"The Mutiny of
the Mavericks"

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. Roger Ayers has contributed some notes on military history. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Life's Handicap, as published and frequently reprinted between 1891 and 1950.



[Sept 1 2009]

[Title] Samuel Maverick (1803–1870) a Texan rancher, did not brand his calves, saying it was cruel, and was therefore able to appropriate any unbranded strays he came across on the grounds that they belonged to him. So his name became a synonym for any unorthodox or independent individual who would not conform or join an organisation.

Roger Ayers adds: It may also be that his selection of the nickname 'Maverick' was aimed at an American readership, displaying Kipling's new found knowledge of American English. It is an appropriate alternative to the nickname of the Connaught Rangers, 'The Devil's Own' — "...the corps being noted for the irregularity of its members both in camp and in quarters at one time." [Nicknames and Traditions in the Army, Gale and Polden, London and Aldershot, 1894].

[Heading] This is the beginning of Section 7 of the Army Act, 1881.

[Page 213, line 6] Tehama Street there was a hotel called The Tehama House ‘noted in political annals’ in the 1850s. Tehama Street runs SW from 1st Street to 9th St.

[Page 213, line 10] the I.A.A. Rutherford [Ed. War Stories and Poems, note, p. 336] suggests this may stand for “Irish American Army”, an imaginary organisation.

Ireland had suffered under English rule since the Middle Ages. Over the years there were numerous unsuccessful attempts to throw off this yoke, until independence was achieved after the Great War. Kipling probably based his 'I.A.A.' on what he knew of the 'Fenians'. whose first leader was James Stephens (1824-1901) who fled to Paris after an unsuccessful rising in 1848. He went to America, where he found more followers among the descendants of immigrants who had fled the terrible Famine of the 1840s in which many Irish died of hunger. Fenian societies were formed throughout the United States.

Byron Farrell writes of Fenians in the British Army:

Because of the large percentage of Irishmen in the ranks, a number of Fenians deliberately enlisted in the 1860s with the intention of formenting mutiny. In 1863 John Boyle O’Reilly, aged nineteen, enlisted in the 10 Hussars He was, by all accounts, intelligent and popular with all ranks. His attempts at subversion were inept and certainly do not appear to have been heinous …… he was charged with ‘knowledge of an intended mutiny’ and in spite of the testimony of his colonel …. That he had always been a good soldier, a court-martial sentences him to be shot. His sentence was commuted to life imprisonment , then to twenty-three years transportation to Western Australia….. he contrived to escape…. and fled to the United States.
[Byron Farwell, Mr. Kipling’s Army, George J. McLeod Limited in Canada, W. W. Norton Inc. in U. S. A. and W. W. Norton & Co. Ltd, London, page 92]
[Page 213, line 15] Castle Garden Fort Clinton, on the tip of Manhattan in New York City, was so called from 1855 to 1890 when used as an emigrant receiving depot before Ellis Island was opened..

[Page 213, line18] Scotland Yard a building on the Thames Embankment in London, then the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, including the Special Irish Branch (which later became the 'Special Branch').

[Page 214, line 2] Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519) a member of a noble Italian family famous for murdering their enemies.

[Page 214, lines 31- 32] blowing off the muzzle …… spiking a …. ship etc. spectacular but accidental disasters not caused by the conspirators.

[Page 215, line 4] the drag upon the wheel an iron shoe placed under a rear wheel of a horse-drawn vehicle to act as a brake when descending hills.

[Page 215, lines 15-25] The boom in black iron… etc what appears to be a business letter that would probably not give the plot away if intercepted – P.D.Q. is a slang abbreviation for “Pretty Damn Quick”.

[Page 216, line 1] Dhulip Singh (1837-1893) Maharajah of the Sikhs; lived in England after the annexation of the Punjab. He returned to India in 1886, and later travelled in Russia expressing his dislike of the British, but was pardoned in 1890 after apologising. See Early Verse (Ed. Rutherford) p. 452 ff. for “The Irish Conspiracy” and very full notes.

[Page 216, line 5] the Other Power probably Russia, then suspected of having designs on India as indicated in Kim.

[Page 216, line 14] musketry-firing rifle practice was still known as 'musketry' for many years into the 20th Century.

[Page 216, line 29] the Horse Guards the building between Whitehall and the Horse Guards Parade in London, then headquarters of the army.

