COO-EES AT PENRITH : ARTICLE FROM THE NEPEAN TIMES
This is a transcription of an article titled ‘Coo-ees at Penrith’ that was published in The Nepean Times on 13 November 1915 (p. 3).
It gives a detailed description of the Coo-ees welcome to Emu Plains and Penrith on 9th November 1915, and evening open-air concert and recruiting speeches. It describes the piper and kettle drummer that marched them into Emu Plains, where they were greeted by the local people, and the local school children that supplied the Coo-ees with 40 dozen cordials and aerated waters. It describes the Light Horse, Infantry, Boy Scouts, Rifle Club, and local recruits that paraded with them into Penrith and through High Street, which was decorated in bunting. It describes the ladies of Penrith who had volunteered their time and resources to feed the Coo-ees, and the efforts of the organising committee that had prepared the Coo-ees welcome to Penrith. It describes the banners on the support wagons. It also describes Mr Harley Blacket’s role in supporting the Coo-ee March, who had volunteered his time and the service of his motor car, and reports on his recruiting speech at Penrith.
‘COO-EES AT PENRITH
The war has evoked many notable scenes and manifestations of ardent patriotism at Penrith, but it is safe to say that the outburst of Australian loyalty, and the fervor of the enthusiastic greeting of the multitude which welcomed the Gilgandra Coo-ees to Penrith on Tuesday afternoon last transcended all out experiences of stirring movement and interesting spectacle called up in connection with various phases and developments consequent on the war.
And properly so; for the coming of the Coo-ees was an historic, and unique happening; it represented in concrete personal form, so to speak, the patriotic appeal of the backblocks to the loyal heart of all Australia; and naturally, adduced the intense admiration and support of the people on the line of the route traversed by the column, and in the quotas of stalwart prospective heroes that it gathered to its ranks at various centres, gave, like beauty, “its own excuse for being,” and in the gaining of those recruits received the sort of practical appreciation it (the column) most desired.
The Coo-ees, who had “bivouacked” at Springwood on Monday night, reached Emu Plains about noon. Along the Mountain route from Lawson to Springwood they had been accompanied by the excellent Leura Brass Band, under Bandmaster Rumph (instructor of the band of the 26th Regiment), and at Springwood were met by the Penrith Brass Band, which played at the fete given in honour of the Coo-ees at the Holmedale Estate on Monday night.
At Springwood the services of Piper R. Mackay were secured, and it was to the stirring “skirling” of the “Cock of the North” played by the redoubtable piper, assisted by the kettle drummer of the column, that the Coo-ees marched into Penrith territory proper, coming over the Nepean Bridge about 4 o’clock on Tuesday afternoon, in gallant style, flanked and followed by a cheering “rearguard” of, it seemed, nearly the whole population of Emu Plains. At Emu, en passant, the Coo-ees were cordially entertained (and in this connection it may be mentioned the local school children of Emu supplied 40 dozen cordials and aerated waters) and at Emu also they made the acquaintance of Senators Grant and McDougall, who had come up specially from Sydney to greet the men.
In accordance with the arrangements the Coo-ees were received at the West End boundary, opposite Mr Bennett’s residence by the various local military units, comprising Light Horse, to number of 42, under command of Staff-Sergt-Major Owens; Infantry (40), under Lieut Plunkett officer in charge of parade); Cadets (100), under charge of Lieut (Rev) M G Hinsby; and Boy Scouts to the number of about 40, in charge of Mr Strang, assistant Master Sup Pub School; the Rifle club; and last but not least a detachment of district recruits (headed by two returned heroes from the front — Privates Geo Taylor and Geo Primmer) in training at Liverpool camp, under the command of Sergt Lane, with whom were Sergts G Baker and Earp; Corporals F H Haylen, H V Towne, and R Sullivan; the Privates were P Baker; W J Starling, V Colless, C Miller, H Stafford, E Ausburn, J Delahunty, J McLachlan, W Fryer, F Newman, W Potter, T Cummins, J H Gardiner, E Hope, J Boots, J Hackett, I Tennant, R Henry, T Eaton, J Rumgay, B Evans, J Evans, B Hair. The splendid, alert soldierly appearance of this detachment, and, in fact, that of the whole local military show, was commented upon with marked appreciation by the public. During the intermediate halt at the bridge end our representative, in taking a “bird’s eye-view” of the Coo-ees was greatly struck by their robust appearance, and generally fine physique, their keen soldierly spirit, and good discipline.
The transport waggons which had severally “trekked” with the column from each distant centre at which large units fell in, added to the “army in being” impress of the contingent, each wagon being “labelled” in typically Australian style thus were the “Bathurst Boomerangs,” the “Gilgandra Coo-ees,” the “Geurie Unit,” the “Wellington Emus,” the “Dubbo Lads,” while another was painted “Through to Belin,” each waggon flying a special flag of its own, one showing the Union Jack, another the Australian banner, and another the Irish flag, etc; the column also displaying large banners at the head of each unit. The horses were in splendid condition, and a good serviceable lot, and are to be sold on the column reaching its destination.
After formal introductions of the Mayor and Aldermen, Clergy and prominent citizens to Capt Hitchen, Major Wynne, Capt Eade, and other officers, by Cr Riches, who had accompanied the Coo-ees throughout the Blue Mountains Shire, the Mayor briefly announced that Senators Macdougall and Grant would address a few words to the column, prior to the continuing of the march to Penrith.
Senator Macdougall congratulated Capt Hitchen, officers and men on the soldierly appearance of the column, and said the inspiration which led to the organisation of the Coo-ees, and to the march, was one that thrilled Australia. He congratulated them on their putting the sacred duty of the defence of the Empire and human liberty before every other consideration. The war was now at a critical period. Lord Kitchener said great additions were required to the forces of the Allies, for keeping up the supply of men and munitions was essential to win the victory. He wished the men God-speed on their way to the front, and a safe return and a glorious victory over the enemy. He thanked the Mayor for the opportunity granted of addressing “that band of Australia’s prospective warriors.”
Senator Grant said, so far as he could judge such a movement as that of the Coo-ees was the best sort of reply to the nay voiced in some quarters for Conscription. Speaking as a member of the Commonwealth Parliament he considered the Defence Department had done wonderfully well to equip and transport so many troops and to adopt such efficient measures. He was understood to say that there were scarcely more than 200,000 men remaining of “fighting ages” in the State, and had no doubt that as many drafts as necessary would avail without having to resort to Conscription. He realised the men in the firing line and those in training for the front were risking their lives for their country, and felt that the Government and State would loyally stand by the men and could not do less in the circumstances. (Cheers).
Capt Wynne, a splendid type of the professional British soldier, in reply, said that from the marching point of view they had come from a district of bad roads to one a bit worse (laughter), but he was glad to have made the acquaintance of the Mayor and civic body, and people of Penrith despite the rough marching road thereto. (Laughter). He was sure Capt Hitchen and the men appreciated the commendatory speeches they had heard, but would be better pleased if they scored a lot of recruits at Penrith.
After a great outburst of cheering for the Coo-ees, to which the latter replied by a thrilling (and “shrilling”) edition of the Australian war-cry— “Coo-eeing” in true bushland fashion—the route was resumed, headed by the Penrith Brass Band, followed by Light Horse Detachment, Cadets, Citizen Forces Boy Scouts, War Reinforcements, etc., the Coo-ees and the general public, which almost to a man,woman and child followed in the wake of the procession, or “kept up” along the side-walks.
Along decorated High Street, bunting streaming from various points of vantage; and extending across the street, the march, greeted by a vociferous and continuous salvo of cheering that was voluminous enough to have silenced the biggest battery manufactured by Krupps, if cheers could accomplish such a feat; continued, till in the vicinity of the central block (from the Federal Hotel to Mrs Voyce’s establishment) a halt was called, to permit of the vocal welcome of the school children being given to the Coo-ees. Under the baton of Mr J A Maloney, B.A., Head Master, the children sang the patriotic song, “Coo-ee,” in fine style, the column giving their “hereditary” acknowledgement—the locality resounding to the shrillily accented vibration of the Coo-ees’ acclaim. Arrived at the Town Hall, via Evans Steet, the Mayor, from the steps of the civic forum, briefly welcomed the Coo-ees to Penrith in the name of the civic fathers and citizens. His Worship said, inter alia, that he knew the men would comport themselves with true pluck and endurance on the battlefield when they gained the war zone, and he urged them to “give the enemy a special one, good and hard” when they got into holts with that atrocious entity, in memory of Nurse Cavell so cruelly and unjustly done to death by German brutality. He then called for three more cheers for Captain Hitchen and the Coo-ees, which were given with a will, and replied to in their own genial, familiar fashion by the Coo-ees.
At the Showground.
