I’m almost beyond joking about the dreadful Coronavirus, but this image did make me smile, albeit a very wry smile. The following piece will explain why.


Editor Des Plays the Harmonica

After watching too many episodes of  Australia’s  Got Talent,  my associate Editor Des  decided   he wanted to become a famous musician. He desperately wanted to play a keyboard instrument, but let’s face it, he just doesn’t have finger dexterity.  After a lot of thought and some tears on Des’s part I decided a mouth organ would  be the only  option.  It took me forever to find something suitable, but I finally  came across a little German Empress harmonica.  At the moment he can squeak out one vaguely recognizable verse of On Top of Old Smokey.


It is doubtful whether Des will ever perform  in public, unlike myself… that’s  if playing the button accordion  in front of   my West Ulverstone  Primary School classmates can be considered ‘public’.

West Ulverstone Primary Schhol
West Ulverstone Primary School, scene of my shame. See those  first windows on the right hand wing? It happened in there.
Instrument of shame.
The accordion; instrument of shame.

For the entire year of  grade six  I began the school day by butchering  the  already depressing dirge;  Awake Thy Soul.    I have no musical talent whatsoever, but the headmaster  Mr MacLaine  asked if I’d take over where my sister  left off the year before. Robbie had  performed the  same song,  perhaps marginally more proficiently than me .  Why we were given this dubious privilege? I have a nasty feeling it was because our father was active in the Parents and Friends Association.  As a farmer, he had helped out when the school grew  a fundraising crop of beans. And he had provided  the posts for some new playground equipment.

The accordion was inherited from our more musical  older brother Ken, who had helpfully scratched  numbers on the melody keys  for us to follow.  To me at least, the bass keys  remained  a complete mystery.  I saw a photo of Ken recently teaching his granddaughter how to play. Oh dear, I’m not sure that’s sensible Kenny. The accordion has been the butt of jokes for generations.


Now there was a boy in my class called  Brian; an unfortunate, friendless  child  from  the wrong side of  the tracks. Brian wore glasses with a  patch  over the lens  due to   a lazy eye. He was hopeless at sport and  struggled  with  his schoolwork.   However,  one day  he  brought his  accordion to school and damn me if his fingers didn’t fly over those  buttons (both melody and bass)  like a maestro.  But was he asked to play the morning hymn?  No!  It was the first time I was conscious of unfairness, mixed with abject shame!  However, unwilling to give up my starring role, I said nothing.   Yes,  a poor excuse, but previous to my  musical gig I’d had to bask in the reflected glory of my brother Laurie.  Two years earlier he had been awarded  a plastic pencil sharpener in the shape of a desk calendar. It was for  ‘Best On the Back-line’  in  Australian Rules football.

Towards the end of the year  I was asked  if I could play Christmas carols and I foolishly  lied and  said yes. For the next few weeks I droned out Silent Night and a mistake riddled: Oh Come All Ye Faithful.   Oh my hat!  Poor class…poor Brian.

To add to my shame,  Mr MacLaine  wrote the following  comment on my report card:  ‘Pauline has done a wonderful job this year playing the morning hymn.’  Oh well,  the beans had done well and Dad’s posts were successfully holding up the monkey bars!

 I have no memory of Kevin in high school; he must have been as  ‘invisible’ as I was myself.  I can only  hope he  blossomed in later life.   Brian, wherever you are, I apologize!

My cousin Alan later became headmaster of the West Ulverstone Primary School. I wonder if he ever found any record of my humiliation?  I’m too embarrassed to ask.  I imagine a  yellowed list of morning hymn musicians that included;

1962 PAULINE ALLEN – Button Accordian (Truly  awful)

I saw a most alarming family photo recently. My brother Ken teaching his little granddaughter to play that same, wretched accordion. Goof grief! She has such a determined expression……probably playing, Awake Thy Soul.

Teaching the button accordian
Soon you will be good enough to play a song at kindergarten.

Note from Des –  “Yes, well I was asked to play The First Noel at the Blackheath Primary School nativity play, but unlike some people I know my limitations!

Oh, thanks Des…NOT!    Regretfully, shame and embarrassment  followed me into HIGH SCHOOL.


  1. wonderful post Pauline. Reminds me of how I play my Yamaha keyboard

    • Thanks Margarett, how very kind you are!

      I also had a concertina when I was in my twenties, which I took along on a canal boat trip with five friends. It’s a wonder they didn’t throw it in one of the locks! For some reason I still imagined I had some musical ability, which was tragically untrue.
      And yet….I wonder whether bagpipes might be my forte?

  2. Oh, what a lovely story – and how kind of you to include Kevin into your story. I think we can all look back on our childhood and see the one quiet soul who was always on the outskirts, never included. I was told at the grand age of 4 that I was going to be learning to play the piano. Forced to take lessons for almost 12 years, without any true natural ability. If I hadn’t been able to read music I would not have been able to play at all. When I finally plucked up the courage to inform my parents at age almost 16 that I didn’t want to take lessons any more, they sighed and said nothing. I came home from school two days later to find that the piano had been sold. !! 20 years later I purchased a Roland electric piano but my family soon tired of me playing Fur Elise, Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, and The Entertainer. (The only pieces I could master.) Soon the electric piano went on to another owner and hopefully was given more of a variety of music to play. 🙂 I do envy those like Jackie and her sons, who have natural talent. I hope Editor Des does well with his harmonica.

    • Pauline

      Editor Des has given up the harmonica Susan, like your family we got fed up with hearing On Top of old Smokey. I’ve always thought it would be wonderful to be able to sit at a piano and play by ear..I would thump out old Scottish songs. Was turned off though when our music teacher at school told me to go and pick out middle C. I had no idea where it was. She was very annoyed…I probably hadn’t been listening. Another day she told us to stop paying the recorder when she raised her hand, but a little demon in me played an extra note. She sent me outside. I’m sorry Mrs Oughton.

  3. Pauline, you had me chuckling away here. A couple of my late Irish grand aunts played the accordion & as children we were enthralled.
    I’m sure you are selling yourself short but I hope life has been good to the legend that is Kevin 🙂 x

    • Pauline

      Believe me Jackie, I was as bad as I said I was! My mother grew up on a farm in Tasmania and they had an Irish farmhand called Ted O’Sullivan. He used to play the accordion on the back verandah and sing Irish songs to the family. Mum’s favourite was The Mountains of Mourne. He also used to give all the kids sweets…. and tobacco! I must Google Kevin and see if he prospered.

  4. I had been hoping for a recording attached but I remain disappointed. Perhaps I could find Kevin and ask him to play for me.

    • Pauline

      I tried to trace him via social media so I could apologize Marcia, but no luck. You certainly wouldn’t want to hear me playing! lol

  5. Just lost my reply for second time. I do seem to have trouble with these.

    • Pauline

      Oh no, I thought you had it all worked out, Diane! At least you keep trying.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.