Once we could dance the night away

Once we could dance the night away

However much fun everyone has at the shearers' ball at the Yarralumla Woolshed on February 2, 2013 it won't be such prolonged fun as the dancers had there on the night of November 30, 1907.

Of the ball that began there on that 1907 night, the Queanbeyan Age reported: ''Dancing commenced shortly after 8pm and was kept up until daylight next morning, the only break made in the dancing being for supper [at midnight]''.

CURFEW: The 1907 shearers' ball at the Yarralumla Woolshed went on until daybreak but no such luck for the Monaro Folk Society's dance next month.

CURFEW: The 1907 shearers' ball at the Yarralumla Woolshed went on until daybreak but no such luck for the Monaro Folk Society's dance next month.

Organisers of the coming shearers ball tell Gang-Gang, laughing, that even if they had the vim to dance all night, the Yarralumla Woolshed has to be hired from the government these days, and the hours of use are regulated.

But in 1907 squire Frederick Campbell of Yarralumla (today his manor lodges the Governor-General) seems to have loaned his woolshed with no regulations and the wildly successful ball, held to raise funds for the Queanbeyan Hospital (it raised £16), clattered on all night, the dancing punctuated with songs.

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It may have been the first dance held there, the shed having only been built in 1904.

Of course, these days we think a woolshed is perfect for a bush dance exactly because it is a woolshed (what could be more authentic?) but in the venue-poor Canberra and region of 1907 it was surely the lovely roominess of the woolshed that was its attraction. Thank you, Mr Campbell.

February 2's shearers' ball is the opening event of the ''Kick Up Your Heels'' series of Centenary of Canberra happenings being presented by the Monaro Folk Society.

The shearers' ball is preceded on the Saturday afternoon by a children's dance. The Age tells us that the music for the 1907 shindig ''was provided by the Misses Meredith (piano and violin) and Mr W Cantle (cornet) and was really first class''. But the Misses Meredith and Mr Cantle are no longer with us and so for the forthcoming ball (Jenny Wardrobe of the Monaro Folk Society promises it will be ''a low-cost, alcohol-free, family friendly event that represents the time when all the family attended community dances'') the rafters will be rattled by the renowned Canberra bush band, Franklyn B Paverty.

PORTRAIT: Dorothy Collings reads Rex Ingamells' biography to residents.

PORTRAIT: Dorothy Collings reads Rex Ingamells' biography to residents.

Everything your heart desires to know about the ball, including how to buy tickets, can be found at the Monaro Folk Society's website.

Residents well-versed in the poetic heritage of their street

Teeming tens of thousands of Canberrans live in streets named after accomplished Australian folk who have gone to their Great Reward. She Who Must be Obeyed, Robyn Archer, the creative director for the Centenary of Canberra, has asked us all to celebrate this year, as part of the Portrait of a Nation project, the now decomposing personalities that our streets are named after.

Now the people of Ingamells Street in Garran (always a role model among suburbs) have become the first to set us all an example by doing this. Last Saturday they had a considerable gathering of about 40 souls to sing the praises and read some of the poems of Reginald Charles ''Rex'' Ingamells (1913-1955). Had he still been with us, Ingamells, born on January 19, 1913, would have been 100 on Saturday.

Here is a taste of Ingamells' poetry. Please forgive him, for he lived in different times, his innocent and well-meaning use of a word we'd not use today. He was famously supportive of Aboriginal people.


This piece of hardwood, cunningly shaped,

was curved so evenly while piccaninnies gaped

at a Warrior who chipped at it with pieces of flint,

and formed it by meticulous dint upon dint.

Outside his wurly he sat beside a tree,

and chipped at it patiently for hours - not for me,

but to kill the Wallaby in the rocky pass,

to kill the fat wild Turkey hiding in the grass.

One of Saturday's events organisers, Joyce van Leeuwen, said the celebration was a great community event.

''When the centenary program was launched, my neighbour Dorothy Collings and I saw the idea of honouring and remembering the people after whom our streets are named. We looked up Rex's birth date and did a letterbox drop last year and again in early 2013 and we had a marvellous response.

''It brought about a great sense of community and it's joined us all together.

''We were fortunate because we had two centuries to celebrate - one to Rex Ingamells and one to Canberra. So the rest of Canberra come on, get going because Ingamells Street is already on the case!"

>> For more information on Portrait of a Nation visit portraitofanation.com.au. If you are planning a toast to your street's namesake throughout 2013, contact the Centenary of Canberra Program Manager for Community Engagement, Brooke Small at brooke.small@act.gov.au.

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