Saturday 15 December 2018

John Dengate, Robin Connaughton & The Old Trout - a true story in verse

Click on pictures for full-screen image

As I heard the story years ago, Robin spoke in his best Ten Quid Pom plummy voice when John touched his forelock ...

John busking at Eddy Avenue, Central, (BMC Archives, photo courtesy Dale Dengate)

and I always dropped a coin in that battered old hat whenever I met John on the street and he interrupted his busking to talk, in the hope others would do the same. And don't let me get started on those who take photos/videos of buskers without contributing ...


© Robin Connaughton 26/08/2018
I was thinking last week of my old mate, John Dengate;

Poet, artist and singer, a wordsmith of note.

And, dare it be said, a man of sweet malice,

When he served politicians with a quotable quote.

When I worked in at Central, I’d often see John.

He busked Eddy Avenue, often as not.

Back to the park, he played his tin whistle;

A nice little act in a well paying spot.

John had no peer in the fine art of busking.

With old flannels and jacket, the collar turned up

To keep out cold winds, and the occasional shower.

He looked an old digger, somewhat down on his luck.

Whenever I saw him, down by the Arches,

I’d stop for a while, and we’d have a good yack.

About pollies, his teeth, and the evils of bookies.

On leaving, I’d toss some small coins in his hat.

It became a set joke, professional manners;

After all, I was taking up time on his patch.

I could hit his old hat with a coin from the gutter,

Though sometimes he’d save the day with a slips catch.

Then came the day of the Brick and The Old Trout.

I had tossed John a dollar, it made a nice clink,

When a voice close behind said, “you’re giving him too much.”

“You’ll only encourage his addiction to drink.”

Behind me there stood a tall, bony woman,

Blue-rinsed, overdressed from her pearls to her shoes.

“They’re all the same, derelicts, only he calls it busking.’

“Whatever you give him, he’ll just spend it on Booze.”

I thought “geez, that’s rough,” and I turned back to John,

But he knuckled his forehead(!) and gave me a wink

That said, plain and clear, “We can have some fun here.”

So I said, “Is it true, would you spend that on drink?”

John paused for a little, then said, “some possibility”

“There’s some possibility she may be right.”

“Would I spend that WHOLE dollar you gave me on liquor?

“I’m rather afraid, my young sir, that I might.”

I thought “’Young Sir,’ You bugger, John, I’ll get you for that,”

But it was serve and return, so I said, “Well, OK.”

And I flipped him a twenty, a brick, red and folded.

“Can you make that one last you the rest of the day?”

The Old Trout near laid an egg, but John sadly returned it.

“That brick’s far too rich for my battered old hat.”

“But I’ve an idea, we could each have a beer.”

A schooner apiece. What do you say to that?”

“And, with the small change, buy The Old Trout a sherry,”

A port, double whiskey, a brandy, or such.”

“Young Sir, that would be pure Christian Charity.”

“Between us, I doubt she gets asked out too much.”

The Old Trout, she wowsered and yodelled, “How dare you?”

“As if I would touch liquor!” but her face turned bright red!

Then she turned on her heel with the speed of an eel,

And she just buggered off. Whoops, I’m sorry, she fled.


It’s a cold day in hell, and I’m drinking cold beer

With the Pope, and rum chasers with the rest of his train.

Such a cold day in hell will it be, me old dear,

Before ever you patronise John Dengate again!

One of John's Christmas A-frame signs (BMC Archives, donated by Dale Dengate)

The St George and Sutherland Leader, Thursday 13th January 2000, pages 1 & 3.

Newspaper clipping supplied by Chris Woodland, (BMC Archives)


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