John Philip Bourke

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John Philip Bourke (5 August 1860 – 13 January 1914) was an Australian poet,

Bourke was born on the Peel River diggings, New South Wales. Mining was in his blood and at the age of 17 he sold a claim for £600. He then became a school teacher for 17 years and during this period occasionally contributed verse to The Bulletin. In 1894 he went to the recently discovered goldfields in Western Australia, prospected in various parts of the west, and at times made and lost a considerable amount of money. About the turn of the century Bourke took up journalism and was a regular contributor to the Kalgoorlie Sun. He was a writer of vigorous prose and verse which gave him a local reputation, but he was comparatively little known away from the gold-mining towns. He died at Boulder, Western Australia, on 13 January 1914. A selection from his verse, Off the Bluebush, edited by A. G. Stephens, was published in Sydney in 1915.

Bourke was a typical man of the goldfields era. Straightforward, kindly, spending his money freely when he had it, cheerfully looking forward to a new "rise" when he had none. Like E. G. Murphy he was a popular poet. In his own phrase they were "singers standing on the outer rim, who touch the fringe of poetry at times". Murphy wrote more and had the larger audience, but Bourke was the more musical and more often did succeed in touching the fringe of poetry. It would be unwise to rank their verse too high, but both have value as folk poets who became popular, largely because they sincerely expressed the spirit of their time.


  • Serle, Percival (1949). "Bourke, John Philip". Dictionary of Australian Biography. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. 

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