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Royal South Street Society

The Years Between Les Holloway 1

Royal South Street Society

The Years Between Formation and Development of the Young Men’s General Debating Society, South Street, from 1879 - 1891

Š Les Holloway This book is copyright. Copyright rests with the individual authors. Apart from any fair dealing permitted according to the provisions of the Copyright Act, no part may be reproduced, photocopied, stored in any type of retrieval system or transmitted by any means or process whatsoever without the prior written consent of the author and publisher. The moral right is claimed. Every attempt has been made to contact copyright holders of material used in this book. While all reasonable attempts at factual accuracy have been made, BHS Publishing accept no responsibility whatsoever for any errors contained in this book.

Creator: Title: ISBN:

Les Holloway Royal South Street Society: The Years Between 978-1-876478-34-6


Includes illustrations and index

Subjects: Royal South Street Society; music; debating; literary; goldfields; Ballarat

Other Creators/Contributors: Ballarat Heritage Services BHS Publishing


Royal South Street Society

The Years Between

Formation and Development of the Young Men’s General Debating Society, South Street, from 1879 - 1891

Les Holloway


Acknowledgements This history would not have been written without the encouragement from the following members of South Street’s Historic Sub-Committee, David Callinan, Lorraine Harvey, Jenny Dixon, Kelly Steegstra, Barb Dunlop, Colleen Holloway, Lois Sheppard, and John Clark, Past Chairman of South Street’s Historic Sub- Committee, and South Street’s Chief Executive Officer, Brett Macdonald. I am also indebted to Anne Beggs-Sunter, a Historic Sub-Committee member, for her expert historic knowledge and proof reading of this account. I also thank Peter Gilbert, a former Ballarat printer, for the use of his copy of The Debater’s Record which prompted me to writing this account. The assistance of Ballarat Heritage Services and the South Street Committee is gratefully acknowledged. Thank you all. About the author, Les Holloway From the years when he was Advertising and Promotions Manager at The Courier in the 1970-80s, Les has been intrigued about the beginnings of Ballarat and the men and women who were the driving force of success. He worked with many leaders of the Ballarat community who, also, were keen to understand. He loved, and still does, the mystique of paddle steamers on Lake Wendouree which brought joy to countless thousands of children, him included, and adults alike. As a young boy, uninhibited by modern day restraints, he peddled his fixed-wheel bike over the goldbearing areas of Ballarat, particularly the Golden Point gold-fields, always with one eye to the ground – ‘just in case I spotted a golden glint’! Fulfilling a wish Les had developed during the years working at the newspaper, he was invited to join the South Street Board in 1990. The years served on the Board convinced him of the significance and importance of its work. Since joining the South Street Historical Sub-Committee, and writing The Years Between, Les have come to fully understand the role the Society, and the men and women of the Society, have played in the building of a great city, both in bricks and mortar, and in a literary sense. ‘I hope you enjoy reading this account as much as I have enjoyed writing it,’ he said. 7

Album containing cuttings, posters and ephemera: Royal South Street Society


Preface Unfortunately, I can only find volume one of The Debater’s Record. I know of a limited number of other copies available to view. One copy is located at Sovereign Hill’s Gold Museum, another at the Ballarat Mechanics’ Institute and a third at the Melbourne State Library. It would be interesting to know if further volumes exist. In about June 2015 another copy of The Debater’s Record emerged. A telephone call from Brett Macdonald at the South Street office put me in contact with Marion and John Blythman, both South Street volunteers with the exciting news that they had purchased a bound copy of the ‘Record’ from a stand at the Clunes Book Fair, and were keen that the copy should be in the procession of the South Street Society. So, South Street now has a copy in their archives. Well done, Marion and John. Continuing historic aspects of The Years Between comes from a Historic Time-line developed in 2011 by Les Holloway, a member of South Street’s Historical Sub-Committee. Other information is taken from The Society’s Minute Books, a yearly snap-shot of happenings, newspaper cuttings from The Ballarat Star and The Ballarat Courier, other publications, and the work of Ted Lewis, a Life Member of the Royal South Street Society, in the publication, The First One Hundred Years. Further information has come from Weston Bate, Lucky City: The First Generation at Ballarat: 1851-1901, Dorothy Wickham, Freemasons on the Goldfields 1853-2013, William Bramwell Withers, History of Ballarat, and Ballarat Eisteddfod Reports of the Meetings held in Ballarat in 1885 and 1886.


Illustrations General Debating Society Member's Ticket Poster Annual Competition 1893 Album containing cuttings, posters and ephemera Academy of Music Poster, 1897 William Duguid Hill The Committee, 1898 Robina Hill’s House, South Street W. D. Hill advertisement The Debator’s [sic] Record The Debater’s Record Advertisement, 1882 Correspondence, 1882 Albert Whitelock Steane Office Bearers, 1902-3; Montage 1907 Advertisement, Notices Advertisement, Notices Advertisement, A Grand Picnic Advertisement, Meetings, YMGDS Mutual Improvement Associations Union Young Men’s General Debating Society, 1883, 1884 Alfred Deakin Programme, Grand Concert, 1884 Programme, Fifth Anniversary Banquet Report, Ballarat Eisteddfod, 1885-6 Programme, St David’s Day Eisteddfod, 1887 South Street society Hall, 1886 Skipton Street Hall Coliseum and Athenaeum Invitation, Tenth annual Demonstration, 1889 Notice, First Grand Annual Competition, 1891 John Robson Notice, Twelfth Annual Demonstration Early Ballarat Advertisement Advertisement


6 6 8 12 14 17 19 21 22 23 31 33 41 41 66 67 71 72 78 80 81 83 83 85 87 89 89 90 91 93 94 95 96-97 98 99

Introduction Imagine, if you will, Ballaarat in the latter part of the 1800s. Pastoralists Yuille and Anderson had arrived in the Ballarat district with their fine Merino sheep in the 1830’s, followed by the goldseekers, diggers – many thousands of them – fossicking from one stake to another chasing their share of the elusive gold. Then followed the uprising – the Eureka Stockade affair in 1854, and Ballarat was on its way to prosperity that only wealth could provide. In 1870 disaster struck. Wild speculation saw a recession in the mining industry, and ‘gold that may be picked up like pebbles on the sea shore’ ran out. The miners turned to searching for deep quartz leads, up to hundreds of feet down where the gold was hidden. For many people though, prosperity, or luck did not happen. In despair they left Ballarat for other goldfields, chasing greater riches. For those thousands of people that remained it was time for vision and courage. In 1871, Ballarat was gazetted a city and Mutual Improvement Societies were forming. The influence of the Young Men’s General Debating Society, formed in 1879, was quickly apparent as they strove to establish a literary competition. Many of their membership not only set a course of security and growth for the City of Ballarat but also for leadership in the literary world. This history addresses the initial period of the South Street Society from its establishment until the Society’s first Grand Annual Competition successfully held on 26 June, 1891. In the years following, success allowed the Competition to expand by the introduction of acting, singing, music, dance, calisthenics, even spelling, typewriting, cooking, gum leaf playing, gymnastics, and school aerobatics on occasions. Brass Bands commenced in 1900 and became immensely popular, with Ballarat hosting a full scale military tattoo famous throughout the world. Calisthenics commenced in 1903, and is now Australia’s premier competition, annually attracting more than 2,500 on stage performances. 11

For its services to the community, The Society was granted ‘Royal’ status in 1962. Primarily, the Competition is held in Her Majesty’s Theatre, once owned by the South Street Society. Her Majesty’s Theatre is Australia’s oldest continuously operating lyric theatre, was opened in 1875 – now celebrating 141 years of performing tradition, slightly more than the RSSS who are approaching their 138th year of existence. From a humble beginning, if they were alive today, I wonder how proud the young men of the Central State Night School (Dana Street) would have been at what has been achieved thus far.

To the thousands of South Street Society volunteers who have over many years, given generously of their time and expertise, this account is respectfully dedicated.



William Duguid Hill


Royal South Street Society

The Years Between

This account covers the formation and development of the Young Men’s General Debating Society, South Street from when it was established on 10 July 1879 until the Society successfully conducted its ‘First Grand Annual Competition’ on 26 June 1891. Little did the seven or eight enthusiastic young men, with an average age of 17 years, students of the Central State Night School (Dana Street, No. 33) realise how the Competition would grow to become one of the great Eisteddfods of the world. But, long before the young men of South Street conducted their first Competition, Ballarat experienced the benefits of competition from the first Welsh Eisteddfod conducted in Ballarat in 1863. After lapsing for a time, the Eisteddfod was resuscitated in 1874 to run continually until the last one in 1887. (Introductory and Historical Notes 1885/6, edited by Theos. Williams and J.B. Humffray). (W.B. Withers in the History of Ballarat claimed their beginning on Christmas day, 1855 and called Eisteddfodau). These Eisteddfods which flourished for many years, based on successful Eisteddfods in Wales, provided opportunities for early Ballarat and district gold prospectors and settlers alike. Among the young men at the first meeting held on 10 July,1879, and instrumental in forming the Young Men’s General Debating Society, South Street (Y.M.G.D.S.) was William Duguid Hill. William was also to become its first President during the formation year in 1879. He was to remain President for 12 months before taking on the roll as General Secretary, a post he held until his death in 1921, a total of more than 40 years service. William also served as a City of Ballarat councillor and was three-times Mayor of the City in 1910-11, 1916-17, and 1920-21. It is believed the first meeting of the Society took place at 31 South Street Ballarat, the house of William’s mother. The Society’s beginning could not have been more humbled, and its name less prestigious – adopting the name of the street on which they first met, as reported by the Ballarat Star newspaper. 15

William Duguid Hill was born on 7 January, 1858 to Scottish parents Archibald and Robina, at Magpie, a small hamlet on the outskirts of Ballarat, Victoria. He left the Redan State School at an early age. By age 25 he had formed the auctioneering firm of Wicks & Hill; subsequence partnerships were Hill & Paine, Hill & Grose, and Hill & Blackman. William etched out a distinguished career, not only with the South Street Society and his auctioneering business, but also with the Mutual Improvement Debating Societies and later to become founder and Secretary of the Mutual Improvement Associations Union that grew to prominence during the 1800’s, finally collapsing in about 1889. William first introduced debating contests among kindred Associations’ members. Their success and Hill’s belief in the education value of competition led to their continuance by the South Street General Debating Society after the Union’s collapse. The Freemason movement, too, benefited from his membership and drive in their endeavours to build a stronger Ballarat. His other interests included the Caledonian Society, Ballarat Orphanage, Mechanics Institute, Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, Red Cross, and was Secretary of St. Andrew’s Kirk, and the Ballarat Liedertafel, of which he was Secretary. Keen to realise the city’s potential as an agriculture centre, he was prominent in the Forward Ballarat Movement, was a councillor of the mining and agriculture schools, secretary of the Agriculture and Pastoral Society and went on to establish what would become Ballarat Regional Tourism. Small in stature, with great charm, William was a devoted family man. His favourite activities were gardening and reading. Not only was he an excellent administrator, but also a competent debater, competing in many home debates and orations. In the 1902 South Street Competitions he was listed to debate the topic: ‘Would larger electorates weaken the influence of democracy in the State Parliament’. He was in good company in this debate as another competitor was listed as J.H. Scullin. Scullin, a devout catholic, was to go on the become an Australian Prime Minister. The Adelaide Advertiser said of Hill in an edition published on 27 October, 1903: ‘The genius of the society is Mr. W.D. Hill, the general secretary, and the only salaried officer. In private life Mr. Hill is an auctioneer and estate agent, and is considered to be a safe man of business. He has been secretary of the society since inception, and is a man 16

The Committee of 1898. Only one, W.D. Hill was a member of the original Committee. Although not the first South Street General Debating Society Committee, these men were instrumental over many years in the successful development of the Society in the early years. The Committee: Back row, W.J. Edwards (Librarian), R. Maddern (Treasurer), W.E. Thomas. Front row, L. Prichard, Frank Besemeres (President), W.D. Hill (Secretary), F.J. Williams.

of many ideas rather than a practical organiser. It is curious that Mr. Hill does not know a note of music and scarcely ever listens for entertainment to any musical effort. Yet he is responsible for the great competitions in vocal and instrumental music held annually by the society. And he is always suggesting new features for the musical programme. He makes a suggestion, and the executive committee, mostly composed of keen business men, carry it out if they see money in it’. In writing a short history of the Society in 1966, S.C. Henderson, a Past President and Life Member of the Society, describes the beginning this way: ‘The hall was an old cottage with the interior partitions removed and it stood in 31 South Street Ballarat, near Skipton Street. The nine young men students of the Central State Night School, Dana Street, No. 33, under Mr J.S. Charles, were keen to encourage debating and literary activities. Each youth was about 17 years of age and well able to infuse keenness and enthusiasm into the new venture. William D. Hill was elected President, and Theo Saunders, Vice President. John 17

Menzies was elected Secretary and Treasurer and Committee Members were Donald and William McHutchinson, John Woods, Joseph Phillips, Robert McCartney, and Arthur Farr. The meeting proposed they would meet every Friday night and indulge their passion for debating and kindred subjects’. A condition of membership was that each candidate must be ‘Over the age of fourteen years and of sound moral character,’ and another rule stated that: ‘Every member on joining should present the library with a book’. Even in the early days a competition was mooted, but much was to happen before that occurred. Interest in the movement was wide-spread and by 1882 many Young Men’s Societies had started in Ballarat. Such was the popularity of these Societies the Mutual Improvement and Debating Society was formed. The membership of these Societies were represented by, not only many prominent Ballarat businessmen, but also the rank and file citizens and, in some societies, women. In his book, Lucky City – The First Generation at Ballarat: 1851-1901, Weston Bate wrote: However strong the (Ballarat Art Gallery) gallery’s educational role it could not rival the mutual improvement societies, which emerged when the nativeborn grew too old for primary school and Sunday school. One at least (at the Lydiard Street Wesleyan church) was formed in the sixties and many flourished by 1880. In the absence of state secondary education, they assisted personal advancement but, as in Britain, were mainly promoted as agents of ‘citizenship’ and ‘enlightenment’. One interesting point is that two of the four strongest societies were in Ballarat East, at St. Paul’s Anglican and Barkly Street Methodist churches. At Ballarat West the outstanding societies were at the Roman Catholic and Lydiard Street Methodist churches. All ran programmes emphasising ‘mental culture’ through debates, readings and impromptu speeches, but the inclusion of girls gave the Protestant societies, which were obviously middle class like the church membership itself, a different tone from the Catholic. The most popular attracted about eighty members to weekly meetings. No single reason can be given for the relative weakness of Protestant societies at Ballarat West, except that political and civic rather than moral questions were paramount in that very lively electorate, which spawned two of Ballarat’s most important institutions, the Australians Natives Association and the South Street Society. They were secular improvement societies. (*See following chapter, ...thoughts on the A.N.A.). South Street’s M.I.A. base ensured an emphasis on youth and ‘mental improvement. While Oddie, Claxton and others were setting the seal to their idea of a city as a place of beauty, the young were eager for action and debate.


This house was owned by William Hill’s mother, Robina. Being situated at 31 South Street, Ballarat, it could have been the house where the members of the South Street Society first met.

Examples are not proof, but James Scullin, the silver-tongued orator, who became Australia’s prime minister in 1929, learnt to debate at South Street, as one of a group of labour men working out their ideas within its walls. Another radical, J.W. Kirton, was matured by local groups. Kirton acknowledged the incalculable benefit he and other successful other men had gained by membership of the Lydiard Street Methodist M.I.A. Elected M.L.A. for Ballarat West in 1892, he found a political base at South Street and in A.N.A., of which he was President in 1890.

Another indication why the South Street Society’s Competitions were to become so successful, can be found in the following comment. Weston Bate continued: Music is universal. On Sundays the Fire Brigade or the City Band often played at a rotunda in Sturt Street, or at the lake or gardens. Turner’s schoolchildren sang superbly and the hundreds of scholars made up the larger Sunday School choirs. No one thought of raising funds for charity, holding a break-up, or a Sunday-school or lodge anniversary, opening a hospital or organising a tea-meeting without a concert, or having a sporting dinner unless songs were interspersed among the speeches. The influence of the Welsh was pervasive. They were always eager to sing and their Ballarat Eisteddfods, unique in Victoria in the eighties, were held annually on


St. David’s Day encouraging choral, solo voice and instrumental performance and providing the framework for the even more successful South Street competitions.

*Weston Bate also offered these thoughts on the Australian Natives Association (A.N.A.) which went on to become a state-wide organisation: The members of the Ballarat A.N.A., which was formed in 1874, to quite an extent as a benefit society, viewed themselves as the inheritors of the pioneers, undergoing training to take over the burden of colonial leadership. Indeed, in genesis and attitude the A.N.A. owed much to the idealistic nationalism of the migrant generation. They spoke frequently – and especially with reference to land settlement –of ‘the pioneers of the colony and their children’ and supported a fund to provide a pension for James Esmond, the Victorian gold-discoverer. They favoured votes for women, strongly supported the early closing of shops and frequently debated topics such as the importance of Eureka, the design of an Australian flag, and above all federation, which they made their cause, building at Ballarat upon a sentiment that had been strong even in the fifties. With a rare broad-mindedness in the name of the nation, they welcomed men of every religious and political stance. And although few Irish Catholics joined, there was a healthy number of the sons of European migrants – whose daughters, by the way, were not in evidence. Unlike the religious Mutual Improvement Associations, the A.N.A. was entirely masculine. Unlike them, too, with its federal focus, it moved rapidly to a state-wide organisation, in which Ballarat men were prominent, but aroused in the Melbourne of the eighties the antipathy rather than the co-operation of the older generation.

Building through the 1880’s

The reason so much time has been spent recording the following events during the 1880’s is that much of what occurred in that period reflects hugely on the establishment and development of the South Street Society. Whether the South Street Society manipulated events to suit their own agenda or not, the fact remains, they were to become the dominant force in the development of an Eisteddfod that would have far-reaching outcomes for the movement in Ballarat and throughout the world. Renowned South Street Society secretary, Lyle A. Blackman, 1921-1964, commented on the first Competition in 1891 – The event of the year. Richard Maddern was President and William Hill Secretary, and with an enthusiastic committee, the start was made on the road to worldwide fame. Ballarat discarded the gold of the earth for the gold of the human mind and voice, and took its place among the cultured cities of the world’. How right Blackman was! 20

Lyle Blackman worked for a time as an accountant for the firm of W. D. Hill & Co., Auctioneers, Estate, Insurance & General Commission Agent. W.D. Hill was the auctioneer and the office, situated at 38 Lydiard Street South, Ballarat, was also the office for the South Street Competitions. The Debater’s Record, (in the first issue of the publication it is referred to as ‘The Debator’s Record. The title of the second and subsequent issues was changed to The Debater’s Record) was first published on Thursday, 12 January, 1882 under the auspices of the Y.M.G.D.S. (Young Men’s General Debating Society South Street) and printed by F. Pinkerton, Printer and Stationer at 22 & 24 Lydiard Street, South Ballarat, records the formation years of Debating Societies. The object, stated prominently on the masthead of the first issue was: ‘To Promote Intercourse among Members of the Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies of Ballarat and Surrounding District’. Throughout the magazine, and in other formal letters and publications of the South Street Society, the Latin motto, ‘Magna est Veritas et Praevalebit’ was prominently used. (This motto was Inaugurated on 10 July, 1879, Incorporated 2 December, 1908, and Revised in April, 1992. It was used in official correspondence for many years.) The English translation is, ‘Truth is Mighty and it shall Prevail,’ or, as used in other documentation, ‘Upward! Forward’! This translation seems to be the most used. The opening introductory statement of the publication offers an insight as to why the Young Mens General Debating Society in South Street was to become a guiding force for the growing number of Societies in Ballarat and subsequently throughout the Ballarat district and beyond: 21



We have very great pleasure in introducing to the notice of the members of the Young Men’s General Debating Society, and the Kindred Associations, the first number of the ‘DEBATORS’ RECORD’. The design of the originators of the movement for the establishment of a periodical was to provide a means whereby the various subjects treated at our own and kindred meetings considered worthy of the distinction might be preserved, and afford a basis from which to judge the improvement made by the members in their knowledge of General Literature. It was also considered that the establishment of a periodical circulating among all the kindred Associations would be the means of creating a healthy spirit of union, a friendly rivalry in the great cause we have in hand, the higher literary education of our members, the aiding of the unfortunate or distressed by the right employment of the talents of speech, acquired in the various meetings. Bearing these facts in mind, we have devoted space to recording the doings of kindred Societies. The various branches of literary composition will find their place set aside for them. The Poet, his Corner; The Letter-writer, his Stand. It only remains for the members of the various Societies to avail themselves of the opportunity given, to make the ‘RECORD’ a success and the means of lasting good.

