In 1955 a five pound note represented over a day’s pay, so when the 6.58 a.m. pulled into Central Railway Station and several commuters saw what they thought might be a note of that denomination lying on the opposite railway track the conversation went something like this.

“Do see that?”

“See what, mate?

“That piece of paper down there.”


It’s a Monday morning and I was on my way back to my ship at Garden Island.  The  conversation was being bounced around by some half-a-dozen blue-collar workers.    In those days it was far too early for the office crowd.    The opposite platform was completely deserted.

“You thinking what I’m thinking?”

“Yeah – No, it couldn’t be.”

“No. Nobody’d drop that much money and not get it.”

“Still it does look like….”

“A fiver.  Sure does, mate.”

“The colour’s right”

“Naw.   It’s a trick o’ the light.”

“Size is right.”

From my location by the window I could see the others, starting to squirm.  Yes, it did look like a five pound note.  There was a long silence.   The suburban train had stood motionless for a good three minutes.   It didn’t appear to be going anywhere.   Would there be time…?

The silence continued. Did I imagine it, or was there a sort of tension rising within the confines of that crowed space. The train still didn’t move.

Suddenly four or five people all leaped to their feet. Five pounds! A good day’s pay  -just sitting down there on the track.  If only….

The shrill sound of a whistle. Then – Hoot!  The red-rattler commuter gave a lurch as couplings took up the slack. Some people, now half standing fell back into their seats. Others, remained standing, studiously avoiding other people’s eyes; pretending they’d stood ready to get off at the next railway station. It was a moment of embarrassment. Then, as the suburban train gathered speed and plunged into the tunnel towards Town Hall, the rationalisations began.

“Must have been just a coloured piece of scrap.”


“Nobody’d leave that much money. Not even on a busy railway line.”

“Couldn’t have really been a fiver.”

“Well, maybe… or someone playing a joke”

“Too big for Monopoly money.”

“Yeah. But it definitely wasn’t real money.”


And forty-nine years later I’m still not sure.