The Evil Desecration of the Sabbath

First published

The purity of the Sabbath Day was always a fine Anglican custom, it was a fine Scottish custom, but incredibly it also thrived in the so-called lusty, free and casy colonies of Australia and New Zealand. Yet of all colonial cities it thrived best in Melbourne. After all, Melbourne rather felt that it had a superior moral tone to other places, and even as late as 1965 the city on Sundays had a certain splendid solemnity about it.

The Melbourne Sunday was world famous, a tourist attraction really, like trams and 6 o'clock closing. Where else on earth, with the possible exception of Adelaide, could one find a city where absolutely nothing happened, where the biggest excitement among the citizens on a Sunday was to go either to the Botanic Gardens or to Essendon Airport; an alternative of gazing in composed decorum at the swans or in composed decorum at the Boeing 727s.

The late Brian Fitzpatrick once said that the Melbourne Sunday had a tranquillity, a pure beauty, why, it was a work of art like the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Two Minutes' Silence, or La Giaconda.1

The truth is that our Winged Victory was perfect for a very long time. William Kelly, a most entertaining Irishman, in his book Life in Victoria painted his sketch of the Melburnian Sunday of the 1850s, a sketch which could be taken as read for any Sunday for the next 100 years.

For a new, rollicking, harum-scarum, devil-may-care country. I marvelled to witness the air of quiet serenity and decorousness which pervaded the capital on the Sabbath morning. ...I could almost fancy the echo of my footfall was reproving my trespass on the prevailing stillness. Even when I got into Great Collins Street there was not a soul astir.

In 1906, with less sympathy, John Norton gave his exasperated howl in Truth.

It is neither a Scotch Sabbath nor a Jew's Sabbath neither a Christian Sunday nor a white man's holiday; but a mixed up abortion of a thing brought about through the promiscuous intercourse of all sorts of sects and interests ... Morning trains only carry folks to church, trams will not run until afternoon. And there shall be no drinking in any hotel, and no selling of any Sunday newspapers or other publications and no charge for admission to any public entertainment. ...How long, oh Lord, how long? asks the honest reformer, appealing from all the domination of monkeydom, humbug and folly to the God of reason and righteousness.2
Dr F. B. Smith in his 1956 thesis on the Sabbatarians felt that the Presbyterians were the strongest influence in fighting for the Melburnian Sunday. He said that after the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics they were the third largest denomination during the period 1874 to 1910, and Victoria received 35 per cent more Presbyterians and Scottish immigrants than any other State.3 The Roman Catholics kept well out of it, and the Anglicans fought only in sporadic skirmishes. For example, the Anglican Bishop of Melbourne, Bishop Moorhouse, thought there was no solid ecclesiastical background for a solemn Sabbath.
We have a day of rest set apart in order that man may have an opportunity of communion with his maker, but we have no explicit directions for the observance of that day. The enlightened conscience must decide for itself.4
Then there was the much quoted sermon of the Reverend John Sutton, an Anglican minister of Brisbane, who said:
Neither in the New Testament, nor in the practice of apostolic times, nor in the works of the Fathers of the Christian Church, nor in the writings of the reformers, is there to be found the slightest warrant for the Sabbatical day of rest. The Puritans have made what was meant to be the most joyful day of the week, the most gloomy.5
The most forceful argument put forward by the Sabbatarians was that every man deserved, needed, and was entitled to his day of rest. Therefore on Sunday the trains should not run, the public buildings should not be open, the theatres should be closed, there should be no selling of liquor, the newspapers should not publish, even the Army should not hold manoeuvres, because if they operated, then they would have to employ Sunday labour. Later when the trade unions became a force they agreed with all this, but most of them were delighted to drop a principle to get double time or time and a half on Sundays.