The introductory Editorial went on to say: It has been remarked of our youth, that they are too much addicted to physical, as opposed to mental pursuits, and an eminent writer has predicted that we are to become a powerful long- jawed race, having but little of the light of knowledge, the fire of genius. Accepting these statements as in a manner correct, where are we to look for the means of remedying the defect pointed out, but to our higher Educational establishments. As at present constituted, some of these are entirely out of the reach of the many, and restricted to the few. We must then look to our Mutual Improvements and Debating Societies to supply the want, which indeed they, by their number and organisation, to a great extent do all at present. Their usefulness is, however, greatly marred by the want of union existence. Many high objects that would be possibilities to the whole as a body, are at present impossible. It is with the view of creating greater reciprocity of feeling that the young men of South Street have instituted its periodical, in whose columns it is desired the general intelligence should find a written place. In the trust that the following pages may be acceptable to our readers, and that each succeeding issue may prove more and more so – as our present acorn grows on its upward way to an oak – we, with confidence, commit our venture to their friendly judgement.

It is little wonder, then, that the South Street Society flourished to provide a platform for performers in many forms of art. The early years


of the Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies provided a solid foundation for them to build on. The first issue of The Debater’s Record also covered meeting notes from a number of kindred Societies, Baptist M.I.A., Baptist Elocution, Brown Hill and Dawson Street Congregational reported on a range of essays, readings and recitations. The Peel Street Association was successfully established on the 2 July, 1880, with two ladies and eight gentlemen present at the meeting. It is interesting to note among the names, one of Ballarat’s leading businessmen and benefactors, James Oddie. As Vice President of the School of Mines, he wrote to the Society offering: ‘To place one of the assistants or lecturers at your service for an occasional lecture and supply apparatus &c., from the School. The letter was received with very great satisfaction, and arrangements have been made by the various Secretaries in accordance therewith’. A newspaper report on Friday, 11 June 1880 from the Alexandra and Yea Standard comments on the opening of a new M.I.S.: ‘Several successful debating societies exist in Ballarat, and one which bids fair to excel all its rivals was initiated a few weeks ago. It is called St. John’s Mutual Improvement Society, and has for its president the ablest of Ballarat speakers, Rev. J.W. Inglis. Last Thursday the usual fortnightly meeting was held when there were fully100 present, half of whom were ladies. The subject for debate was ‘Is the reading of novels injurious to the mind’. After eight members had addressed themselves to the subject, the debate was adjourned for further discussion’. The Young Men’s General Debating Society, South Street in the February issue of ‘Record’ listed a report of activities during January and early February, noting that several changes had taken place in Committee personal during the half-year: Mr G. Rowsell resigned his position as Treasurer, Mr. W. McHutchison being elected in his stead, Mr C. Wedel resigned his position as vice-president and committeeman; the vacancies being filled by Messrs. J. Kirton and J. Ronaldson being elected to the vice-chair and committee respectively. The members have also taken final action re periodical, appointed the editor, Mr. C. Wedel, and settled other matters in connection with same.

To end the final meeting of the year: ‘The President addressed a few words of encouragement to the members, and wished them a happy


and prosperous new year. The meeting then closed with three ringing cheers for the President’. Reference in the publication was made to The Building Fund, having been started previously, with a request from the Secretary W.D. Hill, for: ‘Members desiring to contribute are requested to hand in their names to the Secretary’. The Building Fund mentioned in this issue was to lead to the building of a grand new hall in South Street. In the following months the Secretary announced that debentures were ready to be issued to Members ‘on payment of first charge, of five shillings in the pound’. In May, 1882 a special meeting was held to further discuss the Building Fund. It was resolved: ‘That 1000 debentures of one pound each, bearing interest in the rate of 5 per cent. per annum, payable half-yearly, should be issued to members and friends’. A further announcement in June advised that debentures were now ready for issue to Members on payment of first charge, of five shillings in the pound. In the second issue of The Debater’s Record on Thursday, 9 February, 1882, records further insight into the lofty ideals proposed for Debating Societies to achieve. The report was submitted by C. Smith, President of the Broomfield General Debating Club. He wrote: The object of these clubs is to stimulate the members to cultivate their minds, and to inspire a taste amongst them, for intelligent and literary pursuits; and to acquire the faculty of expressing their ideas fluently. The object, we believe, is a noble one; as it will assuredly raise each individual member in the gradations of intelligence, make him better qualified to fulfil his duties of this life, to bear its responsibilities, or enjoy its pleasures. These debating clubs must be classed amongst the educational forces of the age, all of them engaged in the great crusade against ignorance.

One could quite imagine President Smith’s delivery of this epistle, emphasising salient points with a thunderous delivery, and, perhaps, with much table thumping: ‘And in this young country of ours, that is destined to play such an important part in the future history of the world, is it not important and necessary that we should lay a solid basis for what will yet command respect as the great nation of the South’. He finishes his report with this thought:

Such is the splendid object of our Educational Systems, and such, in a more limited sense, is the object of our Debating Clubs. If youth generally would


recognise the majesty of the mission of these institutions, that from hence are abundantly procurable the most valuable jewels that can decorate their minds, surely then they would enter them with an enthusiasm that would laugh at non-success.

In the space of a few years many kindred Societies were founded and contributed to the growing number of men involved in the movement. Societies seemed to have had strong rules about joining such as Brown Hill which commenced on the 25 July, 1879:

The object of the Society is the Mutual Improvements of its members in General Literature by means of Elocution, Essays, and Debates, and its affairs are managed by the President, Vice-President, Secretary, and Committee of five. The Society is open to all persons of sound moral character over the age of fifteen years. A one third adverse vote excludes a candidate from membership. The rules provide for the order and conduct of business and no discussion is allowed on any subject having religious views. The Society has, since its formation, given an entertainment half-yearly, so that the public can judge from the display made by the members that mutual improvement is not loss, but gain. The subscription being within the means of all, viz., one shilling entrance fee, and sixpence per quarter, none ought to debar themselves from the many benefits to be derived.

Most Societies developed fine libraries. Brown Hill was no exception, indicating that members had the benefit with a library comprising 1211 volumes of choice works, on payment of the small fee of one shilling per quarter. Early in 1882, the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street continued to flourish. At the meeting on 27 January, 67 members attended. The Committee submitted the following report: Your Committee have very much pleasure in submitting the fifth half-yearly report, and in doing so congratulate the members on the improved and prosperous condition of the Society. It is pleasing to note that thirty-five new members have been added to the roll during the half-year; which now shows a total of ninetyeight, including twelve hon. Members. During the half-year meetings have been held regularly, with an average attendance of 36; the highest attendance at any one meeting being 49.

Changes to the Committee structure, with members moving from the district, did not seem to unduly upset the balance of the Society, with other members stepping-up to fill the vacancies. A further pleasing aspect for 27

the Society was the success of The Debater’s Record: ‘The last, but not the least important addition to the Society, is the publication of The Debater’s Record, which, judging from the support already received, promises to be a great success’. Even though the publication was in its infancy, glowing reports were flowing in. From a meeting of the Barkly Street Society came this report: ‘The Debater’s Record, published under the auspices of the South Street Debating Society, was favourably received’. Every month ‘The Record’ reported on weekly activities of the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street. Elocution, Readings, Recitations, Lectures, Essays, were delivered with much enthusiasm, and generally, received with generous acclaim. Among the subjects tendered included, ‘The one -legged Goose,’ J. Roberts, ‘Dick Baker’s Cat,’ W.D. Hill, ‘Heroes of the Truth,’ J. Menzies, ‘Henry V,’ C. Wedel, and an Essay, ‘Character,’ read by Mr. Phillips: ‘Was a creditable production, and was criticised or commended on by several members, a vote of thanks being passed unanimously to the essayist’. Other topics which would have created great merriment, and thought provoking consequence among members included, ‘Drunkeness Accelerates Death,’ J. Phillips, ‘The Alarm,’ T. Little, ‘The Bashful Man,’ J. Membrey, ‘The Eagle’s Rock,’ J. Roberts, ‘The Spanish Champion,’ W. McHutchinson, ‘How to Cure a Cold,’ W.D. Hill, ‘Gambling Houses’, J. Kirton. The establishment of Young Men’s Societies in Ballarat and surrounding areas was not without its critics. In an early issue of The Debater’s Record a letter published by ‘VERITAS,’ addressed THE JUNIOR MEMBER: Kindly allow me a small space in your valuable journal, to say a few words, by way of encouragement, to our young members – ‘boys,’ as they have been termed. Why don’t they get up at our meetings and explain their views on various subjects brought forward for discussion? Why don’t they rise in opposition to the insinuations which have on more than one occasion been made regarding them? I have, more than once since I have been a member of our Society, wished I was a boy, to retort on some of those members who have such a gift of sneering at our juniors. I would advise the junior members of the Association to rise fearlessly and show the members that, though boys in statue, they are not so boyish in their ideas as some members are inclined to think. From what I have heard in private conversations with some of our juniors, I have no hesitation in saying that some of the best speaking talent we possess is at present dormant. Although not a junior member, nor quite a man in age, I promise the juniors that should they


essay to speak, I will second their movements; and I think they can depend on our chairman for protection and support in their endeavours. Yours, &c.

Apparently feelings in the Society were running high on this topic as a further letter from ‘VERITAS’ in April, 1882 answered the criticisms presented by ‘Non-satellites,’ Sensing that the matter was ‘getting out of hand,’ the editor of the publication announced: ‘This correspondence must now cease –ED. D.R’. The editorial of 9 March, 1882, titled, ‘FEDERATION,’ provided a thought provoking dialogue for members. As well as supporting the case for a union of colonies – a Central Government, the article seemed to be sowing the seed for a union of Debating Societies. The article concluded:

By considering that we are one race, with a single destiny, and exposed to the same dangers – that we are colonists of the same Empire. By keeping these ideas constantly before the members of the various Societies, we will plant seed that will grow, increase, and spread, until the at present idea of United Australia, shall have become a glorious and accomplished fact.

Most of the kindred Societies were running successfully with members gaining much from the work of the Committee. The Creswick Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society had scarcely been in existence six months, but had done a large amount of useful work, was keen to pose this question: ‘Of course, as in most Societies of kindred nature, the principal part of the business is done by a few members, and it is an important question with us, how to use all the talent at our disposal. Perhaps this query would be worth thinking about by most of the Societies’. As far back as the 1880’s, it seems, Church’s in Ballarat and surrounding districts were having a similar problem to those in the current era – working together in a common interest. This is highlighted in the formation of a new Society as reported by the ‘Record’ in March, 1882:

We have pleasure in recording the advent of another new Society, of a rather different character from our own and other Societies which aim at Mental Improvement and avoid religious discussions, while respecting religion. The Young Men’s Friendly Society for the Diocese of Ballarat is a direct connection with the Church of England, not for a desire for exclusiveness, we are informed, but because it was found impracticable to unite the various churches in a common interest. If, however, it only covers successfully a


certain space of ground it may do much good, just as a careful farmer may bring one field after another into cultivation with advantage.

The report continued: The leading principle of it will be that ‘Associates’, communicators of the church, are expected to take the lead, and gather around them junior members, whom they will encourage and assist, as centres of influence. Membership is not confined to communicants or members of the Church of England, so that the Society will be inclusive of all those who are seriously interested in the discussion of subjects bearing Christian life and doctrine.

Reading the publication’s editorials and other submitted works by association members it is interesting to note their drive to improve aspects of education and usefulness to society. As an example, was a letter published in the April issue by ‘T.C’. titled – ‘A Few Words on Education’: It has been truly remarkable, that one of the greatest pleasures in life is conversation, and in order to converse with any degree of interest or intelligence, it is necessary to have a well stored mind. It is in conversation that the advantage which an educated person has over an uneducated one may be more fully observed. Education furnishers us with a greater variety of illustration, words, and ideas; and, in short, enables us to converse with more freedom and success than would otherwise been the case. Let us also strive to uphold and advance our present system of education, which has proven one of the finest achievements of the age, and will yet prove a blessing to future generations, by raising up those who are sunk in the lowest depths of ignorance, superstition, and poverty, into the fast increasing ranks of affluence and knowledge.

The Y.M.G.D.S., South Street was achieving great success with a range of either speakers or spirited debates each meeting. 36 members attended the meeting on 24 February, 1882. There were four more candidates elected with two new nominations received. The evening was set apart for the consideration of the ’Chinese Question’. Many Chinese people made their way to the gold-fields of Ballarat and elsewhere. They formed a strong bond, but were denied their right as ‘gold prospectors’ and cast aside to become traders or toil in less prosperous pursuits. (In fact, the Ballarat General Cemeteries has an area especially set aside in the New Cemetery for Chinese burials). So it was not surprising that this topic was chosen for a debate:


Mr. L. Prichard advocating the cause of the Chinese, and Mr. W. Hambly speaking for the negative. Messrs. Rowsell, Stoneman, R. Hain, Campbell, Hill, Oyston, Dabron, F.H. Hillman, and other members having spoken, and a vote having been taken, 10 were found to favour the Chinese as colonists, and 22 held the opposite view. Attention having been called to the recent diabolical attempt to assassinate the Queen, a resolution, expressive of thankfulness at Her Majesty’s merciful preservation, was carried unanimously, and ordered to be recorded on the minutes.

Although the Orpheus Hall in Raglan Street, South was used for social gatherings a new hall would cater better for their needs. A Grand Concert, in aid of the Building Fund, was planned to be held in the Societies Hall in South Street on 29 March, 1882. At a later meeting of the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street, the concert, held in the Societies Hall, was reported to be an outstanding success with more than 200 people attending: ‘The singing of the National Anthem brought a most enjoyable and successful concert to a close’.

The future of kindred Associations

Two major issues were confronting Y.M.G.D.S. South Street. One was maintaining the push to build a new hall in South Street. The other 31

related to the growing number of kindred Societies and their future. The matter relating to the future for kindred Societies was brought to a head in February, 1882 when, at the South Street Societies General Meeting, on a motion of Mr Hain, a resolution was passed to consider the matter of a conference. Later, at a General Meeting on 10 March, 1882, a circular from the Secretary informed all the various kindred Associations, that the following resolution was carried unanimously by the Committee: That the Secretary write to all the kindred Associations, informing them that this Society suggests the holding of a Conference during May. Business – To consider the best means of extending the usefulness of the Societies generally, and other matters affecting their joint interest. It has been proposed that the meeting be held either at Brunn’s Hall or the Lecture-room of the Mechanics’ Institute, both places being centrally situated. It has also been suggested that each Society be represented by five (5) delegates. Should your members approve of the Conference, a reply giving their opinion on the matter will oblige.

And so was set in motion a series of events that was to lead to a change of direction for all kindred Societies and the future course of the Young Men’s General Debating Society, South Street. In April The Debater’s Record outlined aspects of the forthcoming conference. It seems, then, that they had in mind a competitionbased idea for the future. The tone of the editorial firmly plants in the mind of all proposed delegates, suggestions that, in many respects, became reality in the years ahead, particularly for the South Street Society. The report is, I believe, important to relate in full as it forms the basis of what was to develop and become a world famous and successful Competition: The suggestion made by the South Street Association that a conference of Delegates be held for the purpose of discussing the best means of extending the usefulness of the Societies generally, and other matters affecting their interests, is worthy of the earnest consideration and generous support of all Societies formed for the mental improvement of their members. There is no doubt that the influence and usefulness of the various Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies could be very much increased, and at the present moment seems a very opportune one, to bring representatives of the several bodies together, for the purpose of expressing their views, with the object of more general action. It has been asked, what benefit would be derived from the proposed meeting?



Without in any way desiring to anticipate the action that may be taken, we would point out one or two ends it would be possible to attain. Arrangements might be made by which the lectures on scientific subjects, instead of ,as it as present, being held in several meeting places, could be given in the hall of the Mechanics’ Institute, Academy of Music, or other centrally situated meeting place, and members from all the Societies could attend; at the same time, the outside public might also be invited. Representative Essays could be arranged for, at a date and place, to secure the attendance of members from every Society. By a combined effort prizes might be offered for the best Essay, Poem, or Address on any chosen subject; either in connection with institutions already formed, or as a distinct feature in connection with the Societies, or both. A school of Oratory might also be established. A settlement of these and similar matters would tend greatly to encourage and popularise the efforts being made to promote the mental improvement of members, and through them of the public mind generally. Action might be taken by which the work in connection with our charitable institutions could be divided among the societies as a body, not, as present, being left to one or two already hardworking Associations. Provision might be made for an annual benefit in aid of the charities and other benevolent purposes, and action in regard to other important matters agreed upon. These are but a few of the many subjects that might be discussed and settled, to the lasting good of all interested. We have no doubt that the importance and necessity of having a Conference has already suggested itself to our readers, and we therefore, without further comment, leave the matter to their kindly consideration, reminding them in so doing that improvement should not be confined to faith and thought alone, but should find its best expression in action.

Although the proposed Conference of Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies was well supported by the majority of kindred Associations there were those who were not so sure and decided not to send delegates, A.N.A., Ballarat Branch being one of them. A letter received at the April meeting of the Y.M.G.D.S. from the Secretary of the Ballarat Branch A.N.A., stated: ‘That the members had decided not to be represented at the proposed Conference, and giving reasons for the decision arrived at’. Perhaps the answer why members of the A.N.A. declined to join the conference can be found in the book Lucky City by Weston Bate: However strong the (Art) gallery’s educational role it could not rival the mutual improvement societies, which emerged when the native-born


grew too old for primary school and Sunday school. One at least (at the Lydiard Street Wesleyan church) was formed in the sixties and many were flourishing by 1880. In the absence of state secondary education, they assisted personal advancement but, as in Britain, were mainly promoted as agents of ‘citizenship’and ‘enlightenment’. One interesting point is that two of the four strongest societies were in Ballarat East, at St. Paul’s Anglican and Barkly Street Methodist churches. At Ballarat West the outstanding societies were at the Roman Catholic and Lydiard Street Methodist churches. All ran programmes emphasising ‘mental culture’ through debates, reading and impromptu speeches, but the inclusion of girls gave the Protestant societies, which were obviously middleclass like the church membership itself, a different tone from the Catholic. The most popular attracted about eighty members to weekly meetings’. No single reason can be given for the relative weakness of Protestant societies at Ballarat West, except that political and civic rather than moral questions were paramount in that very lively electorate, which spawned two of Ballarat’s most important institutions, the Australian Natives Association and the South Street Society. They were secular improvement societies. The members of the A.N.A., which was formed in 1874, to quite an extent as a benefit society,viewed themselves as the inheritors of the pioneers, undergoing training to take over the burden of colonial leadership. Indeed in genesis and attitudes of the A.N.A. owed much to the idealistic nationalism of the migrant generation. They spoke frequently – and especially with reference to land settlement – of pioneers of this colony and their children. They favoured votes for women, strongly supported the early closing of shops and frequently debated topics such as the importance of Eureka, the design of an Australian flag, and above all federation, which they made their cause, building at Ballarat upon a sentiment that had been strong even in the fifties. With a rare broad-mindedness in the name of the nation, they welcomed men of every religious and political stance. And although few Irish Catholics joined, there was a healthy number of sons of European migrants – whose daughters, by the way, were not in evidence. Unlike the religious Mutual Improvement Associations, the A.N.A. was entirely masculine. Unlike them, too, with its federalist focus, it moved rapidly to a state-wide organisation, in which Ballarat men were prominent, but it aroused in Melbourne of the eighties, the antipathy rather than the cooperation of the older generation.

Or was it a decision based on religious persuasion? And what of the Roman Catholic church societies. Why were they not represented? An item published on 26 July, 1890 in The Ballarat Star newspaper might give a clue: ‘At a meeting of the Young Men’s General Debating Society an interesting discussion ensured, on a motion submitted by Mr. Hill with 35

reference to the alteration of the rule limiting the membership of the society to Protestants. Owing to sufficiency of time, the motion had to be held over, and will be discussed at the next ordinary meeting of the Society’. No further information was found as to the outcome of the discussion. Throughout the 1882 year The Debater’s Record made no mention of a Catholic organisation of any nature. There certainly was not a representative society at the conference. In the ‘History of Ballarat: From the First Pastoral’ William Withers made these observations: The passing of the Educational Act of 1872 revolutionised the primary school system of the colony and annihilated at a stroke all the denominational schools save some of the Roman Catholic ones. That church has fought and still fights against the State Schools, and has opened new schools of its own in all directions, but as the denomination is in a minority, and the great bulk of the children of Ballarat are sent to State Schools, these have become a notable feature of civic architecture.

Withers also recorded that Ballarat schools had an average attendance during 1886 of 5,342 children. The only mention Withers made of Catholic associations or societies in Ballarat was this: The Hibernian Society, formed in Ballarat on 7 July, 1868, is now called the Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society. There are branches now all over Australia, and the members wear green scarves and other decorations. In November last year there were 137 members. St. Patrick’s Day is the Society’s great festival time; sports are held under its auspices annually.

Even in the ‘Old Country’–England, The Young Men’s Catholic Association was under discussion. In a letter To-The-Editor published in The Tablet, an international Catholic weekly newspaper published in the UK, on Saturday, 16 February, 1889, Mr. W.M. Martin Edmunds had this to say in his support of saving the Association:

Sir – I trust that you will allow me to plead through your columns for an Association which is deserving of support from all Catholics. I mean the Young Men’s Catholic Association, which is, as you are aware, by no means a new society. It is an Association of the greatest importance, because it is the means of bringing together Catholic men from all parts of London, and prevents them from joining Protestant clubs, and exposing themselves to the danger of losing their faith. I cannot urge too strongly the claims of their Association, and I feel sure that all Catholics who seriously consider the


matter must see how important it is to keep up such an institution. Yet I am grieved to say its supporters are few. There are a great number of young men in London who are losing the faith or the want of such institutions. Surely Catholics, who are able to help this work and refuse, will be answerable for the evils which will accrue from the closing of the Association. I most earnestly pray that this appeal may not be like many appeals, unsuccessful; and that, as the holy reason of Lent is at hand, the hearts of some, at least, may be touched so as to deny themselves some little luxury to save our Catholic young men, especially when such excellent Protestant clubs and poly-technies are springing up around us’. I am, Sir, your obedient servant, W.M. MARTIN EDMUNDS.

Closer to home the National Museum of Australia’s, ‘A true history of the Irish in Australia’ an essay by Richard Reid, Senior Curator of NMA recorded these words: Beginning in the 1860’s, the development of a separate Catholic educational system, founded on the financial contributions of the faithful and the hard unpaid work of the male and female religious orders, created a distinct intellectual and emotional ambience for Australian Catholic youth. The system was developed in opposition to the colonial ‘free, secular, and compulsory’ state education system introduced between the 1860’s and 1880’s, and it drove a wedge between Irish-Catholic and British Australia. The bishops saw the state schools as godless institutions; they wanted Catholic children to be educated in purely Catholic surroundings. There might not have been trouble over all this but for the fact that colonial and, later state governments refused public money to Catholic schools. This meant hat ordinary Catholics had to support their own schools and also help to support the public system through their taxes – a situation that produced a deep and abiding sense of grievance among 20 to 25 per cent of Australia’s population.

So, what do we make of all that? It leads me to think that, even though there was a Catholic society operating in Ballarat at the time, they just did not want to be involved in the formation of a Union or a gathering of ‘secular’ societies. (The author did find a reference in The Ballarat Star to a meeting of the Catholic Young Men’s Association on 1 April, 1884: ‘The first quarterly summoned meeting of the Catholic Young Men’s Society was held last Friday evening. There was an excellent attendance, despite the various other outside attractions’. The report went on to say: ‘A little other business having been settled the special business was entered upon 37

and postponed to allow the members to attend the concert in aid of the Benevolent Asylum)’. Among the number of other associations offering a supporting point-of-view were: ‘J. T.,’ Brown Hill’, ‘A plan might be laid down whereby the larger associations could assist those smaller ones, in which the debating talent might not be so far advanced – which would be the means of enlivening those who now fall asleep in despair – Let admiration be a thing of the past, hard work and determination to improve the aim of the present and of the future. Let us work hand-in-hand, and shoulder-to-shoulder, and make the conference a success’. ‘Excelsior’, Baptist Mutual Improvement Society, ‘I think much good might be done by consulting together as to the best means of obtaining the improvement we desire; and I for one, should like to see such conference take place’. ‘A member of St. John’s Association’, ‘In my opinion, besides creating the friendship, it would be the means of bringing the societies and their members into more prominence with the general public, and thereby derive an amount of public favour which would doubtless be welcomed by all’. ‘A member of the Baptist Elocution Association’, ‘Allow me, Sir, to state that I think the holding the Conference is an excellent one, and that it will result in a great amount of good, and I hope all the kindred Associations will take the matter up in earnest’.

The opinions expressed by association members supporting the Conference must have given the South Street Society much encouragement. The Conference was to have undeniable influence in the future direction of the kindred Associations. As the Conference date drew closer, a formidable list of delegates were nominated to attend. T. Saunders, J. Kirton, W.D. Hill, R. Hain, and C. Wedel were elected to represent the Y.M.G.D.S., South Street. Other societies expressing approval for the Conference and naming delegates were: Brown Hill, Dawson Street, Eyre Street, Baptist Elocution, St. John’s, Mt. Pleasant, Pleasant Street. The Smeaton Association expressed its approval of the Conference: ‘But regretting that distance from Ballarat would prevent their being represented’. 38

Further Associations appointed the following Ladies and Gentlemen to attend. BAPTIST M.I.A. – Messrs G. Parker, W.H. Burton, G. Ruby, F. Curtis, A.S. Burbridge. BARKLY STREET M.I.A.– Messrs E. Scarborough, J. Bryant, and Misses Ellsworth, Cutter, and Walker. DAWSON STREET CONGREGATIONAL M.I.A. – Messrs W.G. Chalmers, H. Lonie, W.L. Reeves, J. Rowsell, Miss L. West. CRESWICK WESLEYAN – Messrs T. Chaffer, J.W. Williams, W.S. Robins, T. King, and C. Norman. CRESWICK G.D.S. – Messrs Fella, Gray, Grose, McCullock, and Spence. MOUNT PLEASANT M.I.A. – Messrs J.W. Grainer, Grocott, Ford, J. Champion, and J. Dunstan. PLEASANT STREET M.I.A. – Messrs Gribble, Ellis, Ware, Pascoe, and T. Farley. ST. JOHN’S M.I.A., PEEL STREET – Messrs S. Morrison, J.E. Stevenson, S. Jamieson, J. McDowall and P. McGregor. ST. PAUL’S M.I.A. – Messrs Coxon, J. Richardson, and C. Stoneman, Mrs Trevor, Miss Welch. BROWN HILL M.I.A. – Messrs Cocking, D. Brown, T. Osborne, J. Taylor, and T. Phillips. BAPTIST ELOCUTION CLASS – Messrs R. Gray, F. Fricke, W. Goode, J.W. Pitt, and H.S. Wyatt. BUNINYONG LITERARY ASSOCIATION – Messrs Osbaldeston, G. Attwood, J.E. Chenball, E.B. Goode, & W.T. Clark. BROOMFIELD DEBATING CLUB – Messrs C. Smith, J. Smith, B.Q. Richards, J.F. Featherstone, and W Bradley. EYRE STREET M.I.A. – Messrs Rooney, J.W. Kirton, W. Taylor, Lamont, and Berryman. LYDIARD STREET WESLEYAN M.I.A. – Messrs J. Campbell, G.C. Robinson, W.D. Wheal, Smythe, and R.O. Dimsey. NORTH CRESWICK M.I.A. – Messrs J.H. Brawne, H. Pearce, W Allen, F. Simon, and W. Pearce. NEIL STREET M.I.A. – Messrs J. Stringer, G. Powell, S. Willis, J. Cargeeg, and R. Ince, jun. UNITED METHODIST FREE CHURCH M.I.A. – Messrs J. Turner, Dawson, Mitchell, Llewellyn, and Steavenson.


Another report by the editor of The Debater’s Record in the June edition was offered, supporting strongly the work of the Young Men’s Associations in their endeavours in Ballarat. After the ‘rough and tough’ period on Ballarat’s goldfields, this report was a glowing endorsement of their work in preparing hundreds of young men and women members in shaping their minds to an uncertain future. Part of the editorial is covered here: Ballarat, as is usual, in most questions that have a tendency to improve the position of the masses of this colony, has again taken the lead, and seldom, perhaps, has it taken a more beneficial direction, than in endeavouring to organise the work of the Young Men’s Associations of this colony. The future will have to be shaped by those who are now arriving at the age of manhood, and their actions will and must be influenced by their knowledge of the past and of the present. …that it is scarcely one hundred year ago when death by fire for religious opinions was no rare occurrence on the Continent. In other countries the regulations relating to right of towns and districts to trade, manufactures, to cultivate certain crops, were so numerous, and so oppressive, as to render them now-a-days almost impossible of belief. An acquaintance of these facts would render us more tolerant of one another, and more impatient of those fire-brands, who, to serve their own interests, raise ill-feeling by a partial and shamefully dishonest reference to the past. …The political and social changes in even our colonies are so great that as short a period of ten years will completely alter matters. …There is abundance of work for our Young Men’s Associations, and all those who wish well for the future will say to them ‘work’, do not mind disputes; do not avail them. The best man is the man who can best stand opposition’.

In the years leading up to this period there was another movement that was helping to shape the future, not only for Ballarat and District, but also for the South Street Society – Freemasonry. In her book, Freemasons on the Goldfields:1853-2013, Dorothy Wickham writes: On the goldfields of Victoria, one of the most cosmopolitan in Victorian society, men took the opportunity to shape their community into what they perceived to be a more tolerant utopian ideal’. Freemasons supported the renowned South Street Society, which began its life in 1879, with many sitting on the committee or presiding over it as President. W.D. Hill was appointed secretary of the society around 1880, a position he held until his death in 1921. Brother Richard Maddern of St. John’s Lodge was president when the first competitions were held in 1891. Well known identities Albert


Albert Whitelock Steane

Officers 1902-03, Standing L to R, Richards, J.T. Morris, Dr Salmon, F. Besemers, Lieut. Col. Williams, R. Maddern, W.H. Chandler. Sitting L to R, W.H. Gent, W.E. Thomas, Fred. J. Williams, W.D. Hill, F. Sutton. Front, W.H.Pearson, Victor Borgoyne, James Lanyon


Whitelock Steane and Septimus Charles Henderson were made Honorary Life Members of the South Street Society for their contributions. Steane founded the Calisthenic Section in 1903, was elected to Council in 1930 and served as President for two years. Henderson joined the Society in 1932 and served as President in 1938 and 1959. Both names are prominent in Masonic circles.

James Frederick Kittson, Committeeman and former President of the Society, and son Warwick Frederick Kittson, both Freemasons, gave sound financial advice to the Society in the purchase of Her Majesty’s Theatre for the sum of 64,000 pounds. President of the Society, Freemason Roy Barrett remarked, ‘Ballarat must feel proud for it has supported South Street so loyally and steadfastly, and is the life blood of the Competitions through its support. Of course, I’m sure that throughout the membership of the M.I.A. Societies, there would have been many other Freemasons instrumental in the development and success of the South Street Society.

The Conference begins

After months of preparation the Conference of the Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies began in the Wesleyan Hall, Dana Street in the evening of Monday, 29 May, 1882 with, importantly, two South Street Society members elected, Mr Theodore Saunders as President of the Conference and Mr. William D. Hill as Secretary. The Conference was to range over three evenings with each evening commencing at about 7.00 p.m. The opening address by the President would have stirred the hearts of delegates, and given them a strong focus for matters to be raised affecting the future. After thanking the audience present for the ‘high and responsible position you have been pleased to place me,’ he continued: …I will endeavour to fulfil the duties appertaining therto to the best of my ability, and I hope that will be in a manner which will reflect credit upon this Conference and honor upon the Association which I represent. It has been my duty on many occasions to preside over a larger audience than the one assembled before me this evening, but I have never had the honor of presiding over such an array of intellect as that which I see before me at the present time. In fact, I think I might venture to say that we have gathered together in this hall, at the present moment, the crème de la crème – If I might use the expression – of the intellect of this district. I see before me representatives of about nineteen different Associations, who represent the interest of about twelve hundred individuals. Adopting the motto


of our movement, viz., ‘Unity and Perseverance,’ supported by such number as this, thoroughly imbued, as I believe they are, in the present movement, is there anything impossible for us to achieve? I think not. …And I conscientiously believe the present Conference will be the means of igniting, and causing a great conflagration. I believe the time is rapidly approaching when we will behold the cause of Mutual Improvement set in full blaze before us, and we shall see it devouring element sweeping and purifying in its progress; sweeping ignorance, bigotry, and superstition from our midst, and purifying the human intellect, in order that it may attain a higher state of perfection than that already achieved. We are told the hope of the future is in the young, it therefore behoves us to be up and doing; not to allow the grass to grow under our feet, but to ignite, and form one perfect phalanx, working in unison, all labouring in the one great cause, namely the raising of the status of Mutual Improvement, the forwarding of civilisation and the establishment of nationality.

Lofty words, indeed! If the President’s words did not instil confidence for the future in all delegates present, then, nothing would have. The President concluded his welcome speech: …I feel it is my duty to impress upon the delegates the great responsibility that rests upon their shoulders, and I advise them to make truth, justice, and honor their guides in their various actions – always remembering that ‘Truth is mighty and must prevail’. Again thanking you for the honor you have conferred upon me. I conclude by expressing my belief that, with Perseverance and Unity as our motto, we cannot fail, because perseverance means success. Success can only be achieved by Unity since Unity means Strength, and Strength means Victory. I have now very much pleasure in formally declaring this Conference opened.

Again the President’s comment about ‘Strength of Unity’ is leading delegates to a conclusion that will have consequences by the conclusion of the Conference.It was now down to business with the Business Sheet, prepared by the South Street Society, adopted. Matters appertaining to Benevolence, Competitive Prizes, Elocution, Entertainments, Lectures, Representative Essays, Notices of Motion, and General Business. It was also moved and seconded that the mover of any motion be allowed ten minutes and the seconder and supporters five minutes. BENEVOLENCE The first item of business involved members in a discussion into ’Entertaining inmates of Charities’. It was moved and seconded: ‘That 43

the Conference take into consideration the advisability of arranging some systematic programme for entertaining the inmates of the Benevolent Asylum, Orphan Asylum, and Reformatory’. Complaints were raised about the motion so, after more discussion, an amendment was moved and seconded: ‘That a Committee be formed to consider the above question of Benevolence, and submit a report to the Conference’. Further suggestions were: ‘The matter of benevolent entertainment should be taken up with spirit, and twenty Societies could at least give an entertainment once every three weeks’. A further aspect of charitable help was raised with consideration being given to young men who arrived in the district. ‘In Melbourne the Young Men’s Society found any young man who arrived in the district, and gave him a helping hand’. Mr Robinson thought, ‘that when young men from other districts came to Ballarat, and were out of work, there should also be extended the helping hand’. It was then suggested that each of the Societies represented should set aside a certain amount of money for charitable purposes. ‘In Melbourne they had a paid Secretary, and that was a matter which they should consider. If they had a paid Secretary in Ballarat, it would be his duty to look after such things as mentioned’. ‘That the Executive take into consideration the best means of getting young men, now in Ballarat, to join the various Societies’. And, ‘that each Society should have cards of membership printed and given to each member, so that on leaving a district a member of any Society could present the card to a Society at the next place he went to reside, and he would be recognised’. ENTERTAINMENT IN AID OF CHARTIES The final discussion of this matter resolved: ‘That entertainments be held once a year in some prominent Hall, in Ballarat and Creswick, for the benefit of the Charities’. The importance of this discussion and outcome will have its sequel later when a concert will be held and all proceeds being put aside in a Benevolent Fund. COMPETITION PRIZES The President opened the discussion, saying, ‘He thought the competitive examination should be held, when prizes would be given 44

for Essays, Poems, Elocution, &c’. The motion first put to the delegates was:‘That the Conference set apart a sum of money to provide two medals to be presented as Conference Medals, one for the best Essay and the other for the best poem’. The mover of the motion observed ‘that too much attention was paid to athletics. All the medals won now were either for football, cricket, or rowing. The ambitious genius was more apt to get sneered at than encouraged, and he thought the Conference should take the matter up’. A lively debate followed with discussion ranging from, ‘the giving of books for prizes instead of medals,’ ‘should entry be confined to those Societies represented at the Conference,’ or, ‘not confined to the Ballarat district only, but open to all Australians’. ‘Should the age limits be fixed,’ ‘should ladies have separate prizes – ladies were quite able to compete with the gentlemen,’ ‘hold a public debate in some central hall’. In his reply, the mover of the motion, ‘was pleased that the matter had been so well discussed as he had given the subject every consideration, and he believed in being generous and just. Medals were far preferable to books, as a medal could be handed down from generation to generation, while a book would soon be destroyed’. ‘The motion and amendment was then put, and the former carried by an overwhelming majority’. PUBLIC DEBATE Following a suggestion of a public debate earlier in the day, a motion was moved that: ‘A Public Debate be held, and a medal given to the person who distinguished himself most of all’. The seconder of the motion suggested ‘That two medals be given, one for the debater on either side’. Further discussion revealed, ‘That a certificate be given to the Society which the successful debater represents’, and, ‘There are such things as leather medals, but it was hoped that the Conference Medals would be gold’. ‘The audience be the judge’. Concern was raised at the suggestion that a double prize be given of one for the Society and one for the members representing it’. The though was that it would be hard to distinguish to what Society each debater belonged to. That thought was countered by, ‘Every person competing would require to state on behalf of what Association he appeared at the debate’. ‘The motion was then put and carried unanimously’. 45

At the close of the Conference’s first day, and because of time constraints, a motion, ‘That the Conference give a medal to the value of about five pounds to the Eisteddfod Committee, to be placed on their programme, and given for the best Essay,’ was held over until the next evening Discussion on this motion was held over to make way for the tabling of a very important Notice of Motion, which would change dramatically the direction kindred Associations would take for their future. The notice read: ‘That with a view of promoting the benevolence and usefulness of these Societies, a Committee be appointed –consisting of one member from each Society here represented – to report at a later sitting upon the desirability of forming a Central Society, with a view of forming and opening a Central Reading Room, and generally to act as a means of consolidating these Societies’. ESTABLISHMENT OF A CENTRAL SOCIETY On the second night of the Conference, the first item of business called was the motion which Mr. Reeves, representing the Dawson Street Congregational M.I.A. had proposed at the conclusion of the first night of the Conference. He began his address thanking the Chairman and all concerned on the fine gathering, and said that it appeared a pity that such an extensive Association as could be made out of the material at hand, should be lost. He thought that they could make this Society take a similar position to that held by the Young Men’s Christian Society in Melbourne. He then extolling the work of the YMCA, ‘They did an incalculable amount of good’. Overnight he had considered the matter carefully, (the motion) and had decided to alter his motion. He then moved: That a Committee be appointed – consisting of one member from each Society here represented – And to report at a later sitting upon the desirability of forming a Central Association – having for its objects the execution of work laying outside of the limits of individual Societies. Such as the appointment of a General Secretary; establishing a Central Office, reading Room, and Library; the publication of the Societies organ, and generally to consolidate and further develop these Societies without in any way interfering with their internal self-government’. He further said that they all knew that ‘Union is Strength,’ and he thought they could form a very influential Society,’which would be the means of doing a great and vast work’.


Dissenters were again vocal as they expressed their opinions, ‘Most of the Associations represented here had libraries of their own and there was also the free libraries, and in Ballarat, the Mechanics’ Institute where a person could consult almost any book on the payment of a small subscription’, and, ‘The Central Society would be the means of drawing away all the good speakers from the smaller Societies’. A sampling of those in favour of the motion, countered, ‘The great fault in the past was that each Society was too much wrapped up in itself. This Conference was for the widening of their interests and influence, and he believed in the motion being fully discussed, as the committee appointed to consider it would deal with it in the same manner as it was dealt with by the Conference. It has been a stigma in the past that each Society was jealous of the other, and by getting a general secretary and representative committee they would be doing a vast amount of good. There need be no danger of any of the Associations suffering by the formation of the Central Society’. Another delegate believed, ‘the South Street Debating Society had decided to build a hall in some public place, and the central Society could use that hall’. ‘The object of the conference was to unite all societies under the one banner, and to dispel all petty jealousies. The only way to accomplish these objects was by adopting the idea conveyed in the motion presented by Mr. Reeves’: ‘The motion was then put and carried, 25 voting for, and 8 against it’. It was moved and seconded: ‘that the appointment of delegates to constitute the committee be left to the various Associations’. An amended motion that ‘the committee be appointed from the delegated here present was moved and seconded’. ‘The motion and amendment was then put, and the latter carried, 23 voting for it, and 12 for the motion’. Later in the evening the following gentlemen were elected as a sub-committee, to consider Mr. Reeves motion. ‘Messrs. Pascoe, Reeves, Robinson, Hain, Parker, Pitt, Scarborough, McDowell, Phillips, Coxon, Kirton, Smith, Goode, Llewellyn, Ince, Dunstan, Fallow, King, and Brawn’. The work of this committee commenced a new enthusiasm and direction for all Societies, and particularly the newly formed Central Society.

COMPETITIVE PRIZES Eisteddfod Medal. The meeting opened on the second night returning to the motion proposed late on the first night. The proposer of 47

the motion spoke briefly on the motion suggesting, ‘that if the medal was placed on the programme of the Welsh Eisteddfod it would increase interest in that event, and would be a good advertisement for the Association’. ‘There was an old adage which would apply in the present case – ‘heave a sprat to catch a mackerel,’ called another member supporting the motion. And still another delegate, ‘they could well afford to give the medal, and he intended moving at a later stage that a fund be instituted for giving trophies’. Of course, there was always opposition, ‘they should practise a little economy’. The discussion finished with words of support, ‘Some persons appear to be frightened to have the competition open to all, in case they were defeated. That he thought would be a good thing, because, if defeated once, it would stir them on to greater work in the future’. ‘The motion was then put and carried, 25 voting for and 7 against’. Prizes for Elocution. It was moved: ‘That a prize or prizes be given to the best reciter or reciters. The said reciter to be a member of some Kindred Association, within a radius of 80 miles of Ballarat, and all competitors must be members of six month standing’. Interestingly, the seconder of the motion said, ‘He was proud to admit that what knowledge he had of public speaking had been gained in Mutual Improvement Association’. Another delegate suggested that, ‘They should also consider the advisability of giving two prizes, one for competitors over 21, and the other for those under’. To finalise the debate a further speaker suggested, ‘As the meeting was so generous to giving prizes, he thought they ought to save time by leaving it to the Executive to give prizes as far as the funds would permit’. Another delegate briefly replied, ‘Reciting was the stepping stone to public speaking’. The motion was then put and carried unanimously. The matter of further prizes for the competition raised the ire of some delegates which created some tensions between delegates of Societies members with the South Street Society. A motion was moved in order to close the discussion: ‘That in the event of the Executive finding they have sufficient funds, other prizes be given for subjects not already mentioned’. This motion was supported with a comment that, ‘giving away medals like this created a great deal of competition and did a great amount of good’. Mr. Wedel of the South Street Society, disagreed as he thought it was, ‘putting the iron-hand on free discussion’. Speaking for his own Society he said, ‘If all others left the Conference, they would carry out all that 48

had been decided’. He then moved as an amendment: ‘That the discussion on competitive prizes be continue until there is nothing more to say’. Mr. Hain, South Street Society delegate, seconded the motion saying he would support the idea of his colleague. ‘The South Street Society had carried out greater things than the present, and if all other Societies deserted, the South Street Society would themselves carry on the work of the Conference’. ‘The motion and amendment was then put, and the former declared carried 25 voting for it and 9 for the amendment’. Elocution, School of Oratory. Mr. Hain, a South Street Society delegate moved: ‘That a School of Oratory be established in connection with the Mutual Improvements and Debating Societies of the district; and that a competent master be engaged for the purpose of giving instruction’. In presenting the motion, he said: ‘He had frequently noticed a tendency among the young men in Australia to get into a sort of ‘singsong’ manner of speaking, instead of a proper elocutionary style, and they seldom get out of it. There was at present no such class in Ballarat, and by getting one they could bring the best elocution masters in the colony to take charge of it. The Conference, by receiving the motion, would not be accepting any responsibility, but merely encouraging outsiders to come in’. Discussion in regard to the need, and the number of members that would be required exercised delegates’ minds. It was thought that if a class could be established ‘they would be doing a great thing,’ and, ‘it was one of the things very much wanted in Ballarat’. Again, the South Street Society was to the fore when an amended motion was put before the delegates: ‘That the matter of elocution be referred to the South Street Society to deal with, and the delegates here assembled agree to ventilate the subject in their Societies with a view of obtaining the names of persons willing to become pupils’. Before the motion was put to delegates, Mr. Hain, in reply said, ‘he felt sorry that the South Street Society’s delegates had so much to do in moving motions, but if no one else would they must’. His object was to have one general school instead of a teacher having to go round to each of the different Societies: ‘The motion and amendment was then put, and the latter carried, 17 voting for it and 12 for the motion’. Approaching the half-way point of the Conference it was becoming increasingly apparent that the South Street Society delegates were the 49

dominant delegates and other Societies delegates were following their lead. Not only were their delegates moving and seconding motions, but were also speaking to the motions and generally leading the Conference in a positive direction. ENTERTAINMENTS INDUSTRIAL EXHIBITION A curious term, Exhibition. Does the word mean a display of goods, or some type of competition, or even a sort of bazaar? As it turns out, the term, Industrial Exhibitions, was, as suggested by Conference delegate Mr. McDowell, ‘Were not only a source of amusement, but also of education. He thought they (Mutual Improvement Association) might apply to the Executive Committee of the Juvenile Industrial Exhibition for assistance. If he was a member of that Committee, and if the Conference would make an application to them, he would do his best in support of it’. It was then moved: ‘That it be a recommendation to the Executive that they take into consideration the advisability of holding an Industrial Exhibition, under the joint auspices of the Associations represented at this Conference’. The mover of the motion, Mr. W.W. Coxon, delegate for the St. Paul’s Mutual Improvement Association, and later, Hon. Secretary of the St. Paul’s Mutual Exhibition, then referred to the success of the Ballarat Juvenile Industrial Exhibition (a great success at the Alfred Hall in 1878), and the St. Paul’s Exhibition. ‘He thought it would bring out other talents for which prizes had not yet been offered. He thought if properly carried out, an Industrial Exhibition under the auspices of the whole of the Association would realise sufficient to give all the prizes that they had decided to offer. If the St. Paul’s Society with about 20 members could raise 30 pounds by an Industrial Exhibition he did not see why the Conference could not raise 33 pounds. In supporting the proposition, another Society member said he could not see why they could not make it a grand success. He believed those who took part in and gained prizes at the Ballarat Exhibition were young men who now held a prominent part in different Mutual Improvements Associations’. Mr. Hill, South Street Society Secretary, summed up the discussion by saying, ‘This Conference, he thought was destined to do a great good in bringing to life latent talent. He did not see why the people of 50

Australia should not outdo their forefathers’. ‘The motion was then put and carried unanimously’. Societies’ members generally were much in favour of an Industrial Exhibition as expressed by T.S. in a letter to the editor of The Record on 8 August, 1882: Sir, I crave a small space in your columns to express my pleasure and sympathy with the above movement, (St. Paul’s Industrial Exhibition) as I think it cannot be brought too prominently before the minds of the public. Since, whilst aiming at bringing out the inherent talents of the members of the various Mutual Improvements and debating Societies in Ballarat and district (connected with the Union) in a mechanical and artistic direction, it will also have the effect of improving the mind of all who compete for the various gold and silver medals, and certificates, inasmuch as it will require taste, skill, and brain work to bring to perfection the various exhibits under construction. As this great event comes off in November next, there will be ample time for competitors to enter and prepare exhibits. I am delighted to find that already great progress has been made, for on making enquiries, I find that the ladies and gentlemen of St. Paul’s are working like Trojans and are determined, if possible, to carry off some of the prizes, but I am especially pleased to find that since the announcement has been made that the competition is open to all member of the Union, that other Associations are determined to be in the running. As the last Exhibition held under the auspices of St. Paul’s M.I.A. was a pronounced success. I feel confident the present movement will be of such a nature as to surpass the most sanguine expectations of the Committee and members. I am glad, also, to find that the Union has resolved to assist to their utmost power. I, in conclusion, can only express the hope that the Exhibition will receive the attention and support which it, and the Committee and members, so richly deserve, for there can be no mistaking the fact that a movement like the one taken by the St. Paul’s Association requires considerable labor and perseverance to complete, and should receive the unanimous support of the United Associations. T.S.

At the Associations Union August meeting, members expressed themselves gratified at the action of the St. Paul’s Association in throwing open the Competition to all members of the Societies connected with the Union, and a notice from W.W. Coxon, Hon. Sec. of St. Paul’s Industrial Exhibition respectively requesting all Secretaries of kindred Societies to send in names and nature of articles intended for exhibit or competition from their members, for classification. With interest in the Exhibition rapidly increasing, T.S. again expressed his thoughts in another letter to The Record in the October issue:


Judging by the number of gold and silver medals given by Exhibition Committee, and accompanied by several silver medals from leading citizens, also, a silver medal from the Mutual Improvements Association’s Union, as well as many valuable special prizes, and the possibility of more medals and prizes forthcoming, the competition should prove keen and interesting – more especially from the fact that the competition is open to all M.I. Association’s connected with the Union. The honour of winning will necessarily be greater, inasmuch as it will reflect credit alike on the winner, as well as on the Association represented.

Finally, a notice in the November issue of The Record announced that the opening night of the Exhibition would be staged in the Alfred Hall from 4 December, 1882, and that Season Tickets ‘can be obtained for three shillings each at any place of business in city or town’. The exhibition was opened by Mayor Ferguson. In his response the Mayor referred to the pleasure it gave him to open the exhibition, ‘which showed that the young people of Ballarat were to the fore in matters of the kind’. The Ballarat Star reported: ‘At the conclusion of his speech , amidst hearty cheering, he declared the Exhibition opened. The band of the Volunteer Rangers and a choir rendered the National Anthem and the proceedings were formally opened. Tables were arranged so that a full view was possible with a pleasant promenade – round the hall, and exhibits included a flower stall, collection of shells, prizes won by firemen at various demonstrations, Numerous glass cases containing attractive objects, and to effect, tree ferns were placed at intervals throughout the hall’. Local and Metropolitan firms displayed furniture, toys, carpets, sewing machines, hats, hosiery, marble mantelpieces, chimney ornaments, and plated ware, pianos and other musical instruments, boots and shoes, and a tea set was shown by Mrs. Henry Davies that had been in her husband’s family for 150 years. ‘The Exhibition attracted large audiences giving testimony to the merits of the affair,’ said The Ballarat Star newspaper, ‘The large attendance of visitors, who passed many encomiums upon the exhibition, seemingly taking great interest in the collection, of curiosities lent by leading citizens and other exhibits’. Saturday’s issue of the newspaper contained an extensive listing of prizewinners including the curious outcome of a gold medal for the best architectural drawing that was not awarded because, ‘the exhibits not being deemed worthy’. The


judges ordered the competition to lie open for a period of six months, ‘competitors to be members of any association in the union not being employed in architect’s office’. The Exhibition closed on the Tuesday night, 12 December, 1882 after eight days, drawing outstanding praise from Societies’ members and Ballarat citizens alike. The success, no doubt, encouraged all kindred Societies to greater deeds and delivered all that they had thought to attain. SOCIETIES’ ENTERTAINMENTS Mr Wedel, South Street Society delegate, said he had noticed that the various entertainments held by the different Societies often clashed with one another. He then moved: ‘That the Executive adopt some plan with a view of presenting the clashing of the dates of the different entertainments’. Mr. Hain, South Street Society delegate, seconded the motion. Again there seemed to be some animosity to the motion. Another delegate retorted, ‘If any good would come from this I would have much pleasure in supporting it. Societies might disrespect the decision of the Conference, and I think it would be wise if the motion was withdrawn’. Following further explanation from the President that each Association would have a representative on the Executive, and it would be to their own interests to see that their Societies respected the decisions, and to see that the entertainments did not clash. The motion was then put, and carried. TEMPERANCE DEMONSTRATION A lively discussion of this topic was interrupted late on the second night to resume on the Wednesday morning. The discussion involved many speakers, highlighted by those delegates for Temperance and those opposed. The discussion was opened by the motion: ‘That the Executive be requested to consider the advisability of holding a combined Temperance Entertainment annually’. A member of the Barkly Street M.I.A., Mr. E. Scarborough, spoke to the motion: ‘As the delegates would be aware, a great many of the Societies of the district made temperance one of the features of their work. One result of this Conference might be the furtherance of this 53

work. It rebounded to the credit of the Societies that their temperance entertainments were better attended than those of other Societies. A great deal had that (feeling ?) and the preceding evening been said on oratory, and he considered that this Temperance Demonstration would give them an excellent opportunity of displaying it. If they held this entertainment they might easily fill the Alfred Hall’. Mr. Hill, South Street Society delegate, asked: ‘If moderate drinkers would be allowed at the meeting’. He was assured ‘they certainly would’. Another delegate was more forthright in opposing the motion: ‘I would be of the opinion that the motion was levelled against those who were not of the same opinion as himself, (the mover of the motion) as a direct insult. This motion would affect the Society he represented, and therefore oppose it’. Another delegate thought it very unwise to discuss the question here, ‘as it might cause ill-feeling’. Mr. Wedel, South Street Society delegate, thought: ‘The Executive, as sensible men, would be decidedly in favour of the meeting being held. He had much pleasure in supporting it’. Finally it was moved: ‘That the word temperance be struck out’. The mover of the amendment thought it conveyed an insult to those opposed to total abstinence. By this stage tempers were running high. In reply, the mover of the motion could not see why his motion was not practicable. ‘They had met together to see how they could best consider the interests of the various Societies. An insult was never intended to anybody by the motion. If the amalgamated Societies could not make a temperance demonstration a success then they could not make anything successful’. ‘The motion and amendment was then put, and former carried, 26 voting for it, and 8 for the amendment’. ENTERTAINMENT There was unanimous approval for this proposal. The problem, though, was the money to conduct a Temperance Demonstration. There was no immediate means of raising money. A delegate, representing the St. Paul’s M.I.A., proposed a solution. ‘If they carry out the motion I am about to propose it would provide the requisite funds’. He then moved: ‘That with a view of immediately establishing a fund for the purpose of carrying out the objects of this Conference, the Executive be directed to at once enter into negotiations for the holding of 54

an entertainment in aid of such fund. The nature and character to be left to the discretion of the Executive’. In agreeing with the motion another delegate hoped an entertainment, ‘Would be of good character, with none of the Negro Minstrel business in it’. He though their real aim was, ‘To raise themselves to an intellectual way’. He went on to say, ‘Their object should be to bring out their mental ability. In an entertainment was arranged to take place in the Alfred Hall, and the Ballarat men would show their talent, he could assure them the Creswick friends would support them by attending it in as great a force as they possibly could’. Mr. Wedel, South Street Society delegate, heartily supported the motion. ‘The motion was then put and carried unanimously’. Two other subjects proposed and moved by delegates, Scientific Lectures and Literary Lectures, after limited discussion were passed unanimously. An interesting comment was forthcoming in regard to the Scientific Lecture, ‘They could easily get sufficient lecturers in and around Ballarat. There were many medical gentlemen who he felt sure would be only too happy to give lectures. The only trouble he saw was getting a central place to hold them’. This comment would have been given the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street great heart, as the plans for a new, larger premises, were well developed. A further comment was the suggestion that the lectures should be held quarterly, and not only on scientific but also on literary subjects. As far as literary lectures were concerned it was suggested that they be free, not only to members but to their friends. REPRESENTATIVE ESSAYS Mr. Wedel, South Street Society delegate, moved: ‘That the Executive of this Conference arrange with the secretaries of the various Associations as to suitable dates for giving representative Essays, and that a syllabus of same be printed and supplied to all Associations interested in this movement’. There was overall approval with one delegate saying he was perfectly satisfied that the results would be beneficial, ‘As iron sharpens iron, so doth the countenance of one person sharpens the countenance of another’. The motion was then put, and carried unanimously. 55

MOTIONS OF NOTICE FORMATION OF A PARLIAMENTARY CLASS Of all the subjects covered in the Conference, the Formation of a Parliamentary Class, was covered more fully by The Debater’s Record than any other. The eloquence of the speakers and the words they used reflected well on all the Association members present. I would image that from the period between 1879 to 1891 Ballarat was well served in the business and educational spheres of growth and development. Mr. J. Taylor, representing the Barkly Street M.I.A., in a lengthy and detailed address, outlined the reasons for the motion he was about to put, and one he had previously sent in notice: ‘That this Conference take into consideration the desirability of forming in connection with the Mutual Improvement Societies, a Parliamentary Class. Further, that they will as representatives bring the same before their respective Associations for consideration’. He then spoke to the motion: ‘He considered the ladies and gentlemen there assembled scarcely needed reminding of the grand and noble work wherewith they were bound together, but he would take the opportunity of expressing an opinion as the effect that Mutual Improvement Societies had on the minds of all intelligent persons, and more especially the young. They were the means of bringing to maturity those latent and concealed virtues which otherwise would have remained dormant’. Taylor added: It was to these Societies they would have to look for their legislators. It was in these Societies they had the talent, and from these hidden virtues they must endeavour to bring them to light to bear the scrutiny of a scrutinising people. A Society such as he had named, would have a tendency to educate young men from the rank of Mutual Improvement Associations, to fill the place of Legislators. This was a young country, and they were young persons with every advantage of a free education, and the means of gaining a useful and practical knowledge by Mutual Improvement Associations. There was a mighty future before them, – a future where by zeal and perseverance they could raise themselves from the ranks of working men and women, to spheres of usefulness in a literary world’. He would again reiterate his former sentiment, by saying: ‘This was a young country, and they should endeavour to get it governed by young men of Victorian birth. Ballarat had proved itself to the fore in bringing Mutual Improvement to its present juncture, and he trusted it would be said, Ballarat has again been to the fore in educating


young men to fill the positions of statesmen. He urged them to be up to meet the fate of a mighty future, and see if they could not by their own earnestness, perseverance, and integrity of character gain for themselves those honors due to all men of sterling worth. Whatever might be the decision of the Conference on this momentous question, he trusted it would not be a decision they would have to look on with regret’.

