Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition, Dunedin, 1889-1890 (Part Two - The Exhibition Opening, 26 Nov 1889)

The entrance to the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition,
Dunedin, New Zealand 1889-1890
[Source : De Maus Photo]

This continues my Blog series looking at the "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" held in Dunedin between 1889 and 1890. To read all parts of this blog series please click on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.

The Processional Pageant

Opening day, being Tuesday the 26th November 1889, was observed as a "close holiday" and would be marked by a grand opening "Processional Pageant" from The Triangle to the Exhibition site in Jervois Street. Crowds "thoroughly thronged the streets at all points within 'cooee' of the procession" with the streets taking on a festive appearance.

Despite a lengthy delay due to getting everyone into the prescribed processional order, the "cortége" finally got underway, the largest seen in Dunedin and perhaps, the reporter surmised, within New Zealand. being led by the band playing a marching tune. The procession followed a route from The Triangle, along Cumberland street to Albany street, and along George and Princes streets to the corner of Anderson's Bay Road and Crawford street, then back by the latter to the Exhibition building.  

Taking part would be the various group Marshals, the Protestant Alliance Society (30) being led by the Caversham Brass Band, The Oddfellows (150), the H.A.C.B. Society (60); the Loyal Orange Institution (150); the M.U.I.O.O.F. (200), Foresters (150) and Druid (140) Lodges; representatives of Dunedin and South Island Fire Brigades (97), being led by the Kaikorai Brass Band; the Trades Societies, including brewers (120), tailors (40), brassfounders (42), carters (130), ironmongers (80), bootmakers (30), agricultural implement makers (90), Seamen's Union (400), and Wharf Labourers' Union (250). Following would be an impressive number of military 'Volunteers'. being the Ordnance Battalion and Brass Band (346), the No 1 City Rifles Battalion and Brass Band (338), and the No 2 Country Corps Battalion and Brass Band (260).  

While the pageant "was gorgeous and elaborate in the extreme", it was however marred by "dull, leaden skies [but] unaccompanied by rain" so "there was, ... no great display of enthusiasm upon the part of the crowd." Those gathered for the indoors ceremonies apparently "evinced a far stronger spirit of enthusiasm" than those who witnessed the procession. Although there were apparently a few hitches none were of a grave nature. Accidents, which are "frequent upon public displays of any magnitude" were also avoided save for "two cases of fainting, induced possibly by the impressiveness of the pageant". While there was "a good deal of pushing and shoving in the vicinity of the exhibition" the Police, which had been expanded in numbers for the Exhibition, were able to successfully deal with the large crowd.

The Ceremonial Procession

About half an hour before the departure of the Vice Regal party for the formal opening ceremony the Southland Hussars had taken up their positions at the front of "Government House" and would form an advance guard to lead the cortége. A barouche with four handsome greys, a phaëton drawn by a pair of dark horses, and a landau drawn by dark chestnuts would convey His Excellency The Governor, the Countess, and other official guests to the Exhibition for the formal opening ceremony. On arrival in Princes street the cortége was met by the tail end of the opening procession before being escorted to the Exhibition site by way of Crawford street. At various points in the march the bands of the city had taken up positions, playing several bars of the National Anthem as the official guests passed.

Taking advantage of the presence of two of Her Majesty's ships in the harbour, being the "Opal" and the "Lizard", detachments from both met at the Triangle and marched by way of Crawford street to the Exhibition where they formed a guard of honour for the arrival of His Excellency the Governor, and again for his departure. The Opal's "fife and drum band" of 20 men accompanied the guard of honour. At the conclusion they would be marched to the Exhibition dining room and "entertained at lunch."

The decorations of the Exhibition avenues and of the building generally evoked the admiration of the guests as they wended their way to the concert hall where the ceremony of declaring the Exhibition open would be held.

The Governor and Officials on the Dais in the Concert Hall
taken during the Official Opening Ceremony.
[Source : De Maus Photo?]

The Formal Opening Ceremony

Most guests with reserved seats had taken their places before eleven o'clock leading to "a somewhat severe test of patience" but this "was infinitely preferable to the alternative of an indecorous scramble at the last moment." Thus visitors were left "twiddling their thumbs or gossiping or otherwise killing the time".

At 11.20 am the "bodyguard" of four members of the Irish Rifles and four of the Highland Rifles marched to the dais and took up a standing position ready for the arrival of the official guests.

At a quarter past twelve His Excellency Lord and Lady Onslow and their party arrived at the Exhibition. Preceeded by four naval men from the visiting men-o'-war bearing the Union Jack and the White Ensign, the official party were then escorted to the Concert Hall, the waiting crowd being alerted to their imminent approach by a band in the vicinity playing the National Anthem. Passing through the Armoury Court, the Permanent Militia presented arms to His Excellency.

