The Likes o’ Us

Notes on the text

By David Page and Roger Ayers. The page and line numbers below refer to the Authorised Edition of Abaft the Funnel published by Doubleday and Page, New York, in 1909.

[Page 101, line 1] soor pig or swine, used as a term of abuse. In “In the Matter of a Private” (Soldiers Three), one soldier (Losson) has trained a parrot to call out ‘Simmons, ye so-oor’ as an insult whenever he sees Simmons.

[Page 101, line 6] smitcher not identified, but from the context is thought to be another term of (usually playful) abuse like ‘blighter’ or ‘scamp’.

[Page 101, line 12] khud a precipitous hillside (Hobson-Jobson).

[Page 101, line 15] Mountain Battery A foot artillery unit of six guns where the guns, ammunition, stores and baggage were all carried on mules, capable of operating in mountainous country.

In 1888 the gun used was the 2.5-inch steel jointed gun, commonly known as the ‘Screw-gun’, since the breech and barrel were carried in two pieces that had to be screwed together before mounting on the carriage. It was a rifled muzzle-loader firing explosive shells of about 7½ lbs weight to a maximum range of 4000 yards.

Each gun and its first line ammunition was carried in parts on six mules with a relief team of another six. In India, a Royal Artillery Mountain Battery had six guns, 219 mules and an establishment of 174 British all ranks with an additional 94 Indian muleteers who led the relief and baggage mules. There were similar units in the Indian Army with British officers and a few British other ranks. [R.C.A.]. Also see the notes by Roger Ayers on the poem “Screw-Guns” in Barrack-Room Ballads.

[Page 101, line 25] court-martial a military trial, in this case a mock version.

[Page 102, line 7] scrofulous having tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in the neck (also called ‘King’s-Evil’). Kipling also refers to ‘scrofulous babes’ in “The Record of Badalia Herodsfoot” (Many Inventions). Tuberculosis, or ‘consumption’ as it was called, was common among the poorer classes in 19th century Britain, particularly in towns and cities.

[Page 102, line 20] clinks jails or gaols.

[Page 103, line 6] Choop! Be silent or still!

[Page 103, line 11] Line man More correctly linesman, no capital L. A soldier in a regiment of the Infantry of the Line, i.e., any infantry regiment other than the Foot Guards. [R.C.A.]

[Page 103, line 16] Deelally (Deolali) a military depôt near Bombay, with, amongst other facilities, a lunatic asylum – hence the soldiers’ slang ‘doolally’ for those confined there; it may, however, also be derived from diwana – mad. (Plain Tales from the Raj ed. Charles Allen. Futura/Deutsch 1975).

[Page 103, line 18] latherin’ leathering – a beating with a leather belt.

[Pages 103 & 104, lines 25 & 1] Company fowling-piece a gun used for shooting wildfowl that was owned by the Company (sub-division of a Regiment) in common, rather than by an individual. As the story progresses, it is stated that Private Shacklock is not currently assigned to a Company (Page 105 line 7), and since the Royal Artillery had ceased using the title ‘Company’ at this time, it is not clear from where the fowling-piece would have come. [R.C.A.]

[Page 104, line 6] Pathan a member of a Pashto-speaking people inhabiting what is now north-west Pakistan and south-east Afghanistan.

There are many references to the ‘pathans’ or ‘paythans’ in Kipling’s stories, with “The Drums of the Fore and Aft” (Wee Willie Winkie) giving a very clear insight into what they meant to the Victorian soldier in India.

[Page 104, line 7] strook it hit it when he fired at it.

[Page 104, line 8] I saw the bark fly the bark from a tree instead of the bird at which he had aimed.

[Page 104, line 9] pop-guns Shacklock is making a derogatory remark about the guns of the Mountain Battery. Pop-guns fired pellets using compressed air (air-guns), or were toy guns that fired a cork.

[Page 104, line 15] brings up the gun raises the gun to aim at Barnabas.

[Page 104, line 16] looses off fires the gun.

[Page 104, line 16] I stretches ’im I knocked him down.

[Page 105, line 7] a conv’lessint draft a group of convalescent soldiers who had not been reassigned to a Company.

[Page 105, line 15] mill a man fight a man.

[Page 107, line 15] white scars of scrofula tuberculosis of the lymph nodes in the neck. (See the note to Page 102 line 7 above).

[Page 107, lines 23 & 24] Stubbs . . . Lancy . . . Duggard One is invited to imagine that these were soldiers in India who had murdered comrades in the army, that all of them had suffered from scrofula, and that all three had been hanged.

[Page 110, line 11] lushy drunk.


©David Page and Roger Ayers 2006 All rights reserved