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Easter in Victoria 1889

April 19, 2019

Easter in Victoria 1889

from: Illustrated News, Melbourne, Wed May 1 1889


Easter in these colonies is the great holiday time of the year, and is observed as such, even more so than Christmas; the reason being is in a measure that almost all business ceases from Thursday night till Wednesday, thus giving five

clear days. Some places open on Saturday, and a few on Tuesday, but they are the exception. On the other hand, the Christmas vacation is only for two days, and a week passes before another comes.

Another strong point is that the weather at this time of the year is more suited for those on pleasure but, for although it may rain at Easter, and it generally does, the absence of ‘brick-fielders’ is much more conducive to enjoyment than their presence. The city sportsmen go out to the country armed with divers antediluvian firearms, and delude themselves with the idea that for five solid days they will be able to live on the produce of their skill with the gun.

But the result is usually the same year after year— a large expenditure of powder and shot, much walking, but bird and beast, albeit a little frightened, are none the fewer.  The only thing to suffer, being some unfortunate monkey bear that cannot get away, or some equally inoffensive laughing jackass.

A trip up country by train for the day is an other form of recreation, but is usually attended with discomfort, as our artist has depicted in his sketch. And one is lucky if, after fighting his way to and from the ticket window for a first class ticket, he has not to stand for 100 miles or so in a second class carriage, or perhaps the useful, but not elegant, cattle truck.

Easter time is the great time for military men, and this is the first year it has not rained enough to render life under canvas, even for a few days, rather unbearable. Sports are held, as a rule all over the country, and as those on Eight Hours day happened to come at the same time, Melbourne was well supplied with amusement in this direotion.

The only people that did not enjoy a good Easter tide were the firemen, who were kept employed most of the time, besides losing two of their number, during the disastrous fire at the Bijou Theatre.


Bijou Theatre Fire

The following photo shows the above mentioned Bijou Theatre on fire.

FireThe Bijou fire 1889 seen from Little Collins Street, Wood engraving,
Illustrated Australian News 1.5.1889, p.73

The fire was thought to have started in the hotel’s kitchen chimney or to have been caused by fusing of the theatre’s electric wiring. Although the hotel was saved, the Bijou was completely destroyed by fire, watched by a large holiday crowd which flocked into Bourke Street from miles around. Two men were killed during the blaze: a porter trying to douse the flames fell through the glass roof of the Victoria Arcade, a fire captain was crushed under a falling wall, and seven other firefighters were also injured. About 100 firemen were present and when the blaze was over and the hotel had been saved, several ‘made free with the refreshments provided for them in the bars, and not a few of them were sufficiently intoxicated to disgrace their brigades’ to quote an Argus report
Theatre Heritage Australia

I’m not sure what the terms ‘brickfielders’ and ‘monkey bears’ mean. Could monkey bears be koalas? Have you heard of these terms?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. I promise to reply to all comments.

  • Punctuation and paragraphs  have been added to the above transcription for ease and speed of reading

From → Uncategorized

  1. Be nice to have some rain this Easter. Today Ballarat is very quiet and everything (except the coffee shops) is closed.

    • It’s the same here Anne. Very quiet with just s few coffee shops opened. I logged back in because I forgot to put my sources on the post. Trust me!

  2. Very interesting bit of history from a part of the world I’m not familiar with!

  3. Does this help explain Brickfielder?

    Seems like it would fit in a discussion of weather.

  4. You have the climate advantage. Here in the northeast U.S. we can end up standing in snow in our new “spring” outfits on Easter. Interesting history on the tragic Easter fire.

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