WA’s worst poet?

He was a poet and he did not rhyme

He was a poet and he did not rhyme

Today we want to celebrate one candidate for the position of Western Australia’s worst ever poet. Step forward Rhys J. Edmunds of Northam. In the 1910s Edmunds was attached to the Northam Courier, which was one of the few places brave enough to publish him.

When a Sunday Times reviewer described Rhys’ sentimental verses as “horrible”, the great poet himself stepped up with a riposte entitled “They call me poet”. We cannot bear to reprint the whole thing here, so will leave you with just the final four lines:

Had I the tongue to reach the heart,

This is the message I would impart:

“Honor the Poet, for it is he

Who defends us all i’ God’s imagery.”

During World War I, it is said Edmunds collaborated with a poet from the Lands Office to produce some jingoistic verse to be set to music for the use of local cadets. It is not clear if this project was ever finished.

To be fair, while he had some shortcomings in the poetic departments, Rhys worked valiantly to improve the surroundings of Northam, and after the weir was built did a lot of work for the local birdlife.

So Rhys J. Edmunds of Northam, Dodgy Perth salutes you and your efforts to improve the intellectual life and wildlife of your home town.

When UWA students were naughty

Not overstated at all. Not one bit.

Not overstated at all. Not one bit.

You may recall that a couple of years ago UWA students got into serious trouble for racist jokes in the guild newspaper, PROSH. Hardly the first time student humour was controversial. Won’t be the last either.

Today, we look back to 1931, when the student rag, then called Sruss Sruss, also managed to caused outrage. The editor was Griff Richards, who later went on to edit the West Australian. So it didn’t exactly destroy his career.

Unfortunately, the Dodgy Perth research team has not managed to uncover a copy of this infamous publication. UWA doesn’t appear to have one, and the State Library has lost theirs. There may not be any other copies left.

All we are left with is one joke about a Professor Ross, who taught physics and maths, not being able to have any more children because he’d lost the formula. Hysterical, eh?

And one rather weak poem:

She was only a sportsman’s daughter,
She lived besides the mill:
There were otters in the water,
But she was otter still.

Well, Prof Ross didn’t find these funny, and he rapidly became an enemy of the guild, Sruss Sruss, and its editor.

The week the newspaper was printed, UWA students had not helped their cause by going upstairs at His Majesty’s armed with rotten crayfish, eggs and vegetables. Then proceeded to throw these at the audience below, forcing the curtain to come down and the play to be abandoned.

At first, there was only a small piece in the West Australian about this scandal. But then the Sunday Times had a slow news week. Sruss Sruss, it decided, was the worst thing since Hitler would be a few years later, and it had to be stopped now.

The University authorities, backed by Prof Ross, panicked and fined everyone involved, and ordered every copy of the newspaper to be pulped. They also expelled Griff Richards for one year.

In fact, the Guild went further, and burnt every copy of Sruss Sruss they could lay their hands on.

Kids today, eh? Don’t know they’re born.

The secret to a happy marriage


Darn it!

In the Dodgy Perth household we sometimes wonder if Mrs Dodgy Perth is actually a good housewife. We suspect her claims to be tired after a long day in the office is a way of avoiding knitting blankets for the children, or darning socks.

So it was with delight we found a 1931 Sunday Times article with advice for a happy marriage. For fair sex readers, we present the following for your improvement.

Firstly, a man’s appearance is entirely the responsibility of his missus. If he looks middle-aged before his time, it is the little woman’s fault.

Perhaps he is—shudder!—thinning on top. Avoid this tragedy by purchasing quality hair tonic and massaging his scalp every night.

Is he getting love handles? Instead of nagging him, tactfully suggest a few weight loss remedies.

We know what you’re thinking. If a man wanted his head massaged or attention drawn to his girth, he would ask for it. But no. Men are proud creatures, so the obligation is entirely on ‘er indoors.

Here in the Dodgy Perth offices we shamefully look at our hands and wish we could ask for a way to make them look “less like raw beef”. Of course she knows a solution. But we are never going to ask.

So the trouble and strife must prove her love by manicuring our nails, tending our hands as if they were her own.

An extra burden on top of her fifty-hour week, you say? Nonsense. The conscientious wife will be rewarded a thousand times over by the look of loving gratitude in his eyes. That is all the reward she needs. (Are you listening Mrs Dodgy Perth?)

Marriage is a partnership it turns out. Thanks to the Sunday Times, our suits are sponged, our hair brushes washed, our socks darned, and the cuffs of our shirts turned.

If she has to act as personal valet, it’s only because we men are far too tired in the evening, and women have natural boundless energy.

Keeping it in the family

J. W. R. Linton, Perth from South Perth, c.1900

J. W. R. Linton, Perth from South Perth, c.1900

In 1905 the Sunday Times detected the whiff of gross mismanagement at Perth Museum.

There was, however, a little bit of self-interest in its accusation. The founder of the Sunday Times, Frederick Vosper, spent his spare time collecting minerals (and denouncing all non-white races, but that’s another story).

After Vosper’s death, his collection had been donated to the Museum. Which consequently stored it in a broom cupboard.

So when a Sunday Times journalist visited and noticed the minerals weren’t on display it was open season on the Museum’s management committee.

