The Twenty Mile Walking Match (Johnny Burke)

Oh, I went to see the walking match
to see the duffers toe the scratch,
The most was ever in a batch
at a walking match before!
The street was crowded to excess,
some fifteen hundred more or less;
A handsome sight, I must confess,
on Terra Nova shore.

At half-past two they fell in line:
Phil Knowling, Steele and John Devine,
With walking breeches looking fine,
as they stepped out in style;
John Murphy, Martin and Renouf
(a hardy little bit of stuff)
To give the walkers quite enough
when on the Twenty Mile.

The starting signal - one, two, three,
from Tom McNeill, the referee,
As each pedestrian bends his knee,
and stepped it out in style;
Fitzgerald, Will Higgins and Ned Wall,
John Campbell in the ranks did fall,
While Kelly gained at Friendly Hall
while on the Twenty Mile.

And so they didn't separate
till well inside of Duder's Gate,
When Hugh McGrath used his pate
and made the pace in style;
Steve Pike, Bert Hayward and Bill Pynn,
then Hayward opened out to win,
And Stacey then he did begin
to win the Twenty Mile.

The pace it now was telling fast,
and one by one the walkers passed,
While some looked fresh and some looked ghast',
but still they walked in style;
But Tom Pottle and Mike Finn,
Jim Martin said, "I'm going to win,"
While Cofield said,
"I'm going to win the Champion Twenty Mile."

While some began to lag behind,
they found their heels began to rhind,
While wicked words were in their mind,
yet still did manfully toil;
But Wall and Finney and John King,
Fred Brien and Marshall took to wing,
And Williams with a careless swing
to win the Twenty Mile.

Now on the home stretch all were bent
with Carberry from Heart's Content,
Who, from the States, came down
intent to walk the course in style;
But Hayward showed what he could do
and proved the leader of the crew,
He came in first, the time did do,
and won the Twenty Mile.

####.... Johnny Burke [1851-1930] of St John's, NL, 1907 ....####
Published in Burke's Ballads, p.62, c.1960, compiled by John White and archived at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Libraries, Centre For Newfoundland Studies - Digitized Books collection.

See more songs by Johnny Burke

Event reported in the St John's Daily News on June 20, 1907: Bert Hayward wins Twenty Mile Walking Match.

From Princeton University Word Net:
Duffer - incompetent or clumsy person.

From The Phrase Finder:
Toe the scratch - to position one's toes next to a marked line in order to be ready to start a race, or some other undertaking. In the 19th century, we wouldn't have been limited to lines when it came to placing our feet, but would have had a choice of what to toe - a mark, scratch, crack or trig (a line or small trench). These were all then in use in 'toe the ...' phrases.

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:
Rhind - also rind; take the bark (skin) from the top of a tree (heel, ankle, etc.) and rhind down toward the bottom.
Terra Nova - northeast coast of North America and its adjacent islands, especially the large island situated at the entrance to the Gulf of St Lawrence; Newfoundland, Newland.

Miscellaneous Notes:
Friendly Hall was located on Portugal Cove Road near Gooseberry Lane on land granted to Alexander Dunn in 1773. In the early 19th-century Friendly Hall was established respectively by Captain Griffith Williams and Lieutenant Robert Pringle of the local garrison, Collector of Customs Peter McKie, and Scottish merchant Richard Reed. In 1906, Anastasia Mahon bequeathed the Friendly Hall lands and farm to her sons Michael and Richard Mahon, with the property known as Friendly Hall bequeathed to her four daughters, Mary Ann, Margaret, Elizabeth Skinner, and Bride.
Carpasian, the farm of Bishop Scallan, the third Roman Catholic bishop of Newfoundland, was subsequently owned by John Duder, Esq, and was adjacent to Friendly Hall


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