Drops of Brandy

From a Police Report in the Sydney Herald, 3rd of January 1833

TUESDAY. – Ann Painter was placed at the bar on the following charge, brought against her by her lord and master:- Having retired to bed at an early hour, John the husband was aroused at about two in the morning by a noise, and to his no small astonishment observed his spouse staggering in at the front door.

“Well, Madam,” said John, “and what the dickens have you been at, ain’t you a pretty baggage.” Ann looked unutterable things, but coolly replied, “you’ll see, Sir,” with that she handled the fire shovel secundum artem, and commenced the tune of “drops o’ brandy” upon the unfortunate John, who leaped from the bed, and commenced capering with astounding vigour. Ann laid on firmly, singing as John ran over all the notes in the gamut,

“I’ll hurry ye, I’ll scurry ye, it is my heart’s delight,
To bang you with the fire shovel round the room at night.”

John becoming frantic at the scientific application of the flat part of the instrument to his outward man, yelled piteously. A constable passing introduced himself to ascertain the cause, and John having exhibited to him the effect, the virago was secured, and locked up. The Bench sent her to tame, by a residence at Gordon’s coercive school for six months.

From a Police Report in the Sydney Herald, 30th of May 1831

Sydney Smith, for being riotous, drunk, &c., and dancing in the street to the tune of “Drops o’ Brandy,” which he himself played on a mouth organ, had to cash up five bob, and was warned in future to hide his musical talents under a bushel.

From a Police Report in the Sydney Herald, 24th of March 1832

Anne Kirk, who nover frequents any Kirk, unless it contains a chimney, was accused of drenching her intestines to the tune of “drops o’ brandy,” till she was in doubt whether it was this world or the next that she inhabited.

“La! yer honor, I was only keeping up Shelah’s Day, exclaimed Anne.

“Then keep it up a month longer at the factory,” responded his worship, and she was handed off accordingly.

(This event occured on a Sunday, hence the reference to church)


Gordon’s coercive school is a reference to the Female Factory in Parramatta, headed by Mrs. Gordon. It was common for more severe crimes perpetrated by females to be punished by being sent there, although Ann Painter’s sentence is longer than many.

Shelah’s Day is the day after Saint Patrick’s day, which was often used as an excuse to continue the Saint Patrick’s day festivities.

Drops of Brandy is an old tune still played today. Like many reports of singing at the time, it is unclear whether they were actually sung during misdemeanours or whether it was a literary device to indicate drunkenness or even the reporters poking fun at the miscreants.


Police Incidents. (1831, May 30). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12843096

Police Report. (1832, March 24). The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser (NSW : 1803 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article2205694

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1833, January 3). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved September 26, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article12846036

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