“Only a Tramp” by Nora Toye

I have been given permission to reproduce a 500 word submission to the Auckland Star which was written by my maternal grandmother some eighty four years ago. This year marks the century of Nora Toye’s birth year of 1912 and so I think it is fitting to reprise this beautiful piece of writing on what would have been just weeks after her hundredth birthday. I have re-typed directly from the original newspaper clipping and kept in the originally pressed punctuation. So well done Nana and Happy Birthday!! Enjoy.

Nora Toye (1912-2004)

Auckland Star—2 June 1928



(Winning entry by Nora Toye, 44 Sussex Street, Grey Lynn, age 15.)

“Get off this farm this minute”  concluded Mr. Theodore Brown,  his red hair bristling all over as it did when he was angry.  “Get off this farm or—or—“ ;  words failed him and he shook his fist in impotent rage.

“Shure,  your lordship,  shure,”  returned Tim O’Brien in mock politeness (he was a humourist, was our friend the tramp).  “If I’d ‘a’ known that your excellency was having your beauty sleep—which you truly need—my humble self would never have dared to intrude.  Well,  cheerio,”  and with a deprecating wave of the hand Tim disappeared,  leaving the farmer to his wrath.

But as he continued his way along the dusty road a frown clouded his brow as he recalled to mind the preceding events.

“A dirty old tramp,”  “a worthless vagabond,”  the farmer had called him,  and,  though he had such epithets flung at him many a time before,  he had just begun to realise that his had been an almost wasted life,  and the thought rankled.

As he lounged in the shade of a large oak and consumed his scanty meal his mind again reverted to the scene.  “Yes,”  he thought whimsically,  “he was truly getting old;  why,  many of the others could beat him for a meal.  An old has-been—that’s what he was.”

Then Nature,  that wonderful mother,  calmed the mind of our Weary Willie,  and he lay,  thinking,  of what might have been.  He recalled with some amusement how his mother had taken him to a phrenologist,  who,  after a careful  scrutiny of his head,  had entreated his fond parent not to make a pork butcher or a chimney sweep of him,  as he was destined for greater things as Prime Minister of England.  But all that had fallen flat when one eventful day,  the visiting Bishop,  after regarding our Tim for a long time,  said in his most dignified manner:  “You’re one of us,  my deah boy;  you’re one of us,  I’m sure.”  He broke into a chuckle at the recollection.

Then suddenly he was rudely awakened from his daydreaming by the roar of a car,  and he glanced up,  his keen eye sweeping appraisingly over the magnificence of the limousine that was rapidly drawing near.

When the machine was but a few chains from him he perceived to his horror a tiny child toddling across the road in pursuit of a kitten.  The cry of terror’ was frozen on his lips;  in a few seconds he reached the child,  and flung it out of danger,  but—the car passed on and he lay there huddled in the dusty road.  There was grinding of brakes,  and the two men alighted from the car.  One bent over our fallen hero.  “Poor devil,”  he said.  “He was a plucked ‘un,  all right.  I wonder who—“

As if in answer to this query Tim’s eyelids flickered,  he looked up into the faces above him,  his lips moved:  “Only a tramp,”  he muttered—then his spirit fled.

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