Mr. Wedel, South Street Society delegate, opposed the motion: ‘As heartily as he could. To open such a class would be ruinous to the various Associations; besides the rules of the Associations would require to be altered to admit of such a class being formed’. Opposition to the motion was wide-spread amongst delegates. ‘It would interfere with the work of the various Societies,’ said one, another delegate said that, ‘He was opposed to politics being introduced into any Society’. An amendment to the motion was finally put: ‘That one night in each quarter be set apart by the various Associations here represented, for the study of political economy and history’. With further robust discussion including the alteration of the amended motion, deleting the words ‘political economy’ the matter was finalised and: ‘The motion as altered, was then put and carried’. The words and their meaning spoken in this debate were compelling with a strong leaning to what it would mean to the young men and women of Ballarat. More than 130 years later, the words and their meaning are as relevant and powerful now as they were then. CONFERENCE FUND Another lively debate was assured as delegates grappled with how to fund future Conferences. There were a number of thoughts on how to raise the necessary funds. One shilling per week, one pound per year divided the opinion of delegates. In the opening motion, which he had previously sent in notice, Mr. Hill, South Street Society, moved: ‘That a joint fund be started in connection with the Conference, and that each Society here represented subscribe one shilling per week to the said fund’. In supporting the motion, Mr. Hill went on to say: ‘They (the Conference) had been talking a great deal about giving medals and prizes, but had not as yet provided ways and means. By carrying out his proposition they would receive about 52 pounds per year; besides, if 57

Societies had to subscribe to a general fund, he considered it would give them a deeper interest in the Conference. It was merely a nominal and popular shilling that was asked, and not a large amount to demand. The Conference must have money for its working, and it must have a fund’. There was opposition to the motion, of course. ‘The best way to provide means for the Conference would be for each Society to hold an entertainment, and devote the proceeds to this fund’, said one delegate. The smaller Societies protested that they could not afford to pay the subscription of one shilling per week, whilst other Societies thought the subscription should only be one pound per annum. This, subsequently, became an amendment to the motion: ‘That the subscription be one pound per annum from each Society’. One of the few lady representatives at the Conference voiced her opinion: ‘She did not know whether or not she was out of place in speaking before so many “lords of creation” but she felt ashamed of the delegates from the Society she represented. If the gentlemen of St. Paul’s Society could not guarantee one shilling per week, she was sure the ladies would pay it themselves’. Mr. Hill, in summing up replied that a great fault was that Mutual Improvement was got too cheaply; some did not object to paying two or three shillings to go to the Academy, but they did strongly object to paying sixpence a week to a Debating Society. A lady had said if the gentlemen of St. Paul’s Society would not pay the one shilling a week the ladies would. This showed what the ladies were made of’. ‘The motion and amendment were then put, and the latter carried, 22 voting for it and 5 for the motion’. SUB-COMMITTEE’S REPORT As the third night of the Conference came to a close, the subcommittee appointed from the previous night to consider Mr. Reeves motion, tendered this report: Your Committee beg to report as follows:-That it is desirable to form an united body, having for its objects the execution of work laying outside individual Societies, and generally consolidate and further develop these Societies, without in anyway interfering with their internal self-government. That the other recommendation contained in the resolution be left for the Executive to deal with at their earliest convenience.


What followed next was to have significant ramifications for shaping the future of all kindred Societies. FORMATION OF A CENTRAL SOCIETY Mr. Reeves then moved: ‘That a Society be formed and called the “Ballarat District Mutual Improvement Society’s Union’. Opposition to the motion was short lived as Mr. Reeves explained that, ‘His motion was only for the formation of a Union. There would be no meetings for Debates or Essays’. As there was no further discussion: ‘The motion was then put and carried, 26 voting for and 3 against it’. ELECTION OF EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE After some discussion on the formation of the Committee and the number of representatives allowed from each Society, it was decided that two representatives from each Society would form the Executive Committee. At one stage in the discussion before the motion was moved, a delegate suggested that, because of its very large number of members, the South Street Society, should have more influence than a Society with only 20 members. This was not to happen, and the Young Men’s General Debating Society South Street’s representatives elected were Messrs. J. Hain and C. Wedel. They joined 36 other Association representatives to map out the future. The following nominated members were then elected as an Executive Committee: Messrs. G.C. Robinson and W.D. Wheal, Lydiard Street Wesleyan M.I.A., Rev. J.W. Inglis and J.E. Stevenson, St. John’s M.I.A., Messrs. J. Taylor and D. Brown, Brown Hill M.I.A., Messrs. W. Coxan and C. Stoneman, St. Paul’s M.I.A., Messrs. Ellis and Pascoe, Pleasant Street M.I.A., Rev. E. Turner and Mr. Johns, United Methodist Free Church M.I.A., Messrs. J. E. Chenall and E.B. Goode, Buninyong M.I.A., Messrs. W.G. Spence and R. Falla, Creswick General Debating Society, Messrs. T. King and J.W. Williams, Creswick Wesleyan M.I.A., Messrs. C. Smith and J.J. Featherstone, Broomfield Debating Club, Messrs. J. Bryant and E. Scarborough, Barkly Street M.I.A., Messrs. R. Hain and C. Wedel, Young Men’s General Debating Society, South Street, Messrs. J.H. Brawne and H. Pearce, North Creswick M.I.A.,


Messrs. W.G. Chalmers and W.L. Reeves, Dawson Street Congregational M.I.A., Messrs. W. Taylor and J.W. Kirton, Eyre Street M.I.A., Messrs. G. Ruby and A.S. Burbidge, Baptist M.I.A., Messrs. F. Ford and W. Dunstan, Mount Pleasant M.I.A., Messrs. H.S. Wyatt and F. Fricke, Baptist Elocution Class, Messrs. J. Stringer and R. Ince, jnr., Neil Street M.I.A.

GENERAL BUSINESS With the election of The President and other officers for 12 months, the Conference to be held annually, and the Secretary be empowered to convene meetings of the Executive, the Conference closed very late in the evening with a vote of thanks to the President and officers for the ‘able manner in which they had carried out their arduous duties’. What was the purpose of appointing an Executive Committee? At a later meeting of the executive in June, 1882, the Secretary read out the following: ‘Your Committee begs to report as follows – That it is desirable to form a united body, having for its objects the execution of work laying outside individual Societies, and generally consolidate and further develop these Societies, without in any way interfering with their internal self-government’. At the first meeting on 14 June, 1882, a large and influential committee was appointed to make the necessary arrangements for a grand entertainments in aid of the funds to be held during August. A subcommittee also met to arrange for medals and prizes. A plan was also drawn up and adopted in reference to representative essays between the kindred Associations. So ended the Conference of Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies, a Conference that proposed so much – and delivered! For three days there was a liberal amount of practical discussion and debate, delivering outcomes that were to provide outstanding opportunities for the future of literary pursuits, entertainments and competitions to all 1200 men and women of the kindred Societies, and to the citizens of Ballarat and people beyond. After the Conference concluded, the 15 June issue of The Debater’s Record carried a glowing complimentary editorial report: The Conference of Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies, held in the Dana Street Lecture Hall, on the last three days of May, is but another proof


of the great and lasting good that may be accomplished by Union. Delegates present are to be complimented on the business-like and energetic manner in which they proceeded to consider the best means of promoting and extending their usefulness. As the name indicates, the object of these Societies is primarily to raise the mental status of the members in a Literary direction, but the term Mutual Improvement is sufficiently elastic to permit of other objects being included – a practical sympathy with the distressed being not the least of these. Taking this view of the matter the Conference has offered the most liberal encouragement to all who have the least inclination to improve themselves. Giving precedence to charitable objects the case of the Institutions was first taken into consideration. Aware, as the members were, that these Institutions require the most energetic assistance of the public for their support, it was decided to hold annual concerts in Ballarat and Creswick, in, and to cheer the inmates by a series of entertainments held at the Institutions themselves. With the view of encouraging the efforts, and improving the literary compositions of the members, prizes are to be given for the best essay, poem, and also for the best rhetorical effort. Lectures on literary and scientific subjects are to be arranged for, a school of elocution established, and an energetic effort to raise the intellectual standard. This is much to have done; but the chief merit of the Conference appears to us to be the great effect it has had in uniting all the Societies in one common sympathy, obliterating all those minor differences which do so much to retard progress. The Delegates have felt that they were engaged in a serious, and noble work – a work that would not only make its influence felt amongst the Societies immediately concerned, but would exercise a most beneficial influence on the public mind generally. It was truly remarked by one of the Delegates, ‘Too much time is devoted to athletic pursuits in this colony, and not sufficient given to intellectual culture. It is true we have our schools and colleges, but little provision, however, has been made for our further improvement, mentally and morally, and to fit us to occupy prominent positions in public life. This is the work the Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies have taken in hand, and which they will unitedly accomplish. We heartily wish success to the Societies in their effort, and to the Ballarat and District Union in carrying them into effect, and trust they may succeed in making Ballarat the intellectual centre of the Southern Hemisphere.

A letter that appeared in the same issue was just as complimentary. In congratulating the M.I.A. Dawson Street on the outcome of the entertainment on Monday last, the writer then went on to say: The members of the South Street Society, were, as usual, well to the fore, and to them we must ungrudgingly acknowledge our thanks. As I looked around


and saw the large and appreciative audience, studded as it was with members of the various M.I. Associations, I felt a feeling of pride at the good being done, and I said to myself, this is the fruit of the Conference labor. I can already discern the healthful animation, the pleasing warmth that the Conference has thrown into these matters, and feel justly proud to be one of its representatives.

The correspondent went on to say, I see that the Y.M.G.D.S. have arranged for a Grand Entertainment in the Mechanics Institute on the 11th prox. I wish them every success; they have proved themselves worthy of the name they bear for being generous and sociable. I have been pleased to note of late the vast amount of good work members of this Association have done in the way of assisting other Societies and individuals in need or distress. In conclusion, I wish the Y.M.G.D.S. every success at their coming concert, and feel confident that the various M.I.A. will give them a solid support, which they richly deserve’. Yours, COSMOPOLITAN.

The Debater’s Record carried a half-yearly report of the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street’s activities in the August issue that indicated the influence they had in the success of the Conference held in May, 1882: ‘We (The Committee) have specially to congratulate the Society on the success of the late Conference initiated by you, and which resulted in the formation of a Union which is likely to be of great advantage to this and all Kindred Societies; a special compliment paid to the Society by the election of Mr. T. Saunders as the first President’. The Conference achieved many goals, one of which was the bringing together of most of the Societies, in the one forum, thus promoting meaningful discussion, and a greater understanding of their purpose. At times, though, feelings between representatives of Societies and the South Street Society were strained, and probably led to the South Street Society in later years going its own way in commencing its own Competition. For now, it was on to the future, with the consolidation of the Central Society, and the continued success of Entertainments and Competitions to enliven the minds, and also provide aid for the less fortunate in Ballarat and District.

The Future The Ballarat and District Mutual Association Union was quick off the mark with their first meeting only 14 days after the conclusion 62

of the Conference. The President, Mr. T. Saunders, South Street Society, accepted the resignation of two members. They were soon down to work. It was resolved that: ‘Each Society contribute ten shillings to the funds, being first payment on the annual subscription’. Sub-Committees were appointed to arrange Entertainments for the Charitable Institutions, and to carry out Entertainments in aid of funds to be held in August. A subCommittee was also appointed from the 20 members attending, to draw up a draft Constitution for the Union to be submitted to the next meeting. Through the early part of 1882 the South Street Society was developing with about 70 members and a library in hand of approximately 400 books. The library was subsidised by every new member required to present a book on joining the Society. An announcement in the June issue of The Debater’s Record was well received by other Societies.

____________________________________________________________ YOUNG MEN’S GENERAL DEBATING SOCIETY SOUTH STREET ANNIVERSARY – The third anniversary of the above Association will be celebrated by a Grand Literary and Musical Entertainment, in the Mechanics’ Institute, on Tuesday, 11th July, 1882. W.H. Hill, Hon. Sec. _______________________________________ _____________________

The Ballarat Star in the Wednesday edition reported on the successful concert that took place in the large hall of the Mechanics Institute in aid of the building fund of the South Street Society: ‘There was a large attendance and an excellent programme provided for the occasion. The vocal efforts of Miss M.H. Davies and Mr. A.C. Carnegie were well received. The great applause throughout the concert were frequent; and encores numerous. Miss Wedel made an efficient accompanist, and Mr. Cazaly filled the important office of conductor to the satisfaction of everyone. We hear, that a good sum was realised by the concert’. Although 1891 is recognised as the first competition year for the South Street Society it seems as if 1882 may have been the forerunner for a magnificent future of competitions by the Mutual Associations Union. 63

Another matter worth recording comes from the July issue of The Debater’s Record. The ‘Record’ must have been a great source of learning for all kindred Societies’ members. It was certainly enthusiastic, and educational in its editorials: THE STUDY OF HISTORY Among the various recommendations of the late Conference none was more important than that one advising that a portion of the time at the disposal of the Societies should be set aside for the consideration of Historical subjects. It is a matter for regret that this branch of knowledge has, to a great extent, been ignored by those having the conduct of affairs in connection with the Societies. A thorough knowledge of past events is indispensably necessary for the proper consideration of present circumstances, and for our guidance as regard those yet to come. How many of our Australian youths are thoroughly versed in the events that have occurred during the comparatively brief period of time that has intervened between the settlement of this colony and its present civilised condition? What a field for thought is thrown open, in even the simplest detail of the great past! An intelligent, educated man is a blessing in any state, but one well versed in History is a blessing and safe-guard combined. Let the Societies then give due consideration to this most important study, and their care will be amply rewarded in the improved condition of the public mind.

To emphasise the importance of understanding aspects of history, a later notice in the August issue of The Debater’s Record, under the auspices of the Ballarat and District Union respectively requested all kindred Societies to set apart one evening in each quarter for discussion of Historical subjects in accordance with a resolution passed at the Conference. During the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street’s meeting on 28 July, it was recorded that: ‘Favourable response had been received in regard to Debentures in connection with the Building Fund’. Concerts, too, had been very successful, and the Building Fund had been ‘considerably augmented by proceeds’ from them. In the half-yearly report the Building Fund showed a credit balance of 51 pounds, 6 shillings and one penny. The Debater’s Record, too, had made ‘steady’ progress under the ‘able management’ of the Hon. Editor, Mr. C. Wedel and ‘proved an undoubted success’. When you consider the quality of leadership it is little wonder to me why the South Street Society went on to become so 64

successful. Leaders such as Hill, Ronaldson, Menzies, Crouch, Saunders and Wedel led enthusiastically, and with wisdom beyond their years. Wedel particularly, as editor of the ‘Record,’ was influential with so many though-provoking, and entertaining editorials. He was probably aided by other members of the Society, but as editor, he would have had overall responsibility for what was printed. During the half-year 20 members had been added to the roll, but in the same period, 17 had resigned and 13 struck off the books because of arrears. The average attendance at meetings was 40, and the highest attendance at any one meeting was 68. The Ballarat and District Mutual Association Union was determined to encompass all Societies into the Union. At the second meeting of the Executive Committee held on Wednesday, 5 July at * Brunn’s Hall, Doveton Street (South), South Street Society members, Saunders and Wedel were appointed to consider objections and explain advantages to a number of Union. (* In those foundation years Brunn’s Hall was a favourite meeting place for both the South Street Society, and the B.D.M.A.I.U. According to Weston Bate in, Lucky City, Brunn’s Hall may have been owned by A.A. Brunn, a Scandinvian, who owned his own ‘concert hall’ and band.) The following prize medals for the forthcoming competition were offered in accordance with resolutions passed at the Conference; Best Essay, Original Poem, Best Debater, Senatorial Display, Shakespearian Selection, Recitation, Comic Speech or Recitation, and Song (solo) Lady Members only. The total value of prizes, 16 pounds, 27 shillings, no pence. It was also decided, that in addition to medals, a certificate be awarded to successful competitors; also, a certificate to the Association represented. A special certificate is also to be awarded in all subjects to the best competitor under the age of seventeen years. The competition examination was to take place on 21 April, 1882 with admission by special permit. ‘Competition is confined to Societies connected with the Union’. Conditions were drawn up for Debating. The big difference was the time allocated for each debater; 20 minutes compared with today’s time for School Debating being four minutes. Each Society was restricted to one member only, and Competitors in all subjects must be ‘bona fide’ members of the Societies they represent for at least six months prior to the date of competition. 65



The Concert Committee made the necessary preliminary arrangements for a concert to be held in aid of funds. A chorus of fifty voices is to be arranged, and various ladies and gentlemen, ‘Communicated with to take part in same’. Societies were singing the praises of the Mutual Associations Union for the manner and speed at which they were proceeding, and showing in many ways, the good which the grand Conference had done in bringing the various Societies into such close fellowship with each other. The kindred Societies were busy themselves conducting entertainments, and Representative Essays. The Executive Committee also decided to hold an Entertainment in the Academy of Music at an early date, for the purpose of raising funds for the carrying out of the various good works initiated at the conference. A constitution was also formed for the purpose of, ‘Properly working the Union and carrying out of future Conferences, to be held annually’. Honorary Secretary, W.D. Hill, the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street and the Mutual Associations’ Union was busy juggling the business of both, sending out forward dates of meetings and entertainments as well as calling in Debentures for his own Society’s Building Fund. In South Street’s regular meeting on 11 July, 1882, a report of the successful grand concert held in the Mechanics’ Institute Hall. The concert was held to aid the building fund, and also celebrate the third anniversary of the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street: ‘The programme was rendered to an appreciative and enthusiastic audience encores being the order of the evening; the entertainment being under the able leadership of Mr. P. Cazaly’. The programme was extensive and varied with about twenty pounds added to the Building Fund. In the latter part of 1882, the Societies were prospering with attentive members at regular meetings. Essays, Debates, Recitations, and Readings were the order of most nights. Ballarat was most fortunate to have such a strong presence of kindred Societies but, of course other towns in country area also benefited from their presence; Creswick, Clunes, Buninyong, Broomfield, Learmonth, Stawell, Harrow even in Melbourne Society, Metropolitan Parliamentary Debating Society, and the Cranbourne Y.M.M.I. Society. The Cornish were represented by Cornish Town M.I.S. 68

Mutual Improvement Associations Union Concert Although other kindred Societies had conducted successful Exhibitions, all eyes and minds were focused on the forthcoming Union Concert at the Academy of Music on Friday, 25 August, 1882. The Concert was for the purpose of raising funds, and that the various kindred Societies were determined to work most energetically to make the entertainment a success. A notice from the Union Secretary, Mr. W.D. Hill, published in the August issue of The Debater’s Record was more forthright, ‘Secretaries and Members of the various Societies are requested to do all in their powers to make the Entertainment a success, so that it may reflect credit on the young people of Ballarat and district’. The Debater’s Record Editorial on 10 August wished the Union, ‘every success in their noble work’. It went on to record: The Ballarat and District Mutual Associations’ Union will hold their first Entertainment, which has for its object the raising of funds for the establishment of an Annual competition in Music, Elocution, Essays, and Debate, and for the Improvements of the members in their knowledge of Language, and the Literary advancement of our youth generally. To establish a local concert, to kindle a spark that may perchance flaming far and wide, lead on to a great national festival, is the desire of the Union, and the cause of this Concert being held. We would say to all who desire to have a pleasant and profitable evening’s amusement, attend the Concert, and receive the very best value obtained for a florin or shilling-piece, as the case may be. The occasion will bring together most of the prominent musical talent of Ballarat, and will as a Music festival (under the able conductorship of Mr. P. Cazaly) be well worth the entrance fee, leaving out of sight altogether the objects for which the Entertainment is to be held’.

