Monthly Archives: November 2014

Hilda and the Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band

2014.11W.10This week’s theme for Sepia Saturday shows swans and carriages for a  ball at Grace Bros , a department store in Sydney in 1930. There was another department store in Sydney called Farmer’s  and through this contrived link we will find Hilda Tansey, daughter of Bandmaster Tom, working there in that same era.


She was a cunning poker player, loved her budgie, had a great sense of humour and she was my aunt. She was also a fine player of brass instruments, conductor and teacher, and the first lady conductor of a brass band in Australia..

Hilda Traralgon

Hilda sitting with her father in a photo of the Traralgon Town Band

Her father began teaching Hilda when she was 6 years old and had to stand on a box to see the music on the music stand . She gave her first public performance in 1909 in Murtoa, playing a cornet solo at a school concert – “Songs we sing at School”, which had been especially arranged for her. Soon she was playing with the band, and then with the Traralgon Brass Band, where she became first collector, then Secretary at age 15.



However by the early 1930s she was living in Sydney.   The Sydney Ladies’ Band had been formed in the early 1930s but by April 1934 the band was practically insolvent with debts of 107 pounds for uniforms and instruments.


Hilda Tansey 1934

Hilda and ten other women  players took over the debt and formed a new organization, the Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band, with Hilda as honorary conductor and teacher. She was working at Farmers at the time and hired a room at the bottom of George St near the Quay for practice at five shillings a week. Other women joined until they had 29 members.  Not all of them could read music when they started, or even play an instrument.  Not a man in sight – all previous women bands had men involved in the training etc.

With the exception of some bass instruments and drums, each girl bought her own instrument, and they made their first appearance in a grand pageant on Gala Day, November 22, 1934.

During their initial preparation and training period they raised 65 pounds through social functions, and by adding  £35  from engagements and the remainder from the members’ contributions of one shilling per week, they had paid off the debt with which they started within four months of accepting engagements.


Sydney Ladies Brass Band 1934

As a comment on their success, the Australasian Band and Orchestra News of July 26, 1935 says “Here is a practical illustration to many male bands of the saying “Never have your wishbone where your backbone ought to be”.”

band leading nurses march 1938

Sydney Ladies’ Brass Band leading a march of Red Cross Nurses in 1938



They were very busy ladies. In April 1938 they led a parade of Red Cross Nurses through the city for the laying of the foundation stone of the building in Jamieson St which was to become the home of the NSW Division of the Red Cross Society.


They played at the official opening of the Velodrome at Canterbury in 1936 and appeared regularly at Mark Foy’s store on Friday nights, as well as playing on beautifully decorated floats during parades and at garden parties.

Float1In their spare time Hilda and some of the others played in a ladies’ dance band at the Trocadero or as a filler between bouts at the Wrestling.


Playing at the Trocadero. Hilda, back left.

During the War years the band used to play for the troops at Liverpool and Ingleburn, and at the Showground. Unfortunately the R.S.L. refused to let the band march on Anzac Day in 1945, and this was just one of the contributing factors to the members’ decision to disband.

More swans and carriages, serious and frivolous interpretations os this week’s theme can be found through the links at Sepia Saturday

ZIM the magician, and the rabbit is real.

2014.11W.06  I  do hope these poor little dears were enjoying  themselves  but they certainly don’t look happy while a silhouettist with paper and scissors is recreating each one’s profile.

A difficult theme to relate to so I will choose a happy occasion of a shared brother and sister birthday party in 1969  where the central adult is the marvellous ZIM the magician, illusionist supreme !

Birthday party S L 1969 producing a scarf bS,, Zim and the collapsing rod b


For the birthday girl a scarf and a collapsing rod.

Birthday party S L 1969 producing a rabbit bBirthday party S L 1969 L with rabbit b








And for the birthday boy a rabbit and a pigeon out of the hat, and look it’s alive

Birthday party S L 1969 L audience for Zim b

All watched by an admiring audience.

Birthday party S L 1969 playing a game bBirthday party S L 1969 sitting down game c



Followed by games and food.






A very decorous party.


More interpretations of this week’s Sepia Saturday theme can of course be found in Sepia Saturday’s links.