[Page 218, line 22] Her Majesty’s Royal Loyal Musketeers… the Mavericks See Chapter 5 of Kim, whose father served in the regiment. [See ORG Vol. 2 p.978.]

[Page 218, line 25] Clare a county on the west coast of Ireland

Kerry a county on the south-west coast of Ireland.

[Page 218, line 27] Ballyvegan not traced, but there is a Ballyvoge in Co. Cork.

moonlighters usually men with night jobs in addition to their regular employment, but here referring to members of the Land League who resorted to violence in an attempt to reform the land laws in Ireland.

[Page 219, line 2] Father Dennis appears in several of the Mulvaney stories.

[Page 219, line 19] goblins of the rath mischievous spirits haunting ancient fortifications in Ireland.

[Page 219, line 31] broke for the sea headed for the coast, inciting other regiments en route to mutiny as well. What they would do when they reached it is not made clear!

[Page 220, line 5] belt a leather belt with a big brass buckle — a dreadful weapon in a fight – see a picture of one on the sergeant’s desk at p. 39 of Newark's Kipling’s Soldiers accompanying the verse “Belts”.

[Page 220, line 12] the triple-dashed asterisks The asterisk ( * ) and the dash ( — ) here indicate letters omitted to show cursing.

[Page 220, line 29] niggers an offensive term for black people, not now used.

[Page 221, line 10] thirty years gone the 'Indian Mutiny' of 1857,mentioned in various stories and verses.

[Page 221, line 32] Connemara a district in the west of County Galway, Ireland.

[Page 222, line 17] regimental court-martial in this context, and with a small “R” , what is known in industry as a “kangaroo court” – an unofficial and illegal self-appointed group that takes it upon itself to administer punishment.

[Page 222, line 18] the Black Boneens nickname of an imaginary regiment.

[Page 223, line 5] Orangeman a member of the Association of Orangemen, a Protestant political party in Ireland, founded in 1795.

[Page 223, line 17] the mess-room in this context, where the officers have their meals. Private soldiers would not enter unless on duty, which explains Dr. Tompkins’s reservations, and Roger Ayers' comments, quoted in the headnote.

[Page 223, line 19]
In a corner, cased like the King of Dahomey’s state umbrella, stood the regimental colours. Dahomey was then a kingdom on the West coast of Africa whose king had a large and ornate umbrella carried over him when he appeared in public. The Colours, wrapped round their poles and then covered with a sleeve (cased) would indeed look like a large umbrella in the ‘down’ position. [See Jan Morris, The Spectacle of Empire (Faber, 1982) p. 165 for an officers’ mess with the Colours uncased and displayed over the fireplace; also “The Burning of the Sarah Sands” (Land and Sea Tales) for the rescue of the Colours when the troopship was on fire]

The regimental colours consisted of two beautifully embroidered flags. The Queen’s Colour and the Regimental Colour, which were always treated with great respect and received on parade with Guard and Band. They were not carried in battle after 1881. The Honours show the actions in which the regiment was involved.

Roger Ayers adds: The honours on a regimental colour would normally have been in chronological order, except possibly for a major battle such as Waterloo which might have been given a special position over the central badge. Kipling has two out of order, Vittoria should come after Salamanca and The Alma before Inkerman. [The dates of the actions concerned can be seen at p. 979 of ORG, Vol. 2. See Newark's Kipling’s Soldiers, p. 53 for a picture of Colours laid up in a museum; Ed.].

While no single Irish regiment earned all these honours, all were borne by Irish regiments; the first three and last three were held by the Connaught Rangers (88th of Foot), Waterloo by The Royal Inniskillin Fusiliers (27th of Foot) and the three Sikh War honours by the Royal Munster Fusiliers, (Honourable East India Company, 1st Bengal European Regiment).

It should also be noted that the spelling of the battle honour was, and still is, Sevastopol.

I do not read Kipling as implying that the Mutiny was a battle honour on the colour. He distinctly separates the Mutiny and Afghanistan by having Dan say "... the Mut'ny an' some dirty little matters in Afghanistan; an' for that an' those and those..". The 'that' is the Mutiny and Afghanistan and it is only 'those and those' that are battle honours on the colours. [R.A.]


[Page 226, lines 24-28] An officer slunk, almost ran etc Mulcahy saw an officer hastening along, and assumed that he was fleeing from the men. In fact the men were asking for information on the forthcoming campaign. See lines 15-16 overleaf.

