In the Canberra Times’s ‘Gang Gang’ column of Monday, 6 August, writer Ian Warden muses on the dearth of ‘original ditties and verses that mention olde Canberra and even older Queanbeyan’ ('Ditty Details End of Drink Drought'). Warden is ‘delighted’ to have stumbled across ‘Bar, and Debar’ (Queanbeyan Age, 6 August, 1926), a humorous poem on the plight of ‘“dry” Canberrans of 1926 using “wet” Queanbeyan as their grog shop’.
AustLit records a number of poems dating from the earliest days of white settlement in the Queanbeyan/Canberra area. In ‘Queanbeyan’ (1914), the poet celebrates news of the southern New South Wales district’s selection as the site of the new national capital: ‘From Jerrabomberra let us scan / The environs of Queanbeyan / Australia’s future crown and story / Lie within its territory!’
The earliest poem about the Queanbeyan/Canberra district listed on AustLit to date was published in 1844. It is written by the teetotalling ‘Australian Shepherd’, a man ‘not very friendly to the wine bibbers of Sydney’. In an untitled verse, appearing in the Colonial Literary Journal and Weekly Miscellany of Useful Information, the shepherd casts his sober gaze across the Limestone Plains where ‘sylvan mounts’ smile ‘o’er the outstretched plain’.
The Australian literary content of the Colonial Literary Journal was captured by AustLit in 2010 as part of the Retrospective Periodicals Indexing Project supported by funding from the Australian Research Council. Other journals and newspapers indexed as part of this project include short-lived titles such as The Free-Lance and The Adelaide Independent and Cabinet of Amusement and longer-running newspapers such as The Empire and The Maitland Mercury.