Dickins, Dylan Thomas, beer, chips and fags

At the last minute I remembered it was the night to go hear Barry Dickins at the Collingwood Library. It was all very librarianish: the Arnott’s biscuits, the tea, the coffee. A couple of casks of wine would have been far more appropriate, and maybe the party would not have dissolved so quickly had the red wine not been absent. But to listen to Dickins was a great pleasure. He sat behind a table and chatted to 60 people without hubris, but without any affectation either. Many rhetorical questions were asked. Audience members answered them to themselves under their breath, or sotto voce. He is a man with an obvious affinity for the criminal, a fascination with low life, drawn to the world of the prison, a man who has been laid into by police. He dressed scruffy, but poem crept into his speech from time to time: he sketched an old taxi driver bearing a straw hat and popped “held together with helium and string” in there. The cabbie professed to be the gentleman who drove the cab which conveyed the mortally wounded Squizzy Taylor to St Vincent’s. Continue reading “Dickins, Dylan Thomas, beer, chips and fags”

John Wren Exhibition at Federation Square Reviewed by The Age; An excellent ABC transcript about Wren’s Tote

Here is an article by John Harms in The Age which, if not quite a review of the Wren exhibition at the Victorian Racing Museum, is at least prompted by his visit to it, and is well worth a read.

Details: John Wren 1871-1953 – Glory Glory Glory, Champions – Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, Federation Square, daily until January 31, 2007. Adults $8, concession $5, family $20.

And here is a little piece Michael Cathcart did on the ABC’s Rewind programme about Wren, Hardy, and the (and you will see where I stole the photo from). Extracted below is a lovely evocative passage about just how the police-proofing of the Tote was achieved: Continue reading “John Wren Exhibition at Federation Square Reviewed by The Age; An excellent ABC transcript about Wren’s Tote”

Barry Dickins to talk on Squizzy Taylor: 16 November 2006

Barry Dickins is to speak about Squizzy Taylor on at the Collingwood Library on Thursday 16 November 2006 at 6.30 p.m. (bookings 1300 650 444). The library is in Abbotsford, next to Collingwood Town Hall on Hoddle St and Collingwood Station. Dickins’s play “Squizzy Taylor” has apparently just completed a successful season at the Carlton Courthouse Theatre, but I missed it. I’m glad it was successful because this lover of Smith St sounded a bit down on the writing side of things in this article. Joseph “Squizzy” Taylor was born in 1888 and shot dead in 1927, aged 39, having married at St James’s Fitzroy, committed murder at Glenferrie Station in 1923, and died at St. Vincent’s after a Carlton shootout. According to the brilliant online edition of the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

“Between 1913 and 1916 Taylor was linked to several more violent crimes including the murder and robbery of Arthur Trotter, a commercial traveller, the burglary of the Melbourne Trades Hall, in which a police constable was killed, and the murder of William Patrick Haines, a driver who refused to participate in the hold-up of a bank manager at Bulleen. Taylor was tried for the murder of Haines and found not guilty. Although rarely convicted after 1917, Taylor remained a key figure in an increasingly violent and wealthy underworld. His income came from armed robbery, prostitution, the sale of illegal liquor and drugs, as well as from race-fixing and protection rackets. With Paddy Boardman, he conducted an efficient and lucrative business in rigging juries, a service of which he made regular use. …

‘Squizzy’ was a colourful figure in the drinking and gambling clubs of Fitzroy, Richmond and Carlton. A dapper little man who dressed loudly, he strutted through the courts, race-courses and theatres. While hiding from the police, he wrote letters and verse to the press. Yet he had few redeeming qualities. Taylor won lasting notoriety by imitating the style of American bootleggers; he never matched their influence or immunity from the law, and at the time of his death could no longer command fear or loyalty from the underworld.”