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The Spike or Victoria College Review 1942

Our Heritage

page 8

Our Heritage

Being the Journal of Billy Badegg dedicated to the memory of Jackie Marmon who found immortality as scum in the Parliamentary Papers, to Dicky Barrett, of the pub of that name, to James Heberley, alias Worser, of the bay of that name, to Jack Guard who inveigled a warship into bringing back his wife, and to all the rest of that gallant company who with Billy Badegg form the cornerstone of our heritage of culture.

My Mother had thirteen children, that is, there were thirteen when I left home, what happened after that I dont know, dont care either, for that matter. Anyway so far as I know there were seven boys and six girls in that order and I was the seventh boy. By the time I arrived my mother was a bit sick of having boys and a bit fed up of my father too I reckon. Well my father died soon after I was born. He was drowned at sea, washed overboard when he was drunk so my mother said anyway I never saw him. Well my mother was not long in finding another sailor and then she began having girls. The eldest one was two years younger than me and by the time the sixth arrived I had gotten a bit sick of it so I ran away to sea to fight the Frenchies. But I didnt fight the Frenchies I only fished out of Grimsby and my master was a rough one. But that was better than six girls or more in a London yard. I was fifteen before my seven years apprenticeship on the fishing smack was done and then went on board a smart little schooner Creole Captain (angle bound for the West Indies. She was a smuggler I found out after Id been on her a day or so and we had cleared the Channel. I was in high spirits thought I was a made man, plenty of rum for me and fine silks for any wench I fancied. But all I got out of that run was a bloody grey parrot what wouldnt even swear. So I shipped on board Atlantis bark bound for the South Seas. Her master was Captain Joe Snivels and it was a whaling she was going but I was off to what the swells call romance. Well I had to wait a time or two for that I had a fight with a cove and my knife got stuck in his ribs accidental like and he sort of didnt get over it and I got stuck in irons until we got to the fishing grounds they put me in the boats that went after the first spout and we were stove in and was left in the water for hours and finally they picked me up and set me in to try out saying if I didnt get going theyd melt my blubber too. They didnt put me in irons again as they were short as all the other men in the boat that was stove in was drowned so I had my worth and worked up to boatsteerer and was very full ofmyself but fed up with fish when we stood too off a pretty little island all palm trees and I went ashore to fill the water barrels but the girls were most obliging and quite fetching and I thought Id got romance and I didnt go back on board. They looked all over the island for me but they did not find me under the coconuts a girl piled on top of me, she was a good girl but as the only white man on the island I had a place to keep up. A chief of my importance had to have several wives they were good girls separately but all together they was firewater besides I got fed up with having nothing but women to worry about. I had a double barrelled gun I had gotten off the ship but when I ran out of powder the natives said I was no good chief any more, and I got fed up with nothing to do, women fighting and trouble generally and when the Nigger Lass ten months out from Nantucket stood to for water after I had been there a couple of years I left me women and me worries and went a whaling again. She was a right merry little bark was the Nigger Lass and right merry men she had aboard her. The second day on the whaling grounds we caught eleven fish and the grog was served round after each fish we cut in and by the time we had cut in eleven of them we were getting pretty happy and the Yankey Captain was as merry as the rest of us and called for his fiddle and said now boys for a dance and the mate took up his flute and together they made sweet music and the cook beat time on his drum and away we danced on the blubbery decks and when the Captain was tired of playing he said now Steward Grog O now boys light up and to work and to work it was. Then we sailed for new grounds and made for the east coast of New Zealand where we took a few fish in the bays and page 9 filled our barrels and then called in at the Bay of Islands for pork and water. It was a grand place the Bay in those days everyman for himself and the devil take the hindmost and the ladies of the place were most condescending and took up their quarters on board and I saw it was the place for me and the next voyage out I stopped there and did very well for myself too. I started off in a small way mind you helped old Ben turner in his store and his grog shop and got enough to start on my own and before long mine was the finest of all the grog shops in Kororareka. I grew a garden round mine with roses and things in it and right pretty it looked, and my grog was the best in the Bay and my girls were the best in New Zealand. I must tell you about my girls I knew what sailors wanted when they came to port after a year at sea and whatever the missionaries said about me I reckon I did the men more good than the reverent gentlemen who would only speak to us to curse us. We werent the sheep of God they said but the tools of the devil they didnt want us for sheep they only wanted their black sheep and there black sheep were mainly goats though they didnt know it. But the girls were good enough for the pious gentlemen indeed they were they went over to Paihia in a canoe one day when a new missionary arrived and the little beauties danced and waggled themselves in front of him laughed at him and called their pretty calls to him and the old fool ran into his house and locked his door and shouted through the keyhole at them to go away they were the tempters of the devil how they laughed how we all laughed. But the good days will not last for ever and the good days of the Bay were going fast the missionaries were bad enough but they left us alone but then the governor came it was all right while he stayed with us but he moved down to the Waitemata to his flash new capital and all his precious sheep followed him and the Bay was not what it was and then Heke got excited and started having tantrums and causing trouble not that I blame him altogether the Bay was not as it was so there was nothing for me to do but to follow all the other sheep so I moved south too and started out again. But it wasnt the same I had a flash pub in Queen Street and welcomed the gentry to my table and bowed and scraped to the fine ladies in their carriages and it was good morning Billy and howde do Billy boy from everyone but I didnt care much for being respectable. Me old Martha had stayed at the Bay she wouldnt come down to the fine city she said but the boys I had four of them came down with me fine big lads they was and proud and though the pretty ladies and military gentlemen called me Billy and would condescend even to pass the time of day me boys was only good enough for holding horses carting bags up the stairs and carrying the pretty ladies over the mud and to be sneered at for thanks. They couldnt get a whitemans pay as labourers and they got plenty of curses in that snob city and they got fed up and cursed me for me blood in them and cursed their mothers blood in them and cursed the white men and went back to the mat and now the wars are on I guess they is fighting against those fine military gentlemen who once sneered at them and I reckon I dont blame them. I wish I could have gone too in a way oh yes Im respectable all right now and got all the money I want but its not all it might be. I went up to the Bay when the boys left me to try and get old Martha to come back but I only arrived in time for her tangi and her people didn't want me so back I came and here I am and having nothing better to do I thought I'd write it all down. Those were good days at the Bay.