The Showground was reached about 5 p.m. and soon after “stacking arms” for the time being a welcome interlude, came o’er the scene for the Coo-ees, with the arrival of the mail. A number of letters and papers were distributed to their addressees, only one or two not getting a word from “the Old Farm in the Bush.” One Coo-ee somewhat disconsolately remarked to our reporter— “I think I’ll go and write a lonely letter to myself if I don’t get one to-morrow.” In converse with Capt Hitchen, a fine open hearted and well set-up bushman of much inland experience, we learned that the Coo-ees embraced a wide clientele of men belonging to various callings and orders, several wealthy privates, a number of farmers, including a father and three sons (Messrs Hunt), stockmen, tradesmen, dam-sinkers, and shearers, general labourers, etc., being included. It will be remembered that Capt Hitchen was rescued by his son, then a lad of 16 years, some two years ago after falling down a deep well, while in the act of effecting some repairs. That son is now sailing amongst recent reinforcements for the front, another brother having preceded him. Capt Hitchen hopes to meet his two boys over at the front, and be with them at the fall of Constantinople. Needless to say, we heartily voice his patriotic desire.
The arrangements for supplying the men’s gastronomic needs reflects vast credit on the committee, more especially on the ladies, who in the most commendable and gracious manner attended to the cooking and setting out of the viands, the laying of tables, and ministering to the entertainment of the men with that kindly assiduity which it is only fair to say is a proverbial characteristic of the patriotic ladies of Penrith. The “mere men” folk of the committee, however, were not idle spectators of the energies and courtesies of the ladies, and seconded those efforts with considerable effect. At the dinner — the menu of which was excellent in quality and variety— the local civic fathers, clergy, and members of committee sat down with the Coo-ees, the four esteemed and popular clerics of Penrith— viz, Revs (Lieut) M G Hinsby, Father Barlow, J Tarn, and J McKee —thorough patriots and democrats of the noblest type— fraternising very cordially with the brave and true “soldiers in making,” who have come so far to prove the quality of their patriotism. The ready compliance on the part of the public of Penrith, and outlying districts to meet the request of the committee in the matter of supplying cooked provender for the men cannot be too warmly appreciated. The kindness also of Mrs Voyce and Mrs F Horstmann, in supplying nearly all the crockery, dishes, and cutlery required in the festive section helped the committee in a very important phase, and the sub-committee of management (Ald Jones and Fitch and Mr H Morris) desire to accord their best thanks to those and the other ladies.
The Coo-ees welcome open-air concert, which had been organised chiefly by Miss Elsie Thorncroft, who, happily, had obtained assistance of some of the leading metropolitan artists, including the world-famed Mr Malcolm McEachern, formerly associated with Madame Melba, in operatic and concert work, was held in the grandstand enclosure at the Showground, and it was unanimously agreed that in point of quality, in every phase, vocal, recitative, and instrumental, the performance excelled any open-air concert ever held in Penrith. Mr Polkinghorn, who had accompanied the concert party from Sydney, the artists travelling in Mr Alex Watts’ motor car (Mr Watts having, we understand, patriotically financed the “delegation”), acted as announcer of the items. In the case of the efforts of such a famed vocalist as Mr. McEachern such an infliction as casual criticism would be both impertinent and superfluous, especially at a patriotic concert, and the same remark applies as emphatically to the other contributors to the concert, every item of which was artistically rendered, while the accompaniments left nothing to be desired. The accompanists, by the way, were Misses Hazel Doyle and B Stanton, and Mr Lindley Evans, and the piano— a well-tuned instrument was kindly lent by Mr Hill, High Street, Penrith. Mr McEachern in his opening number, “A Hero of the Dardanelles,” thrilled the gathering, his enunciation, tone and phrasing, being, of course, that of a great artist. The eminent basso achieved a similar success in the encore number, “Boys of the Bulldog Breed,” evincing the temperamental geniality and enthusiasm essential in the true exponent of martial and patriotic song. Miss Dorrie Newman next gave a tuneful rendering of the pretty ballad —”The Little Grey Home in the West”; and Miss Elsie Thorncroft, previous to reciting “The Roll Call,” asked the audience to stand during the playing of the anthem “Abide With Me,” in reverence of the memory of Nurse Cavell, the victim of Hunnish barbarity, and whose fiendish execution is another indeliable blot on the escutcheon of the German nation. Miss Thorncroft’s dramatic recital of “The Roll Call” pleased the audience, and the popular elocutionist responded, to the insistent recall with the spirited declamation of Harold Bybie’s searching verses, “How Will You Feel, Sonny?” particularly addressed to the shirkers, who, however well-fitted for the ranks, refrain from answering the “call to arms” in the true patriotic spirit. Mr Smythe then gave a most amusing, though none the less cultured rendering of “Down in Zomerset, Where the Cider Apples Grow,” and in reply to a clamorous encore sang with great force and expression the stirring martial apostrophe— “Long Live the King.”
