Mark Hayes

As Remembered By Ray Owen

Another well known and interesting character was old Mark Hayes. He lived for some time I think, in a tent in the bush. He was a sleeper and firewood cutter with lots of experiences throughout the State. He had worked at Mills down at Denmark and other places in the timber forest. I don’t know just when he came to Pickering Brook. I remember his name being mentioned one time, that he was interested in contesting the election against John Forrest in the very early days. And I am told that Mark, to keep in trim, used to address a jarrah tree or a gum tree and give a speech on his policies and whatnot. He had quite a big boomimg voice and it could be true because Mark was a very, very strong Labor man.

He got interested in the local dancing and very often, took on the job of Mc. And he didn’t like the jazz: he like the old, what we called the square dances. I just can’t think of the names of them at present. It wasn’t the American square dancing, it was the Lancers and the Royal Irish and things like that and he knew the various movements and called them out. Everyone could hear when old Mark spoke. But he didn’t like the jazz and once told a few of us boys, “It just reminds me of an old draught mare trying to shake a britching off her rump!” But he was quite strict in the dancing and called them to order if they got a little bit out of order. Mark was particularly good on the old Circular Waltz, what we used to call the Threepenny Bit dance. We could go round and round and round. We use to have vistors and friends up from the metropolitan area for the weekend and old Mark would pick his partner and go round and round until the girl was almost giddy and then he’d go in reverse for another circle around the hall and the poor girl had difficulty in keeping her feet when he stopped.

It was very interesting there because he used to have the barn dance where you danced with your partner and then as the music stopped or changed the beat, and they walked in circles: the men going in one direction and the ladies in the other. When the music stopped you grabbed the partner nearest you. There was usually one male surplus and he went off if he couldn’t find a partner, he had to retire and so the next time there’d be another shortage and this went on sometimes, until there was only one or two left and they’d be declared the winner of the dance.

But moving round with the different partners, some had barely reached their teens, some were good dancers, some were learners, some were thin and some were very stout. I remember on one occasion this woman, who was from Barton’s Mill and a well known mother and grandmother, she wasn’t very tall but she had plenty of weight and someone remarked she was about “three axe handles acroos the rear.” And I got her as a partner and went to swing her but she had the weight and she swung me! It was all in the fun of the game.

I remember one occasion, Mark Hayes used to get in and help with the washing up. They had a big tin dish and that would be filled with water for washing up and then rinsed. Mark used to walk to the side door of the hall where there was a small platform with steps leading down.

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