Mr M’Gregor was greeted with ironic cheers and cries of "whiskers". He was quite imperturbable though and waited till the riot subsided. "I want," he commenced, "I want" – "To swing on your whiskers," chirped a voice. After the uproar had subsided, he said he was there to give them facts and figures of what No-licence had done to Masterton; but for some time, although he continued speaking his remarks were not audible at the press table.
Evening Post (Wellington, New Zealand) (1911), 2 December, p. 5
To the Editor
Sir. – There appeared in your columns of February 24 a letter signed by Tom Giller attacking Mr Neiderer because he admits he is a moderate, and slandering Burns, the great Scottish bard. Tom Giller, I would like to have a swing on your whiskers. You ask what did old Burns’s "An' here’s a han my trusty frien'" do for him poor fellow but land him in a premature drunkard’s grave. Burns does not require any “poor fellow” from Tom Giller.
Southland Times (Invercargill, New Zealand) (1919), 26 February, p. 6
The second source above is reminiscent of Molly’s aggressive invitation to the proud possessor of whiskers to allow their use as a swing for either himself or others. A feature we find repeated in Sean O’Casey’s autobiographical memory of a church service conducted by the awe-inspiring rector, the Reverend Hunter:
- How would you like to have a swing outa Hunter’s whiskers? asked Massey.
Johnny said hush, and giggled, screwed up his face seriously, for he was afraid he would laugh out loud at the picture rushing into his mind of Hunter yellin' 'n yelling while he was swingin' outa his whiskers, swing-swong swing-swong […]
Sean O’Casey, "I Knock at the Door", in Autobiographies (1984), p. 108
As O’Casey shows, the phrase implied some kind of punishment for the vanity and folly of the person thus addressed:
"On'y just let — me ger 'old o' owd Kroo-ger. an' I'll, I'll, I'll — swing on his whiskers." It was out. There was no disguising the fact. He had used a sanguinary word to qualify the President of South Africa's whiskers.
The Idler (1901), vol. 18, p. 386
What 'Varsity man would care to run a ten miles race, say, against one harrier of repute who once threatened to "swing on the whiskers" of a Wolverhampton waiter if he did not bring him something to eat?
Baily's Magazine of Sports & Pastimes (1907), vol. 87, p. 364
The documentation compiled here leaves little doubt that Gifford’s explanation is neither here nor there as regards Molly’s spiteful aside on the upright, self-serving Methodist who makes his wife methodically pregnant without giving a thought to her physical well-being. As Molly puts it in the lines immediately preceding:
nice invention they made for women for him to get all the pleasure but if someone gave them a touch of it themselves theyd know what I went through (18.157-9)
Swinging out of Theodore Purefoy’s whiskers might be the “touch” required.