Friday, 2 October 2020


Dunnies on the highway 500 miles north of Perth

In bogs and dunnies, lavs and loos.

Crappers, cans, johns and jakes,

A man's got to do what a man's got to do,

Wherever, whenever, whatever it takes.

A reader was curious about the dunny mentioned in the comment by Grumblebum McWombat in my post on Gender Identity Battlefields. She may be sorry that she asked. Don't read on if you are squeamish.

A dunny is an Australian outhouse.

The first of these I really remember, at five years old, was along the back fence, a long trek from the house, furnished not with toilet paper but squares of the West Australian attached to a nail in the wall by a loop of string. Why was the dunny out the back against the fence? Well, sewage had replaced an earlier system of collection by the nightcart man who would travel along the back lane, stop at each house, and open a little trapdoor to remove, empty, and replace the dunny can which resided beneath the toilet seat. Not the most enjoyable job. So in the nineteen-forties we could "pull the chain" to flush the toilet, but the dunny remained an uncomfortable distance away from the house if you were caught short. In fact, one of my earliest memories is being admonished by my grandmother for peeing in the drain just outside the back door.

As time passed in suburban Australia. the dunny moved into the house, perhaps spending some time on the back porch, and then finding its place in or next to the bathroom, where it was politely known as the Lav.

At six years old, I entered First Bubs at the primary school. There, the dunnies were out in the playground, the urinal a vast, black concrete wall against which we would see who could pee the highest. And on some visit to the cubicle I must have seen on the wall that piece of dirty doggerel known in one of its many versions to every Australian boy: about what Captain Cook did behind the Dunny Door.

Later, I learned an expression to describe a prodigious stench. The WACA (pronounced Wakka) was the West Austalian Cricket Ground where major cricket and football matches were played.

It stinks like the dunnies at the WACA at halftime.

You wii have gathered that "dunny" (or "dunnies"), like the terms in the verse above, is rather a loose term, and might apply to the facilities in general or the WC in particular. But the true Australian dunny was to be found in the outback or the bush or on a farm without a sewage or septic system, set well away from the house, with good reason. Typically, the small shed was made of corrugated iron, cold in winter, stinking hot in summer, or rather stinking and hot, and the flies were satiated and abundant. The visitor "sat" on the toilet seat above the box-like structure hiding what was beneath.

The dunny was rather like a Canadian biffy, but with a very significant difference: instead of the long drop, it was often a very short drop indeed, into the dunny can, which if full could result in an unfortunate splash, so that the occupant was forced to do a kangaroo, that is, squat at some height above the toilet seat and hope for the best. Sorry for the detail, but you asked.

This was the true, and original dunny, "dunny" from "dunnekin", English dialect for "dung house".

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