ACT News


Gang-gang. I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier

Readers love a singsong and so all together now, massed choir of Gang-gang readers, let's warble the chorus from the popular pacifist Great War song I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier. One, two, three.

"Oh I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,/I brought him up to be my pride and joy./Who dares to place a musket on his shoulder,/To shoot some other mother's darling boy?/ Let nations arbitrate their future troubles,/It's time to lay the sword and gun away./There'd be no war today,/If mothers all would say,/'I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier.' "

Now there's a song (its sheet music pictured here) you won't hear sung at the Australian War Memorial during the coming commemorations of the Great War. The memorial's director Brendan Nelson  has a rather Boy's Own approach to these things.

No, our best chance of hearing it will come from attending entertainments created by Canberra's A Chorus of Women. The chorus will be doing various contrary, jingo-resisting things during the Great War centenary spell.

Its first project is going to be a specially composed community choral work, an oratorio A Passion for Peace, to be performed in the Albert Hall. The project's leader Janet Salisbury explains that "it's inspired by the spirit of the 1200 women who participated in the International Congress of Women at The Hague at the end of April 1915".

"The delegates - from both warring and neutral nations  - met in the spirit of dialogue and drafted visionary resolutions aimed at ending World War I and establishing permanent peace.  After the congress two delegations of the women took  the resolutions to heads of state and senior ministers throughout Europe."


The resolutions seem enlightened, humane and purposeful, and composer Glenda Cloughley is even setting one of them to music to be sung in A Passion for Peace (which she describes as "a singing peace memorial").

Salisbury is not sure, yet, whether I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier will get a guernsey in the oratorio, but reports "we are looking at it".

"And to raise public awareness of this forgotten congress and to help us refine our thinking around its impact in the100 years since 1915, we are holding some lead-up events this year. Our next event is a conversation titled 1915–2015: Resolutions for a sustainable peace — then and now.*

"At this event we will invite participants to discover the remarkable resolutions from the forgotten International Congress of Women ... It is extraordinary that despite being the only serious attempt at a negotiated settlement in WWI, the congress, its resolutions and the subsequent European delegations have gone unnoticed by military historians and other commentators since that time. Why? In 2015, with many conflicts still playing out, ... we want to ignite interest in the achievements of the women peacemakers and their legacy."

A Passion for Peace will be part of a peace festival at the Albert Hall beginning on April 27, 2015, thus embracing 2015's very special Anzac Day but offering what the chorus calls "a different narrative". 

Just as we can be sure the pacifist ditty I Didn't Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier won't get sung at the Australian War Memorial during the Great War centenary we can be sure A Chorus of Women won't be singing any of the pro-war parodies written to counter it.  In January 1916 the pro-war Australian press began to publish another version of the song. Here is its chorus.

"I didn't raise my boy to be a soldier,/I want another's boy to fight for me:/I'd rather know another's heart is bleeding/So that I may live in sweet security:/I don't care if my neighbour sends a dozen/Provided of my brood there isn't one./Who goes to face the shrapnel for his mother?/I didn't raise a soldier in my son."

*1915-2015: Resolutions for a sustainable peace - then and now is on Thursday, July 31, 2014,  6-9 pm, at the Yarralumla Uniting Church Hall, Denman Street, Yarralumla (supper provided). All details are at the Chorus of Women website 

Thinking like a cockatoo

Everything about gang-gang cockatoos is important to this column (just as nothing about Nick Kyrgios is too unimportant for the rest of the paper), especially in this year of the Gang-gang Survey. So here is lucky Peter Jorm, of Pearce, hand-feeding a host of of our faunal emblem. 

It is a daily routine ("1615h, pretty sharp, and it's over in half an hour") and on Monday when this picture was taken there were 20 visitants.

We could easily get tickets on ourselves when birds come to us to be fed, thinking we are a kind of St Francis and that the birds have been drawn to us by our magnetic charisma.

"But I've been told by a bird lover who is a lot more knowledgable than I am," he reports, "that they probably regard my feeding them as my being something like a tree that has come into season.  I am an object rather than a person."