A Winter's Drive To Topsail (Richard Raftus, Esq)

Oh! Topsail's stages and flakes umbrageous,
Are situated in Conception Bay;
There folks go browsin' and some carousin',
From St. John's town on a summer day.
Tho' in winter sayson, for the same rayson,
In a double sleigh, with two or three,
Take my assertion, you'll have divarsion,
Before returning, as you will see.

But first on startin' you'll make a dart in
To a dacent house at Riverhead;
Your asofaygus, some ould Tom negus,
Slip down quick and jump in the sled.
Then with furs wrapped round you, I'll be bound you,
You'll snap your fingers at snow drift and squall;
As you lave the city, strike up some ditty,
Till you're snugly sated at Boggy Hall.

If from sucking dudeen or sigaroodeen
You're slightly husky in the passageway,
Good Misses Farrell will draw from a barrel
Some usqubaugh that's kum o'er the say.
When done with drinkin' you will be thinkin'
'Tis time you started upon the run;
And hear the rhymin' and merry chimin'
Of the sleigh-bells as away you're spun.

Some pleasant chaffin', uproarious laughin'
Lightens the way till you get to Dunn's;
Or if you prefer it, then away we skerrit
On t'other side to soft spoken Ann's;
There another taste of O T - the laiste of,
A drop of whiskey or brandy - mind,
Keep head-piece coolin' to share the foolin'
A game of Loo, or a dollar 'blind'.

If you get three aces, make no smilin' faces
Nor slip another from off your knee;
For such chatin' gainin', there's no manin'
Except with Grimshaws, or cute Chinee.
But faith! 'tis noonday and we must soon way
On the journey to the land of splits;
After more libations and inspirations,
We drop the picthers and haul on our mitts.

Then softly glidin' the double slide in,
No longer tarry, but to Daley's haste;
Where we will pop in, and take a drop in -
That well-known hostel for man and baste.
But there's no stayin' or long delayin'
Till we get to Squires' for a quiet lunch,
Then we will squat down and let a lot down
Of whatever feedin' we get to munch.

For our peryfayries, somewhat varies,
And Nature vacuums we know detests,
So sit round the table, and whate'er you're able
Stow away like "invited guests."
Now the lord that head is, of the Kennedies,
With the big boys of his governmint,
To our native town is a comin' down,
And is for sartin on a good time bint.

Now if you pull in the caplin scull in
A fry of fresh ones, he will surely get -
Cake-toutens, dough-boys, fresh codfish oh boys!
Sure a finer male he never eat.
Then some calibogus - mind a sly rogue is,
But for a wash down is much finer, say -
Than the best French wine, or that from the Rhine,
Johannesberg or yet Tokay.

But sure I'm wanderin' and phlanderin',
And must get back where we started from;
So lets fill our glasses to the Topsail lasses
And drink their healths ere we start for town.
But when we get there, we will all repair
To Atlantic Hotel or else Depot
And finish up with a nate hot sup,
For they're famous places as you all know.

Now good-bye gintils, get beyond the lintils
Of your various doors; don't stop out, fear
Of a white stone head in your green bed in
The General Protestant or Belvedere.

####.... Richard Raftus, Esq [1845-1879] ....####
From the Harbour Grace Standard & Conception Bay Advertiser, 13 September, 1879:
Richard Raftus, Esq, Barrister-at-Law, died in St John's on Sunday morning, September, 7, 1879, aged 34 years.

Printed on page 4, Vol. IV, Number 3, December, 1904 of the Newfoundland Quarterly , John J Evans, Printer and Proprietor who noted that these verses were written early in the 1870s by the late Mr Richard Raftus, BL, and published in the St John's Morning Chronicle (1862-1881). The local allusions caused a good deal of amusement at that date, but most of them are pointless to readers of the present day.

A variant was also published by James Murphy [1867-1931] on p.1 of his 1912 compilation Old Songs Of Newfoundland. Murphy also noted that the author of this song was the late Richard Raftus, B L, and added that Mr Raftus was a well known lawyer in his day and was a native of St John's. The drive to Topsail which he depicted with animation and true poetical genius, first appeared in the Morning Chronicle in 1879.

