You can listen to the song here, sung by a New Zealander who claims it was popular in Australia and New Zealand in the 1930s and “got itself transmitted into the New Zealand army”.
It wouldn’t have been high on the BBC’s list of broadcastable songs.
Maggie May was a popular song with seamen long before Rod Stewart recorded his version of a song with the same title, Maggie May or Mae was a Liverpool whore in the nineteenth century who was allegedly transported to Botany Bay for robbing a sailor and pawning all of his clothes, according to the lyrics of the Liverpool song she frequented Lime Street where she picked up sailors for sex but her intention was to rob them of whatever they had of any value.
I’ve searched all over the internet for information on dirty Maggie May, as she was known colloquially, but I can find no trace of her.
Rather than cruising up and down Lime Street I think is more likely she cruised Canning Place where the Sailors’ Home was situated and Paradise Street where the cheap grog-shops and pubs that catered to seamen who visited the port from all over the world.
When we think of 18/19th. Century whores and slums we must realize that this is a time without toilets or bathrooms, most people were on the nose, it was so bad that many upper-class and middle-class people, especially women, carried little scent bottles they used, to sniff on, when around particularly smelly people; this was the time of Maggie May so she must really have been on the nose but then the seamen were no better, so their smell probably covered the pungent odour of their whore. ...
The day that Maggie died, she called me to her side
And handed me her old Red Flannel drawers.
They were tattered, they were torn
Round the crutch piece they were worn
Them old Red Flannel drawers that Maggie wore.
The story goes that Maggie was transported to Australia which would explain the antipodean reference of the 1930s. Maggie was a very common name and looking for her in the UK censuses of the last century is a fruitless task. Liverpool was at that time choked with immigrants and prostitution was rife.