The Kerrigan Boys - Poem by Edward Harrington
By jove it’s hot on the track today, my flannel is soaked with sweat.
I think I’ll sit in the shade a bit and wait for the sun to set.
I know of a decent camping place by the river beyond the town,
And I’d rather carry my swag through there after the sun goes down.
A touch of pride, well perhaps it is, though I haven’t much cause for pride.
It’s sixteen years to a day almost, since old man Kerrigan died.
Sixteen years and his place is sold and the fortune he left us spent,
For the road down hill is an easy road and that was the way we went.
Kerrigan, that was our father’s name, was one of the tough old sort.
And he held by graft as he held by God, and he hated drink and sport.
We lads were fond of a bit of fun though he kept us under the rein,
And we had to bow to the old man’s will, though it went against our grain.
He was kind enough in his hard old way, but we had to earn our keep,
Driving horses and milking cows, branding and shearing sheep.
No wonder we bucked a bit at times, for you know what youngsters are,
We mustn’t dance at the local hall or drink in Mulligan’s bar.
Well, those were the orders the old man gave, but we did it just the same,
Jack was two years younger than I, so I was the more to blame.
But I’ve often thought had he been less hard and left us a bit more free
It might have been better for him perhaps, and better for Jack and me.
The old man dropped in the yard one day where we had the weaners penned.
We picked him up and we carried him home but we knew that it was the end.
The neighbours gathered from miles around he hadn’t a single foe,
And the crowd that stood by the open grave spoke well of the man below.
We grieved a lot for the old man’s death though he left us wealthy men;
If we had not known what he meant to us we realized it then.
Our only sister had died at birth and our mother was long since dead,
And we found that we were the only heirs when the old man’s will was read
We were just a couple of country lads; we’d never been off the farm,
We’d been held in check from our boyhood up by the weight of the old man’s arm.
Good in the saddle and fair with our fists with a touch of the old man’s pride,
But the neighbours muttered and shook their heads when old man Kerrigan died.
Hard and all as the old man was for years he had kept a stud.
For the love of the horse for the horses sake is strong in the Irish blood.
But breeding was only a hobby with him a sort of a harmless craze,
Though I’d often thought that he had his fling way back in his younger days.
We got mixed up with a racing crowd and started to go the pace.
Forgot the sound of the old man’s voice and the frown on his rugged face.
For the road down hill is and easy road though it ends in a swift descent,
We were only youngsters, a reckless pair, and that was the way we went.
We staked for a win on the Chester colt on the strength of a trail he showed.
But someone got to the boy on top, we knew by the race he rode.
He lost ten lengths and he finished last it was useless to make a fuss,
For the men we met in the racing game were far too cunning for us
We backed him again in the Greytown Cup and he won by half the straight,
But we left our cash in the bookies bags, for he failed to draw the weight.
We cursed the jockey and we cursed the horse, and we sold him there and then.
We’d had enough of the racing game and the ways of racing men.
We could have got out of our troubles still if we put our hands to the plough,
But the life of leisure and cards and drink had got the grip on us now.
You may call it flashness or call it pride or simply a want of sencse,
But the publicans and auctioneers grew wealthy at our expense.
We sat and drank in Mulligan’s pub and gambled the whole night long.
We dealt in cattle and dealt in sheep and most of our deals went wrong.
As long as the banks would cash our cheques we didn’t care what we spent,
For the road downhill is an easy road and that was the way we went.
Then things got bad and a drought came on and it lasted over a year.
Our stock died off and our dams gave out and we knew that the end was near.
Our credit stopped and the bank foreclosed and our fathers place was sold,
For the road downhill is and easy road as the prodigal found of old.
Five years after the old man’s death together we took the track.
I wandered into the nearest pub and I had a drink with Jack.
Then he shook my hand and he wished me luck and I knew he was close to tears,
And I’ve never set eyes on Jack since then or heard of him now for years.
Somewhere out to the west of Bourke he’s humping his swag maybe,
Tramping along in the broiling sun and cursing himself and me.
I’d give two years of my worthless life, though it may not last that long,
For one more look at his honest face, one grip of his fingers strong
Well that’s the tale of the Kerrigan boys and the moral is near the end.
You’ll always have plenty of friend at hand as long as you’ve cash to spend.
We had our chance and we played the fool, it’s too late now to repent,
For the road downhill is an easy road and that was the road we went.
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