Footnote by Newfoundland Quarterly:
sigaroodeen - Celtic for cigarette.

From the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:
Calibogus - callibogus, calebogus, calabogus, callabogus; calli; drink popular in Newfoundland for more than 200 years made of spruce beer, rum or other liquor and molasses.
Caplin Scull - also ~ school, ~ schule, ~ shoal; migration of the caplin from the deep sea to inshore waters to spawn along the beaches.
Dudeen - short-stemmed tobacco pipe.
Flakes - platforms built on poles and spread with boughs for drying cod-fish on the foreshore.
Splits - cod-fish with head and guts removed and backbone sliced, open for salting and drying.
Stages - elevated platforms on the shore with working tables, sheds, etc, where fish are landed and processed for salting and drying, and fishing gear and supplies are stored; fishing stages.
Toutens - also toutan, toutin, touton, towtent; piece of bread dough fried in fat; bun made with flour, molasses and bits of pork.

From The Free Dictionary:
Dough-Boy - piece of bread dough that is rolled thin and fried in deep fat.

From Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
Negus - beverage of wine, hot water, sugar, lemon juice, and spices.
Umbrageous - affording shade; shady, filled with shade, spotted with shadows; shadowy.
Usguebaugh - whiskey, from the Irish: uisce beatha.

From Historic Card Games by David Parlett:
Loo - trivial and once disreputable trick-taking game for five or more players. It was equally popular as a gambling game, when it could get quite vicious, or as a mild domestic pastime, such as it appears in the novels of Jane Austen. Its twofold personality extends equally to its form, there being two closely related games of the same name, one being played with three cards and the other with five. Both reached England from France probably with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

From Wikipedia:
Grimshaw - device found in chess problems in which two black pieces arriving on a particular square mutually interfere with each other. It is named after the 19th-century problem composer Walter Grimshaw.
Old Tom - lightly sweetened Gin popular in 18th-century England. The name Old Tom Gin purportedly came from wooden plaques shaped like a black cat (an Old Tom) mounted on the outside wall of some pubs above a public walkway in the 1700s England. After a pedestrian deposited a penny in the cat's mouth, they would place their lips around a small tube between the cat's paws. From the tube would come a shot of Gin, poured there by the bartender inside the pub.

Additional notes by GEST:
Asofaygus - esophagus.
Atlantic Hotel - was located at 102 Water Street, St John's, opened in 1875 by J W Foran who is listed in the 1877 Rochfort's Business Directory as the hotel proprietor, confectioner and retailer of wine and spirits. The address is now a parking lot alongside Holloway Street.
Belvedere - Roman Catholic Cemetery, opened in St John's about 1810, and located on Bonaventure Ave, Empire Ave and Major Avenue.
Boggy Hall - geographic area in the West St John's District, including Topsail Road, Cornwall Avenue, Cockpit, Black Marsh and Mundy Pond Roads to the junction of the old railway track.
Dacent - decent.
Depot - W L Walsh was the proprietor of the Army And Navy Depot, a wine, spirits, tobacco and cigar store that was located at 194 Duckworth Street, coincidentally next door to Fred's Records in historic downtown St John's. John J Kearney [1854-1904] took over the Depot in 1882. Kearney died at the age of 50 at his residence, 119 Duckworth Street, after a lingering illness.
General Protestant - cemetery located on Waterford Bridge Road and Old Topsail Road, St John's.
Gintils - gentles; people of good birth or relatively high station.
Lintils - lintels; horizontal structural members, such as beams or stones, that span an opening, as between the uprights of doors or windows or between two columns or piers.
Male - meal.
O T - Old Tom.
Peryfayries - peripheries: outer limits or edges of an area or object.
Phlanderin' - philandering.
Picthers - pitchers.
Sated - seated.
Skerrit - skirt.


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