KOOKABURRA SITS ON AN OLD GUM TREE – Correspondence Files
© Warren Fahey 2010
I am including various correspondence between my two informants and myself however, more importantly, correspondence, usually handwritten, between Marion and friends. I am doing this to provide an insight into Marion’s life and attitude to her music.
Jean Mann graciously provided me with copies of correspondence she maintained with Marion Sinclair. Some was of a personal nature involving family issues but most related to Jean’s use of Marion’s music in her theatrical endeavours.
Correspondence from Jean Mann 29th October 2010-11-05
Thank you very much for your interest and help. It has been, and is, much appreciated.
I’d be delighted to have you use anything I can send.
You didn’t mention having or not having the ‘Six Songs from an Old Gum Tree’.
(These songs have never been published.)
Would you like me to scan and send them by post?
They are all in Marion’s handwriting … diligently written on an aged writing pad. A fresh page for every song!
I have the words and music for ‘Ringtail’, Wallaby O’ and ‘The Pallid Cuckoo ‘. They can also be forwarded.
The music for ‘Koala’, ‘Travelways’ (Kangaroo) ‘Missis Platypus’, and ‘Birrahlee’ (Aboriginal Baby Girl) is escaping me at present. I’ll have another search in our store-room for the missing trio!.
I should not have told you my age, although you, as a non mathematician, could have easily worked it out!. .
Please do not slot me into an ‘over 90 box!’…. even though I have painted my coffin and, when my husband looked at it said, “You’ll only need a string of beads. It looks like a Hippie Panel Van.” And it does!
I ‘ve played Croquet for over forty years and still play twice a week.
I belong to the SA Writers Centre and still a member of the SA Writers’ Theatre.
I might look old but am very active and this project on behalf of Marion … knowing how she felt … and would have been horrified if she could have seen the newspaper headlines earlier this year… has brought me in touch with some very interesting people …. one, of whom. is you.
Thank you again.
Email Correspondence 20th October 2010 Jean Mann to WF
Yesterday I posted a large envelope containing one letter with two enclosures to your Private Box Number in Sydney.
After reading your history I feel sure you will be interested in the enclosures .
One is a copy of the above Round with music and words handwritten by Marion Sinclair.
It is dated 15/6/78. She wrote it out for me to use in a children’s play.
Kookaburra had flown and been sung all over the world, as Marion said, but had never before, been in a play.
The second enclosure is a copy of a card with a gum tree and two Kookaburras.
Marion gave permission for her round to be printed on the front.
5,000 cards were printed … all proceeds to The Helping Hand, North Adelaide, where she lived.
Unfortunately, as Marion quotes, in a letter to me dated 17th May 1985.
‘ they are printed with the very common error of Kookaburra sitting on THE old gum tree instead of ‘An old g.t.’ This is possibly a detail, but it cost me a good deal of thinking to make a decision when the words were written, simple tho’ it may be. ‘An’ is an easier singing word than ‘The’ which was what decided me.’
Marion has crossed out ‘The’ and written ‘An’ over the top.
I would love to ‘right the wrong’ that has crept into this well known song and, as I said, after reading your history I feel sure you are the only person who can do it.
If Larrikin Music could print the correct words with their copyright music, before it is hopefully ‘gifted’ to the nation, as you suggest … wouldn’t that be great!
Email Correspondence 20th October Jean Mann to WF
It sounds as if you already have the envelope. Good work from the Post Office
As I wrote in the letter … I have been down a few tracks after the headlines hit the paper.
One was with Richard Mellows, President of the SA Law Society. He writes a column ‘Point of Law’ in The Advertiser every Monday. One article was headed ‘The clash of two Musical Icons ’19th July 2010.
I sent him similar enclosures to those I sent you and he did say in reply. … He was ‘absolutely delighted’ to read the ‘fascinating letter’ re his column and he ‘particularly enjoyed’ reading Marion’s letter to me in 1985 in which she points out the wording commonly used and her reason for choosing ‘an’ rather than ‘the’.
He went on to say he regretted not having any suggestions, but ‘perhaps a letter to Larrikin’ would not go astray given they have the copyright to the music and the words would often accompany it.’
I thought you would be interested in that ‘side-track’.
Another was to a friend who just happened to have legal friend, Judy Harris, tied up with the Girl Guides in SA.
Being a Guide myself from way-back I thought the Guides and Scouts might be of help.
My friend had an email from Judy Harris only today! This is Judy’s reply :
Thanks for the email. I still have the papers you gave me. I did follow up the Kookaburra lyrics as far as I could – I emailed the national publications manager of Girl Guides Australia and copied in the Chief Commissioner, suggesting that we should communicate the message (re correct lyrics) to States. I don’t know what if anything has been done, but I’ve certainly done my best! I will definitely keep Jean in mind for interviews. Things have been a bit crazy in the past few months as there are so many additional programme initiatives to try and fit in, for our Centenary of Guiding year, but I am hoping that things will calm down soon!!
Kind regards Judy Harris
Of course, I know you don’t like maths, but you must be able to add up and, as I was a Patrol Leader of the Galahs in 1934, I am no chicken.. What has this 91 year old let herself in for? Judy wants me to talk to her Guides! Help!
If Marion only knew. She obviously never believed in wasting paper and, as her writing is very small, it is a touch difficult to read. .When I have time, I’ll try and find the Six songs from an old gum tree, or have you already copies of them? I had the original large manuscripts that naturally had to be down-sized for a play script but unfortunately the originals have disappeared and the cut-down size is a trifle messy. I’ll try and get them in better shape if you haven’t already got them. Ringtail (possum) is OK and I should be able to find Wallaby-O .
Please let me know if you want them and I’ll check with a local Photo-copier to see what he can do..