In those days the Museum and Art Gallery were one and the same place. And it was on the art collection that the newspaper turned its fire.

It was alleged that the majority of the collection was purchased from England not because of its quality, but because of family connections between artists and the Museum’s Board.

As a consequence, public money was being wasted on inferior paintings, just to ‘keep it in the family’.

But particular scorn was reserved for the Linton family. Sir James Dromgole Linton was a British artist who advised the Museum on its English purchases.

His son, James Linton, taught art in Perth. And simply because he was the offspring of a very minor English artist, the Museum went out of its way to buy everything James did.

And when they needed a backdrop for the stuffed birds, guess who was engaged to undertake it?

One of Linton’s canvases, purporting to be a representation of Fremantle Harbour, was a particularly bad example of his talentless watercolour daubs.

The Sunday Times described it as something you might paint “after a week on raw lobster.”

Nonetheless, his paintings took pride of place in every room, overshadowing art by painters who could actually paint.

In addition, James Linton’s name appeared all over the Museum. In all the guides, handbooks and reports, and on the financial statements.

The whole place, it was said, felt like Linton’s personal gallery, rather than a building owned by the people of Western Australia.

Of course, we at Dodgy Perth take no stand on the quality of Linton’s art. Except to note that the Sunday Times had it exactly right.

The Museum continued to collect Linton, and the work of offspring of Linton, including some teaspoons. And the work of anyone who took one of Linton’s courses, such as Herbert ‘Kitch’ Currie.

And, most likely, if you look hard enough, the work of Linton’s cat is on display somewhere in the Art Gallery. Probably.

White Australia, I could be one of your kids


Frederick Vosper, looking bohemian and not at all like a bigot

We in the Dodgy Perth office are in favour of people using their democratic right to protest against mosques. It makes organising dinner parties much easier when the bigots have outed themselves.

But before we get too smug and believe only the Victorians have a racism problem, a quick look back at the Anti-Asiatic League which was formed at Coolgardie in 1894 to ensure only white folk worked the goldfields.

All-round racist, and founder of the Sunday Times, Frederick Vosper explained to a public rally that the average Afghan had first come to Coolgardie as a mere camel driver. By working hard he had gradually become a storeman, then a member of the police force. Eventually, some Afghans had obtained work with the council.

Naturally such an evil could not be allowed to go unchecked, Vosper explained, so whites had been forced to found the Anti-Asiatic League to stop hard-working Muslims getting jobs.

Being a clever chap, Vosper had noted whites and Afghans had different religions. Therefore, he said, the two races could never be on friendly terms. Not only that, the buggers were so dirty they polluted the water supply just by using it.

Warming to his theme, Frederick explained that since dogs were quarantined to stop rabies, Muslims should be quarantined to prevent leprosy. And just like he would today, Vosper read a few out-of-context lines from the Qur’an to prove Muslims hated Christians.

Either the white man or the Afghan must go, he declared. The miners, at any rate, were determined that it should be the Afghan.

The Anti-Asiatic League roared its approval and this tolerant nation took one more step on the road to White Australia.

Guy, Shannon, Jessica and Power Pinn


When Guy Sebastian, Shannon Noll and Jessica Mauboy team up with others to record a modern-day patriotic song, you know it’s going to be awful. And boy does it suck. Big time.

We challenge you to get halfway before scrambling for the stop button.

So Dodgy Perth thought it was time to take a look back at Perth’s best known patriotic composer of WWI, who went by the fabulous name of Elizabeth Power Pinn.

Mrs Power Pinn—who lived in Florence Street, West Perth—was utterly convinced of her own talent.

On her delicate shoulders fell the responsibility of churning out poems and songs which would cheer the troops, remind people at home of their duty, and generally assist the war effort.

It is an inviolable rule, though, that there are only two types of poet utterly convinced of their own talent: geniuses and the talentless.

Mrs Power Pinn fell into the second category.

Her biggest hit song was Australia’s Call to Arms, of which the opening verse went:

We’re the worthy sons of Britain,
The Nation of the world!
We’re going to hold the banner,
No matter where it’s hurled.
Of ev’ry page of his’try,
We’re going to paint the red;
And conquer foes as in the past,
When Drake and Nelson led.

Seriously? WTF?

On Friday nights, His Majesty’s Theatre would put on a variety show hosted by The Dandies. One of its stars was Linda Bradford, who was variously reviewed as a ‘gem’ and ‘she sings to the soul’.

Well, in January 1915, Linda made the mistake of singing one of Mrs Power Pinn’s latest jingoistic offerings: Flag of Liberty.

She did the best she could. But nothing could cover up the fact that the thing was god-awful.

The Sunday Times reviewer noted that while the words were bad, the tune was worse.

His sensible advice to The Dandies was to keep a gun handy for the next patriotic songwriter who offered “untuneful hogwash”. And to use it.

He kept a whole armory to stop jingoist writers himself, as well as mining the door to the office.

If only Guy, Shannon and Jessica had been given such advice, we would have been spared their instantly forgettable piece of blandness.

But to cheer up the Dodgy Perth readership convinced that songs can’t support your nation and be good, we offer the only decent jingoistic melody (slightly NSFW) ever written: