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8. Quong Tart.

Things Humorous from Him and about Him.

Quong Tart was a happy man. He was one of those highly favoured individuals upon whom the sun of gladness seemed not to set. It mattered not where he might be—feasting the poor, speaking at a social gathering, or plunging into business—he, in all circumstances maintained a happy state of unruffled evenness. Men may come and men may go, but Mr. Tart's happiness seemed to flow on forever. He was a ready-witted, mirth-provoking companion, and had ingrained in his Anglicised Chinese composition a dash of the philosophical, which tended to make him an agreeable and valuable auxiliary to any society. Sparkling with fun, brimful of humour, Quong Tart created amusement wherever he went. His speeches on special occasions, his renderings of songs of all nationalities were always calculated to put people in a very happy frame of mind. Those who knew the little man, five feet five inches in height, will remember his irresistible smile and genius for seeing a joke and making one.

On one occasion, Lord Hampden was at the League Sports. His Excellency started the Ten Miles Scratch Race. Quong was the usual operator of the pistol for the League. In handing the weapon to his Excellency, he said: “You know, they would much rather see you start the race than me.” “How is that?” queried Lord Hampden, with a smile. “Because,” said Mr. Tart, with a very broad grin, “you're a big gun and I am only a little one.”

At a banquet held in Sydney somebody pressed him to take more fizz, but as the amber fluid had been round more than once, the Mandarin refused, saying: “No, thanks. If I took more of that stuff, I shouldn't be a tart, but a rolypoly.”

Mr. Hawthorne, ex-Member for Leichhardt, writes: “As intimate friend of Mr. Tart's and companion on many of his journeys, I was specially delighted with his ready wit. Out for a picnic he was always the life of the party, keeping it almost in a state of perpetual merriment. At special gatherings his speeches were unapproachable for the humour they displayed and the applause they always evoked. It was my privilege to be present with him at the opening of a Church Bazaar in Merewether on one occasion. During the evening one of the ladies at the stalls was boasting of the fowls and the eggs of the district. She had large eggs, eggs in any

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quantity, and double-yolked eggs. When Tart got up to speak he said: ‘You good people pride yourselves on your goods, and one lady says she has the best eggs in the world in her stall, big eggs, double-yolked eggs, and that nothing can approach the eggs the hens of her district lay, but I tell you that's simply nothing. Here's Mr. Hawthorne, M.P. I was with him at Leichhardt last week, and his good wife—why, I saw her lay a foundation stone two ton weight!’”

On one occasion he was invited by Sir Wm. Lyne to accompany him and a number of other prominent citizens, including a good sprinkling of Members of Parliament to an excursion in the Government steamer, “Captain Cook,” to Byron Bay for the purpose of turning the first sod of the Casino to Lismore railway, and as he was not a good sailor some friends advised him to take a patent medicine to prevent sea-sickness. This he did, with the result for the whole of the journey he was huddled up on the deck of the steamer a most pitiable object. In addressing a public meeting afterwards in Lismore, he caused roars of laughter in relating the above circumstances, which he did in his own peculiar manner, and wound up a humorous speech by advising his hearers on no account to try and stop sea-sickness by any artificial means, or they would find out some day what he nearly found out, that the undertaker's services would be required at the first port of call.

At a tea-meeting at Ashfield after the Rev. Cakebread had spoken, Mr. Tart was asked to say a few words. “Friends,” he began, “you have no taste for good things; you eat this cake and that cake until you're full; but the real Cakebread and the genuine Tart you leave untouched.”

Speaking at the League of Wheelmen Meeting on one occasion he said: “What the Government wants is co'litions; what the bicycler wants is to keep off co'lisions.”

In the singing of Scotch songs he delighted great audiences.

“At one time,” says a writer, “I went to the Patti Concert with a resident of Randwick and her little girl. Among her many successes the ‘diva’ made a more than common one in ‘Comin’ Thro' the Rye,“ the business she introduced of nodding her head being particularly pretty and most effective. As we drove home, my friend said, ‘Didn't Patti sing charmingly? Much better than she did at Monte Carlo. And wasn't it pretty in “Comin’ Thro' the Rye” to see her nod her head? So cheeky.' Then up spake the little girl, ‘O, mother, you should have heard Quong Tart sing it. I did, and he nodded his head too, like this, and said, “Comin’ Thro' Randwick,” ' at which the mother and I leaned back in the cab and laughed till we cried. ‘He did,’ said Nada, gravely. ‘We went to the Asylum.’ ‘Before or after,’ said I. ‘Why, before,’ said Nada, ‘it was at the entertainment.’”

