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ROSE HARRIS, SADDLER, EQUESTRIAN, HERO, ORGANIST, BOXER & GOLFER

The advertising cover has a boxed ‘ROSE HARRIS/ SADDLER/ CLERMONT’ and it is addressed to Miss Hodges, C/- Mrs Telford, Locke & Wantley St., Warwick, Q’land. It has a blue ‘By Air Mail/ Par Avion’ sticker, and the blue KGVI 3d and the pair of green 1d definitive QE stamps are cancelled with CLERMONT/ -6 AU/ 49/ QLD. The Air Mail sticker was crossed out with 2 horizontal blue ink lines, indicating it was sent by surface mail. The reverse was not seen (Figure 1).

Miss Rose Harris has been described as Australia’s first female saddler, with the skills that she learnt under the tutelage of her father in his saddlery business. Rose Harris was long-lived and multi-talented, she had skills over and above those noted above in the heading. She won a championship in a local women doubles tennis competition, she was an equestrian who won the award of best lady rider at the Clermont Show in 1911 at the age of 16, she was socially prominent in her community, she was the church organist in some 1,000 local weddings, and she was active in church charitable work. Newspaper records of what the bride wore were not uncommonly accompanied by what Miss Rose Harris wore. A picture of Miss Rose Harris, side saddle on a horse, with an unidentified child is seen in Figure 2.

In 1916 Rose and her father saved lives and she earned the title of a hero by saving 5 people in the great Clermont flood. Rose stood on the verandah of their home and flung leather straps to them and pulled them to safety.

The Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 5 March 1951 recorded her popularity for dozens of former Clermont residents said hello to her at Eagle Farm when she transferred from one plane to another on her way through the airport to a holiday in New Zealand, her first holiday in 23 years. A picture of her described as ‘The Rose of Clermont’ was shown in the paper is seen in Figure 3.

She had at least two major life-altering events in her life, the first being she and her father saved the lives of five people during a major flood in Clermont, Queensland, as well as being a survivor of a major Clermont fire with a total loss of both her home and her saddlery business. The community financially rallied behind her, but the fire was the main cause of her retiring from her saddlery business. Her major Clermont good event was that her name is perpetuated in the Rose Harris, Clermont Gardens.

I stress her impact on the Clermont community, as frequently documented locally as well as in the more general Queensland newspapers, both in words and photographs, for I was surprised that her biographical data is so meager. I could find no obituary, but she was buried in Clermont Cemetery and an internet site described as ‘Clermont Headstones’ encapsulates the family history in a mere 2 lines as follows:

Emma Harris b.1861, d. 19 April 1923 at age of 62: she was spouse of W.T. Harris, mother of Rose and Frank.

Rose Harris b. 5 May 1895, d. 21 June 1977 at age of 82: she was unmarried, daughter of Emma and W.T. Harris. No additional information was found at the State Library of Queensland, Brisbane.

One of the latest dated entries in the archived Trove newspapers for Rose Harris was found in the Cairns Post, 28 June 28, 1948, which was particularly interesting for it briefly summarized aspects of her life in 2 sections. The first section described her heroic rescue in the flood of 1916, as well as the loss of her home and saddlery business in the Clermont fire of June 23, 1948, and which led to her retirement (Figure 4).

The second part of this Cairns Post entry provided information not seen elsewhere, and it was quite surprising for in her younger days Miss Harris was a proficient boxer, and her services were always in demand among Clermont youths wanting a friendly spar. The entry included a statement that as the organist at Clermont’s Church of England for many years, Rose had played at more than 1000 weddings (Figure 5).

Rose Harris’s name is honoured by the citizens of Clermont in the Rose Harris Park which fronts Capella Street and Daintree Street (Figure 6).

 

 

 
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