The Big Drunk ‘Draf

Notes on the text

These notes, by John McGivering, are partly new, and partly based on the ORG. The page and line numbers below refer to the Macmillan (London) Standard Edition of Soldiers Three and Other Stories, as published and frequently reprinted between 1899 and 1950.


[Heading] We’re goin’ ‘ome, we’re goin’ ‘ome… This is the chorus of Kipling’s Barrack Room Ballad ‘Troopin’’.

[Page 28, line 2] Serapis the Royal Navy built and operated five troopships for the Government of India – H.M.S. Crocodile, Euphrates, Jumna, Malabar and Serapis. [Shipping Wonders of the World, ed Clarence Winchester, The Amalgamated Press Ltd, p. 1242]

For verses by Kipling on this subject see “Troopin’”, “Soldier and Sailor Too”, “The Ladies”, and “Birds of Prey March”.

[Page 28, line 4] Dinah Shadd Mulvaney’s wife. See “The Courting of Dinah Shadd” in Life’s Handicap.

[Page 28, line 15] eighty-five rupees a month This was equivalent to about £70 per annum at the time. Kipling earned 150 rupees a month when he started on the Civil and Military Gazette.

[Page 29, line 2] ‘basted purgathory’ blasted purgatory or words to that effect; colloquially, a place of intense discomfort.

[Page 29, line 3] ‘civilians’ in this instance, unlike the previous usage in these stories, it simply means people not in the army.

[Page 29, line 25] Ker’nel on the railway-line an echo of Kipling’s line in the poem “Public Waste”:

That only a Colonel from Chatham
can manage the Railways of State.

[Page 29, line 24] Scutt, ye naygur-folk – Be off, you black people – presumably a variant of the slang word scat.

[Page 29, line 30] sisham Hindi Sisu – a valuable tree (Dalbergia Sissoo) that provides excellent timber for various purposes. [Hobson-Jobson]

[Page 30, line 8] peg in this context, a measure of spirit – probably whisky. See the Note to Page 40, line 32 below.

[Page 31, line 11] Dhrumshticks Drumsticks – nickname for the Colonel as explained below.

[Page 31, line 12] grey garron a small horse (from the Irish gearran). ‘Grey’ applied to horses usually signifies ‘white’.

[Page 31, line 20] The Divil and all his angils etc a mixture of quotations from various religious sources expressing Mulvaney’s dislike of being styled ‘Mister’

[Page 31, line 22] the sin av making me swear He would not admit this at his next Confession as she provoked him to it, and so should confess this as being one of her sins. (dubious theology, surely: Ed.)

[Page 31, line 25] pullin’ hair not traced.

[Page 32, lines 3 & 4] behaderin …. ‘bankment I was instructing the gangs on the embankment.

[Page 32, line 5] hoppers earth-carriers.

[Page 32, line 16] throlly trolley: a four-wheeled truck propelled by men working a see-saw handle or perhaps running along the track and pushing.

[Page 32, line 19] jildiest fastest

[Page 32, line 22] the Widdy the Widow: Queen Victoria; see Note to “Private Learoyd’s Story” earlier in this volume (page 19, line 5) and Charles Carrington (page 262) for his rejection of the rumour that that the Queen had been offended by the poem “The Widow of Windsor”.

[Page 33, line 5] bison a large hoofed animal Bison bonasus of which only a few protected herds survive in Europe, and Bison bison, the North American variety.

[Page 33, line 8] Blue Lights organised Temperance work in the army began in 1860, leading to the formation of the Royal Army Temperance Association in 1894.

[Page 33, line 10] the Ould Rig’mint the Old Regiment – the 59th, which was amalgamated with the 30th and became the East Lancashire Regiment. ( Charles Carrington (page 101 n.)

[Page 33, line 14] Phœbus Apollonius Apollo – the Sun God in Greek mythology, the son of Zeus; sometimes described as ‘Phœbus’ meaning ‘Shining’. Regarded as the ultimate in male beauty, he is usually represented naked. Mulvaney has confused him with Apollonius, who was a Pythagorean philosopher, of Tyana.

[Page 33, line 15] Corp’ril an’ file the Corporal of the Guard and two private soldiers – see the poem “Cells” .

[Page 33, line 23] Articles of War incorporated, with the Mutiny Act in the Army Act of 1881, which governed the punishments for various offences.

