Sunday, 8 May 2016

Gondolas on Ross Creek

One of the most spectacular fundraising events Townsville had ever seen occurred in 1929, when a “Venetian Carnival” was held in aid of the Anglican Church Schools League.

These gondolas, pictured on Ross Creek, formed part of a spectacular “Venetian Carnival” in Townsville in August 1929. Victoria Bridge is visible in the background.
Photo: James Cook University, NQID No. 3544 from E.R. (Bob) Hayles Album.
Described as “the most enchanting thing ever seen in Townsville”, Ross Creek was transformed into a scene resembling the Grand Canal of Venice, with brightly illuminated launches and gondolas that conveyed ticket holders from the Harbour Board pontoon to the Seamen’s Mission Hall, where a grand ball was held.

Mr I. MacDiarmid, whose artistic efforts in this regard were considered a triumph, had converted the grounds of the Seamen’s Mission Hall into an Italian garden. The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported on what they believed was “the brightest scene ever witnessed in Townsville”:

“From 7.30 music could be heard floating from the launch Malanda which was gaily decorated and had been anchored in midstream, and the launches and gondolas were busy taking people to the landing place at the Seamen’s Institute.

The slip was decorated with coloured lights, flags and streamers and as one walked out of the boathouse the paths each side were flanked with flowering rose bushes and on through an archway of wisteria through which showed coloured lights and then into the garden itself which resembled fairyland.

It was a revelation to see the transformation from a barren piece of ground to the brightly flowering garden. Beds of poppies bordered the stage and round the outskirts were beds of chrysanthemums, tulips, lillies and delphiniums.”

The evening began with an Italian quartet, whose members strolled through the crowd playing mandolins and guitars, followed by a tambourine dance performed by eight young ladies.

Later, twelve couples danced a traditional Minuetto, which was considered to be the attraction of the evening. The ladies wore bright floral frocks with plain bodices and the men wore suits to match their partner’s frock and all wore white wigs.

The Bulletin reporter described another dance:

“The Neapolitan Dance, the Tarantella, was most attractive and one realised the skill of the dancers when they saw them doing the intricate steps and the vim they put into it from start to finish. They deservedly received a vociferous encore and responded immediately.

The girls wore bright red skirts bordered with black, white blouses and boleros and a flat white bow on their heads and carried tambourines. The men wore black trousers, white shirts, coloured sashes and handkerchiefs on their heads.”

Catering for the evening was entrusted to Mrs J. Norris, who, together with a willing band of helpers that included 20 waitresses, provided supper for 500 people.

According to the Bulletin, if not for the work of Mr Bob Hayles, the water part of the entertainment would have been impossible.

“His launches, and those of Mr Sell, too, were at the disposal of the people and he superintended the construction of the gondolas and made it all safe for those who were inclined to be mistrustful of the water.

Mr Satini’s boat won the prize for the best-illuminated boat and it certainly was a very pretty sight as it sailed up and down the harbour. Mr F. Willmett’s Ariadne also came in for a lot of praise. Mr Tuesley won the prize for best gondola.”

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