Backward Glance – essence of Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day has come and gone leaving tears, joy or nonchalance in its wake.

Valentine’s Day did not feature highly in the history of our pioneers, but the numerous social gatherings provided opportunities to party right throughout the year.

These gatherings included dances held in old halls scattered throughout the district, sporting events, picnics and beach gathering, that all held the possibility of finding one’s soulmate.

An advertisement in the Nambour Chronicle, August 1923 tempts with a chance of a dance or a romance at the Woombye Diggers’ Ball.

A great opportunity was the Bachelor and Spinster Balls – the spinsters would hold a ball and a return function arranged for a bachelors’ ball. The spinsters held a Leap Year Ball in Kenilworth in 1928, the grand march being led by Mr A Burley and Miss Eva Pickering and thereafter the dance was kept going at a merry pace. It was voted to be the most enjoyable function of its kind that had been held for a considerable time, so the bachelors would need “to grease their heels” in order to compare favourably when they return the compliment.

The Nambour Chronicle on December 2, 1927 published a poem composed by a “wag” who attended a spinsters’ ball in Woombye – an extract reads:

“The ball was first mooted when down at the beach,

To the spinsters the news was quick to reach,

And a meeting in Willersdorf’s rooms was arranged,

When the ladies their views on the subject exchanged,

They invited their friends from near and from far,

Some walked, some rode, some came in a car,

Some came early, some came late, very late,

And the dancing was started at 20 past eight,

Some of the spinsters came dressed in short frockings,

To show off their legs in their pretty silk stockings,

They all came wearing their Sunday best clothes,

You know that next year is their chance to propose,

You know they propose only one year in four,

So next year I expect to see weddings galore,

Is that why the spinsters held this dance,

So when Leap year comes they would have a chance!”

Partners were not always local. The story of Mrs Ramm from Scotland who married her Australian soldier husband, Peter, is sad but also a testament to love and to a strength that is unknown until tested.

Peter was part of the Beerburrum Soldiers’ Settlement Scheme following the First World War. They travelled to Beerburrum with their furniture, luggage and a crate of chickens. Mrs Ramm knew nothing about chickens, didn’t know a rooster from a hen and disliked the noise they continually made whilst they made their trek through the bush to where a humpy was being constructed for them. She endured the isolation, snakes, losing her beloved cat, homesickness whilst raising a family and helping her husband eke out a living in unfavourable circumstances for love.

The story of Australian explorer William Landsborough’s courtship and subsequent marriage to his second wife Maria Theresa identifies Maria as a strong and feisty woman. William certainly had to learn about the importance of communication in a relationship. After their wedding in 1873, the bridal couple left Brisbane on horseback to spend their honeymoon at Bankfoot House situated in the Glass House Mountains. William was very silent as they rode. Suddenly the new Mrs Landsborough turned her horse around and whipped it into a gallop. An aghast William saw her disappearing towards Brisbane and the more furiously he galloped after the experienced horsewoman, the faster she went. When he drew rein, William asked his bride why she galloped away. “You rode 17 miles (27 kilometres) without speaking a word. I thought I had married a man not a post,” was her reply.

Other courting stories include when Walter Lanham, an early settler, was courting his future wife, Sarah. The story goes that he had to swim his horse and himself, minus clothes, across the Brisbane River, then dress to go calling.

Mr Albert Kruger was a cattle dealer and while conducting business at a property in Peachester, during a conversation with the owner, it was mentioned that a family named Otto who lived nearby had a very pretty young daughter named Matilda who was the object of unwanted attentions from a young man she did not like. Albert was convinced to visit the Otto farm on some pretext and meet the lovely Matilda. They were married on October 11, 1899.

A story of how love prevails was when Robert Denny married Dorothea Jeffryes in 1904. Dorothea’s parents did not approve of Robert who was a struggling farmer at Peachester and viewed him as unsuitable for their schoolteacher daughter. Not to be deterred Robert and Dorothea drove up to the school at Forest Springs and told the pupils that the school was closed until further notice and drove to Brisbane to be married.

Mooloolah Station was a place where courtships took place in the 1920s.

The lads of Mooloolah would come into town when the train, known as Number 99, came through on a Friday or Saturday night about 8pm. The station master played the fiddle and his daughter the violin when the night train arrived.

Some of the young ladies from town would perhaps wander over, chaperoned of course. It was the main event. Once the train left, the young men of the district would get on their horses and ride many miles home.

The bus depot in Caloundra was also a place where in the 1950s the local youth waited to see who got off the Caloundra bus bringing the holidaymakers from Landsborough Station. Many a love interest was first seen getting off the local bus, while lifesavers had the chance to meet a pretty girl when on patrol.

These stories and memories are from an era when times were uncertain but the enduring thread of love or wanting to find love prevails: the essence of Valentine’s Day!

Being a Leap Year it might be time to have a meeting about organising a Ball!

Reference: Dearly Beloved – Weddings tell the story…1880s-1950s. Peachester History Committee (available at the Heritage Library).

Thanks to the Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library staff for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the images

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