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29 October 2020:

Hi John,

Thank you very much for sending me the article, I am always on the lookout for local stories of our history. I certainly intend to use it but I will most likely change a few names and make some new ones up. There’s always a chance that their descendants are still living in the area and I might end up being tarred and feathered as well.


30 October 2020

Hi John,

I intended to write something based on the newspaper clipping ‘one day’ but I started to write a few things down and it got me in so I kept going. “Birds of a Feather” is the result, I attach a copy for your information. The story in the last verse does not appear in the clipping, it is totally my imagination but I wanted to finish with a smile.



Bill K.


1877.09.04 Grafton Argus:









The following is a poem written by local bush poet, Bill Kearns, based on the tar and feathering story: BIRDS OF A FEATHER.

   © Bill Kearns 2020.


A true story from an old newspaper clipping from the Grafton Argus dated 14th September 1877 about a local court case.  Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.


A long time ago, on the Clarence, two families worked on their block

The O’Rourke’s were good Irish Catholics, the McDonalds were good Scottish stock

Although they were not over friendly, there was no enmity to detect,

They were always polite to each other and each showed the other respect


Now Colin McDonald had three sturdy sons, each of them topped six foot high.

But his heart was stolen by his only daughter, young Jenny, the pride of his eye.

Young Michael O’Rourke from next-door, was a knockabout young Irish buck.

But then Cupid fired his arrows and Michael and Jenny were struck.


Now the families rejected this union, said McDonald, “I’d rather be dead.”

But Michael met Jenny in secret, and they vowed to each other to wed.

But fate has its own sense of justice and so it transpired one day,

Young Jenny McDonald, to her family’s horror was found in the family way.


When Michael next went to meet Jenny, he was met by her father instead.

Old McDonald roared at him, “You scoundrel, I’ll make you wish that you were dead.”

He grabbed the young man by the collar as he called for his sons to assist,

And while they held Michael defenceless, he pounded his face with his fist.


The old man then grabbed up a Tarpot containing a gallon of tar.

He up-ended the lot over poor Michael’s head, but he wasn’t finished by far.

For he gathered an armful of feathers and plastered them over the lad

Then he booted him off down the roadway, tarred and feathered, he looked really bad.


McDonald was hauled to the courthouse and was facing a charge of assault.

Michael told how he’d been tarred and feathered, McDonald said, “Wasn’t my fault.”

McDonald pleaded provocation; his daughter’s virginity lost.

The Magistrate heeded his reasons, fined him twenty shillings and costs


And when the dust finally settled and all the harsh words had been said,

In the shadow of McDonalds shotgun, young Michael and Jenny were wed.

But it was a wonderful union, with ten children the couple were blessed.

But each of the sons has a birthmark, like a feather upon their right breast.

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