Winger Griffiths

A story of an old Roy Boy, William (Winger) Griffiths (April 5, 1879 – October 16, 1928). As the curtain closes on the Grade cricket season and rises for Australian rules football what better way than to honour the transition than to have a tale about a District (Premier Grade) cricketer and VFL (Victorian Football League) footballer. Transition is an incorrect term. Encroachment would be better. The corporate AFL (Australian Football League) begins earlier and earlier every year. In Winger’s day you could combine both pastimes as they were pastimes and there was a distinct separation of seasons. The corporate world has hijacked the very nature of the football code with their betting markets, merchandising and nonsense. It is no longer a pastime, but a high paying individual entertainment venture. In fact I had to make the decision of either pulling the boots on in the VFA (Victorian Football Association) or concentrate solely on District cricket back in 1980. I digress. I hear you exclaim, what does this have to do with playing the mouth harp?” Well! Not much!

Winger was quite handy on the instrument that fits in your waistcoat pocket. It was reported in the Fitzroy City Press, 18th April, 1902 that on a Saturday night concert for raising funds for the Alexandra Cricket Club several Fitzroy cricketers ventured to the shire hall and performed. Bert Kraetzer with his violin was the star of the show, and I quote directly, “Winger Griffiths with his mouth harmonica and comic songs also pleased the audience.” In a music program, following on from the 1902 40th Annual General Meeting of the Fitzroy Cricket Club, Winger performed a comic song, The Waiter. (Fitzroy City Press, 19th September, 1902)

The Fitzroy Cricket Ground has fond memories for this author. As a young lad I accompanied Dad to the cricket club in Brunswick Street, where he was a member. The impact and impression these Saturday arvos would have on this freckle faced kid were enormous. In fact it was after the days play that my world would spring into action. Alan (Froggy) Thomson bowling tennis balls to me at the ground edge, Don Martin picking me up over his head and Ray (Slug) Jordan cooking steaks on the barbecue (without cursing) in a portal connecting the world below. If I recall correctly, even then ‘Slug’ was offering his expert advice to rising juniors, ‘Don’t get your ambitions mixed up with your abilities’. In the bowels of the grandstand (pictured) you ventured into an unknown parallel universe, an upside down world. In all reality it was an elongated pub. Many lemon squashes were consumed by this youngster (too many) all shouted by the players. Dad also downed a few frothies. I’m positive this was the impetus for my passion and or obsession that later resulted in achieving the dream of playing District cricket firsts. I’ve done it again, off on a tangent reliving past glories (of sorts). I seem to be doing this more and more in my senior years.

Back to Winger. There is a tragic end to his tale, although in some respects, perhaps it may have been okay, as he was doing something he loved. The following article explains it all.

Winger played a total of seventeen games in the VFL, eight with Fitzroy (two goals) in 1903 and nine with South Melbourne the two years following. In 1911 he was a field umpire in a VFL game and from 1911 to 1913 he was a boundary umpire. He played a total of one hundred and forty three games of top level grade cricket-thirty one with Fitzroy, seventy five with Essendon and forty three with St.Kilda. He had a top score of ninety three not out with Fitzroy and it looks like he might have kept wickets like yours truly-as he is credited with a few stumpings. Who would have thought that there was another footballer-cricketer (and wicketkeeper) that played the ten hole tin can.

Ch SD

PS: This is what I believe the comic song performed by Winger may have been-The Waiter by John Cartwright Cross (1770 ca.-1809). If not, fo what! Thanks to Pat Missin for finding the lyrics.

Here is the complete lyrics. I think you had to be there to appreciate Winger’s rendition (the mouth organ probably was the key).

THE WAITER:

COMIC SONG.

SUNG BY MR. FAWCETT.

Compofed by Reeve.

I.

At the very beft of houfes, where the beft of people dine,

And the very belt of eatables they cater,

Give the very beft of fpirits, and decant the beft wine,

I attends as a very merry Waiter :

I a table-cloth can fpread,

Neat decant my White and Red,

Manage matters to a charm,

And, with napkin under arm,

can a fkin-flint, or jolly fellow tell,

Know whether they’ll come down,

Gold, a Tiffey, or a Crown ;

So I treats ’em, as I find ’em, ill or well ;

And when noify, roaring, drumming,

Tingling, gingling, I cries coming.

Spoke. Going in, ma’am ! coming up, Sir ! Damn the bells !

they’re all ringing at once—.

I’m a coming, coming, coming, coming, coming.

II.

In their very merry meetings, why I always likes to fhare;

A whole bottle’s fometimes broke, then I fnack it;

In that I’m quite at home, fo it travels you know where,

Sally Chambermaid and I flyly crack it ;

She a little fortune’s made,

Juft by making warm a bed;

So I thinks it not amifs,

Now and then to fnatch a kifs;

For you know I likes Sally very well :

So hob-nobbing as we chat,

Looking loving and all that,

In our ears they’re ever ringing fuch a peal ;

Miffus, maids, all bawling, drumming,

Tingling, gingling, I cries coming.

Spoke. John, Devil fome bifcuits, and take ’em up to the

Angel. Tom, you take care of No. 2,1 fhall take care

of No. 1. myfelf.—

Coming, &c.

III.

A Snipe there once was order’d, fuch an article we’d not,

Yet to difappoint a cuftomer unwilling;

A Plover was ferv’d up, the Gemman fwore no bill ‘t had got;

Says I, fwallow it, I’ll foon bring’ the bill in.

Thus I jokes and gayly talk,

While poor mailer jokes with chalk, And

And will, jingling glaffes, drink,

While I jingle in the chink,

Cod! he breaks, and I buy in, who can tell ;

Sally, Miffus then is made,

Up to every farvant’s trade ;

We are fartain fure, your Honors, to do well.

Brifk and bufy, no hum-drumming,

Tingling, gingling, I cries coming.

Spoke. James, take care of No. 4, and fee that Sam Celler-

man fends up prick’d bottles ; they’re a phabby fet, and

we may never fee them again. Mrs. Napkin phew my

Lord to the Star and Garter, and Lawyer Lattitat to the

Devil. He’s going there himself, Sir, he knows the way

very well.—

Coming, &c.

J C Cross was an actor at Covent Garden and the Haymarket in the West End theatre district of London and then part owned and managed the Royal Circus (later the Surrey Theatre). He wrote poetry, songs and theatrical pieces (some with a gothic charm).

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