Hedley Does A Runner.

Adam’s Apple’ Bagpipes. — The stirring air ‘Cock o’ the North’ rang through the police barracks in Melbourne last Saturday morning. Police clerks dropped their pens, and some shouted their disapproval of the music. One constable jumped from his desk declaring that he could not add up his figures while the screeching of the bagpipes was raging on the premises. But it was nothing more than a youngster’s wonderful powers of mimicry. Standing in the street like a dour Scotsman, and throwing back his head, he tapped his ‘Adam’s apple’ with his fingers, breathing heavily through his nose the while. Clearly and correctly came the inspiring air, and after he had sent the strains of the ‘Cock o’ the North’ through the barracks he piped out the jangling ‘Campbells Are Coming.’ The boy was Hedley Martin, 12 years of age. He boarded the steamer Nairana at Launceston the day before, with a bundle of papers under his arm, putties around his calves, and a mouth organ stuck inside of his putties, as a kilted Scottish Highlander carries his dirk, and while selling papers down in the cabins the ship pulled out, and made off before he could get on deck again. (The Richmond River Herald and Northern Districts Advertiser, Fri 17 June, 1921)

I initially thought Hedley was mimicking the bagpipes with the mouth organ, but on closer examination (and with another report of the incident below) he was just (still quite skilled obviously) using his mouth and vibrating his Adam’s apple to obtain the mimicry. It doesn’t, however diminish his tale. The other thought that struck me was that it read like Hedley intentionally found himself a passenger on the vessel and he was hopeful of a new existence in the great city of Melbourne.

“ I went down below to sell my papers.” he said. “A man bought one and gave me 2/. I went looking for change, but could not get it. I was a long while trying to get the change, and the boat had left the wharf without my noticing it. “I didn’t cry, but there were tears in my eyes because I was going away, from my mother and father and my four brothers. They gave me food and some blankets on the ship. I wasn’t seasick, but the blankets were pretty prickly. “Now I’m here I don’t want to go back. I didn’t know Melbourne was such a big place. I live in Launceston. Aw! That’s a slow, quiet place. No trams there like here. Aw! If you get my mother to agree I’ll stay here and work at anything. “I would not have been here if I could have helped it, ‘cos I did want to see the rest of the ‘serial at the pictures.” “What about your football team?” he was asked by one of his audience. “Aw!” he replied. “I don’t go in for football. I favour the pictures. I’m ‘sorry I didn’t see ’em last night.” He expressed decided preference for the cowboy films, and, drawing his mouth-organ from one of his putties he executed with many flourishes “Cock of the North.” By comparison the performance was not as good as that from the “Adam’s Apple.” The policeman liberally rewarded the boy, and Plainclothes Senior-Constable Haigh led him away to see some of the sights of the big city before placing him on the Nairama to go home to Launceston and his parents. (The Melbourne Herald, Saturday 11 June, 1921)

Bourke Street West Police Station – Senior Constable T H Haigh (1866 – 1928) was stationed there in 1921 (Building still exists today as the Royal Melbourne Hotel)

I delved further into Hedley’s background and discovered a somewhat troubled time on his return to the Apple Isle.

Hedley Adrian Martin was born to parents Charles and Ruby in 1910. He resided at 5 Princes Street, Launceston. It’s probably fair to say he was a bit of a lad. He had a kind disposition, but could he find trouble, or should I say trouble could find him! Hedley was the eldest of six children and he often looked after their needs for extended periods. His parents may have added another one to the litter after his sojourn to Melbourne. They weren’t Catholics, but good Salvationists.

Having experienced a free ride on a steamboat to the mainland in June of 1921, by December of that year he had found himself a ward of the state at the ‘State Farm and School for Boys’ in Doleraine. On the 16th and 17th of December he ventured on a crime spree stealing two pairs of braces and a pair of knickers from one shop, four packets of tobacco from another and then from a third, two pairs of sandals.

State Farm Doleraine

He absconded in May 1922 from the farm, led by an older boy (I don’t think Hedley would have had too many objections), and together they enjoyed a week of freedom. In both July of 1922 and March of 1923 he experienced probation time with his parents.

Hedley then, for a short period of time, was apprenticed to a local bootmaker. All was proceeding very nicely (thank you very much), until he decided there had to be a better life elsewhere. So he skid-addled on a ‘borrowed’ tredley (bicycle), peddling his little heart out for Hobart. By December of ’24 he would be back in the care of the State. His official records recommended that Hedley “requires considerate discipline and enlightenment to prevent inferior trend. Reasoning powers should be stimulated and interest in affairs sustained.”

Hedley flew the coup again in February of 1925 after being sent to fetch the cows. Don’t know if the cows came home, but Hedley didn’t. Later, on his capture, he professed to authorities that the reason for emancipation was to find employment in Launceston. The local constabulary had even placed a wanted advertisement in the daily newspaper describing the fugitive as aged fifteen, four foot eleven with fair complexion, light blue eyes and light brown hair.

In June of 1925 his parents requested that their eldest return home to care for the young ’uns as his father was out of work. This was subsequently granted. In January of 1926 he was an apprentice jockey, indentured to trainer W J Southerwood, however this would be short lived – he probably had a run in with the Stewards (or his boss, or both). By March he was officially discharged from the boys home back into the safe keeping of his parents.

On retrospect, it now gives one the impression that young Hedley’s trip to Melbourne may have been no accident and was indeed a cry for help, for his lot at home might not have been a happy one.

Hedley did survive fifty seven years on this planet and had at least two marriages and several kids. He spent some time on the mainland without any authorities intervening. I don’t know if his harmonica playing or bag pipe improvisation reached any great heights, but he certainly had an eventful boyhood.

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