Tag Archives: Katoomba

Gilgandra Begins It : The Marching Song of the Coo-ees


There were several poems and songs written about the Coo-ees during the 1915 Coo-ee March.

First published was a poem written by Del. W. McCay called ‘Gilgandra Begins It’, which was published  two days after the Coo-ee March commenced, in his column ‘The Moving Picture-Show’ in The Sun, on 12th October 1915.[1]

''Gilgandra Begins It' (The Sun, 12/10/1915

”Gilgandra Begins It’ (The Sun, 12/10/1915

Gilgandra Begins It
They are coming from Gilgandra, our soldier-
men to be,
They sing along the Western tracks: “Who’ll
come and fight with me?”
On the country roads they’re coming;
Can you hear the distant drumming,
Can you hear the message humming
Over long, long miles of bushland from Gilgandra to the sea?

The lone selector hears them and shades his
straining eyes
To watch the Great Adventurers go winding
o’er the rise,
Who, from every hill and valley,
From the mulga and the mallee,
To the call of England rally
From the dusty, distant corners where her
Flag of Honor flies.

There are others who will join them as they
make their way along,
And will help to swell the chorus of their
mighty marching song,
For their ranks will keep on growing
More with every mile they’re going,
And they’ll make a gallant showing,
When through the streets of Sydney town
they pass, a thousand strong.

A column from Gilgandra— it has answered
to the call
That rings from far Gallipoli, where brothers fight and fall
When recruiting, sadly slumping.
Stood in need of hefty bumping.
More than all your country-stumping
Was the column from Gilgandra with its
shoulder to the ball.”

The words were re-published in The Blue Mountain Echo on 5th November 1915, with a note that ‘The above verses have been set to music by Rev. A. E. Ferguson, of the local Presbyterian Church, and will be a popular melody during the visit of the Gilgandra “Coo-ees” here, and afterwards at the Front.’[2]

The Blue Mountain Echo reported on 12th November 1915  that this song was sung by the choristers at the concert held for the Coo-ees at Katoomba on Friday night 5th November 1915, and ‘So stirring was it, in fact, that the “Coo-ees” have adopted it as their marching song’.[3]

The Blue Mountain Echo also printed this poem as a broadsheet with the heading Gilgandra Begins It. Words written by Del. W. McCay for the Sydney “Sun”.  A copy of this broadsheet is in the National Library of Australia collection.[4]  A digitised copy can be seen at http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-151234776

Del. W. McCay (1915), Gilgandra begins it, National Library of Australia, nla.gov.au/nla.obj-151234776

Del. W. McCay (1915), Gilgandra begins it, National Library of Australia, nla.gov.au/nla.obj-151234776

The National Library of Australia also holds a copy of the printed music score by E. A. Ferguson, titled Gilgandra Begins It : The Marching Song of the Coo-ees.[5]  A digitised copy of this music score can be viewed at http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-166916648.  It has an attractive cover, with a photograph of the Coo-ees on it.

[1] ‘The Moving Picture-Show’, The Sun, 12 October 1915, p. 4. Retrieved December 7, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article221925505

[2] ‘Gilgandra Begins It’, The Blue Mountain Echo, 5 November 1915, p. 7. Retrieved December 7, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108048615

[3] ‘March o’er the mountains, The Blue Mountain Echo,  12 November 1915, p. 3. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article108042142

[4] McCay, Del. W. (1915). Gilgandra begins it.  Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-151234776

[5] Ferguson, Ernest Adie & McCay, Del. W. ([191-?]). Gilgandra begins it the marching song of the Coo-ees. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-166916648


Day 27, Friday, 5 November, 1915, Mount Victoria to Katoomba

Transcription of an extract from an article titled ‘The Route March : Through the Mountains’ in The Farmer and Settler, 9 November, 1915, p. 3 [1 of 3]

[N.B. Includes a further description of Day 26, Thursday, 4 November, 1915, at Katoomba]

Through the Mountains

The Great Western Route march has crossed the range, and is now swinging down the slopes towards the foothills   and the city — whose lights can be seen glowing at night like the haze above a furnace.

Mount Victoria.
The first of the chain of Blue Mountain towns, Mount Victoria, welcomed the “Coo-ees” right royally on Thursday, and for the men it must be said that they looked worthy of their reception, as hard and wiry a force of soldiers in the raw as any officer could desire to com- mand; and feeling as well as looking more soldierly than they had done, with their new uniform- dungarees and white hats — the recruits’ dress of the training camps. The march into town was followed by the official welcome at the flag- staff — where a special flag was unfurled; then in the afternoon Captain Eade put the men through a stiff two hours’ course of drill; and at night there was a camp concert, with recruiting speeches.

The entry into Blackheath (Sydney Morning Herald 8/11/1915)

The entry into Blackheath (Sydney Morning Herald 8/11/1915)

The column marched out of Mount Victoria at nine o’clock on Friday morning, and covered the four miles to Blackheath in less than an hour. Half a mile out the Metropolitan Schools’ Military Band met the contingent, and played it into the town, where a triumphal arch had been erected in honor of the occasion. The best feature of the Blackheath welcome was the presence of a guard of honor of returned soldiers from Anzac and Rabaul, under Col. Paton.