Upon the guests entering the concert hall the choir seated on the stage, and under the direction of the Musical Director Mr Towsey in his "pulpit", commenced to "spiritedly" sing the National Anthem, with the accompaniment of the organ and full orchestra. The sopranos sang the first verse with the altos, accompanied by a few wind instruments, singing the second verse, the last verse being taken up by the whole choir and orchestra, an arrangement by Sir Michael Costa that proved highly effective with "the full harmony stirring the souls of her Majesty's loyal subjects to their deepest recesses."

The guests were meanwhile escorted onto the dais and to their seats, including representatives of the Exhibition Committee and New Zealand and Australian dignitaries. Many more official guests were already seated in the body of the hall, being fully named in the newspaper report of the official proceedings.

The Dais, with an elaborate canopy hung above, presented an imposing sight; "The royal canopy is very conspicuous. It is of white and gold inside and bronze green on top, with the royal arms, in gilt, surmounting the whole. The canopy is hung with ruby curtains, and propped up with two early English spears, in vermillion, with gold points. The dais is carpeted in red, and furnished with a costly suite in leather."

Thereupon the President, Mr John Roberts, read a prayer [printed verbatim in the newspaper], with two responses being "chanted by the chorus in church fashion and with pleasing effect".

The Governor and Officials on the Dais in the Concert Hall
taken during the Official Opening Ceremony. Note the
choir and orchestra seated on the stage at right with
the pipe organ visible at rear.
[Source : "The Otago Witness"]

The Hundredth Psalm was now sung by the choir. While the programme had specified that this hymn should be sung by the people and the choir due to some unexplained cause no one started on behalf of the people so the choir ably carried it alone. The organ was however noted as "rather lacking in power as a complement to the augmented choir".

Mr F.H. Cowen's masterly work, "A Song of Thanksgiving" was next performed, being a composition of three choruses for choir and orchestra. "The singing of this anthem was really enjoyable. The choir manifested a close acquaintance with the music and sustained their several parts with steadiness and in excellent taste."

The Exhibition Committee President Mr Roberts then read a congratulatory telegram from Postmaster-General Mr O'Connor, being the appointed representative of the New South Wales Ministry who had unfortunately been unable to attend the opening.

The President then gave an interesting address recounting the history of the Exhibition. His Excellency, Lord Onslow, next gave a very comprehensive reply recounting the progress that the Colony of New Zealand had made over the preceding years. Again, both addresses were published verbatim in the newspapers.

His Excellency now, in the name of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, formally opened the Exhibition, being followed by "loud and long continued applause". Word was then passed to "hoist the colours" with the Royal Standard being run up the main flagstaff. "B Battery" then fired a seventeen gun salute, "the roaring of cannon" alerting the waiting crowds to the fact that "The New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition" had now been formally opened.

The congratulatory Telegram
from Queen Victoria
[Source : Papers Past]

The choir now expertly sang "The Hallelujah Chorus" from Handel's "Messiah", utilizing the full strength of the choir, orchestra and organ.

Before bringing the formal proceedings to a close, His Excellency informed the audience that a few days earlier he had sent a telegram to Her Majesty the Queen informing her of the opening of the Exhibition and that it commemorated the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Colony of New Zealand. Thereupon Lord Onslow read the Royal Reply sent via the Colonial Secretary, Lord Knutsford and that a suitable reply, on his behalf, would be sent;

"to inform Her Majesty that the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition was this day opened in your Majesty's name amid manifestations of devoted loyalty, and that your Majesty's congratulatory telegram was received by great enthusiasm."

Three cheers were then called for His Excellency by the President, and were heartily given, as were three more for the Countess of Onslow.

Then, with the organist playing an outgoing voluntary, being a triumphal march by Reinecke played on the organ by Mr Barth, the Knox Church Organist, His Excellency, along with the Countess of Onslow and the vice-regal party, left the Concert Hall at 12.30 pm, being escorted out via the Australian Courts by Mr Roberts.    

"The general impressiveness of the whole of the opening ceremonial will not readily be forgotten by the hundreds who were privileged to be present, and the musical portion of the interesting proceedings will undoubtedly remain one of the pleasantest memories of this historical occasion."

With the formal opening now concluded, and after the departure of the Governor, the public were then admitted to the Exhibition. A later blog will detail the musical arrangements, appointments to musical positions, and facilities provided at the Exhibition.

Everything Points to the Exhibition Being a Great Success

"As an event commemorative of the jubilee of the colony the exhibition can only be regarded with the greatest interest. As a monument of the enterprise and self-reliant spirit of the inhabitants of the colony it is not less interesting. As an exhibition of the advance that has been made during recent years in the arts and industries of the colony it will prove of the highest educational value. As a landmark it will be a useful point, from which in years to come the historians of the colony may trace its social and industrial progress. It should serve to call attention to the vast fields there exist in the colony for investment and trade... Everything points to the exhibition being a great success..."

The Governor remained in Dunedin for some days after the official opening, occupying a house which the commissioners had provided and furnished, being referred to during his occupancy as "Government House". Lord Onslow, along with around 200 guests would also attend the "Exhibition Ceremonial Banquet" which took place the following evening in the Exhibition Dining Rooms.

The Dresses

The two local Dunedin newspapers included, courtesy of "Alice" and "Martha", a full and exceedingly long and descriptive list of the quite elaborate and often surprisingly bright dresses and accessories worn by the lady members of the choir, the orchestra, the wives and daughters of the Exhibition organisers and committee, and by the "body of the hall"  of which here is but a very small sample :

"Upon the raised platform the black suits of the male portion of the choir formed a good background to the white dresses of the lady members seated in front; the altos to the right, with red sashes tied across the shoulder; the sopranos to the left, with sashes of royal blue.

The body of the hall was a mass of colouring, in which green predominated - green, that rang the changes, through all the varied shades of the forest foilage, from dark olive to mignonette and pale sage, willow, resider, and many others. Brilliant touches of colour were presented in the uniforms and flower like clusters of old rose, faded rose, blue, purple, and gold, with a scattering of white like daisies in a garden."

Lady Onslow brought forth "subdued murmurs of admiration" in a "lovely costume of flesh pink silk richly trimmed with white lace, with a bonnet to match surmounting her dark hair, a white lace parasol, and a long white fur boa."

Mrs John Roberts (wife of the Exhibition Committee President) - "The costume of Mrs Roberts..., was in admirable taste. The dress was of gobelin blue satin merveilleux, with a chicorée ruche of this colour and white at the bottom of the skirt in front, and a panel of white moiré on each side, with exquisite passementerie matching the satin. This also decorated the moiré collar, cuffs, and revers, the latter revealing the white vest. Her bonnet of white tulle was trimmed with roses and green leaves."

Madam Joubert - "Handsome costume of heliotrope Indian fabric with bonnet to match."

Mrs Twopeny (wife of the Exhibition Commissioner) - "Charming costume of terra cotta silk, with vest and sash of white watered silk; white bonnet."

Mrs Stead and Miss Cowlishaw - "Two of the handsomest costumes worn... Mrs Steads was composed of two lovely shades of pale green silk, embroidered with gold; pale floral cream bonnet. Miss Cowlishaw's was crushed strawberry silk, with pale pink vest, embroidered with gold; large black straw hat."

"A Discreditable Proceeding"

So that the speeches could be telegraphed through at night rates rather than at very expensive day rates the speeches to be read by the Governor and the President at the Opening Ceremony were given to the press some time beforehand on a promise not to publish until after the event. But the 'Lyttelton Times' and the 'New Zealand Herald' broke the embargo and published that morning. The Dunedin "Evening Star" was not impressed with this breach of faith fearing that it would have repercussions for the future and reflected badly on the profession of journalism.

The two rows of coloured gas globes
in the Auckland Province Annex
[Source : Hocken Collections]

The Exhibition by Night

Up until as late as 10 pm a steady stream of people kept pouring into the Exhibition. Between the hours of 9 and 10 pm it was estimated that fully 8000 people were in the building which was "beautifully lit up" and "presented a gay appearance under the mellowing influence of the brilliant gaslight". All the courts "looked very pretty with the different coloured glass globes which are distributed along the avenues".

A large proportion of the visitors consisted of people from the country while a large number of women and children were noted. "All seemed in thoroughly good spirits and well pleased with the appearance of the great show."

Visitors were occasionally seen to be strolling about the gardens enjoying the cool air, "an agreeable contrast to the warmth inside the building, although the ventilation is extremely goodThe visitors appeared to thoroughly enjoy the walk around the exhibition by gas light, and no doubt night will be a favourite time for visitors to see the show...The exhibits can be seen to advantage at night, so well is the building lit up."

One newspaper correspondent felt however that the Exhibition should have all been lit by electric light, "the light of the age", rather than also being reliant on gas, and that "it is at once apparent that the supply is insufficient for the demand".

The next blog in this series will provide a description of the Exhibition grand entrance and a quick run through of the display 'courts'. The complete series of blogs will be available by clicking on "New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition 1889-1890" in the left-hand "Labels" menu.

Sources :

- Papers Past [National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa]
- NZ History Net / Nga Korero a ipurango o Aotearoa
- Hocken Collections, Dunedin / Uare Taoka o Hākena
- Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin

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