Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Popular Australian Song Written in a Cemetery

Caroline wondered why the muse visited her at such strange times.  Nevertheless, she was thankful.  She had decided to enter the competition for a national song run by the Gawler Institute, but she had failed to find inspiration until today.  It was so peaceful here in the cemetery while she sat and watched her children play nearby that she took out her notebook and started to write...

The lyrics that Caroline Carleton composed that day won the competition in 1859, and it remained one of the most popular Australian songs for over 100 years, especially in Mrs Carleton's native state South Australia. The stirring music written by German immigrant Carl Linger helped convince the judges. "The Song of Australia" as even shortlisted for the National Anthem in 1977, but "Advance Australia Fair" won the day.  Some people still think that this is a pity.

Although not many people know of the song today, it played a small role in the moving love story of the tomboy Olive and Pat Dooley in the Australian series "Anzac Girls".  I especially enjoyed the scene in which Olive plays the song on the gramophone when she is conflicted about whether she should marry Pat!

Born near London in 1819, Caroline was well-educated, especially in languages and music. She spoke French and she played the piano and the harp.  Caroline married Charles James Carleton in 1836, and the couple migrated to Australia three years later with their two young children on the Prince Regent.  The two children died during the harsh voyage, but the couple had two more children. Charles Carleton was the ship's surgeon and worked as a medical officer in South Australia. Carleton died in 1861.

Caroline taught at private schools after her husband's death, but she also wrote poems and articles for newspapers. She died when she was only 54.

The song was one of famous singer Peter Dawson's favourite songs.  Here is a clip of him singing it:

Here are the lyrics:

THE SONG OF AUSTRALIAThere is a land where summer skies
Are gleaming with a thousand dyes,
Blending in witching harmonies, in harmonies;
And grassy knoll, and forest height,
Are flushing in the rosy light,
And all above is azure bright -
There is a land where honey flows,
Where laughing corn luxuriant grows,
Land of the myrtle and the rose,
On hill and plain the clust'ring vine,
Is gushing out with purple wine,
And cups are quaffed to thee and thine -
There is a land where treasures shine
Deep in the dark unfathomed mine,
For worshippers at Mammon's shrine,
Where gold lies hid, and rubies gleam,
And fabled wealth no more doth seem
The idle fancy of a dream -
There is a land where homesteads peep
From sunny plain and woodland steep,
And love and joy bright vigils keep,
Where the glad voice of childish glee
Is mingling with the melody
Of nature's hidden minstrelsy -
There is a land where, floating free,
From mountain top to girdling sea,
A proud flag waves exultingly,
And freedom's sons the banner bear,
No shackled slave can breathe the air,
Fairest of Britain's daughters fair -

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

When the Prince came to Ballarat in 1920

The rain fell in torrents on the cold June day, but excitement swept through the crowd.  The handsome Prince of Wales would arrive soon! The Lucas girls* massed on each side were especially delighted.  The Prince was going to formally open the Avenue of Trees and the impressive Arch of Victory, and the Lucas girls had waited a long time for this day.

The girls were famous for their fund-raising efforts during the First World War, but this was the highlight.  They sold dolls made from scraps of the clothing made in the factories, and they also gladly sacrificed some of their pay, so that this tribute to the fallen soldiers could be built.  When the time for the Prince's arrival drew near, the Lucas girls even armed trucks with bricks so that the Arch could be completed in time!

The avenue of beautiful trees, including elms, oaks and poplars, named the Avenue of Honour, was almost 14 miles long. Bronze plates with the names and battalions of each of the fallen soldiers from Ballarat were attached to every tree. The girls and other volunteers planted the trees lovingly during cold, wet and windy weather.

The huge crowd cheered when Prince Edward arrived.  He was presented with a pair of gold scissors, so that he could cut the greenery across the arch.  The girls giggled when one of the heads of the firm also gave the Prince a pair of silk pyjamas which he accepted with a blush.  The pyjamas had a picture of his crest on one side and a picture of Victory on the other.  I somehow doubt that he wore these pyjamas when he was with the Duchess of Windsor!

* The Lucas girls worked for the Lucas clothing factory in Ballarat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Enterprising Widow: Eleanor Lucas

My mother gave me an exquisite pink slip one day, and I noticed that it was made in Australia by Eleanor Lucas.  I had never heard of her, but when I looked her up I was quite amazed.  This enterprising widow lived a tragic life - she lost two husbands and two children.  However, she found the strength to start a clothing business that eventually employed hundreds of girls and she also devoted much time to charity work.

Eleanor's family immigrated to Australia from Yorkshire with their parents. The children were left in the care of friends when their mother died, and Eleanor only went to school until she was 14.  She married John Prittard Price when she was 18, but the marriage ended tragically when her husband died in a fall at the soap factory where he worked.  Eleanor was penniless at 30 with four children. The youngest was a baby of only seven months.  Funds were raised for the family, enabling them to live in a cottage.

Eleanor decided to make money herself, so she bought a sewing machine.  She made underwear and shirts, even sewing in bed! She also married again to a William Lucas, but he was killed in a mining accident two years later in 1888. Eleanor continued to work at her sewing.

