The Boozer’s Lament is a poem written by my great-uncle James Gorey during the First World War.
I found it while researching family history in a copy of the Wangaratta Chronicle. He had sent the poem in a letter home to his sister Mary.
It was written sometime in 1916, apparently in response to the military authorities banning alcohol.
It’s funny and clever, showing more of his personality than can be gleaned from official papers in the National Archive.
Here’s the factual story of James, obtained mostly from military records. Sadly he died on October 13, 1918, a few weeks before the Armistice.
The Boozer’s Lament
We’ve fought upon Gallipoli and toiled on Egypt’s plain,
We’ve travelled far across the sea to face the foe again,
We’ve braved the perils of the deep, and faced them with good cheer,
But now they give us cause to weep, they’ve gone and stopped our beer.
We wouldn’t mind if they had stopped the pickles or the cheese,
They might have cut the marmalade and issued fewer peas,
But it’s a sin to drink red vin or for a cobber shout,
Which kind of sets me wondering they’ve cut the champagne out.
They stopped our rum, we didn’t mind, while we had been to soak,
But now they’ve gone and stopped our wine, it’s getting past a joke,
Each countenance you see is sad, within each eye a tear,
The greatest injury we’ve had is cutting out our beer.
For you must shun the flowing bowl and turn you from the wine,
And water drink to cheer your soul if it should chance to pine,
You must order coffee now to toast the folks at home,
And spend your cash on chewing gum and honeycomb.
There’s microbes in the water lads, so drink it with a will,
And every mother’s son of us will jolly soon be ill,
And when we are on sick parade, the doctor he will cry,
The lads, I fear, must have their beer or else they will surely die.
Here’s my rather poor reading of it: