The showground at Broadmeadow goes back a long way in Newcastle’s history. This picture proves it beautifully.
Renowned Newcastle photographer Ralph Snowball took the photo, which shows well-dressed children doing the maypole dance on Empire Day as their equally well-dressed parents look on.
The dancers circle the maypole with ribbons in a ritual that harks back to pagan times.
Newspaper records show that the photo captured “a combined schools demonstration on the Newcastle Showground”.
The aim was to “celebrate the anniversary of Empire Day”.
About 2500 schoolchildren attended, “wearing red, white and blue clothes”.
About 10,000 people overall were at the showground to watch the event.
It’s a great photo to reflect on, given the NSW government is apparently considering selling most of the showground site and shifting the show to land near McDonald Jones Stadium.
The plan, the show association fears, is to use money raised from such a land sale for a new sports and recreation precinct in the area. As reported in the Newcastle Herald on Thursday, the show doesn’t want to lose its home.
That aside, it’s interesting to see maypole dancing in the old photo. This kind of dancing was a tradition on May Day, which is also known as Labour Day or International Workers’ Day. In NSW, this public holiday is held in October.
The day celebrates the arrival of the eight-hour working day, which was a victory for protesting workers in the 1850s. Back then, most labourers worked 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week.
The workers fought for change, based on human rights. They believed in eight hours’ work, eight hours’ recreation and eight hours’ rest.
It’s this same kind of ethos that has kept the Newcastle Show alive for so long.
Jacarandas in paradise
Our story on jacarandas on Thursday prompted John Carr to send us this photo of Renwick Street in Toronto.
John told Topics that the street had played host to "the mauve carpet of jacaranda trees for decades”.
The street, he said, attracts many visitors taking photos of the scene, just like the street at Kirribilli that we mentioned in Thursday’s column.
John says this photo was taken recently “before the weather turned the flowers to mush for another year”.
“The trees were planted by the Toronto Public School students in the years following World War II, possibly as late as the early 1950s when schoolchildren used to celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees.”
John laments that, these days, trees are often replaced with constructed shelters. This reminds him of the Joni Mitchell lyrics: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”.