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Larrikins & Layabouts


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The main amusement of the Push – and all exists primarily for the sake of amusement – are dances, picnics, and, on special occasions, organised rowdyism. The young women who figure at the dances and picnics have the same taste for feathers and high-heeled shoes that distinguish the coster-girl, and the same facility for repartee disconcerting in its allusive obscurity. The male larrikin at one time favoured a distinctive dress, consisting of a short coat with a velvet collar, and open vest, and narrow necktie, bell-bottomed trousers, and a soft felt hat with a broad stiff rim. Of late years, this costume has gone out of vogue, and has been replaced by nothing likely to distinguish a push member from his fellow man.

Push dances are remarkable for their solemnity and observance of push etiquette, and for a weird dance known as a teetotum, which resembles dimly the ghost of a waltz fettered in heavy chains. Push picnics are enlivened by the music of the mouth organ and the accordion, and by a free use of stimulants. They not infrequently end in a free fight.

The larrikin, leaning against the dead wall and spitting idly into the gutter, is an eyesore in the Australian cities, and an intolerable nuisance as well. His existence may well be a source of uneasiness to those concerned in the future of the new nation.

THE AUSTRALIAN AT HOME: notes and anecdotes of life at the Antipodes, including useful hints for those intending to settle in Australia.

Edward Kingslake



Australia is unique in the possession of one thing of which she is not proud. I mean the larrikin. Other lands have their roughs, their ‘arrays’, their cads, their arabs, their hoodlums, their gamins etc but to Australia alone belong the larrikin. The term was invented here and has remained here.

Strictly speaking larrikinism confines itself to no particular class. Factory boys, and the youths and maidens of low neighbourhoods of the cities, have by no means a monopoly of it, though such places would furnish excellent subjects for the study of the peculiar trait of human nature.

There was a public correspondence some years ago as to its cause and cure. It was suggested by one that too much animal food was responsible for its existence. No cure has yet been found.

Let me give you a description of a typical male specimen as he may be found at the street corners about seven o’clock in the evening, expectorating tobacco juice and talking blasphemy. He is generally a weedy youth, undersized, and slight, but like all Australians who are cast in a lanky not thickset mould, he is wiry and active, He has a repulsive face, low forehead, small eyes, a colourless skin, and irregular discoloured teeth. His hat is either small, round and hard, or a black slouch. He pays attention to his dress, which is always of dark colour and very tight fitting, the coat of the shortest, the trousers like fleshings, and his boots very high heeled and small, the impress of every toe being clearly distinguishable en repousse.

Knots of these creatures collect in the evening, and the streets are not the more pleasant to walk in for their presence. They call themselves ‘pushes’, and there are often conflicts between those who infest different parts of the towns.

Throwing lumps of blue metal is one of his favourite modes of attack.


The Newsletter: an Australian paper for Australian People (Sydney) 22 July 1905

The Larrikin’s Coon Song.

I’m awitin’ — illy, ally, lilly, loo!

Round the corner near the fish-shop — strike me blue!

Tho’ the measly moon aint shinin’ worth a chew,

Yet I’m witin’, yes, I’m whin’ ‘ere fer you —

My Lu, my Wool-loo-moo-loo Lulu,

‘Cos I wants ter tap yer fer a bob or two.

i^aorus — Strike me blue, ma babee Lu!

Your little Tony is fairly stony ;

His throat wants a wash, So trot out your splosh —

Do, do, Lulu! Bring all yer money with yer, do, do, do;

My Lu, my Wool-loo-moo-loo Lulu —

To the bloke as is a-witin’ ‘ere fer you, you, you !

Valentine Day.

The Newsletter 3 June 1905

A Push Love Song,

People think because I’m leary

That I don’t know what is love ;

I make things pretty willin1 when I start ;

I never tell me klina She’s a little turtle dove,

But strike me pink and brindle I’ve a heart.

You should see me in my Sunday ‘ Clobber’ down at Chowder Bay,

In company with Florry lookin ‘koosh,’

I get jealous as a billy goat if anyone should say

She ain’t the shinest klina in the push,

You think I don’t know what love is ;

Well, I should think I do ;

You ought to see my Florrie’s ‘andsome phiz,

I biff her till she’s silly,

Then I cry until I’m blind —

Well, if that ain’t love I dunno what love is.

When I’m hoarse from yellin’ bottle oh,

And business is snide,

Her image is beside me in the cart ;

I then go home and whack her

When I’m finished up my ‘zacker’ —

It’s the only way to keep a blanky tart.

Oh, bruise me! you should see her

When she’s heavin things about !

She’s a ‘ bosker,’ and I know her heart is true,

For she nearly chewed my finger off,

And then I knocked her out !

Oh, she’s me darlin’, I’m her ‘ hooty boo ! ‘

You say I don’t know what love is,

Well, I should think I do ;

You swell flats seldom know that pas sion’s law.

Your klinas rarely love you —

Well, you can’t expect it much,

For you hardly ever biff ’em on the jaw.

Narranghi Boori,

The Queenslander 12 March 1887  Flotsam and Jetsam Column.

The Larrikin.

The western sun was sinking fast,

As through a Brisbane street there passed

A youth whose brow was branded “vice”-

The one distinguishing device

Of larrikins.

His brow was sad, for in the street ,

He saw policemen on their beat,

Who watched, as to the manner bred,

The slinking, sly, suspicious tread

Of larrikin.

In jewel shops he saw the lights—

Those dumb protectors of our nights-

While here and there a street lamp shone,

And from his lips escaped a groan.

Sad larrikin! ‘

Give me a ‘pass,'” he glibly said,  

” For to the theatre l am wed;

And you shall hear my patent squeal,

And sniff the scent of orange peel.”

“No! larrikin.”

“Oh stay,” the maiden said, “and rest- ” ,

Thy head upon a hornets’ nest!”.    

He turned on her his languid eye,

And asked if ” green” she did espy  

More o’er, he said ‘he was not ‘ fly”—

That larrikin. ”

Although his words were not polite,

By this I think he meant “good-night.”

For straightway vanished from my sight

That larrikin.

At break of day, as homeward

A bobby sauntered homeward, ,

A shriek for help broke on the air;

He rushed— and lo! mid many a swear, 

Whom should he find garrotting there 

But larrikin!

The magistrate that morning sat ;

In court, and ordered him the ” cat -,”

For all such hardened scoundrels, dash  

My wig! there’s nothing like the lash.

Go! larrikin.”

They helped him down with loving hands,

And on his slender wrists put ” bands;”  

When gently placed within his cell

He told them all to go to—well,

A region rather warm Farewell  

To larrikin. ,