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No Highland Gathering was complete without him, and Scotchmen claimed him as one of their own kith and kin. The following article in a daily newspaper of the time in which the writer seeks to make him out a brawny Scot is highly amusing:–

“Jock Maclardy” kens for a fac that Mr. Quong Tart is a Scotchman by kith and kin, on his faether's side at ony rate. He supposes his first forefather that went to China, may be after Culloden, was a M‘Pherson or ane o' the ither clans, and as the Chinamen could no' pronounce his name they tried to call him Tartan aefter the kilt and plaid he wore. As they couldna manage the whole word Tartan, however, they cauld him by the first syllable “Tart” and sae the name has come doon ever since. Jock thinks he should now take his full name, and call himself Mr. Quong Tartan, as it ought to be.

He himself always claimed to be Scotch in instinct and sympathy, and delighted to be referred to as Mac Tart. He amused thousands during his life by his rendering of Scotch songs, always on the strict Q. T. as he would jocularly remark.

Coming back from a short visit to Canton, the moment he struck the soil at Circular Quay, he stamped and said: “Wahoo! My foot is on ma native heath once mo' and ma name's Quong Tart Mah Graigor, O!”

Perhaps his last public appearance was at a suburban Church Concert, where the renowned MacTart was programmed to sing two Scotch songs. At the first essay, he solemnly announced: “Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentleman, the gentleman who engaged me for this concert is not present. I must, therefore, ask for my fee before I sing or a guarantee that it will be paid before I leave. I never sing under fifty guineas.” It took the audience a few seconds before they saw the twinkle in Quong's eye, and then they roared. They rewarded him by encoring each song until he was tired.

A Bega man tells a story against himself relative to Quong Tart. A good many years ago he held a Government position and one day Quong Tart called on him to transact some business, tendering his cheque, which he refused to take. Quong remonstrated with him, and the official used some very forcible language in reply. “All right,” said Quong; “you will hear more about this.” He did, and was fined two pounds at the next Police Court sitting.

The following story, published in the “Tumut Courier” of November 6th, 1887, humorously describes the position taken up by a man who “drew the colour line”:–

“Our worthy citizen, Mr. Quong Tart, has had rather a peculiar experience of late. A few days ago there came a cable from England that our Gracious Queen desired to thank ‘Sir’ Tart (he ought to be a knight now) for the Jubilee Congratulatory Address forwarded by him from the Chinese residents of Sydney, and this so delighted the Annie Laurie

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warbler that he went round looking as pleased as a peacock with two tails. A day or two after this saw a different scene, however, for the Mayor of Tumut ‘gif a barty’ and ‘Sir’ Tart, being in town, was duly invited. A telegram from the seat of war next day informed the world that all had not gone as happily as the circumstances of the case demanded, for we read that ‘Mr. Q. Tart was an invited guest at the Mayor's Ball, but a simple fool of some property here refused the Mayor's invitation, and went so far as to restrain his wife from attending simply because Q.T. was present.’ Mr. Q.T. may be good enough for the Queen of England to communicate with, but it would seem he is not quite good enough for the elite of Tumut. China has not yet declared war against Tumut over the above incident, but relations between the two great powers are pretty considerably strained.”

“Quong Tart in Bathurst.—Some of the ladies said he was too sweet for anything—a sweet Tart, in fact. Which reminds me that when Quong Tart first started business in the Royal Arcade, King Street, a lady stepped into his refreshment rooms and asked the proprietor himself for ‘a cup of tea and a quong tart.’ He corrected her and for once forgot to smile.”

“Mr. Quong Tart never terms a man ‘a bad egg,’ as that is libellous. He says he is an egg that has been laid a long time.”

“The inscrutable Quong Tart, who is a great Mandarin, says China is only a big boy yet, ignorant of her strength, but when she finds it, she will shoot straight from the shoulder, and knock her enemies into a cocked hat.”

“Quong Tart, as is his custom, has been lavishing his hospitality on Commandant and Mrs. Booth. The Commandant thought Quong would make a splendid organising officer for the Chinese Salvation Army, and Mrs. Booth said that for her part she thought Quong would ‘look beautiful in a red jersey,’ and she longed to ‘decorate him with one.’”

Quong Tart always gave of his best, but the best was not always appreciated, as the following amusing incident shows:–

“The young gentlemen attached to a certain Governor's retinue were tendering a complimentary entertainment to the ladies, so they engaged Quong Tart to do the catering to ensure the thing being done in style. The genial Quong, not wishing to trifle with his reputation, brewed the beverage that cheers from choicest ‘Bud’ something or other that cost 7/6 per pound. When tea came on, the guests sipped gingerly, and then began to look dubious, and finally their faces assumed a betrayed aspect. After a little muttering and an exchange of opinions, one of the committee of management went to Quong Tart and said: ‘Look here, old chap, what the dickens do you mean by giving us slop water for tea? Be good enough to have the damned stuff removed, and have

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something drinkable substituted.’ More in sorrow than in anger, Quong ordered his staff to use some of the ‘one and threepenny” tea. This was accordingly done, and the Government House ‘Connoisseurs’ pronounced it ‘excellent, old chappie.’”

