The Absent-Minded Beggar by JJ Virgo

The Absent-Minded Beggar by JJ Virgo
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‘The Absent Minded Beggar’ is a patriotic poem written by Rudyard Kipling in 1899 in order to raise money for soldiers fighting in the Second Boer War.

Sir Arthur Sullivan set the poem to music. The Absent Minded Beggar Relief Fund, or Transvaal Patriotic Fund, managed to raise about £250,000 for soldiers and their families – including by selling the poem and sheet music, and through royalties from performances of the song.

John J Virgo, evangelist and secretary of the YMCA in Adelaide, performed ’The Absent Minded Beggar’ on at least 3 occasions: at the Adelaide Show on 29 February 1900 and at Grand Military and Patriotic concerts on 27 January 1900 and 4 February 1900.

This recording was made at the music store Reeves and Co. in Adelaide. We presume that JJ Virgo recorded the song onto cylinder so it could be sold to make money for the fund and it is possible that he made multiple copies on cylinder to sell.

This cylinder was part of a collection of wax cylinder recordings made, or collected by, Thomas James Mitchell, the majority of which are stored at the State Library of South Australia.

Thomas James Mitchell was born in London 1821 and arrived in Adelaide in 1839. He worked at the Bank of Australia for 47 years until 1886, including as a branch manager for nearly 20 years. He was a loyal member of the Methodist Church, working as a superintendent of various Sunday schools and as trustee of many church properties.

Cover image: The Absent-Minded Beggar (Melbourne: Allan & Co., c1899);; courtesy National Library of Australia.