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"BAT-EYE," by Fred. C. Biggers. (1927)
From the NSW newspaper the Illawarra Mercury Friday 3 June 1927 p. 5.
The psychology of the miner is not understood by the general public, perhaps it never will. Mr. Fred Biggers, junr., of Cessnock, whose father resides at Mt. Kembla, has at various times contributed poetry to our columns, which have given an indication of his capabilities in that direction. He has now launched a more ambitious effort, which is written in slang, and deals with miners. Perhaps for that
reason his circle of readers may not be as wide as it would otherwise have been. Perhaps some will accuse him of being a copyist of the Dennis style. We do not think he is, for in "Bat Eye" he conveys to us the true atmosphere of the coal mine, the daily toil of the men -- their failings, hopes and inspirations and, incidentally, their triumphs. Perhaps at times the phrasing, is not what the cultured, would desire, but we consider that Mr. Biggers has not hesitated to use a colloquism when it is necessary to convey the atmosphere of the pits., The bravery of the coal miners in the face of danger is proverbial -- we have had many instances in this district -- and Mr. Biggers with, good effect introduces it into his pages. He describes how--
"Now, me an' Bat was workin' 'ard' one-day;
Fillin' our dag we was -- wot ain't no play --
W'en, Gawd above .. .. .. there comes an awful sound
An' rushin' air wot took our breath away."
The writer goes on to describe the scene witnessed by his mate and himself, as they struggle through the mine:
Dead men ...... Dead 'orses .... falls uv coal .... We passed
'Em all as on we pushed, until at last
We comes across a mob uv' blokes wot lay
In little 'eaps beneath an overcast.
But all the incidents are not devoted to tales of horror in mines. One would imagine they were at the Lake Entrance, when he states:--
Th' tent life an' th' fishin' jist is great;
.. .. .. .. .. ..
Then big bugs wot doan work 'as got th' dough
Ter 'ave them 'ollerdays in toorin' round.
But them 'oos got th' arder road ter 'oe
Be toilin' in th' dark beneath th' ground,
'As got ter think before they spends a pound.
But gen'rally, the miner bloke will take
'Is wife an' kids to 'ave th' joys wots found
In campin' an' in fishin' at th' Lake.
In a preface Mr. J. Le Gay Brereton, of the Sydney University, writes:--
"From this poem, perhaps, those who are inclined to condemn weaknesses and wayward faults in the miners, may learn to withhold judgment and let their hearts give thanks that such manhood is in the world. It is not the least of Mr. Bigger's merits that his power rises with the theme, and that he is easily most impressive in scenes of heroism and unforced pathos."
We commend the book to the miners of this district and those associated with the industry. Our copy from the author. Copies may be obtained from local booksellers, and Greens' Ltd., Wollongong.
australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory