The goldfields are full of unusual characters. Here’s one from Coolgardie 1894. His name is Edwin Greenslade Murphy, but he often went under the name Dryblower Murphy, or just Dryblower. He was a man of many talents, none of which you would expect to find in the harsh, dry as dust field known as Bayley’s Reward, in 1894.
Dryblower Murphy was born in Victoria to a potter and clay worker. But from an early age it was obvious that he had a wanderlust about him. He had a good tenor voice and became an opera singer, joining the J.C. Williamson Opera Company, travelling with them and singing in the chorus for two or three years. When the gold rush began in WA in 1892 he left the Opera Company for the life of a prospector. He walked from Perth to Coolgardie, arriving not long after the ragged collection of tents and diggings had been declared a town. With his obvious skills as an entertainer he quickly became a popular figure in the bar of an evening, leading the singing and telling yarns or reciting his poems. Although he travelled briefly to London to promote the Esmerelda Gold Mine, when that slumped he returned to WA. Back in Coolgardie he and Billy Claire set up the Coolgardie Miner. At that point Dryblower began in earnest to write poems and bush ballads. Henry Lawson and Banjo Patterson were also writing bush ballads. They were being published in The Bulletin and Dryblower’s work sometimes appeared alongside theirs. In Coolgardie he and his wife were an important part of the community and close friends of Clara Saunders. At a time when very few women ventured so far from civilisation it seems he was more observant than most men and sympathetic to the lot of goldfields women. In the first verse of his poem, Cooking and Patching their Dungaree Pants he writes:
Think on it, dwell on it, mining camp man;Cooking and Patching their Dungaree Pants by Dryblower Murphy
Picture the woman’s monotonous lot!
Dusting the dug-out and cooking the scran
Out in some weary unwomanly spot
Not that we want to create discontent,
Not that we want rebellion to brew
But picture yourself in a tattered old tent
Baking the brownie and stirring the stew,
Hefting around like the hardworking ant,
Cooking and patching their dungaree pants.
Later Dryblower became a journalist with the Sunday Times and wrote many thousands of poems, articles, ballads; and one novel.