occurred in 1998, when an eight year old girl read Little House on the Prairie in her elementary school class. The novel contains the line, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian”; and this caused the girl great distress. Her mother, Waziyatawin Angela Cavender Wilson, a member of the Wahpetunwan Dakota nation, challenged the school on its use of the book in the classroom.[15] This prompted the American Library Association to investigate and ultimately change the name of the Wilder Award, an award named after Laura Ingalls Wilder, to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award.[15] This award is given to books that have made a large impact on children’s literature in America.[16]”

I knew none of this before so feel I’ve learned quite a lot tonight.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Renee Heath.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 4th March, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hey, so what’s been going on in your neck of the woods this week? I had a virtual visit to London catching up with  Geoff Le Pard and Dog who ventured out for a walk in the snow where Dog was a bit sensitive about show getting in between his paws. Next, I scooted off to Birmingham with  Suzie81 Speaks and froze through  Snowmageddon. Meanwhile, it’s been hot and sunny here in Sydney, but not as scorchingly hot as it has been.

I know it doesn’t sound very exciting, but I am still fighting off Fergus the phlemmy cough and sinus infection. Consequently, I’ve been sleeping a lot and trying to stay home as much as possible to fight it off. It has been making me a bit grumpy, but it’s given me the chance to read.

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Atticus (played by Gregory Peck) and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Read…That’s right I am re-reading Harper Lee’s: To Kill A Mockingbird. Have you re-read it since you studied it at school? Or, perhaps you haven’t read the book at all. I’d been meaning to re-read it for a few years, as one of my favourite all-time quotes comes from the book:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

However, it’s simply been phenomenal to re-read the book and read the action around the quotes and truly understand what they were fully intended to mean within context. That’s so much richer, yet perhaps more limited, than when the quote appears all by itself drifting through space without a base.

Another quote also really resonated with me:

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.- Atticus Finch”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

This quote appeared in reference to Mrs Dubois who’d become addicted to morphine and was went through the horrors of withdrawal not because it would save her life, but because she wanted die free of the drug. After Atticus explained what she did, Jem and Scout came to respect her courage and understand somewhat why was she so cantankerous and difficult.

I also relate to this quote myself in terms of my health. I keep on fighting and keep staying a few steps ahead. This doesn’t feel like bravery or courage, but those qualities aren’t born out of hardship and mess and not a bed of roses.

This week has also had a few triumphs for the kids. Our daughter has an audition coming up which requires playing a musical instrument. However, she hasn’t touched her violin for over a year, but fortunately she has another week up her sleeve and much to my pride and irritation, she’s already playing Fur Elise better than me…the good old reliable tortoise. Meanwhile, at sailing our son was helping another young man who’d just got his Flying Eleven and it was his first time out. I was really stoked that the club thought Mr was good enough to go out with him. That was a really positive sign of confidence and respect. Better than winning a race…Well, almost!

DSC_8282

Mr at the Sailing Club.

In terms of my writing this week,  I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week I based my flash on the story of Australian boxer, Les Darcy who tragically died young at the age of 21 in Memphis, Tennessee. I’ve added some bio details as well as a link to an excellent piece of writing by Australian author, Ruth Park who wrote his biography.

DSC_8386

Oops. I almost forgot to mention that we had had a bit of local excitement this week. A small sailing boat was beached during some heavy rain and with it came all the questions of how did it happen? Who owned the boat? And, perhaps the ultimate question…could she be saved? I know how much our boats have meant to us and this boat was vintage with timber trim and had character. Since there are no secrets around here, it didn’t take me long to find out who owned the boat and how it came to rest. Beached Yacht, Ettalong, Australia.

Anyway, that’s about all for now. How has your week been? I hope it’s been a good one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli.

xx Rowena

 

 

Quote: Living With Yourself.

“but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

–Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

As hard as it it to live with someone else, perhaps the most difficult person to live is ourselves.

After all, we live with our selves twenty four hours a day seven days a week from birth right through to eternity. That’s way longer than being stuck in the same lift with someone…anyone!!

When I was younger, I used to get frustrated when my Mum would think she knew me better than I knew myself. Who did she think she was? She wasn’t me. She wasn’t walking in my shoes. Indeed, she had her own shoes and she could jolly well step straight back in them and leave my shoes alone!!

However, I have lately come to appreciate that we only know ourselves from the inside out.. through our own eyes, our own experience and let’s faceit, when you’ve only been on the planet for 5 short years, your understanding of the bigger picture and wider world is extremely limited.

Those around us, particularly who know us well but also have a broader experience and knowledge of life, can not only see us but also where and how we might fit into the overall scheme of things. They can see abilities in us we might overlook or downplay as well because so many of us are our own worst critics. In putting ourselves down or aiming for a perfection we can never attain, we can completely dismiss our strengths and fail to become all we were meant to be.

Rowena sea steps

Returning to the quote, however, that deals more with our conscience. That it doesn’t matter what other people think or hold dear, we must be true to our own values and conscience. Stand up and be counted…even if we are the one…that lone voice calling out through the wilderness.

After all, only we need to live with ourselves…and our actions and inactions. No one else.

As Edmund Burke wrote:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Moreover, for those of you who are a bit like me and feel you can’t do much, he also wrote:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

Edmund Burke

It is so much easier for us to point the finger out, instead of pointing it in and asking: “What is my role? What do I need to do? Not someone else…just me.

What are your views? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

I would like to thank Merril Smith for sharing the quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird, which inspired this post. You can read her post here: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/walk-and-talk/