She formed her business into a company called E.Lucas and Co., and it became the first mechanised factory in Ballarat.  Her employees, the 'Lucas Girls', made beautiful lingerie with eyelet embroidery, blouses, children's wear and dresses.  The factory had a showroom to display their items.  This impressed Sydney Myer (the founder of the famous Australian store Myers) who became one of the first large customers.

The Lucas girls became famous for their fundraising during the First World War.  They planted an avenue of trees to honour the enlisted men of Ballarat and raised enough funds to build an Arch of Victory that was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1920.  (More about this next time).

Mrs Lucas died in 1923 but her son took over the business which lasted until the early 1960s.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Anna Pavlova at the Music Hall

When Bronislava-Nijinska saw the great Anna Pavlova dance at the famous music hall, the Palace Theatre, in London, tears came to her eyes.  She thought that appearing on the same bill as musicians, clowns and acrobats had ruined Pavlova's dancing.  (Our Albert Whelan, the 'great Australian entertainer', was sometimes on the same stage, so he might have been included in this indictment!) Some of the papers also looked down on Pavlova's appearing at a music hall.  One critic wrote that Pavlova had been 'rescued from the music-hall' when she joined Diaghilev's company again.

However, most ballet stars such as Adeline Genee did perform on the music-hall stages in the Edwardian era, and they helped ballet to become popular. It was part of Pavlova's mission to make ballet accessible to the ordinary people, so she saw nothing wrong with moving to the Palace. She would probably have been foolish to refuse the attractive salary that she was offered.  This started at 400 pounds a week, and it eventually rose to 1200 pounds - an enormous amount in the early 1900s.

Pavlova's most popular dance was probably the 'Bacchanal' from Autumn, which she performed with Michael Mordkin.  Mordkin looked like a 'Greek God', and, according to Kerensky, his strong and manly physique provided a dramatic contrast to Pavlova's ethereal fragillity and grace.  In this abandoned dance, Pavlova wore flimsy chiffon and danced wildly with her long dark hair tied in a scarlet ribbon. * ( Mordkin actually flung her onto the stage at the end of the dance.  Once he dropped her rather too hard, and she created a sensation by slapping him! (There were rumours of an affair, but Mordkin's widow didn't believe it). Perhaps he did it because he was jealous of her popularity - Pavlova performed more solos.  Once he complained that there were no dishes named after him, but some were named after her!

* Years later, some of the audience in Sydney complained that this dance was unpleasant.

(Anna Pavlova in The Dragonfly)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Website of the Week: Flutissimo

Are you a fan of Edwardian parlour songs? Do you live near Perth in Western Australia? If you can answer "Yes" to these questions, please go to concerts by The Weatherly Club. These feature the lyrical and heartwarming songs by Frederic E. Weatherly, such as "Danny Boy" and my favourite, "Roses of Picardy". John Hardy hosts the events and sings, accompanied by Emily Gunson's beautiful flute.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Allan & Stark, Brisbane

(Allan & Clark American Tableaux on Peace Celebration Day)

Fashionable people often shopped at Allan & Stark in Brisbane.  This large department store, originally a drapery, was founded by James Allan, a Scottish man , who came to Brisbane in 1879. After starting in a commercial venture in his native Glasgow as a packing boy, he rose to the top, and he established the firm in 1882 with Robert Stark, even though they had less than 500 pounds to invest in the store.

The Stanley Street store soon became extremely popular.  Large numbers of migrants, a ten million pound loan to the state and a real estate boom helped the business to thrive.  It ran on a credit-by-bills system, and extended credit was often given.  The shop did extensive trade with the settlers in the Albert, Logan and Coomera Valleys.

Unfortunately, banks and commercial enterprises took many risks in the 1880s, leading to a crash.  The terrible floods of 1893 worsened the situation.  The first floor of the store was flooded, and the business went through tough times.

They moved to Queen Street to a neo-classical building designed by Andrea Stambuco.  The firm now operated on a cash basis, and business practices were generally much sounder.  The company went from strength to strength.  Their magnificent showrooms, gorgeous fashion catalogues and fashion parades were extremely popular. The country people especially liked receiving the free catalogues, so that they could choose their orders for their seasonal wardrobes. Even in 1933, there was no sign of depression as far as Allan & Stark was concerned, and there were no empty shops nearby.

After the Second World War, people started using their cars to go shopping, and they weren't happy with the lack of parking in the city.  Allan & Stark learned that drive-in shopping centres were becoming popular in America, so they bought a large parcel of land at Chermside for a new shopping centre.  There was great opposition to the project, especially from competitors.  However, Allan & Stark went ahead  and built the first drive-in shopping centre in Australia in Brisbane with 700 car spaces.  To everyone's amazement, the centre was a huge success, and a few years later more car spaces had to be provided!

Myers soon bought out the famous Brisbane store.

There are several photos of the original Allan & Stark buildings, but I can't find any photos of the interiors of the early stores.  This is somewhat upsetting.  I hope that the John Oxley library may have some.

Here are some photos of early Brisbane department stores.