After the president of the local progress association had formally welcomed the troops, Captain Hitchen performed the ceremony of “breaking the flag” at the home of Mr. W. R. Tully. Then the procession; headed, by the school children, moved on to the Blackheath Hall, where a substantial meal, prepared by the district ladies, was enjoyed to the full. Here two recruits joined amid the cheers of the public, and the still lustier cheers of the “Coo-ees.”

Medlow Baths.
Next stop, Medlow! But a very short stop it was, as the time was limited. Cool drinks were served, cheers were given, and the column passed on. The march to Katoomba was a rather trying one, as bush fires were raging and the road was overhung with a pall of dense smoke.

Arrived at the Explorers’ Tree, the contingent found a detachment of the 41st Regiment drawn up to meet them, also the members of the rifle clubs, the cadets, boy scouts, and school children, with scores of motor cars and other vehicles, and a striking tableau representing the Allies. A speech of welcome was made by Ald. Brierley, Mayor of Katoomba, and then the procession, a mile long, traversed the principal thoroughfare to the skating rink, the route being thronged with thousands of cheering citizens. Katoomba gave the lads great entertainment, three solid meals, free baths, free picture shows, free socks, and free everything else to add to their comfort. At the Katoomba theatre in the afternoon, the mayor presented a local recruit. Pte. Perkins, with a wristlet watch, subscribed by the Boys’ Association. At night the public reception was turned as usual into a recruiting meeting, and five men signed on.’

… [Cont.]

Click here to access the article on Trove: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article116669569

Coo-ee March: Introduction

Gilgandra Route March (Daily Telegraph, 16 Oct. 1915)

Route of the March (Daily Telegraph 16/10/1915)

The  320 miles (515 km) “Coo-ee” recruitment march left Gilgandra with 25 marchers on Sunday, 10th October, 1915, stopping in each town and village along the route to be welcomed by local officials and members of each community, and to hold recruiting speeches to increase their ranks, and arrived in Sydney on Friday, 12th November, 1915 with its numbers increased to 263 marchers.  This march started a snowball of other similar recruitment marches in late 1915 and early 1916.

The Sydney Morning Herald  (13 November 1915, p. 20) reported the following official figures ‘of the men who actually signed on (after medical examination), between Gilgandra and Sydney:- Gilgandra, 35; Dubbo, 13; Wongarbon, 12; Geurie, 6; Wellington, 31; Stuart Town, 1; Euchareena, 1; Molong, 4; Parkes, 5; Orange, 19; Millthorpe, 2; Blayney, 11; Bathurst, 17; Glanmire, 1; Yetholme, 1; Wallerawang, 3; Lithgow, 19; Blackheath, 2; Katoomba, 11; Leura, 1; Lawson, 10; Springwood, 5; Penrith, 4; Parramatta, 27; Ashfield, 22; total, 263’.

Following is the route and timetable of the march: Sunday, Oct. 10,  Balladoran ; Monday, Oct. 11,  Eumungerie ; Tuesday, Oct. 12,  Mogriguy ; Wednesday, Oct. 13,  Dubbo ; Thursday, Oct. 14,  Wongarbon ; Friday, Oct. 15,  Geurie ; Saturday, Oct. 16-Sunday, Oct. 17,  Wellington ; Monday, Oct. 18,  Dripstone ; Tuesday, Oct. 19,  Stuart Town ; Wednesday, Oct. 20,  Euchareena ; Thursday, Oct. 21,  Boomey ; Friday, Oct. 22,  Molong ; Saturday, Oct. 23-Sunday, Oct. 24,  Orange ; Monday, Oct. 25,  Milthorpe ; Tuesday, Oct. 26,  Blayney ; Wednesday, Oct. 27,  Bathampton ; Thursday, Oct. 28,  Bathurst ; Friday, Oct. 29,  Yetholme ; Saturday, Oct. 30-Sunday, Oct. 31, Wallerawang ; Monday, Nov. 1-Tuesday, Nov. 2,  Lithgow ; Wednesday Nov. 3, Little Hartley ; Thursday, Nov. 4,  Mt. Victoria ; Friday, Nov. 5,  Katoomba ; Saturday, Nov. 6-Sunday, Nov. 7,  Lawson, Monday, Nov. 8,  Springwood ; Tuesday, Nov. 9,   Penrith ; Wednesday, Nov. 10, Parramatta ; Thursday, Nov. 11, Ashfield ; Friday, Nov. 12, Sydney.

An account of the march on a day by day basis will follow initially in this blog.  It will be based mostly on articles from The Farmer and Settler, which were provided by Stanley E. Stephens, who was the son of the editor of this newspaper sent to be the official correspondent to cover the march, and who also joined the Coo-ees as a recruit at Gilgandra.