[Page 33, line 24] whipped on the peg See the Note to “The God from the Machine“ at page 4, line 32, earlier in this volume.

[Page 33, line 25] a Reserve Man he would serve six years with the Colours and then be on the Reserve with a retainer of fourpence a day: see the poems “Back to the Army Again” and “Troopin'” .

[Page 33, line 30] Solomon King of Israel who died about 930 B.C., famous for his wisdom; see “The Song of Solomon” in the Old Testament and “The Wisdom of Solomon” in the Apocrypha. He also appears as ‘Suleiman bin Daoud’ in “The Butterfly that Stamped” in the Just So Stories.

[Page 33, lines 31–32] colts from a Kibbereen horse-fair into Galway [Information on this point based on local knowledge would be appreciated: Ed.]

[Page 34, line 8] as copped as a drover drovers led uncomfortable and lonely lives conducting herds of cattle along unfrequented rough roads in all weathers and were traditionally inclined to get drunk whenever possible.

[Page 34, line 11] skew-nosed crooked, twisted.

[Page 34, line 22] the Divil’s Mass the Devil’s Mass, explained below (lines 24-5), seems to be a variant of the Black Mass, a sacrilegious rite in which the devil is invoked instead of God.

[Page 34, line 30] Orange Lodge the Ulster Protestant Orange Society established in 1795.

[Page 35, line 11] Dhrumshticks see the Note to page 31, line 11 above.

[Page 35, line 23] autobiography a man’s life written by himself, so Mulvaney is on the right lines, but really means ‘assist your memory’ or words to that effect.

[Page 35, line 23] stretched in this context, knocked him down.

[Page 35, line 31] O’Connell Daniel O’Connell, “The Liberator” (1775–1847), the Irish politician who campaigned successfully for the removal of Roman Catholic disabilities. He was Lord Mayor of Dublin, where there is a street named after him.

[Page 35, line 33] rag-box mouth.

[Page 36, line 16] Lungtungpen see “The Taking of Lungtungpen” in Plain Tales from the Hills.

[Page 36, line 28] throoper trooper – troop-ship

[Page 36, line 28] blue wather blue water – the open sea

[Page 36, line 31] shiverarium possibly a variant of shivaree an American form of charivari – a mock serenade, or perhaps a shemozzle or general pandemonium.

[Page 36, line 32] non-coms non-commissioned officers – sergeants etc.

[Page 37, line 16] squidgereen possibly a variation of the Anglo-Irish squireen – a petty squire. See the Note to “The Taking of Lungtungpen” (Plain Tales from the Hills) page 116, line 7.

[Page 38, line 22] cut in this context, punched him in the eye. It was absolutely forbidden for an officer to hit a man. If convicted by a court-martial an officer would certainly have been dismissed from the service with ignominy and might have gone to prison. He would have had to resign from his clubs and would not be received in society. See the poem “Gentlemen-Rankers” .

A soldier who hit an officer would probably be convicted of mutiny for which the penalty was death. But see “His Private Honour” in Many Inventions where an officer and a man fight in private to their mutual satisfaction, even though the officer wins as he obviously had to; also “The Brushwood Boy” in The Day’s Work where an officer introduces his men to boxing with great success.

[Page 39, line 5] bitin’ on a bullet now at the triangles men were tied up on a triangular frame to be flogged and given a lead bullet to bite on.

[Page 39, line 20] like jackals cowardly animals as exemplified by Tabaqui in the Jungle Books.

[Page 39, line 31] tucker the American usage ‘tuckered out’ means exhausted which is, up to a point, applicable here but not very appropriate.

[Page 40, line 22] Flanders part of Belgium and the scene of much fighting in the First World War of 1914–1918, but how and why it is used by Mulvaney here is not clear,
unless it is confused with flinders, small pieces.

[Page 40, line 29] mudtipper with a hod A ‘mud-tipper’ would have been a ‘navvy’ – short for navigator, originally a man who worked on the canals with pick and shovel, and then applied to the men who built the railways. A ‘hod’ was (and still is) used for carrying bricks to the bricklayers.

[Page 40, line 32] three fingers In this context, quite a good measure of whisky – place a hand alongside the glass with the little finger on the table and pour to the height of three fingers – depending on the type of glass and the size of the fist; at least one-eighth of an Imperial Pint, or nearly 100 millilitres.

[J H McG]

©John McGivering 2005 All rights reserved