The same sunny, cheerful countenance he wore right up to the last, and to him the lines of Kendall may well be applied—

His mind was like a summer sky,
He lived a life of beauty.

To lift his brothers' thoughts above
This earth, he used to labour;
His heart was luminous with love,
He didn't wound his neighbour.

Short Story.

“Buried Alive.”

A Bulgo Tunnel Agony!

Written by Quong Tart.

Illawarra is a beautiful place, but it has to be reached and left—on the Sydney side—through tunnels. Well, on Wednesday afternoon last, the 22nd of this month, No. 1 Shift of the Tramway Association people had a picnic, and, of course, they went to the “Garden of New South Wales,” which somebody said once, and everybody says now, is Illawarra. Stanwell Park was picked as the centre of attraction for the day, and to that spot about 600 or 700 men, women and children made their way in a long train provided for the purpose. Several invited guests were among the party, including your humble servant, who tells this story.

Off we went in grand glee from Sydney, and, passing the National Park, popped through tunnel after tunnel like hide-and-go-seek. The long Bulgo tunnel, which was the last, but not the least, seemed to give some idea of what an Illawarra coal-mine must be like, except that we could not see any black diamonds about. When the train shot out of the tunnel, the view was beautiful past description. There seemed to be sea and shore and islands and blue sky and many other lovely features enough to occupy the pencils of all the artists this colony can produce for the next thousand years.

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The picnic was a grand affair, as all the tramway picnics are. Everybody enjoyed themselves, husbands and wives (real and intended), children, visitors and all. But it is not the picnic I intended to tell about, but one little experience never to be forgotten by those who had a taste of it.

Our train, of twelve or thirteen carriages, started on the return journey about a quarter past six o'clock in the evening, intending to cross the down Wollongong train at Sutherland. But, as said by the Scotch philosopher, “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft aglee;” and so it was with us. We all got into the train, and started cheering and singing and waving hats and handkerchiefs, as if the iron horse were going to fly to Sydney, instead of running along the rails in the usual way. By slow degrees we disappeared into the Bulgo tunnel, and very soon we found that our engine had an up-hill job of it. It seemed as if some earthquake or giant had lifted the other end of the tunnel since we had gone through it the other way. And not only that, but it looked as if, at the same time, it had been stretched, like a piece of indiarubber, to many times its ordinary length, which, according to the contractors' measure, I am told, was a mile all but fifty yards. Slower and slower moved the train, and darker and darker grew the tunnel. Even with all the windows shut, the carriages got full of smoke and steam. The engine snorted, and coughed, and puffed, and barked, and sneezed, as if it had an attack of spasms and cholera and whooping cough and la grippe all in one, with no doctor within fifty miles of the spot. When, with the smoke and steam and grit in the carriages, everybody had to sneeze too, as if they had got into a pepper storm in the dark. There we were, as if we were to be buried alive. Darkness all around us like the grave, and the engine playing the “Dead March” for our funeral to the slowest of dead march time. We could just tell the train was moving forward, and that was all. But, horror of horrors! it came to a standstill at last, without the end of the tunnel being reached, though we thought in our agony we had gone far enough to reach George's River. The engine seemed to be giving its dying gasps, with a quivering sensation that sent a death-like feeling through all the train. Children cried and screamed as well as they could in the smoky darkness; women swooned and fainted, and in every way it looked as if the whole lot of picnickers were going to be stifled and smoked into bacon, to say the least. But just when it appeared as if it were all over with us, our good engine-driver proved himself the right man in the right place. When he found he could not go forward, he made up his mind to go back, and backward he sent the whole train at express speed. In less time than it takes to tell it, the train backed out of the south end of the tunnel again, which seemed life from the dead to everybody. We then got water for the fainted ladies, and got them round by degrees, and soon all were breathing freely once more.

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The train was next divided into two parts, and off the engine started with the first lot of carriages, which it reached Otford with all right. Leaving that lot on the double line at Otford, it went back for the second half. And it is said that the last shall be first; so it was the case there, for the last part of the train taken through the tunnel became the first, as we made the final start from Otford for Sydney, which we reached an hour late, but saying to ourselves, under the circumstances, “Better late than never.”

Instead of us crossing the Wollongong train at Sutherland, that train had to wait for us first at Loftus and then at Sutherland a full hour. Of course, we were “blessed” by the people in the delayed train for keeping them waiting, but if they knew the fix we were in, and how much better off than us they were, they would have pitied us instead. But much better to be blamed innocently than to deserve blame, about a tunnel adventure or anything else.

Sydney, October 27th, 1890.