A break was made at this stage in the vocally harmonic section of the concert, Mayor Walker introducing to the audience Mr Harley Blacket, the “guide, philosopher and friend” of the Coo-ees, who had accompanied the contingent all the way from Dubbo in his motor-car, carrying the invalided or wearied, acting as courier, lecturer, adviser-in-general, etc., to the column; and as Capt Hitchen said feelingly, “Harley Blacket was a credit to the Australian nation, and the Coo-ees would be lost without him.” In passing it may be remarked here that Q.M.S. Lee (ex-Methodist Minister), who had spoken frequently along the route, urging enlistment on the young fellows at various centres, was recuperating at Mt Victoria for a few days, having felt somewhat “run down” after his exertions.
Mr Blackett, who was received with a great ovation— the cheering lasting several minutes — made a very earnest and forcible appeal for recruits. The Coo-ees, he said, greatly appreciated the splendid reception they had received at Penrith, which, he hoped, would be an augury of the whole-hearted resolve of the Penrith men of “fighting age,” to join the column. En passant, he paid a feeling tribute to Capt Hitchen and the men of the column, saying that if the men of the backblocks were always rough and ready as regards speech and manners they were rough diamonds— men with hearts of gold and thews of iron. “They were not out on a holiday jaunt; they were out for fighting men —men every time — to strive for victory of Liberty over the accursed foe of Justice, Right and Human Weal” (Cheers). Appealing to the Coo-ees he said — “What do we want, Coo-ees?” and the cry came back instantly— “We want men— men, and plenty of them!” If Miss Thorncroft’s thrilling words and the call of the ladies generally, so brightly voiced, could not move the young men of Penrith he felt his words would fall on barren soil. “Loyalty did not consist in singing ‘God Save the King,’ but was synonymous with the spirit of patriotic pride, and readiness to serve the Empire,” and to sally forth in defence of their hearth and homes, for,” said Mr Blacket, “the frontiers of Australia today are being menaced at Gallipoli and in the Balkans; our coastline, as it were, by exigencies of war, figuratively, and actually in the sense of the extremity of affairs, has been translated across the ocean to the seat of war; and there our brave compatriots are fighting and falling in defence of our country as surely as if the battle was being waged on our own soil.” He made a touching reference to the fate of Nurse Cavell, and dwelt upon the hideous treatment of females by the Teutons, as verified during the war, in France, Belgium, Poland and Servia ; and asked how, in face of the atrocious nature of the German Menace, young men eligible in every way could turn a deaf ear to the appeal to enlist in such bodies as the Coo-ees. Mr Blacket concluded an inspiriting and fervent address, which covered almost every phase of the patriotic issues, with a vehement appeal to the men of Penrith, pointing his utterances with an anecdote of the man who seemed to fall, and yet maintained his position, while skating one day on very thin ice. Presently a rescue party went out, and when they came near the man sang out, “Don’t bother about me, boys, I’m standing on Jim– he’s keeping me up.” He hoped the young men of Penrith were not also “standing on Jim” (their brave fellows) in this awful crisis, and that they would come forward— those who had no incumbrances— and join the Coo-ees on their march to the training camp (Loud applause). As a part- ing shot, Mr Blacket said the Coo-ees did not want cheers; they wanted men. The speaker’s utterances were punctuated by several pointed and pungent references to the “cold -feet,” etc., of the men who were not ready to enlist, by the Coo-ees.
At the end of Mr Blackett’s address, which pressure of space obliges us to curtain, three Penrith men, viz., J Megarrity, Allen Easterbrook and W A Sutton came forward, amidst the cheers of the audience. We understand that two more recruits (not residents) joined here, bringing the Coo-ees’ aggregate up to about 230.
The remaining items of the concert programme were then proceeded with, as follows:— Recitation, “Bandy Jim” (a thrilling tale of the American Civil War), by Mr Wright; encore, patriotic appeal, entitled, “You”— both efforts being given in first-class form. “En passant,” Mr Wright stated he had made three efforts to enlist at the outset of war in England, and so was above the “shirker” category. Duet, Messrs E J Fulton and A Honey, rendered in fine unison and harmony.
