Wednesday, April 28, 2021



I don't believe that coincidences are a foreteller of something or other, or that they are omens, or that there is some Jungian subconscious connection.

However, in the space of 2 days, three connected items came my way:
- I was thinking about a poem called Hay, Hell and Booligal;
- I received an email, as a subscriber to the website Amusing Planet, about a wholly cast iron church in Istanbul;
- Graham E sent me an email about “tin tabernacles” in Australia, the term for iron churches, with the first pic being of the Anglican Church in Booligal.

So, throwing some salt over my shoulder and putting a rabbit’s foot into my pocket, I decided that the above items would be the next few Bytes posts.

First up is the poem . . .


About the poem:

From Wikipedia:

Hay and Hell and Booligal is a poem by the Australian bush poet A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson who wrote the poem while working as a solicitor with the firm of Street & Paterson in Sydney. It was first published in The Bulletin on 25 April 1896. The poem was later included in Paterson's collection Rio Grande's Last Race and Other Verses, first published in 1902.

The phrase "Hay and Hell and Booligal" and its more common variant "Hay, Hell and Booligal" is used figuratively in the Australian vernacular "to designate a place of the greatest imaginable discomfort". The phrase was popularised by Paterson's poem, but the expression pre-dates his work.

Hay is a town in south-western New South Wales on the Murrumbidgee River. Booligal is a town on the Lachlan River, 76 kilometres (47 miles) north of Hay by road. The road connecting the two townships (nowadays a section of the Cobb Highway) crosses a flat expanse of country known as the One Tree Plain. In the earlier expression "Hay, Hell and Booligal", and also Paterson's adaptation of the phrase, "Hell" corresponds to the One Tree Plain, on the stock route between Hay and Booligal.

Readers may recognise the reference to One Tree Plain from the lyrics to the Australian folk song Flash Jack from Gundagai. Sample lyric:

I've shore at Burrabogie and I've shore at Toganmain
I've shore at Big Willandra and out on the Coleraine
But before the shearing was over I longed to get back again
Shearing for old Tom Patterson on the One Tree Plain.

The western Riverina town of Booligal was a remote, isolated locality. The poem compares Booligal unfavourably with the nearby town of Hay and even Hell, recounting a great list of problems with the town—heat, sand, dust, flies, rabbits, mosquitos, snakes and drought.


The poem:

Hay and Hell and Booligal

        - A B “Banjo” Paterson

"You come and see me, boys," he said;
"You'll find a welcome and a bed
And whisky any time you call;
Although our township hasn't got
The name of quite a lively spot --
You see, I live in Booligal.

"And people have an awful down
Upon the district and the town --
Which worse than hell itself the call;
In fact, the saying far and wide
Along the Riverina side
Is 'Hay and Hell and Booligal'.

"No doubt it suits 'em very well
To say its worse than Hay or Hell,
But don't you heed their talk at all;
Of course, there's heat -- no one denies --
And sand and dust and stacks of flies,
And rabbits, too, at Booligal.

"But such a pleasant, quiet place --
You never see a stranger's face;
They hardly ever care to call;
The drovers mostly pass it by --
They reckon that they'd rather die
Than spend the night in Booligal.

"The big mosquitoes frighten some --
You'll lie awake to hear 'em hum --
And snakes about the township crawl;
But shearers, when they get their cheque,
They never come along and wreck
The blessed town of Booligal.

"But down to Hay the shearers come
And fill themselves with fighting-rum,
And chase blue devils up the wall,
And fight the snaggers every day,
Until there is the deuce to pay --
There's none of that in Booligal.

"Of course, there isn't much to see --
The billiard-table used to be
The great attraction for us all,
Until some careless, drunken curs
Got sleeping on it in their spurs,
And ruined it, in Booligal.

"Just now there is a howling drought
That pretty near has starved us out --
It never seems to rain at all;
But, if there should come any rain,
You couldn't cross the black-soil plain --
You'd have to stop in Booligal."

"We'd have to stop!" With bated breath
We prayed that both in life and death
Our fate in other lines might fall;
"Oh, send us to our just reward
In Hay or Hell, but, gracious Lord,
Deliver us from Booligal!"


The town reaction:

The Hayligaleans (a word I invented to refer to the residents of Hay and Booligal) have not been impressed.

From Wikipedia:

In May 1936 the newly-built Booligal War Memorial Hall was opened with a fund-raising ball attended by local and district residents. ‘Banjo’ Paterson (“the man who put Booligal on the map”) had been especially invited to attend the function. In an interview with Roger Sheaffe, the president of the hall committee, Paterson explained that he could not attend “as he was getting too far on in years to make the journey”. The poet had remarked, "I suppose Booligal has grown into a fine big town now", to which Sheaffe wryly replied, “No, it never recovered from the blow you dealt to it in its youth”. Paterson “autographed a number of copies of his works” for the occasion, which were sold at the hall opening to benefit the building fund.

When A. B. Paterson died in 1941 the following remarks were included in his obituary in the Riverine Grazier newspaper:

Paterson's "Hay, Hell and Booligal" did not add to the poet's popularity in the districts mentioned, but the line which is still quoted by people ignorant of the actual conditions, was probably only used by the poet as a catchy phrase.



Former One Tree Hotel in Hay

Booligal General Store

Booligal Court House

Paterson’s reference to Hell may refer to the area around the old One Tree Hotel midway between Hay and Booligal. It may also refer to Hells Gate Station, a property midway between Hay and Balranald. Gordon Paterson (no relation to the poet) owns the station, which he bought in 1966. “The official name was Richlands but it was always known as Hells Gate so I changed the sign at the entrance,” Gordon says. He is unsure of the name’s origin but suggests, “It might have been a nickname given by the shearers who had to deal with some seriously big Merinos.” James Paterson, Gordon’s grandson, thinks it might be because of the rutted roads that created considerable angst as they often caused wool bales to topple off the bullock wagons.

The Hay Plain

Late afternoon on the Hay Plain.

The original Booligal Hotel, rebuilt in 1979


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