An Interesting Marriage

My father’s Uncle Albert was born in Carisbrook in Central Victoria. I have long known he had married a pretty young woman, Isadora Levy, who always wore beautiful Edwardian  clothes in her photos.

This week Sepia Saturday has shown us a photo of a man carrying a woman across a stream.

So take that fact of a man carrying a woman and imagine Albert carrying his new bride over the threshold of their marital home. That’s my connection to this week’s theme and an excuse for having a look at Uncle Albert’s choice of a bride.

Albert & Dora-1898

It wasn’t until Trove and its digitized newspapers revealed an account of the wedding that a little story began to evolve.

Albert Fricke was descended from a Protestant German family whereas Dora, as she was known, was the daughter of a prominent Melbourne Jewish businessman, Joseph Levy. As I understand it a non-Jew cannot have a Jewish wedding and I find it hard to believe that a girl brought up in the Jewish faith would agree to be married in front of a Christian cross. So the compromise was what I assume was a civil wedding, at home, by Mr Tracy, the Registrar-General .

The Australasian of June 4th, 1898 reported …..

The marriage of Mr. F. T. Albert Fricke, East Melbourne, and Miss Isadora Eugenie Levy, youngest daughter of the late Mr. Joseph Levy, 50 George St, Fitzroy, took place in the drawingroom at Brooklyn, on Wednesday, April 27, by the Registrar General. The bride was given away by her mother, and was in white satin, with long square train. A cascade of Honiton lace fell from waist to foot on one side of the skirt front. The corsage was Russian blouse shaped, and had a yoke of pearl passementerie, while the front below was composed of rows of ribbon, alternated with pearl trimming; the back was treated in a similar fashion, but without the pearl trimming. The rucked sleeve had a row of passementerie from wrist to shoulder, and a tabbed Medici collar, softened by Honiton lace; veil arranged over a coronet spray of orange blossom; shower posy, and diamond bird and butterfly brooch (gift of the bride groom).

Corsage = bodice of dress
Passementerie = an ornamental edging or trimming made of braid, cord, beading etc.


Isadora levy fricke wedding dress 1898

The report continues …..

Miss Beatrice Levy, sister of the bride) was bridesmaid, and wore yellow silk with overskirt of fine figured net, with a design of graduated satin bands round the bottom. The Russian corsage was of yellow brocade, with vest of alternate tucks of brocade and striped armure silk, with cascade of lace down the left side. The waist belt was fastened With a pansy buckle, and the sleeves were of armure striped silk: picture hat, shower posy, and a gold shepherd’s crook and bell, -with initials of the bride and bridegroom {gift of the latter). The bridegroom was supported by his father, and Mr. J. Raphael acted as groomsman. At the conclusion of the ceremony breakfast was served and a reception held by the bride’s mother. Wedding tea and light refreshments were served in the dining-room. The travelling dress was of peacock blue cloth. The presents included:-The bridegroom to bride, diamond bird and butterfly brooch; bride to bridegroom, sapphire and pearl sleeve-links; mother of bride, cheque, drawing and dining room suites, and piano; father pf bridegroom, cheque; mother of bridegroom, over mantel and mantel drape; Miss B. Levy (sister of bride), tea service and point lace handkerchief.

Armure = a woollen or silk fabric woven with a small, raised pattern.

It is interesting to note that the bridegroom was “supported by his father”. These days we might call that position “the best man” but I was wondering if they were incorporating a little bit of Jewish tradition where often the groom was led under the chuppah by the two fathers and the bride by the two mothers. I had trouble envisaging this German immigrant who worked a small farm being transported into a Melbourne drawing room. There is a strong possibility that this is a photo of Freidrich Fricke. The photo belonged to his daughter and was taken by the same photographer as used by other family members.

Freidrich Eberhard Fricke  - possbily

We are told the wedding took place at the home of the bride’s mother ( her father had died the previous year). The home was ”Brooklyn” in Fitzroy . It is now a hotel.

We know a little bit more about this Jewish family where Albert found his wife because on the year that Isadore was born, 1875, her father built Ensor House at 172 Victoria St, East Melbourne and this is where she spent her early years. They left  there in 1878.

Ensor House

Levy sold Ensor to  Benjamin Fink, a Victorian member of parliament, in 1878.   Fink was also notorious  as a land speculator in  the 1880s  in Melbourne until he went bust in 1892 and fled the country.  Strangely much had been transferred to his wife’s name.  But for any Melbournians wanting to know  what Fink owned in Melbourne see here.   You will be surprised.  Ensor later became a private hospital, in 1907 it became a boarding house and as far as I know is now  the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital Nurses` Home.

I have since found a more detailed report of the wedding in Table Talk and  apart from listing which of Albert’s siblings were present it also says that the wedding was conducted “quietly” and that it was a morning wedding.  Eight months later Dora’s older sister Beatrice was to marry, but this time the wedding was at the Synagogue in Bourke St.

More carrying, over land and water, in the links of this weeks’ Sepia Saturday.



The Glint of Gold at Beechworth

Tom Tansey lived in Beechworth during the 1930s.  He lived in Camp St and when he walked to the end of the street it was just a hop, step and jump  to Reidy Creek where the photo shows Tom, on the left,  indulging in his hobby of sluicing for gold with his friend Rex Thompson.  His hobby might have been fishing when he lived in Traralgon but now it was the search for gold.

Tom was looking for alluvial gold in the creek bed or trapped in the fissures in the rocks.  After filling his barrow with soil and rocks he would then use water to wash away the relatively lighter soil and leave behind particles of gold. For this he  could either use a small round pan   or  a larger sluice.  They both did the same job of separating the heavier gold from the lighter soil – the sluice just coped with larger quantities.  Alas, Tom didn’t make his fortune.

These two images from the State Library of Victoria show miners using the two methods.

And finally an image of three miners  from a Beechworth History page   to complement  this week’s theme image of three miners out fishing which Sepia Saturday had used.  These three look as though they were having a fine old time.

Go to the links on  Sepia Saturday for more tall tales and true  of miners and anglers

A Cuppa on the Great Ocean Road

Food, food, always glorious food, whether it be standing up at a buffet as in this week’s Sepia Saturday theme image or sitting at a rough-hewn  table to have a cuppa and a sandwich.

The occasion was a visit by the Fricke family and a couple of others from Apollo Bay to see how the building of the Great Ocean Road was progressing and the time was about 1928.  As  yet I am not sure of the location.

So, the home grown milk  was brought in a bottle – I wouldn’t have liked the task of getting the milk into that narrow opening.  I wonder if she used a funnel.   I think it was sandwiches they were eating made from home made bread and home made butter and an unknown filling.  It could be jam. And they were wrapped in a napkin, not paper.  At first I wasn’t sure what the gentleman standing was doing but now I see he is adding sugar to his tea.  I wonder what the original purpose was of the sugar tin.


Great Ocean Road Sugar

They met a couple of the camp cooks and saw the tents where the workmen lived.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAThe Great Ocean Road project was started after World War 1 to provide work for some of the returning servicemen, a road from Barwon Heads to Warrnambool,  mostly  winding around the south west coast of Victoria. They had to carve it out  out of rock as it went around the cliffs and build bridges over the mouths of creeks and rivers.

It started with a group in Geelong who began lobbying the Government.  I found a list showing that Charles Fricke donated £20 to the Trust so by rights of inheritance you could possibly say that I own a few pebbles in that road.

The men worked with picks, shovels and crowbars to make a “road for motorists”.  Getting to Lorne was the first step and it was opened in 1922 with a party of 60 cars.  They left Geelong at 9 a.m. and arrived at 5.30 p.m, a distance of 40 miles and it is well reported in the newspapers. “It may be stated here that the only persons who arrived at Lorne with clean faces and clothes were the members of the vice-regal party.  That was only because they headed the line.”

The Trust then built the section from Lorne to Cape Patton while the Country Roads Board built the section from Apollo Bay to Cape Patton so my images from c1928 would be somewhere in that area. The opening of these sections was celebrated in 1932.  Remember it was really just a dirt track, not the beautiful road that it is today.  Ten years later I can remember when travelling by bus to Apollo Bay and at Mt Defiance, one of the high points of the road with rocks and sea directly below, the bus always had to do a three point turn to get around the corner on that narrow road.  I was always bus sick on that trip.

The following video gives an excellent account, once you get past the tributes.

For more examples of things connected with wining and dining, cookpots and nametags, events and non-events, go to this week’s Sepia Saturday.