by Julia Robinson
Do you know the word stormstick for umbrella? Neville Chamberlain (pictured) probably didn’t, but he knew the well-dressed British politician needed one (along with homburg, gloves, hanky, and beautiful shiny shoes). A stormstick was a familiar Chamberlain accessory during his Prime Ministership.
Stormstick seems to be an Australianism. The Centre’s director Sarah Ogilvie knows the word from her Queensland aunt (‘Pat! Got your stormstick?’), and we’ve found a small cluster of evidence in newspaper advertisements of the 1950s. One even includes a nod to Neville Chamberlain:
A word to all johnnies who missed out on an umbrella during the rains. The Ground Floor have a few twill and corded English storm-sticks on Fox frames. Tightly furled, with malacca head, steel shaft and ferrule, you can Chamberlain it for six pounds seven and six.
There is not a lot of evidence of stormstick beyond the middle of last century, and as yet we can’t date it before 1941 when it appears in Sidney Baker’s Popular Dictionary of Australian Slang. Does anyone have any early memories of its use? Please leave a comment if you do, telling us where you heard or used the word, and when. See a draft of our new entry for stormstick below.