[Page 227, lines 9-18] Listen in the north… etc. probably by Kipling, but not collected. [It can be sung to "Marching Through Georgia", one of the songs of the American Civil War of the mid 19th century.]

The Kremling the Kremlin – the Citadel in Moscow

[Page 228, lines 1-3] Sheepskin an’ beeswax.. etc the first two lines are believed to be a Cheshire proverb which has not been traced. [Information would be appreciated; Ed.]

[Page 228, line 9] the pantomime-cab to take parents and children to the theatre at Christmas.

[Page 228, line 33] strict temperance principles there would be no alcohol apart from that smuggled in the soldiers water-bottles, but that would not last long ! [See “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” (Wee Willie Winkie), p. 364 and “The Way av Ut” Early Verse, ed. Rutherford, p. 431].

[Page 229, line 9] Tralee market-town and seaport in County Kerry in south-west Ireland.

[Page 229, line 10] poorhouses also known as workhouses, they were institutions that fed and housed the destitute.

[Page 229, line 29] Afghan women-folk see Kipling’s verse “The Young British Soldier”

When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s plains,
An’ the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle an’ blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.
[Page 230, line 10] chloride of lime a disinfectant.

[Page 232, line 4] hari-kari Japanese ritual suicide by a gash in the belly. [See From Sea to Sea Volume 1 p. 449].

[Page 232, line 25] Marzun-Katai not traced.

[Page 233, line 3] reserve in this context a body of troops not committed to the fight and brought into action when they can do most damage to the enemy.

[Page 233, line 4] shrapnel a hollow projectile containing bullets and a bursting charge which explodes in the air – very effective against troops in the open. (Invented by General Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842)

[Page 233, line 6] open order the men are widely spaced so they do not present a good target.

[Page 233, lines 21 – and overleaf] the officers …. rose and began to walk etc this curious custom is discussed in “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” (Wee Willie Winkie at page 332, line 5).

[Page 233, line 32] the files in this context, the front-rank man and the man behind him form a file. See the verses “Danny Deever” for Files-on-Parade and an illustration of soldiers fallen in two deep at p. 83 of Newark's Kipling’s Soldiers.

[Page 233, line 33] powder the enemy would probably be armed with rifles and muskets using gunpowder as a propellant. [See “His Chance in Life,” (Plain Tales from the Hills, page 82, line 14) and the notes to the poem “Brown Bess”].

[Page 234, line 13] ‘Sam Hall’ a ribald old song, of which there are several versions – see ORG, Volume 2 p. 980.

[Page 234, lines 18-19] We’ll sound the jubilee … etc. probably Kipling’s version of an old Irish revolutionary song entitled "The Shan-van Vogh".

[Page 235, lines 1-4 and 12-15] The Saxon in Heaven’s just balance is weighed... More of the same. See the judgement on Belshazzar, in Daniel 5, 5-28: the writing on the wall .. thou art found wanting…. Thy kingdom is divided…

[Page 235, line 7] petards bombs, an echo of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Act III, scene 4.

[Page 235, line 21] Purgatory a place of temporary suffering where the dead are cleansed from their sins.

[Page 236, line 12 onwards] Dan and Horse Egan kept themselves in the neighbourhood of Mulcahy ... Bernard Cornwell, in his novel of the Peninsular War (c. 1813) Sharpe’s Regiment (Harper Collins, 1986) has a sergeant who had connived in the murder of several of his own men killed in a similar manner. One wonders if the incident was inspired by this story, or if it is perhaps an old army custom that may still exist today ?

[Page 236, line 26] rabid dog rabies (hydrophobia) is a disease of the central nervous system affecting all warm-blooded creatures, often fatal if not treated in time.

[Page 236, line 27] unmasked battery hitherto concealed guns that have just opened fire, so revealing their position.

[Page 238, line 6] drouth drought – in this context, a dreadful thirst !

[Page 238, line 8] janius genius – one of extraordinary inventiveness and imagination.

[Page 238, line 10] the Commander-in-Chief ought to be hanged…. Lord Roberts was in favour of Temperance. [See the note to page 228 line 33 above and “The Three Musketeers” (Plain Tales from the Hills), p. 75, line 32]. See also Julian Moore's notes on Kipling and Lord Roberts.

[Page 238, line 18] Eblis the Devil.


[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2006 All rights reserved