The programme included Music, Poetry, Elocution, Essays &c. and boasted a Chorus of 50 voices. Admission prices were, 2 shillings and 1 shilling. The success of the first Entertainment conducted by the M.I.A. Union was reported at the fourth meeting of the Executive Committee. ‘The concert and entertainment in aid of the prize fund, held in the Academy of Music, proved a great success. The circle was filled, the stalls were fully taken-up, and the pit was well attended. The entertainment provided was highly appreciated, as was evident from the desire shown by the audience 69

to encore nearly every performance’. About 30 pounds was added to the prize fund. Another example of why Societies were so important in developing young minds was published in the September issue of The Debater’s Record: The infancy of our country, unlike that of most other nations, has not been ushered in with blood, we have commenced with peace, with peace we have achieved all that is truly great and good. In setting an example, and giving a policy to Australians Debating Societies have an important duty to fulfil. It is to be hoped that they will not shirk the duties devolving upon them, but endeavour to grasp fully the principles enjoyed by their constitutions. One of the great requisites here is earnestness, another is activity. They must be thoroughly in earnest in trying to secure the legitimate object of their institutions in impressing members with the importance of thinking independently for themselves, and that speech is ever subsidiary to thought. They should be active in the promulgation of the principles of Mutual Improvement, in endeavouring to establish Societies wherever they are not. The value of public discussions is inestimable, and if Debating Societies could introduce some practical system sufficiently attractive to draw the public, it would be a fine thing – when the pros and cons of popular questions could be freely discussed, and a platform established for an exhibition of the speaking capabilities of the Debating Societies, and for educating young Australians.

During the latter part of 1882 Societies meet regularly and conducted Debates, Essays Readings, and Elocutions, with the Y.M.G.D.S., South Street in November, holding, on the Prince of Wales’ Birthday, ‘A Grand Picnic’ at the Buninyong Racecourse. A further major event was the St. Paul’s M.I.A. ‘Industrial Exhibition’. This ‘Musical and Literary Entertainment’ in aid of the Exhibition Prize Fund, held in the Schoolhouse on 23 October, was the second time this event had been held. ‘The arrangements of the Exhibition are being carried out in a most able, energetic, and satisfactory manner by the Manager and Secretary, assisted by an active Committee, and, to further popularise the effort, competition has been thrown open to members of all Societies connected with the Union’ said The Record. Two new Societies indicated their interest in joining the Union, Maryborough M.I.A. and Peel Street Elocution Class. Further recommendations by the Executive for the forthcoming Competition were additional prizes, ‘1 pound, one shilling for the best design for certificates; 2 pounds, 2 shillings for


Dialogue, choice of subject a point; 1 pound, 1 shilling for Duet; 1 pound 10 shillings for Quartette – open to all, and in future, the meetings of the Executive will be held on the first Wednesday in each month’. The Y.M.G.D.S. South Street continued to prosper with regular social gatherings in Brunn’s Hall, and on 25 September over 100 members and friends attended, and, ‘All present thoroughly enjoyed themselves’. In an endeavour to attract further members to the Society, a prize of 1 pound, 1 shilling was offered to the member who nominates and obtains the most members during the current term. It was not only social gatherings in Brunn’s Hall that was important to the growth of the South Street Society, but also welcoming opportunities for their members to attend other Societies social nights and meetings which they did on a regular basis. As usual for the South Street Society, each meeting night brought many Debates, Essays, Recitations, and Impromtu Speeches. Subjects ranged across many subjects. The 6 October, 1882, meeting was a typical example; ‘Negro Slavery,’ Mr. J. Ronaldson, ‘Brutus on the death of Caesar,’ Mr. W. McHutchinson; ‘Lochiel’s warning,’ Mr. A. Bennett. Whilst all Societies were busy organising Entertainments, Lectures, Meetings, Exhibitions, etc for their members, the M.I.S. Union was pushing ahead with a range of activities as recommended at the Conference earlier in the year, including Entertainments to inmates of the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, and Literary and Scientific Lectures.



Because of the large number of Societies operating in and around Ballarat it is difficult to bring to mind which was the first to hold a type of Eisteddfod as we know it today. but there is no doubt the Ballarat Eisteddfod was one of the first being initiated in 1863. The Eisteddfod (meaning‘Competitive Musical Meeting’) lapsed for a time, but resumed again in 1874 and continued to 1886. In a document, edited by Theos Williams and J.B. Humffray, Ballarat Eisteddfod, Report of the meeting held in Ballarat in 1885-6 with Introductory and Historical Notes; together with The Programme of the Eisteddfod to be held in 1887, talking about their Eisteddfod, said: ‘And in doing so they set an example to the colony and cosmopolitan liberality in fostering the development of native talent, and which has been happily imitated by many kindred Societies in this and other colonies of Australasia’. In Wither’s excellent book, History of Ballarat and some Ballarat Reminsceces, re-printed by Ballarat Heritage Services, it describes how the first Welsh Annual Festivals in Victoria were termed as an Eisteddfoda, with the first in Ballarat being held on Christmas Day, 1855. The Eisteddfoda was held in the Welsh Chapel which is now the engine house of the Ballarat Fire Brigade in Barkly Street. The first Annual Competition, under the auspices of the M.I.S. Union was regarded as the first major Competition to be held in Ballarat. At the sixth meeting of the Executive Committee held on 1 November, 1882, with the President Mr. T. Saunders, South Street Society, it was announced that the Competition would be held in the Alfred Hall on Friday, 30 March, 1883. The hard-working Secretary was instructed to draft a programme for the Annual Competition, and ‘submit it to the next meeting’. At the same meeting it was decided to hold a Temperance Entertainment in December at the Dana Street Lecture Hall, and a sub-committee was appointed to draw up a programme, and make the necessary arrangements as to the date, etc. It was also decided that a Debate – Total Abstinence v Moderation – form part of the programme. In keeping with the direction of Societies at the Conference, a Syllabus was prepared by the Executive Committee for entertaining inmates of the Ballarat Benevolent Asylum. The Syllabus set the dates for a number of kindred Societies for the remainder of 1882 and into the New Year. 73

Baptist Elocution Class … … Barkly Street M.I.A. … … Brown Hill M.I.A. … … Dawson Street Congregational M.I.A. Lydiard Street Wesleyan M.I.A. … Neil Street M.I.A. … Peel Street M.I.A. … Pleasant Street M.I.A. … … St. John’s M.I.A. … St. Paul’s M.I.A. … … Y.M.G.D.S., South Street … …

November 10, 1882 November 30, 1882 December 21, 1882 January 11, 1883 February 1, 1883 February 22, 1883 March 15, 1883 April 5, 1883 April 26, 1883 May 17, 1883 June 7, 1883

A piano was purchased at the cost of fifty guineas, defrayed by subscription on the ‘pence-card’ system; piano to be the property of the Union’. Messrs. E. Scarborough and G.C. Robinson were appointed trustees.

Annual Competition The Annual Competition promised to be the event of the year with gold and silver medals, certificates, and money offered to the value of 30 pounds. Judges in the various subjects were; The Rev. J.W. Inglis, J. Walker, Wm. Clark, and Colin Campbell, Hon. James Campbell, M.L.C., Messrs. James Oddie, J.P., R.T. Vale, Peter Cazaly, J.L. Lamble, and J. Holland, Inspector of Schools. As part of the Competition, an Entertainment was also to be held in the evening when the prize Essays and Poems would be read, with the competitors taking part in the entertainment. The competition was open to all members of Societies (members of the Union.) Some of the rules were fairly severe. In the Essays and Poems section, each competitor was required to place only an anonymous signature to his paper, but must, also, enclose a sealed envelope containing his real signature, along with his assumed one, and no Society was to be represented by more than one member. As 1882 drew to a close, most Societies were involved at meetings in the usual debates, discussions, etc, but the Harrow Debating Club was looking ahead to the possibilities of Federation. ‘That the Federation of the British Colonies in Australasia should commence at once,’ proposed Mr. Oswell. He went on to say, ‘After carefully considering this matter and reading several authorities thereon it appeared that all were agreed, or nearly so, that federation was necessary, but the difference of opinion 74

was the time at which it should take place, and the manner in which it should be brought about’. The discussion was a little early as Federation of all states did not occur until the end of the century.

The Closing Year

The last issue of The Debater’s Record for 1882 recorded some fairly strong words from the editor:

Have we extended the hand of sympathy and friendship, or spoken words of kindness and encouragement to the drooping spirits, and thus cheered the falling one to nerve himself for the conflict, and assisted him to steer past the snares of those who lie in wait to catch the unsuspecting? Have we been envious of the success of others in the various organisations or undertakings with which they have been identified, and thus by standing aloof caused a large amount of labor which should have been borne by us, to fall on the shoulders of the willing few. Let us as individual members of the Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies review the past year calmly and fairly and see if we have not erred in this respect. How many of us have attended our meetings as regularly as we might have done? How many have been present with the sole desire of attaining the objects for which these societies were founded, thus leaving no room for jealousy or prudence to exercise their baneful influences? Could all members realise the influence they would exert on others, and the result which would accrue to themselves, we would endeavour to profit by these our reflections of the year now rapidly passing away from us, and resolve to be more diligent, when after the enjoyments of the season are over and we settle down to business with renewed energy, and earnestly endeavouring to achieve success bring with us the sure reward of moral and intellectual respect’.

The last meeting of the M.I. Union for the year on 6 December, 1882, recorded that The Grand Temperance Entertainment was held in the Dana Street Lecture Hall, with proceeds in aid of the New Australasian Relief Fund, (A public relief fund was created to provide for families of the 22 night shift miners killed when water flooded the New Australasian No. 2 mine in Creswick on 12 December, 1882. They were trapped 250 feet down and 2000 feet to the working face) was carried out ‘to an appreciative audience’. The draft programme for the annual competition in March was submitted and adopted. In a letter published in the December issue of The Debater’s Record it became known why proceeds from the Temperance Entertainment were redirected from the Prize Fund to the Australasian Relief Fund: 75

Kindly allow me a small space in your columns to express myself anent the above. (The late Union Entertainment). Being present of the proposed Temperance Entertainment I was exceedingly pleased with the action taken at the time in postponing the same as a token of respect to the unfortunate miners who were then imprisoned in the New Australasian mine. But, I was still more pleased when I heard of the action taken by the Executive Committee of the Union in deciding to devote the proceeds to the relief fund in aid of the unfortunate widows and orphans who have been rendered destitute through this sad calamity. And I was particularly struck at the time with the value of unity, for I think we had ample proof of its usefulness by the quick manner in which the union despatched heir entertainment, they being the first to give a performance in aid of the relief fund. I am much gratified to find also that the Y.M.G.D.S., South Street had voted a sum to the fund within three days of the disaster. I see, also, the Buninyong Literary and Brown Hill M.I.A. have also voted a sum out of their funds for the same object, but I have no doubt that many other associations will follow their example. Hoping the same charitable spirit will always be a characteristic of the Union, and feeling assured that they will ever be at duty’s call’. Yours, &c., ‘Unity’

At the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street meeting on 15 December, 1882, it was noted that the sum of 2 pounds, 2 shillings was voted to the New Australasian Relief Fund. At an earlier meeting on 14 November, Mr. T. Saunders tendered his resignation as President, but it was not accepted. William Hill was voted to the chair. Mr. Saunders name did not appear at the next two meetings, but he was back again as President in 1885. Mr. L. Prichard served as President for a period in 1883, and Mr. Jas Ronaldson served for a term in 1884. I have concentrated heavily on the period 1879-1882 for a couple of reasons. One was because of access to a wonderful publication, The Debater’s Record. This publication, produced monthly, and gathered together as volume 1, captures beautifully the period of growth of the Young Men’s General Debating Society South Street, and the numerous kindred Societies and Associations that prospered in Ballarat and around the district, and places beyond. The second reason is that through this period it was the beginning of many Societies. For other Societies, it was consolidation of membership, and for all, focusing on developing the minds of young men particularly. The years after the pulsating activities on the Ballarat goldfields, Ballarat craved for leadership, and with that, responsibility. The men and


women of the Societies, in many instances, provided both qualities in the quest to build a great City. In a paper issued by Nathan F. Spielvogel The Cavalcade of Ballaarat, described the excitement and despair in the decade before the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street was formed: The year 1869 was the time when the mining industry reached its most prosperous point. In that year there were more than 300 mining companies with extensive plants around Ballaarat, giving employment to thousands of miners and supporting some seventy sharebrokers, buying and selling shares for their speculating clients. The population of Ballaarat was more than 60,000. In 1870 he bottom fell out of the mining industry. The drop in the value of Ballaarat mining shares was equal to half of all the revenue of the Government of Victoria. Hundreds of citizens were ruined. Many of the mines were closed down. So many miners left for other goldfields that the population dropped nearly 50%. It looked as if Ballaarat was doomed to suffer the fate of so many of the other once prosperous mining towns. But Ballaarat had citizens of vision and courage. They set to work to promote new industries, chief of which were the Phoenix Foundry and the Sunnyside Woollen Mills. These gave work to many men, and though Ballaarat was hit badly by the slump, the City was able to keep fairly prosperous.

Ballarat was, indeed, fortunate to have these ready-made citizens to help forge a future beyond Federation in 1901, and the young men of the South Street Society, along with eminent members of kindred Societies, can be justly proud of the part they played in securing and progressing Ballarat’s future. Question not, but live and labor, Till your goal be won! Helping every feeble neighbour, Seeking help from none; Life is mostly froth and bubble, Two things stand like stone: Kindness in another’s trouble, Courage in your own.


The years ahead looked promising for the M.I.A. Union. The prospect of the first Annual Competition was uppermost in their minds. The Y.M.G.D.S. South Street’s Building Fund for a new hall was growing, and the Society was expanding in numbers and in its influence. 77

The first M.I.A. Union Competition The first Annual M.I.A. Union Competition held in the Alfred Hall on 30 March, 1883, was a success. Gold and Silver Medals, Certificates and money amounting to 30 pounds were offered. The programme, first proposed in 1882, included Essays, Poems, Debates, Senatorial Display. Shakespearian Display, Recitations, Dialogue, and Musical items. Certificates were also available for each successful competitor and one to the Societies he represents. The 78

competitive spirit continued to grow and new avenues of expressions were sought. It was suggested that the success of this Competition bred a desire in the South Street Society to conduct a Competition in their own right. That desire did not become a reality for a number of years, but in the mean-time Y.M.G.D.S. meeting notices through 1883 and 1884 gave a good indication of the depth of syllabus promoted. Aug. 8 – Annexation Question “ 10 – Elocution “ 17 – Essay, ‘The Horse’ “ 24 – Letter Box “ 31 – Debate, ‘Sunday Question’

Mr. L Prichard Members Mr. W.D. Hill Members Messrs Jas Ronaldson & T. Saunders

Sept. 7 – Debate, ‘Should the Franchise be extended to women’ Messrs A. Martin & Arthur Farr “ 14 – Elocution Members “ 21 – Lecture, ‘Waste: The cause of Poverty. The bar to progress’ Mr. R.T. Vale “ 28 – Address, ‘The Salvation Army’ Mr. W. Cooper Under President, Thomas Little and Vice-President Fred Barlow, the 1884 Syllabus remained somewhat the same as in 1883. Feb. 1 – Address, ‘Robert Burns, his life and works’ Mr. D.A. Brown “ 8 – Elocution and Miscellaneous Evening “ 15 – Debate, ‘Are Trades’ Unions desirable’ Messrs Jas. Ronaldson and F. Farr “ 22 – Debate, Open, ‘The Land Question’ “ 29 – Lecture, ‘Origin of Representation’ Rev. Colin Campbell, Mr. F. Barrow

Distinguished Visitors

The extent of the Society’s growth and prominence was evident during 1884 when, on 24 October a Grand Concert attracted some distinguished visitors. The Chairman, Mr. Henry Bell M.L.A., welcomed the Hon Alfred Deakin, Minister of Public Works, Mayor Hickman, City of Ballarat, Lt. Col. Smith, Messrs Bell, Fincham and Russell, M.L.A.'s,



R.T. Vale, W.B. Bechervais, and G.C. Robinson, President M.I.A. Union. Addressing the audience Mr. Deakin acknowledged that, ‘He had watched the proceedings with the greatest possible interest, not as a person with any special claim, but simply as one of themselves, with whom he must pass his days, and to whom he must look to join in all those possible achievements which must come before them. He had admired their capacity exhibited as set forth in the President’s report, for dealing with all the public questions of the day, and this combined with the manner in which the president had conducted the proceedings showed signs of the greatest hopefulness’. The Ballarat Courier reported at length on his speech: ‘The speech delivered last night by the Hon. Alfred Deakin at the South Street Debating Society was a pleasing one from many points of view. His dictation was elegant, his elocution good, his ideas deep, his enthusiasm intense, his style eminently oratorical, and his principles sound. Mr. Deakin last night delivered what might be considered as an Australian speech. He spoke as an Australian to Australians about Australia. The expressions of approval of the options and policies of the various Debating and Mutual Improvements Associations in this district which fell from Mr. Deakin’s lips, find an echo throughout the length and breadth of this district’. Col. Smith, as one of the speakers, spoke of the separation of Victoria and New South Wales. The Hon. Alfred Deakin was to become a great advocate for the Society, speaking at many Concerts, even after becoming Prime Minister of Australia nearly two decades later. Mutual Improvement Societies, although much in vogue in the early 1880’s certainly had their critics. In a newspaper report of the 5th Anniversary of the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street in 1884, The Ballarat Courier took one speaker to task: The Reverend Charles Clark was very fond of designating Mutual Improvements and other kindred Societies for the advancement of


knowledge, ‘Mutual Admiration Societies’ but we think Ballarat has now proven that the celebrated orator was in that respect at least ignorant of which he was speaking about. But there are many others like the Rev. Charles Clark who judge before they try. If those persons who are so loud and so free in their condemnation of M.I.A. had only been present at the anniversary of the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street last night they would have been compelled to acknowledge their error, and with Col. Smith and Mayor Hickman have expressed regret that they had not visited the society before. We remember when the South Street Debating Society first started by some half dozen young men, and owing to their energy and perseverance, as well as the energy of those who followed, the Society has now been worked up to the honourable position of premier Society of the district. Last night, on every hand could be seen evidences of careful study and good training, and many besides ourselves recognised the Society as simply a university for the public platform. The speeches delivered by the members of the Society last night showed plainly that there are many capable men in the Society, who when the time comes will be ready to take their places, no matter to what stations in life they are called. We heartily congratulate the officers and members of the South Street Debating Society, upon the progress shown by them during the first five years of their existence, and sincerely trust, that they may continue as they have begun. If they do, then the association will be an honor to its members and a credit to Ballarat.

