Friday, June 17, 2011

Grumpy With Bushrangers


Sometimes when I'm not looking, my brain wanders off to lands weird and whimsical, returning hours later with pocketfuls of fantastically fascinating if incredibly useless information which it is very keen to share with me.

Recently my brain was pondering the tough nature of the humble tow-truck driver. You don't get a tougher job than a tow-truck driver, my brain pondered. Except maybe gladiators. I'm pretty sure a gladiator would beat a tow-truck driver in a fight. But then gladiators lead pretty comfortable lives outside of actual gladiorating. They were well-fed and looked after by their owners so that they could train to stab people in the arena next tournament.

Now Australian bushrangers, on the other hand, were tougher than gladiators and tow-truck drivers. They roughed it and toughed it in the harsh Australian bush. They stole, they had gunfights. They had wit and daring, cold hearts and battle scars... and an astonishing number of them had really flamboyant names.

Sure, there were your regular Ned Kelly's and Ben Halls, but what's with all the ones that sound like they were Baz Lurhman characters?

Guys like Frederick Ward, whose bushranger name was Captain Thunderbolt. Now while Thunderbolt can come across a bit threatening in a Thor, Viking God way, it's highway cred is completely undermined by that Captain bit. When I think of Captain Thunderbolt I can't help but see a guy on a horse – or maybe a pony - in tights and a cape.

But Fred wasn't the only Captain ranging the bush. There was also a Captain Melville, a Captain Moonlight and two... two Captain Starlights.

Okay, so Ned Kelly with his bucket on his head asks me for money, I'm going to give it to him because only a tough, crazy bastard gets around wearing a metal bucket on his head. And his name is tough. It rhymes with dead. There's a subliminal thing going on there.

Captain Melville, on the other hand, he asks for my money and after I stop laughing my arse off I'm just going to tell him to piss off. What a stupid name. His real name was Frank McCallum but he not only decided to go with the Captain routine, he decided to camp it right out with something as silly as Melville... which is a fine name if you're an English professor or an accountant, but a bushranger?

As for Captains Moonlite (real name Andrew George Scott), Starlight (Frank Pearson) and Starlight (Harry Redford)... was someone putting something in the water? Moonlite as in bushranger lite? And did the two Starlights ever run into each other and have a pillow fight over who was the real Starlight? Did they get dressed in their Captain Starlight costumes and have Walk-off challenges like in Zoolander to see which Starlight shined brightest?

As well as giving the colonials a well needed laugh, the Starlights obviously caused some confusion because Harry Redford's full title ended up being “Captain Starlight – The Gentleman Bushranger.”

It's unclear whether he gave this as his full title when robbing people, but you can imagine the scene if he didn't.

Hand over your money, for I am Captain Starlight!”

Okay, but before we do... which Captain Starlight are you?”

Oh not this again. There is only one Captain Starlight. The other one is a mere -”

The other one what?”

The other Captain Starlight. He's a cheap imitation -”

So you admit there are two Captain Starlights?”

All right all right. I'm the gentleman one. I am Captain Starlight, The Gentleman Bushranger. Now please give me your money.”

Oh that's a relief. We were worried that you might be Captain Starlight The Bastard Bushranger...”

And don't even get me started on bushrangers Sam Poo and Jack The Rammer. No, I am not making this up.


Guyana-Gyal said...

One of my fave history books is by [Bush Tucker Man] Les Hiddins, Tarnished Heroes - Epic Stories of Bush Survival.

Man, those chaps were

words fail me.

Lee said...

I had forgotten about Les Hiddens. Pretty remarkable man. Will try to look the book up.