So where did C. J. Dennis write “The Moods of Ginger Mick”?

May 2nd, 2016 | C. J. Dennis, Significant dates in the life of C. J. Dennis, Sunnyside, Toolangi C. J. Dennis Poetry Festival

2016 marks the centenary of the publication in 1916 of “The Moods of Ginger Mick”, C. J. Dennis second most successful book. (His most successful was “The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke”, published in 1915, however “The Moods of Ginger Mick” was not far behind it.)

Ginger Mick was a minor character in “The Sentimental Bloke” – Bill’s best mate, and best man at his wedding to Doreen. However, he is elevated to principal character in the sequel where, after expressing some ambivalence about those involved in the war effort, he enlists, heads off to Egypt for training, and then on to Gallipoli. There he is killed in action after a brief period of feeling he has finally found his calling, and being promoted – to his great delight – to Lance Corporal. Indeed, this book had much to do with the shaping of the Anzac myth.

Most of the books for which C. J. Dennis became famous where written in or near Toolangi. (“The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke” was completed at “Sunnyside” in the Dandenong Ranges.) However, “The Moods of Ginger Mick” is an important exception. It was written after “The Bloke” (naturally enough), but largely completed prior to the Bloke’s publication. Dennis had run out of money, and decided to take a job in town. It was only after the enormous and completely unexpected success of the Bloke that he was eventually able to return to Toolangi.

So “The Moods of Ginger Mick” was written in Melbourne. But where?

Dennis moved in to a boarding house where his good mate David Low was already living. Low had illustrated the cover of his first book, “Backblock Ballads and Other Verse”, published by E. W. Cole in 1913. (Low was born in New Zealand. He created a very successful book based on characterisations of the then Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes. Later he moved to England, where he became world famous for his depictions of Adolf Hitler.)

In his autobiography, Low writes:

“…I lived as a fellow-lodger with Den for a space and finished my cartoons by night on his wash-stand while he read proofs aloud in bed.” (“Low’s Autobiography”, Michael Joseph, London 1956, page 78)

The address I have been given for this boarding house is 107 Burke Road, Camberwell.

However, there is no 107 Burke Road Camberwell. Google Maps places 107 Burke Road in East Malvern, near Central Park, though in reality there is no 107 Burke Road at all.

Yes, of course, the numbering could have changed since then. I have asked the Shire of Boroondara for assistance, and they have very kindly offered to do all they can.

In the meantime, does anybody else have any ideas?

4 responses to “So where did C. J. Dennis write “The Moods of Ginger Mick”?”

  1. Caroline Everett says:

    107 Burke Rd Camberwell is where the Epworth Rehabilitation Centre is now located I believe.

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