With such glowing reports the members of the Y.M.G.D.S. would feel that all the hard work in establishing and progressing their aims was well worth the effort. Eminent Ballarat leaders in the City Council and those in Ballarat industry, as well as prominent parliamentarians in Melbourne were singing their praises. Also reported at the fifth Anniversary meeting was that gifts amounting to 61 pounds were distributed to various charities. It sounded like a grand Concert as the banquet tickets were priced at 2 shillings, and the Concert admission, 1 shilling. Ladies and Gentlemen taking part included Misses Morgan, Hames, Johnson, and Payne (2). Messrs. R.J. Dunn, L. Farr, W. Middleton, A.B. Gray, Payne (2), W. Hartley, J. McKinnon, A.E. Green, P.C. Parry, W. Mooney, T. Little, A. Farr, with pianist, Mr. W. Hartley. With Mr. Jas Ronaldson in the chair, the South Street Society had a membership of 100, and the library had gathered 450 volumes. Each year had shown increased interest and had been so successful, that new items were being constantly introduced to the Concerts.



Throughout 1884, the South Street Society was busy conducting many social events, banquets, annual debates, social gatherings, and a Grand Concert. Mr. Hill, Society Secretary, at a forthcoming banquet gathering requested, ‘because of the consequence of the length of the programme, all speakers are limited to 10 minutes’. 1885 saw Mr. T. Saunders again in the chair, and increased pressure on the Society in the need of a convenient hall in which to meet and hold competitions. The building funds for a new hall had been gradually building for a number of years, but enthusiasm alone to build a new hall was not enough. Courage was needed.

Ballarat Eisteddfod

A report issued in 1885-86 by the Ballarat Eisteddfod in regards to a meeting held in Ballarat with Introductory and Historical Notes, would have pleased the large Welsh contingent living in Ballarat. As well, it listed the programme for an Eisteddfod planned to be held in 1887. The report was edited by Theo Williams and J.B. Humffray, Williams being a foundation member of the South Street Society. The report was printed by James Curtis, Printer, Armstrong Street, Ballarat. The price of the report was sixpence and it could be posted to Great Britain, America, and the Colonies for one penny. In reference to the initiation and objects of the Ballarat Eisteddfod:

In compliance with the expression wish of many of both Welsh and English friends on Ballarat, it has decided to publish, in pamphlet form, a report of the proceedings of the Ballarat Eisteddfod of the year 1885-86; also to furnish a short historical record of the Committee in their endeavours to popularise a taste for the cultivation of music, and the great success which has attended their efforts in perpetuating the ancient customs of their venerable forefathers. The Ballarat Eisteddfod was initiated in 1863 (Ballarat Eisteddfod, Introductory and Historical Notes, edited by Theos Williams and J.B. Humffray) by Messrs. Robert Lewis, Henry Davis, Theo. Williams, Ellis Richards, Timothy Thomas, R.B. William, John Morgan, John Morris, and others; but it lapsed for a time, and was resuscitated in 1874, and which has been continued, with gratifying results, in 1886; and since 1874 the Committee has distributed in prizes and incidental expenses the sum of 1,993 pounds 10 shillings and 8 pence, irrespective of many valuable prizes, consisting of pianofortes and other musical instruments. The Ballarat Eisteddfod has now attained to the proud position of one of the most interesting and popular institutions of its kind in Australasia.



The report continued to explain their objectives of the Eisteddfod: Our Eisteddfod at present aims at excellence in intellectual pursuits – poetry, music, art, science: and, whatever may be our shortcomings, our attempt to attain excellence in intellectual pursuits, deserves the encouragement and patronage of all reasonable beings. At the starting of the Ballarat Eisteddfod the Committee no doubt felt rather hesitating in their course, as they though that it might have appeared to some at that early period like an intrusion or social innovation to introduce a Welsh musical festival into a community composed chiefly of English-speaking people. But on the success of their first attempt they were encouraged to go on; and, fortunately, with their increased experience they became more expanded in their views, and issued a programme inviting all, irrespective of nationality, who choose to enter the classic arena in public competition at the Eisteddfod; and in doing so they set an example to the colony of cosmopolitan liberality in fostering the development of natural talent, and which has been happily imitated by many kindred Societies in this and other colonies of Australasia. There is no stated reason why the Eisteddfod lapsed twice before, but perhaps the reason might be found as the report continued: The Committee are much pleased at being able to state that there has been much keener competition displayed at the last two meetings (1885/86) that formerly, and a marked improvement in the musical taste and precision on the part of the competitors, which is no doubt one of the good results of the healthy emulation stimulated by the liberal programme of the Eisteddfod institution.

In my mind, the improvement spoken about, can, in some way, be attributed to the many concerts, competitions and musicals throughout the 1880’s organised and run by the M.I.A. and the South Street Society. The extent of their programme, and prize money in 1885/86, if anything like the 1887 Eisteddfod, would have created excited interest in Ballarat and other colonies. The 1885 Eisteddfod conducted at the Academy of Music, as was the 1886 Eisteddfod, reported fully by The Ballarat Star newspaper: ‘The 1885 Eisteddfod will doubtless leave many pleasant memories in the minds of the Welsh residents of Ballarat and district. One more of those pleasant festivals has come and gone, and its success has been pronounced as that of any that has preceded it. The building was thronged during the day by a very large attendance, while for the evening Concert, the


place was literally packed’. The programme for the St. David’s Day Eisteddfod was extensive, and set for Friday, 4 March, 1887. Prize money totalled more than 100 pounds, with a piano prize of 70 pounds, and substantial prizes by R.H. Sutton & Co. Donations amounted to more than 30 pounds. The listed programme appears to be similar to South Street Society’s first competition in 1891. It would be four years before the Y.M.G.D.S. South Street conducted their first eisteddfod, but the success of the Ballarat Eisteddfod in 1887 would have spurred on the South Street Society to achieve their own success. It would appear that the Ballarat Eisteddfod did not survive beyond 1887. The Adelaide Advertiser in a report published on 27 October, 1903 had this to say: ‘The annual elocutionary and musical competitions, which has made Ballarat famous throughout the Commonwealth and are even attracting notice in the United Kingdom, had their genesis in the small competitions promoted many years ago in Ballarat by the Welsh Eisteddfod committee. When the committee disbanded the competitions were carried on by the United Ballarat mutual improvements societies, and eventually the whole of the work was undertaken by the South Street Literary and Debating Society’.

The New Hall in Skipton Street

The Building Fund, first suggested by Secretary Hill in the early 1880’s, progressed to the stage that a block of land was purchased on the South side of Skipton Street, a few doors east of Dawson Street, and now possibly 115 Skipton Street. Messrs James and Riter, Architects,


were invited to prepare plans. The total sum in hand was 70 pounds, and with this amount in hand, the tender of 1,000 pounds by A. Farr and Sons was accepted. The Ballarat Banking Company helped to finance the project. The wooden building, comprising a main hall with side rooms for library, reading room, class room etc., was opened on Friday, 28 August, 1886. The side rooms were divided from the main hall by sliding partitions which could be removed to increase the size of the main hall for special occasions. In this way seating for almost 1,000 people could be provided. The hall was open to the public for certain hours each evening for reading, chess, etc. As W.D. Hill lived so close, the brunt of the work fell on him and he never failed in his devotion to the South Street Society. An opening fair was held and donations in cash and goods amounted to 500 pounds – a generous amount indeed! The hall suited the activities of the Society until, in later years, it became too small to accommodate the popularity of the Competitions, and was relocated to Grenville Street South on 2 July, 1908, and was named The Athenaeum. An auction of the Skipton Street building allotment and a one-roomed cottage was held in 1908. (It is presumed the cottage referred to might have been the cottage that was first used by the Y.M.G.D.S., South Street which was owned by William Hill’s Mother.) Very little history was recorded through 1886/7/8, and it was not until 1889 with Theo Saunders as President, that The Ballarat Star newspaper on 21 June, published a report on the 10th Annual Demonstration comprising a Monster Tea and Brilliant Concert in the new hall, Skipton Street. Tea was at 6.30 p.m. and the concert at 8.00 p.m., with tickets priced at 1 shilling and 6 pence. Attendance was a healthy 500 people. Speakers included Messrs. W.C. Smith, J. Kirton, M.L.A., Rev. T.R. Cairns, Cr. D. Cooke, Dr. Salmon, R.M. Sergeant, R. Hain, jun. & A.J. Powell. ‘The chairmen very briefly opened the proceedings, wisely declining to deliver an address on account of the length of the programme. An appreciative selection was rendered in fine style by a strong orchestra, under the able leadership of Herr Brunn’. The highlight of the evening was the address by Hon. Alfred Deakin. He remarked that, ‘The rapidity of their growth and the grand attendance was marvellous’. Mr. Frank Stuart, M.L.A. in the course of 88

South Street Society hall (above) opened on 28 August 1886 after many years of fund raising and the use of debenetures. Right: Line drawing of the Skipton Street Hall, South Street Guide Book, 1902.

his remarks urged, ‘Young men to travel while they were young, as the Americans do, to see what is happening in other parts of the world’. For Alfred Deakin, this was the third occasion he had attended a function of the South Street Society. The Society was, ‘therefore determined on presenting him with a slight token of their recognition of his self-sacrifice in coming from more important duties to their annual gatherings’. The presentation took the form of a handsomely illuminated address, in album form, the following being the text: We, the members of above Society, desire to convey to you our warmest thanks for the kind interest you have always taken to our welfare. From the time when we first had the honor of meeting you in the old hall, in 1884, up to the present occasion,


A section of a milling crowd around the Coliseum and the Athenaeum after it was relocated from Skipton Street. you have shown a most generous sympathy with our efforts, and of great personal inconvenience have consented to assist us at our tenth annual demonstration. We beg to request your acceptance of this slight acknowledgement of our appreciation of the interest you have, in the midst of so many and laborious public duties, shown in our efforts at moral and intellectual improvement, and of the encouragement you offer in carrying out the aims of the institute we represent.

In reply Mr. Deakin said: ‘He did not come prepared to address the audience, and if he had, the pleasant surprise he had just received would have driven it out of his head. He knew no institution out of Melbourne that was a worthier monument of the energy, intelligence, and industry of the young men connected with it than the hall in which they were meeting’. The 1889 Annual Report was enthusiastically received and showed the debt on the new hall was 175 pounds, having been reduced by 125 pounds during the year. The South Street Society was moving ever closer to conducting its own Competitions.


In 1890 an amount of money from the Government was appropriated to the building fund, and prize money for the competition was only 45 pounds, with entries totalling 250. The Ballarat Star, reporting at the weekly meeting of the South Street Society on Saturday, 14 June, 1890, had this to say: ‘The usual weekly meeting of the South Street Debating Society was held last night in the library when there was an unusually large attendance of members. The various committees met at 7 o'clock, and made final arrangements for the eleventh annual demonstration, which will take place next Friday. It was reported that the tickets were being disposed of rapidly, and a large attendance assured’. Reporting on the demonstration in the edition of Saturday, 21 June, The Ballarat Star said: ‘The eleventh annual demonstration of the South Street Society was held last night, at the Society’s hall. It commenced by a tea meeting, which was very largely attended. The tables were liberally supplied and tastefully set out. At the entertainment the hall was crowded in every part, and many were unable to gain admission’. After establishing themselves as the pre-eminent Society in Ballarat, the young men of the South Street Society were now about consolidation and moving toward their first Competition. 91

The first Competition

1891 was one of the most significant years for the Young Men’s General Debating Society – The long awaited first Competition was at hand. Richard Maddern was President, and William Hill Secretary, and with an enthusiastic Committee comprising F. Barrow, F. Weir, J. Rowsel, A. Wiltshire, J. Middleton, A. Fraser, Gray, W.B. Radley, W. Bowes, J. Bowes, G. Willsby, J. Charnley, and F. Brown, the start was made on the road to world-wide fame. It was the beginning of a Competition as we know them today. The Competition commenced on 16 June, 1891, and ran for ten days with prizes of sixty guineas distributed to 260 competitors in Literary, Elocutionary, and Musical items. Also listed were Debates, Imprompu Speeches, and Prepared Readings from Dickins and Dramatic Scenes. The Honorable Alfred Deakin gave an address. The prize distribution, high tea and concert terminated the Competition and prizes were given by the Governor of Victoria, Lord Hopetoun who pinned a rosette of merit on each breast of each happy winner. The concert was conducted by John Robson, and the orchestra was under the baton of Harry West, with the Mayor, Cr. C.C. Shoppee as Chairman. There seemed to be many name changes for the South Street Society, and a further one appeared, Young Men’s General Debating Society and Literary Institute, in a notice that was handed out to all members at the1891 Demonstration:

With this Demonstration our Society completes its Twelfth Year, and we can truthfully say that no Institution of a similar character has gained such prominence and achieved such distinction in so short a time. Inaugurated in 1879, in the old hall at South Street (from whence it derives its name), the Society has, by leaps and bounds, progressed to such an extent that today we possess property to the value of 2,000 pounds, and provide for our young men facilities and advantages not to be enjoyed elsewhere. The everincreasing interest manifested in our Annual Demonstrations has taxed our accommodation to the utmost, and the Committee will now have to consider ways and means for further providing for the large gatherings which honor us with their presence on these occasions. The present Anniversary bids fair to eclipse all previous efforts. In 1889 the Hon. Alfred Deakin, as Chief Secretary of Victoria, favoured us with a visit, and in the following year Sir M.H. Davies, Speaker of the Assembly, paid us a similar compliment; and the enthusiastic gatherings on these occasions will long be remembered.


This year the visit of His Excellency the Governor, the Earl of Hoptoun will render the occasion the most important in the history of the Society, and we feel assured that His Excellency, who has endeared himself to the hearts of all, will be received with true Ballarat loyalty and enthusiasm. Although much has been accomplished in the past, our motto is still ‘Upwards! Forward!’ The first of the Annual Competitions in Music, Poetry, Elocution, Essays, Debates, Speeches &c., has been successfully


carried out this year, the sum of 60 guineas, very generously subscribed by the Public of Ballarat, being offered as prizes; and the large number of entries (260) surpasses our most sanguine expectations. We propose widening or scope next year. We have to express our warmest thanks to all who have assisted us in the past and during the Current Year, and to specially mention His Lordship, the Bishop of Ballarat, the Ven. Arch. Greene, Mr. John Robson, J.P., and W.T. Carte, M.P., who have delivered Interesting and Instructive Lectures under the auspices of the Society. We are, however, with all our large resources, still cramped for want of funds. During the past year, we have expended over 100 pounds in improvements, but the building still requires interior renovations, and the various rooms furnishing, to add to the attractiveness and usefulness of the Institution. For the coming year, we again rely upon the sympathy and generosity of our friends, who have ever nobly and well assisted us, and have shown that Ballarat is not slow to recognise the usefulness of an Institution which has for its objects the cultivation of thought, the spread of education, and the general good and welfare of all who come within the sphere of influence.

Previous page: Poster advertising 1891 Annual competition. Right: Poster advertising the Young Men’s General Debating Society Twelfth Annual Demonstration Above: Mr John Robson

The Secretary’s half-yearly report in 1891 revealed that steady progress had been made and new members were elected at almost every meeting. The Society certainly applied itself to a number of social activities – Complimentary Social, Fruit Soiree, Songs and suppers after meetings. Discussions at the half-year decided the 12th Anniversary Competition of the Society would be at the new hall in Skipton Street, and that there would be an enlarged programme. Also, the 12th Annual Demonstration was ‘A brilliant concert in the new hall’ with conductor John Robson Esq. J.P. An interesting report claimed the first introduction to a Ballarat audience of the Phonograph, and Mr. Jas Oddie had given his first lecture on Applied Electricity. Both events filled the hall.



An early photo of Ballarat showing Sturt Street merging into Bridge Street (Bridge Mall). At the far lef Courtesy Frozen In Tim


ft (middle) of the photo is the Alfred Hall and in the middle right is the Coliseum and Athenaeum Hall. me Gallery, Queensland,


In keeping with a recommendation from the M.I.U. Conference, an Elocution Class that forms an important branch of the Society’s work, carried out under the direction of Mr. Barrow, received commendation. An important innovation for the Society was, ‘that a night during the week to be set aside for juniors re debating’. Mr. McKay promised to report 98

progress at the next meeting. Mr Barrow was appointed editor of The Letter Box. Mr. Speedie was elected as Librarian. To again illustrate the regard in which the Society was held, His Lordship the Bishop of Ballarat honoured the Society with a highly instructive lecture on ‘True Manhood’. 99

Another observation of the Society’s worth was made by the renowned publication, Ballarat and District in 1901. The magazine, profusely illustrated, was printed in Melbourne, and boasted of its content: ‘A concise history of its rise, progress and present prosperity on the Mining, Engineering, Agriculture, Architecture, Art, Trade, and Manufacturing’. Under the heading, ‘Societies for Mental and Physical Development,’ the article stated: Perhaps the most familiar institution in connection with Ballarat is the South Street Debating Society. The Society came into existence in 1879, and is an example of what can be accomplished by energy and perseverance. The Society has grown to be an important factor in the educational institutions of Australia, by means of its annual competitions, which attract competitors from all parts of the Continent, and the adjoining islands of Tasmania and New Zealand. In 1890 (Annual Demonstration) the prize money only totalled 45 pounds, this year, 1891, it is 1,200 pounds. The entries have likewise grow from 250 to 3,500, and last year the competitions were of a truly inter-colonial character, and upwards of 200 took part from New South Wales, also a band of other entries from Tasmania and South Australia. The competition extended over five weeks, and was attended by upwards of 50,000 persons, and the takings totalled 2,000 pounds. These are large figures, and speak volumes for the enterprise and liberally of the Ballarat citizens. The South Street Society has earned the confidence of the community. The Society has established a record for enterprise and philanthropy. It has made Ballarat the centre for the arts and sciences, and so long as it caters for the moral and intellectual improvement of the community it is sure to have the support and sympathy of the public of Ballarat. Weston Bate in Lucky City observed that in the early days, The Ballarat Courier: ‘Believed that one secret of the Society’s success was its choice of judges whose awards commanded respect’. Fortunately, the Society maintained this approach and in the early years, particularly, notable people were appointed, including adjudicators from other Australian States and many from England. Many adjudicators from England stayed on in Australia to conduct lectures and judge at other competitions. The article continued: ‘One by-product of that was a stimulus to extend the competition!’ Although expressed in a different manner, Weston Bate supported this point of view: ‘That the development occurred was chiefly a sign of the heartiness rather than the sophistication of colonial life, but it was also evidence of the real democracy of South Street, expressing a grass-roots taste’.


The Ballarat Star on Saturday, 1 July 1893, contributed this observation: ‘It is not easy to over-estimate the value of the work accomplished by an institute like South Street Society. It was only kept alive for years after it was first started in 1879 by the indomitable courage and devotion of its managers, but it has long survived those early difficulties and is now prosperous and influential. Its annual competition lasts a fortnight, during every evening of which time an unceasing procession of eager and intelligent students passes over its platform to challenge the verdict of trained judges and the approval of large audiences’. Under a heading OBJECT LESSON TO AUSTRALIA, The Adelaide Advertiser, a great supporter of the South Street Society, as are competitors from the South Australia, particularly in Dancing and Calisthenics sections, published these views in October, 1903: The conspicuous success of the annual competitions promoted by the South Street Society has attracted the notice of kindred societies throughout Australasia. Representatives of competition societies in New South Wales, South Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand visit Ballarat in October to observe the methods of management and to estimate the profit made in entertaining from 30,000 to 40,000 persons weekly for one whole month. Accounts of the society’s proceedings have recently been published in English musical journals, and at the present Eisteddfod the New Zealand press is represented by a gentleman who has received instructions to furnish particulars of the contests and of the methods of organisation. The secret of the success of the South Street Society is not difficult to discover, for it is found in the strong financial support given it by citizens who see honor and profit in its operation, in its ability to award handsome prize money for all the important contests, and in the calibre of its adjudicators. Its position is now practically unassailable, and as the prizemoney will be increases year by year it must continue to attract annually to Ballarat numerous competitors from distant parts of the Commonwealth’. The article went on to record, ‘Its gigantic programme actually proceeds automatically after the inaugural ceremony.

