Royal Reels: Gambling


This postcard has been enlarged, and it shows a pageant with up to 25 participants on the stage, with adults mainly in the background and children in the foreground. The adults appear to be predominantly women in costumes, with a possible male centurion, at left, holding an erect spear, and there is a shield held nearby, as well as white drawn stage curtains at both left and right sides. There appears to be a large illustration as a backdrop to the actors, or possibly it is a rear projection on a screen. The postcard is labeled as “The Coronation of the Queen of the Golden Fleece, Barham July 19th 1916″ (Figure 1).

The reverse confirms that the front is a real photograph for the area where a stamp could have been adfixed is a space surrounded by a printed ‘KODAK/AUSTRAL/KODAK/AUSTRAL with a ‘+’ in all fourcorners.  There is no evidence that the postcard passed through the mail (Figure 2).

My research of this postcard was totally unrewarding. A long distance call and several emails to Allan Tompkins, President of the Barham, N.S.W./ Kondrook, Victoria, Historical Society led to a deluge of valuable information about this event. In one of his emails Allan Tompkins stated that “I can confirm that the ‘play’ was actually a fund raiser for the war effort (WWI) – more of a pageant to honour the various Queens and to crown the top money maker.”

The local Barham paper had a comprehensive entry headed ‘BARHAM CORONATION CEREMONY’ followed by the request: ‘(We have been requested by the ladies of the Barham Red Cross Society, to insert the following).’ What follows has been extracted from a much longer paper, as follows:

“This Royal celebration was produced with great spectacular effect, in the Barham School of Arts on Wednesday evening July 19th, to a crowded house, and one of the most appreciative and interested audiences , that has ever occupied the large and commodious building….As the time drew near for the ceremony to begin, hundreds of expectant eyes eagerly watched the raising of the curtain… to witness the grand ceremony…The Barham orchestra with its well organised players opened with the National Anthem. This orchestra proved a most agreeable surprise as many had not known of its existence, and great credit is due to the success of the various selections played, and the able assistance given by the many artists during the evening…The orchestra played its first selection (as) the curtain rose on a scene which ever will remain a gratifying pleasure in the memory of those who were fortunate enough to witness it”.

“The scenic effects were produced by our local artist (Joe Bruscha) was grandly descriptive of the royal throne room, with its massive pillars, and beautiful ruby plush curtains fringed with heavy gold fringe, and held in position by gold cord and tassels. To a slow march played very softly by the orchestra, entered two handsome pages clad in ruby velvet wearing white hats with beautiful plumes to match. Slowly and solemnly they approached the centre of the stage, separating to allow the Queens and retinue to pass between them”.

“To the same strain came the two trumpeters in costumes in brown and gold tunics, with brown tights, caps of purple velvet with plumes at side, who marched to the front of the stage blowing fanfare of trumpets, during which the Herald advanced, in a rich costume of green satin, lacings of red silk cord, white gauntlet gloves, hat with plume, and announced the first Queen (Mrs. McConnell) Queen of the Golden Fleece. The approach of this matronly dame, who carries her years with such dignity and grace, and of whom her supporters were truly proud, was the cause of a great ovation.”

This was followed by a long description of her costume: she had a train of gold plush held by two youthful train bearers, a girl and a boy both having the McConnell surname, whose costumes were also described, and following the pages were two maids of honour. All walked to the front of the stage where the Queen made a courtly bow to the audience, and she retired to one of the thrones, where she sat in state.

“Then followed a recital of ‘Kitchener’ by Miss E. Dalton of Koondrook, also a second selection by the orchestra, and a tableaux “The Gleaner” with lime light effect represented by six little girls”. There was a concealed chorus of girls who sang the ‘gleaners song’ which proved a most suitable tableaux for the Queen of the Golden Fleece.

“The Herald then announced the Queen of Public Service and Oddfellows Lodge (Miss R. Chanter)” and this young and enchanting Queen’s extravagant gown was extensively described.

The Herald then announced the third Queen, Miss G. McPherson, Queen of Commerce, and the whole procedure was repeated, and was followed by a song by Miss O’Donnell ‘The Rosary’, and the performance of this talented artist received loud applause. This was followed by selections from the orchestra as tableaux, including those of patriotic appeal, ‘Britannia Rules the Waves’, ‘Man of War’ and ‘Britannia’. A miniature “Man of War’ ship, also an engine and trucks made by one of our boys (J. Elliott) completed the effect. ‘The Heroes of Anzac’ tableaux with lime light effect was most appropriate to the present war time and appealed to public sympathy. Then followed the crowning ceremony with announcement of the votes by Mr. Scobie M.L.A. (acting as mayor of Barham), as follows:

Queen of the Golden Fleece 44,607

Queen of the Public Service and Oddfellows Lodge 26,994

Queen of Commerce 12,399

Total number 84,000

Proceeds of the competition £350

Amid loud applause the winning Queen rose from her throne and bowed her acknowledgment and she was arrayed in her royal robes by her maids of honour. The Archbishop Rev. Stowards performed the crowning ceremony, and read the proclamation.

“The noble and fitting climax to the evening’s entertainment” was a complete surprise to me for Miss O’Donnell sang the Russian Anthem.

Prior to the conclusion, a Miss V. O’Donnell of Bendigo, one of Melba’s pupils sang and gave a beautiful rendering of ‘Theres a Land’, which was encored.

A map of a small segment of the mighty Murray River shows Barham, New South Wales and Koondrook, its smaller sister town in Victoria, is seen in Figure 3.

This border area between the two States is believed to have been occupied by the indigenous Wemba-Wemba people prior to white settlement. The 114,656 acre ‘Barham’ station ws taken up in 1843 by Edward B. Green, who named it after the maiden name of his wife. The Barham Koondrook Bridge opened in October 1904, and this landmark lift-bridge is still in use (Figure 4).

Barham is now the Wakool Shire’s largest centre and has a current population of around 1200 residents. Barham and its twin, Koondrook, to-day obtain their main industries from cattle, fat lamb, dairying, timber and tourism. Barham is 860 kilometer south-west of Sydney.

Categories: Postcards