1 (edited by Peatle Jville 2017-10-11 22:30:07)

Topic: Russian Jack

When I was a kid we had family friends who would tell me about Russian Jack and for some reason at one stage I thought I would love to live life like him. .He was the last person living the life of a  Tramp here in NZ who preferred to sleep outside.  I was only a boy  a passenger in a car  visiting the Wairarapa, on this day we saw Russian Jack walking along the side of the road. I remember as a kid thinking I have seen a piece of history and it felt exciting to me. My parents didnt get it but looking at him out of a passing car stayed in my mind.

'Russian Jack' was known throughout the lower North Island, his real name was  Barrett Crumen. He was born in Latvia, in 1878 and by the 1900s he was working as a seaman on small coasting ships in New Zealand.

He then took to labouring on the back country stations of Wairarapa. He was an immensely strong man who worked as a scrubcutter and shedhand at Awhea Station for many years in the period around World War I.
As the years moved on, so did Russian Jack, mostly through the roads of Manawatu and Wairarapa, but in the years after World War 2 also exploring much of the North Island.
He was originally very tall and strong, but as he aged, he seemed to be shrinking and his feet were giving him more and more trouble. In mid-1965, he was admitted to Pahiatua Hospital suffering from frostbitten feet. He was transferred to a geriatric ward, where he was asked why he had roamed the roads for so many years.
"Man oh man, I vos FREE! Free to have a beer, have a smoke, - happy what you can call all the time, you know. They was free days."
He died on September 19, 1968.
1989   Bob Lovell a  New Zealand folk singer wrote this song  below about Russian Jack . Whenever I hear it I see a picture in my mind of me as kid looking at Rusian Jack from the car. The video attached has some photos of Russian Jack.

Guitar capo 3rd fret, play these chord-shapes
C                                 Dm
Look down the road, and who do you see
                                            F                       C
An old man in ragged clothes, a tramp to you and me
Must be summer, 'cause he's back again
Russian Jack's a tramp: yeah, and that's his game.

He'll chop a little wood, for a meal and a cup of tea
And sleep in your barn, if it looks like rain
He don't like children, or so they say
When Russian Jack's around, you'd better stay away.
Em                                  F
Don't you go down to the river
Em                F
Better stay away
Em                                  F
Don't you go down to the river
                                      C   -   Dm - F - C
. . . Russian Jack's there today.
A white Russian immigrant, or so the story goes
Came here in the '20s, after revolution days
Ever since then, he's wandered dusty roads
His swag on his back, and his billy swinging free

They say he's got a sister, on the East Coast somewhere
Who he visits every Christmas, to drink a Russian beer
The last time I saw him, was nineteen sixty-two
On the side of the road, beneath a shady tree
Don't you go down to the river
You'd better stay away
Don't you go down to the river
. . . Russian Jack's there today.
Hear that he died, in an old people's home
His legs were so crippled, he could no longer roam
Sad ending for, a harmless old man
Who didn't seem to fit, any kind of social plan
Look down the road, and who do you see
An old man in ragged clothes, a tramp to you and me
Must be summer, 'cause he's back again
Russian Jack's a tramp: yeah, and that's his game.

Re: Russian Jack

A nicely-written song, Peatle, and a great back story behind it. I've always loved folk music, because it's all about ... well, folks! Musicians like Jim Croce, Harry Chapin, etc. wrote most of their songs about interesting or unusual people, and there's always something we can relate to in the song. You've done a crackerjack job with this one.

3 (edited by Peatle Jville 2017-10-13 22:52:02)

Re: Russian Jack

Tf I like songs and poems  about interesting people. .  I am also into songs that incorporate history such as this Australian  song called And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda which I will attach.
And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda is a song written by Scottish-born Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle in 1971. The song describes war as futile and gruesome, while criticising those who seek to glorify it. This is exemplified in the song by the account of a young Australian soldier who is maimed at the Battle of Gallipoli during the First World War. The song incorporates, at its conclusion, the melody and a few lines of lyrics of the 1895 song Waltzing Matilda by Australian poet Banjo Paterson. Many cover versions of the song have been performed and recorded. The song has been praised for its imagery, evoking the devastation at the Gallipoli Landings. The protagonist, who had travelled across rural Australia before the war, is emotionally devastated by the loss of his legs in battle. As the years pass he notes the death of other veterans, while the younger generation becomes apathetic to the veterans and their cause..    To ‘waltz Matilda’ is to travel around with a bushman's bundle of belongings while drifting  from place to place..