“Said Hanrahan” is a poem written by the Australian bush poet John O’Brien, the pen name of Roman Catholic priest Patrick Joseph Hartigan. The poem’s earliest known publication was in July 1919 in The Catholic Press, appearing in 1921 in the anthology Around the Boree Log and Other Verses.

The poem describes the recurrent natural cycle of droughts, floods and bushfires in rural Australia as seen by “Hanrahan”, a pessimistic man of Irish descent. “‘We’ll all be rooned’, said Hanrahan”—an adage extracted from the poem—has entered the Australian English lexicon.

The poem starts with the area in the grip of a drought, the worst since “the banks went bad”; a reference to the drought and banking crisis of the early 1890s.

“If we don’t get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

In time, the rains “drummed a homely tune” on “iron roof and window-pane”. The problem then changed from drought to flood. “Banker” refers to a watercourse filled from bank to bank, unusual in Australia where many watercourses are ephemeral or only intermittently full.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
“We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“If this rain doesn’t stop.”

“In God’s good time” the rain stopped and spring arrived with “harvest-hopes immense”. The “knee-deep” grass, while good for feeding livestock, brought to mind the risk of bushfire.

“There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
“Before the year is out.”

The key refrain in the poem is “We’ll all be rooned” (“rooned” is a transcription of an Irish Australian pronunciation of “ruined”) which has entered the Australian lexicon as a dismissive response to predictions of disasters or hard times, especially those out of the control of the speakers.



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