Mrs Costello then mounted the concert platform, and read the following letter of welcome to Captain Hitchen and the Coo-ees from the local branch of the W.C.T.U.:— “On behalf of the members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Penrith Branch, we give you a hearty welcome to our town, and pray God will bless your efforts for the cause of righteousness. We are proud of the stand you have taken for God, Home, and Humanity, and will pray that you may be spared, with your noble band of volunteers, to return with honor to our sunny land when the fight for your King and Country is over. There is a great need for united efforts being put forth to fight the foe within our gates, “Kaiser King Alcohol,” who is destroying so many of our brave sons, who express willingness to serve their King, with their lives, if needs be; but the pro-Germans serve the drink, shouting goes on, the dreadful foe is taken to kill the brain, and so many are sent away disgraced. The number of drunken soldiers seen in the streets is a positive reproach to the community. We are doing our part, you have taken your noble stand, and we must work united in the interest of National efficiency, and bar the drink curse. Is it the right thing to have this temptation placed in the way of our young manhood, who are going out to fight our battles. If Germany wins we would be virtually slaves. The thing to be done is to end it. You are nobly doing your part, and have set an example worthy of our military authorities and politicians, following during this national crisis. Every hotel bar is a recruiting agency for the Germans, because alcohol contributed largely to inefficiency in the Australian forces, in rendering men unfit for service. There is no doubt that alcohol is a great ally for the Germans. Let it not be said our men so far forgot they were British men, as to be conquered by the foe within our gates— alcohol. We hope that your stay here will be mutually pleasant and profitable, and that your influence will live in the hearts of the people long after you leave our shore, and that your noble self-sacrificing example will be followed by others who take their stand to, Follow the King. God Save the King., Yours respectfully (Mrs) E J Costello, hon sec W.C.T.U., Penrith Branch.”
Capt Hitchen briefly expressed the thanks of the Coo-ees and himself for the ”nice letter” of the W.C.T.U. Miss Nita Colless then gave a much appreciated rendition of the popular patriotic solo, “Motherland,” with her usual artistic appraisement of the theme; and Mr McEachern again delighted the audience with his incomparable singing of “Land of Hope and Glory,” followed by “Till the Boys Come Home” (an Australian patriotic lyric) as an encore. A collection for the Coo-ees was here taken up, and later Miss E Thorncroft announced the result as £11 10s 1od. The concert continued its “dulcet career,” Miss Mackel singing a solo with much sweetness and charm, receiving the plaudits of the crowd; while Mr Don Hattersley’s inimitible recitation of the “Country Curate” and the “Country J.P.” (encore) fairly, “convulsed” the audience. Mr F W Hearne gave an excellent rendering of “The Deathless Army,” his full and liquid notes ringing out with fine emphasis on the still night air; and Mr H S Pullen (baritone) next gave a finely phrased, and musical interpretation of the stirring air, “When the Boys in Khaki all Come Home.” The last item on the exhaustive Coo-ee concert bill— viz “Rule Britannia” was then sung by Mr McEachern, the chorus being taken up with tremendous vim by the gathering. An “unrehearsed” item, viz, a patriotic address in aid of the sheep-skin vest purchase movement for war purposes, by Mr J R Gilmore, was then given; after which the audience sang the National Anthem, and with a parting cloud-splitting storm of cheering for the Coo-oes and all their plans, powers, and principalities; and an ear-piercing climax of “volleyed” cooeeing in reply from the Gilgandra lads, the citizens hied homewards (about 10 p.m.), and our last view of the Coo-ees was, to use an Hibernianism, listening to the somnolent snoring of some of them in the unconscious regions of the “Land of Nod.”
On Wednesday morning the Coo-ees having hastily made a matutinal snack were out of camp and on the route bright and early for St Marys, where they breakfasted, before setting out on their record march to Parramatta.’
To read this article on Trove click here: http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86168730
Note: the official count for the number of recruits at Penrith was 4. Information on three of them can be found on this website:
Allen Easterbrook (spelt ‘Alan’ on his service record) https://cooeemarch1915.com/2015/07/26/alan-john-burnett-easterbrook/
Selby George Megarrity https://cooeemarch1915.com/2015/08/26/selby-george-megarrity/
Samuel Clark (one of the Coo-ees who caught up at Penrith) https://cooeemarch1915.com/2015/08/30/samuel-clark/