100 Australian Poems 8.0: "How McDougal Topped the Score" by Thomas E. Spencer

With Thomas Spencer's poem, "How McDougal Topped the Score", we move back to comedy; a genre that we only encountered previously with James Brunton Stephens's "My Other Chinee Cook."  And although this poem is not the greatest, or funniest Australian poem, it does come as a bit of light relief.

Comic Australian poems are generally situational in nature, where one person, by dint of luck, good management or just plain rat cunning, gets the better of someone else.   Sometimes it is told from the point of view of the victim - Stephens again - and sometimes from the point of view of the victor.  Spencer's piece is an example of the latter.

The setting is a country cricket match between the two small townships of Piper's Flat and Molongo; the stakes a lunch paid for by the loser. The sub-text being bragging rights between the two towns. Piper's Flat finds themselves a man short and decide to draft in McDougal, an old farmer who has never played the game before.

Needless to say, as you can tell from the title, it is McDougal who saves the day, scoring the 50 runs required for victory with only one wicket to spare; and off one ball as well.  In this case it is rat cunning which wins the day.

When I was reading this poem I was reminded of "The Batting Wizard from the City", a short story by Dal Stivens which also features a cricket match between two small country towns, one of whom is short one player - drafting in a visitor whom no-one seems to know - while the other team has a Demon Bowler given to breaking stumps and bones with equal abandon. As with the poem here, the draftee saves the day at the last minute with a display of batting rarely seen, even in the first-class arena. Here class rather than cunning wins out.  Reading the two together strikes me as being a worthwhile exercise.

I find it peculiar to think that, given the nation's love of sport, such little poetry has been written about it.  This is one of the better ones.

Text: "How McDougal Topped the Score" by Thomas E. Spencer

Author bio: Australian Dictionary of Biography 

Publishing history:  First published in The Bulletin in March 1898, and subsequently reprinted in such anthologies as Favourite Australian Poems (1963), Complete Book of Australian Folklore (1976), The Penguin Book of Australian Humorous Verse (1984), The Illustrated Treasury of Australian Verse (1996), and the 1906 collection shown in its 1972 edition below.


Next five poems in the book:

"The Wail of the Waiter" by Marcus Clarke

"Where the Pelican Builds" by Mary Hannay Foott

"Catching the Coach" by Alfred T. Chandler ("Spinifex")

"Narcissus and Some Tadpoles" by Victor Daley

"Nine Miles from Gundagai" by Jack Moses

Note: this post forms part of my series on the poems contained in the anthology 100 Australian Poems You Need to Know edited by Jamie Grant.  You can read the other posts in this series here.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 28, 2010 9:34 PM.

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