It’s quite remarkable that what is next described in the newspaper report, has changed little in more than 115 years of competition:

The work of each morning, afternoon, and evening session is plotted out in the guide-book. The stage manager and the adjudicators do the rest, with the assistance of the President and the other officials and notabilities who act as hosts and chairmen. But it is only those behind the scenes


who are aware how simple a matter the actual management is after the 1st of October, and the whole period of eleven months preceding each Eisteddfod is taken up in the work of preparation. New features are decided upon, the programme is drawn up with regard to the time to be occupied to each session, the prize money is carefully allotted, and the adjudicators are engaged.

The excitement of winning at South Street was as evident in the early days of competition as it is now. This is how the Adelaide Advertiser describes a winner in 1903:

The grand climax of the vocal section came last night when the Geelong Musical Society won the champion choral contest. The scene when the results were simultaneously announced by means of a neat contrivance was one of wildest excitement. The four thousand people packed like sardines in the Alfred Hall rose in a body, and demonstrated their approval or disappointment by cheering and hooting. Young women, who were amongst the prize-winners, flung themselves into the arms of their companions, and many of the men were as almost hysterical.

In current years little has changed, as winners in sections such as Dancing and Calisthenics, particularly, are met rapturous applause. And why not, competitors train hard throughout the year for the opportunity of coming to Ballarat for the ‘Comps,’ and in many instances generation after generation. And so it was proven to be. From their first competition in 1891, and as the South Street Society moved into the next century, the competitions grew in the allotment of time needed, the value of prize money provided, the quality of adjudicators engaged, the number of volunteers needed, and the enormous prestige the competitions brought to Ballarat. A quick look through the pages of advertisements in The Debater’s Record promotes Business names that indicate why Societies were strong and progressive. Some of the names then are synonymous with business names of more recent times; J.F. Batch, E. Middleton, George Hotel, Coltman, Weir, Ronaldson.



So ended the years between 1879 and 1891 – a period of impressive growth, a testament to those young men who saw things beyond their years. Throughout 12 years of growth, the Young Men’s General Debating Society had built a strong association with Ballarat citizens, Ballarat City councillors, and more particularly with government hierarchy and eminent men such as Alfred Deakin and Lord Hopetoun. With men of the calibre of Hill, Saunders, the McHutchinson brothers, Kirton, Menzies, Phillips, McCartney, Wood, Farr, and others, some of whom were members of kindred Societies, Maddern, Besemeres, Cooke, Blackman, Niven, Doepel, Llewellyn, Baird, Weir, Pittard, and many others, the South Street Society was sure to prosper. There is no doubt in my mind that, without the drive and influence of W.D. Hill, one of the Society’s founders, the Young Men’s General Debating Society would not have survived, and gone the way of almost all Mutual Improvement Societies, and fine competitions such as the Ballarat Eisteddfod, Ballarat Liedertafel, and the Industrial Exhibitions that were run by the Mutual Improvement Association Union, and St. Paul’s Mutual Exhibition. During the golden years of Ballarat’s growth, hospitals, libraries, the Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, educational facilities such as the School of Mines and Industries, Ballarat orphanage, Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, Mechanics Institute were established, superb buildings were erected and recreational facilities provided. The men and women of the South Street Society created a legacy and helped Ballarat build a cultural heart and soul that must never be broken. They possessed vision and were not afraid to voice it in a number of varied formats. These powerful people provided the foundation stone and set in place building-blocks to a magnificent future for the Eisteddfod that has benefited thousands of competitors, men, women, girls and boys who can, with fondness and pride, say – ‘I have competed at South Street’. Would the South Street Society and the Annual Competitions have survived without the leadership of W.D. Hill, the Foundation Chairman, and long serving Secretary. I would resoundingly say, yes! As Secretary also of the Liedertafel, and three time Mayor of the City of Ballarat, W.D. Hill certainly had the vision and purpose, but perhaps not the musical talent, to know that even before 1879, Ballarat had the men to encourage


debating and literary activities, and carry out the objectives established during the first meeting of the Society – ‘To refine the manners, cultivate the minds and stimulate the intellect for community service,’ and how well has that been achieved throughout the 138 years of the South Street Society’s existence... and counting!




Index A

A Grand Concert, 31 Agricultural and Pastoral Society, 16 Alexandra and Yea Standard, 25 Alfred Hall, 50, 52, 54, 55, 73, 78, 102 Allen, W, 39 Athenaeum, 88 Attwood, G, 39 Australasian Relief Fund, 75, 76 Australian flag, 20, 35 Australian Natives Association, 18, 19, 20, 34, 35


Ballarat and District Mutual Association Union, 62, 65 Ballarat Banking Company, 88 Ballarat Benevolent Asylum, 16, 71, 73, 103 Ballarat District Mutual Improvement Society’s Union, 59 Ballarat Eisteddfod, 73, 84, 86, 87, 103 Ballarat Juvenile Industrial Exhibition, 50 Ballarat Orphanage, 16 Ballarat Regional Tourism, 16 Ballarat Star, 15, 35, 37, 52, 63, 86, 88, 91, 101 Baptist Elocution, 25, 38, 60, 74 Baptist Mutual Improvement Society, 25, 38, 60 Barkly Street M.I.A, 53, 56, 59, 74 Barkly Street Society, 28 Barlow, F, 79 Barrett, R, 42 Barrow, 98, 99 Barrow, F, 79, 92 Batch, J. F., 102 Bate, Weston, 18, 19, 34, 65, 100 Bechervais, W. B., 81 Bell, 79 Bell, H, 79 Bennett, A, 71 Berryman, 39 Blackman, 103


Blackman, L. A., 20, 21 Bowes, J, 92 Bowes, W, 92 Bradley, W, 39 Brawne, J. H., 39, 59 Broomfield, 26, 59, 68 Broomfield Debating Club, 59 Brown, 25, 27, 38, 74 Brown Hill, 25, 27, 38, 59, 74, 76 Brown Hill and Dawson Street Congregational, 25 Brown, D, 39, 59 Brown, D. A., 79 Brown, F, 92 Brunn, A. A., 32, 65, 71 Brunn’s Hall, 32, 65, 71 Bryant, J, 39, 59 Building Fund, 26, 31, 64, 68, 77, 87 Buninyong, 59, 68, 70, 76 Buninyong M.I.A., 59 Burbridge, A. S., 39, 60 Burton, W. H., 39


Cairns, T. R., 88 Caledonian Society, 16 calisthenic, 42 Campbell, 31 Campbell, C, 74, 79 Campbell, J, 39, 74 Cargeeg, J, 39 Carnegie, A. C., 63 CarteW. T., 94 Catholic, 18, 35, 36, 37 Catholic Young Men’s Association, 37 Cazaly, P, 63, 68, 69, 74 Cemeteries, 30 Central State Night School, 15, 17 Chaffer, T, 39 Chalmers, W. G., 39, 60 Champion, 28 Champion, J, 39 Charles, J. S., 17 Charnley, J, 92


Chenall, J. E., 59 Chinese, 30 Church of England, 29, 30 City of Ballarat, 15, 79, 103 Clark, 1 Clark, Rev. C, 81 Clark, W, 74 Clark, W. T., 39 Claxton, 18 Clunes, 68 Cocking, 39 Coltman, 102 concert, 19, 31, 38, 44, 62, 63, 65, 68, 69, 88, 92, 94 conference, 32, 34, 36, 38, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 68, 71, 73, 98 Conference of Mutual Improvement and Debating Societies, 34, 60 Cooke, 103 Cooke, D, 88 Cooper, W, 79 Cornish, 68 Cornish Town Mutual Improvement Society, 68 Coxan, W, 59 Coxon, 39, 47 Coxon, W. W., 50, 51 Cranbourne Y.M.M.I. Society, 68 Creswick, 29, 44, 55, 61, 68, 75 Creswick General Debating Society, 59 The Creswick Wesleyan Mutual Improvement Society, 29, 59 Crouch, 65 Curtis, F, 39 Curtis, J, 84 Cutter, Miss, 39


Dabron, 31 Dana Street, 15 Davies, M. H., 92 Davies, Miss M. H., 63 Davies, Mrs Henry, 52 Davis, H, 84 Dawson, 25, 38, 39, 46, 74, 87 Dawson Street, 25, 38, 46, 61, 74, 87 Dawson Street Congregational M.I.A., 46, 60, 74


Deakin, Alfred, 79, 81, 88, 89, 90, 92, 103 Debates, 27, 59, 68, 70, 71, 78, 92, 93 debentures, 26 Dimsey, R. O., 39 Dunn, J. D., 82 Dunstan, 47 Dunstan, J, 39 Dunstan, W, 60


Edmunds, M, 36 educational, 18, 26, 34, 37, 56, 64, 100, 103 Educational Act of 1872, 36 Ellis, 39, 59, 84 Ellsworth, Miss, 39 Elocution, 27, 28, 43, 45, 48, 49, 69, 79, 93, 98 English, 21, 84, 86, 101 Essays, 27, 28, 34, 43, 45, 55, 59, 68, 69, 70, 71, 74, 78, 93 Eureka, 20, 35 European migrants, 20, 35 Eyre Street, 38 Eyre Street M.I.A., 60


Falla, R, 59 Farley, T, 39 Farr, 103 Farr, A, 18, 79, 82, 88 Farr, F, 79 Farr, L, 82 Featherstone, J. F., 39 Featherstone, J. J., 59 federation, 20, 35, 74 Fella, 39 Ferguson, 52 Fincham, 79 Fire Brigade, 19, 73 Ford, 39 Ford, F, 60 Forward Ballarat Movement, 16 Fraser, A, 92 Freemason, 16, 42 Fricke, F, 39, 60



General Meeting, 32 George Hotel, 102 Goode, 39, 47 Goode, E. B., 59 Goode, W, 39 Grainer, J. W., 39 Grand Concert, 79, 84 Gray, 39, 92 Gray, A. B., 82 Gray, R, 39 Green, A. E., 82 Greene, Bishop, 94 Gribble, 39 Grocott, 39 Grose, 39


Hain, 32, 47, 49, 53, 59 Hain, R, 31, 38, 59, 88 Hambly, W, 31 Hames, 82 Harrow, 68, 74 Hartley, W, 82 Henderson, S, 42 Henderson, S. C., 17 Her Majesty’s Theatre, 42 Hibernian Australian Catholic Benefit Society, 36 Hickman, 79, 82 Hill, 16, 17, 20, 21, 31, 35, 54, 57, 58, 103 Hill & Blackman, 16 Hill & Grose, 16 Hill & Paine, 16 Hill, W. D., 15, 16, 21, 26, 28, 38, 40, 42, 50, 65, 68, 76, 79, 84, 87, 88, 92 Hillman, F. H., 31 Holland, J, 74 Hopetoun, 103 Hopetoun, Lord, 92 Humffray, J. B., 15, 73, 84


Ince, 47 Ince, R, 60


Ince, R. Jun., 39 Inglis, Rev. J. W., 25, 59 Irish, 20, 35, 37 Irish Catholics, 20, 35


James and Riter, Architects, 87 Jamieson, S, 39 Johns, 59 Johnson, 82


King, 47 King, T, 39, 59 Kirton, 47, 103 Kirton, J, 25, 28, 38, 88 Kirton, J. W., 19, 39, 60 Kittson, J. F., 42 Kittson, W. F., 42


ladies, 25, 45, 51, 56, 58, 68 Lamble, J. L., 74 Lamont, 39 Learmonth, 68 Lewis, R, 84 library, 18, 27, 47, 63, 82, 88, 91, 103 Liedertafel, 16, 103 literary, 17, 24, 26, 55, 56, 60, 61, 104 Little, T, 28, 79, 82 Llewellyn, 39, 47, 103 Lonie, H, 39 Lydiard Street Wesleyan church, 18, 35


Maddern, R, 20, 40 Magpie, 16 Martin, A, 79 Maryborough M.I.A., 70 Mayor, 15, 52, 79, 82, 92, 103 McCartney, R, 18 McCullock, 39 McDowall, J, 39


McDowell, 47, 50 McGregor, P, 39 McHutchinson, 103 McHutchinson, D, 18 McHutchinson, W, 18, 25, 28, 71 McKay, 98 McKinnon, J, 82 Mechanics’ Institute, 16, 32, 34, 47, 62, 63, 68, 103 Medal, 47 Melbourne, 20, 35, 44, 46, 68, 82, 90, 100 Membrey, J, 28 mental improvement, 18, 32, 34 Menzies, 65, 103 Menzies, J, 18, 28 Metropolitan Parliamentary Debating Society, 68 Middleton, E, 102 Middleton, J, 92 Middleton, W, 82 Mitchell, 39 Mooney, W, 82 Morgan, J, 84 Morgan, Miss, 82 Morris, J, 84 Morrison, S, 39 Mount Pleasant, 38 Mount Pleasant Mutual Improvement Association, 60 Music, 19, 34, 68, 69, 86, 93 Mutual Associations’ Union, 68, 69 Mutual Improvement and Debating Society, 18 Mutual Improvement Associations Union, 16, 69 Mutual Improvements and Debating Societies, 16, 24, 49


Neil Street Mutual Improvement Association, 60, 74 New Australasian mine, 76 Norman, C, 39 North Creswick Mutual Improvement Association, 59


Oddie, J, 18, 25, 74, 94 Orpheus Hall, 31 Osbaldeston, 39 Osborne, T, 39


Oswell, 74 Oyston, 31


Parker, 47 Parker, G, 39 Parry, P. C., 82 Pascoe, 39, 47, 59 Payne, 82 Pearce, H, 39, 59 Pearce, W, 39 Peel Street Association, 25 Peel Street Elocution Class, 70 Phillips, 47, 103 Phillips, J, 18, 28 Phillips, Mr, 28 Phillips, T, 39 Phoenix Foundry, 77 Pinkerton, F, 21 Pitt, 47 Pitt, J. W., 39 Pleasant Street, 38, 74 Pleasant Street Mutual Improvement Association, 59 Poems, 45, 74, 78 Powell, A. J., 88 Powell, G, 39 President of the Broomfield General Debating Club, 26 Prichard, 76 Prichard, L, 31, 79 prizes, 34, 44, 45, 48, 50, 51, 52, 57, 60, 61, 65, 70, 84, 87, 92, 94 Protestant, 18, 35, 36, 37


Radley, W. B., 92 Raglan Street, 31 Red Cross, 16 Redan State School, 16 Reeves, 46, 47, 58, 59 Reeves, W. L., 39, 60 Richard Maddern, 92 Richards, 84 Richards, B. Q., 39 Richardson, J, 39


Roberts, J, 28 Robins, W. S., 39 Robinson, 44, 47, 59, 74 Robinson, G. C., 39, 81 Robson, J, 92, 94 Ronaldson, 65, 102 Ronaldson, J, 25, 71, 76, 79, 82 Rooney, 39 Rowsel, J, 92 Rowsell, 31 Rowsell, G, 25 Rowsell, J, 39 Ruby, G, 39, 60 Russell, 79


Salmon, Dr, 88 Saunders, 65, 88, 103 Saunders, T, 17, 38, 42, 62, 63, 73, 76, 79, 84 Scandinvian, 65 Scarborough, 47, 74 Scarborough, E, 39, 53, 59 School of Mines, 25, 103 School of Oratory, 49 Scottish, 16 Scullin, 16 Scullin, J, 19 Sergeant, R. M., 88 Shoppee, C. C., 92 Simon, F, 39 Smeaton Association, 38 Smith, 26, 47 Smith, C, 26, 39, 59 Smith, J, 39 Smith, Lt. Col., 79, 81, 82 Smith, W. C., 88 Smythe, 39 South Street Debating Society, 28, 47, 81, 82, 91, 100 South Street General Debating Society, 16 South Street Society, 15, 16, 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 32, 35, 38, 40, 42, 43, 48, 49, 50, 53, 54, 55, 57, 59, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 71, 73, 77, 79, 82, 84, 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 100, 101, 102, 103 special meeting, 26


Speedie, 99 Spence, 39 Spence, W. G., 59 St Andrew’s Kirk, 16 St David’s Day, 20, 87 St John’s, 25, 38, 40, 59, 74 St John’s Mutual Improvement Society, 25, 38 St Patrick’s Day, 36 St Paul’s Industrial Exhibition, 51 St Paul’s Mutual Improvement Association, 50, 51, 54, 59, 70, 74 Stawell, 68 Steane, A. W., 42 Steavenson, 39 Stevenson, 59 Stevenson, J. E., 39 Stoneman, 31 Stoneman, C, 39, 59 Stringer, J, 39, 60 Sunnyside Woollen Mills, 77 Sutton, R. H., 87


Taylor, J, 39, 56, 59 Taylor, W, 39, 60 Temperance Demonstration, 54 Temperance Entertainment, 53, 73, 75, 76 The Adelaide Advertiser, 16, 87, 101 The Debater’s Record, 1, 21, 25, 26, 28, 32, 36, 40, 56, 60, 62-64, 69, 70, 75, 76, 102 Thomas, 79 Thomas, T, 84 Trevor, Mrs, 39 Turner, 19 Turner, E, 59 Turner, J, 39


United Methodist Free Church Mutual Improvement Association, 59


Vale, R. T., 74, 79, 81 VERITAS, 28, 29 Volunteer Rangers, 52 votes for women, 20, 35



W. D. Hill & Co, 21 W.D. Hill, 69, 103 Walker, J, 74 Walker, Miss, 39 Ware, 39 Wedel, 48, 53, 54, 55, 57, 65 Wedel, C, 25, 28, 38, 59, 64 Wedel, Miss, 63 Weir, 102, 103 Weir, F, 92 Welch, Miss, 39 Welsh, 15, 19, 48, 73, 84, 86, 87 Wesleyan Hall, 42 West, 18, 19, 35 West, H, 92 West, Miss L, 39 Wheal, 59 Wheal, W. D., 39 Wicks & Hill, 16 William, 15, 16, 17, 20, 36, 42, 76 William, R. B., 84 Williams, 73, 84 Williams, J. W., 39, 59 Williams, T, 15, 84 Willis, S, 39 Willsby, G, 92 Wiltshire, A, 92 women, 1, 18, 40, 56, 57, 60, 77, 79, 102, 103 Woods, J, 18 Wyatt, H. S., 39, 60


YMCA, 46 Young Men’s Catholic Association, 36 Young Men’s General Debating Society, 15, 21, 24, 25, 27, 28, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 38, 55, 59, 62, 64, 68, 70, 71, 74, 76, 77, 79, 81, 82, 87, 88 92, 103





Royal South Street Society

The Years Between The influence of the Young Men’s General Debating Society, formed in 1879, was quickly apparent as they strove to establish a literary competition. This history addresses the initial period of the South Street Society from its establishment, until the Society’s first Grand Annual Competition, that was successfully held on 26 June 1891.

From the years when he was Advertising and Promotions Manager at The Courier in the 1970 and 80s Les has been intrigued about the beginnings of Ballarat and the men and women who were the driving force of success.

Les Holloway

Fulfilling a wish Les had developed during the years working at the newspaper, he was invited to join the South Street Board in 1990. The years served on the Board convinced him of the significance and importance of its work.

Since joining the South Street Historical Sub-Committee, and writing The Years Between, Les has come to fully understand the role the Society, and the men and women who have played in the building of a great city, both in bricks and mortar, and in a literary sense. ‘I hope you enjoy reading this account as much as I have enjoyed writing it,’ he said.


Profile for Royal South Street Society

The Years Between  

Formation and development of the Young Men's Debating Society, South Street Ballarat, from 1879 - 1891 Written by Les Holloway Supported by...

The Years Between  

Formation and development of the Young Men's Debating Society, South Street Ballarat, from 1879 - 1891 Written by Les Holloway Supported by...