The Victorian Railways, at various periods, ran only sufficient trains on Sunday to get the good people to and from Church. In 1871 the Presbyterian Journal Southern Cross noted the moral dilemma, and decided they should stick to principle right through. It was wrong even for Church goers to use trains on Sundays. They should walk to Church, that is patronize churches in their neighborhoods. If the preaching was not satisfactory there, then they should move house and live closer to their favourite church.6

The Sabbatarians rarely missed a trick. In 1856 the Sunday Observance Society of Geelong objected to the payment of wages on Saturday afternoons, because this meant that workers made their purchases on the Sunday, 'a positive evil.'7

In 1855, the Reverend Dr Adam Cairns, the noted Presbyterian preacher, complained that the Army had fired a gun salute on a Sunday in honor of the birthday of Prince Albert. He wrote: 'I confess my surprise gave way to a sense of shame that the law of God and the best feelings of His people should have been distressed and shocked by a disturbance for which not the shadow of a reason can be alleged.'8

The Age in its noble desire to give the public the very latest in overseas news brought out extraordinary editions on a Sunday on the occasion of the arrival of the Lightning from England and the Gertrude from Calcutta in 1855. The Society for Sabbath Observance thought this an 'audacious violation of the Sabbath'.9

There were bar sales of liquor on Sundays but the Government stepped in and stopped it in 1854, despite the fact that 15,000 citizens petitioned and wanted it to go on. The Sabbatarians staged a splendid onslaught to get their way. The Moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, the Reverend M. Mackay, filled two columns of the Argus with one letter, and mighty columns they were too.

We do solemnly declare, testify to you this day, Beloved Brethren, that the blessing of God can never rest on the temporal gain or profit that may be made by profaning the Sabbath. Woe unto him that striveth with his maker. Who hath hardened himself against Him and hath prospered?10
There was no limit to it. In 1871 there was a fearful row because the fagship of Her Majesty's Victorian Navy, the *Cerebus*, was thrown open for public inspection on Sundays.11 Then in 1876 an Elder wrote to the *Argus* and complained of the shocking act of Sabbath desecration of some little boys flying kites at Emerald Hill. It was high time public attention 'was directed to such iniquities.' 12

Always Melbourne tried to keep the city free of any public entertainment on Sundays, but it must be admitted a certain Mr Fairclough, in August 1875, hired the Town Hall for an evening of sacred readings interspersed with instrumental music. The Melbourne Society for the Promotion of Public Morality thought this was just a disguise to provide entertainment, and the members waited on the Mayor, to express their utmost indignation at the 'unholy prostitution of a public building'. The effect of the publicity was to fill the hall to capacity. Even the aisles were filled with standees. However the audience was most well-behaved. There were occasions when it was moved to 'indulge in applause' but there were signs around the hall pointing out that this was forbidden. The solemnity of the Sabbath was maintained with silent hands.13

The Battle of the Trains continued, and the biggest danger of all was excursion trains. The Railways ran the church trains, but the Railways Commissioners always felt that if they could run a few more Sabbath trains, their railways - renowned as a disastrous economic venture - could perhaps earn a little more money. When excursion trains started running to Queenscliff there were deputations of protest to the Ballarat City Council. One of the councillors had the nerve to return the attack against the Most Reverend Samuel Thornton, Anglican Bishop of Ballarat. He asked if His Lordship were not breaking the Sabbath by employing his groom and coachman on Sunday, and keeping his cook and servants at work during the blessed day. According to the Bulletin14 the Bishop 'gasped and squirmed', the Mayor broke in and apologized for the indignity whereupon 'Dr Thornton blew his nose with a loud report, looked resigned, and said he at least would take no further notice of what had taken place'.

Even the Governor was in trouble. He was touring officially about Victoria, yet he came under the lash of Dr Adam Cairns at the 1877 Presbyterian Assembly. He complained on behalf of the church Committee on Sabbath Observance and Public Morality. The Governor's action, said he, could not fail to have a pernicious influence. In moving the adoption of the report Dr Cairns said that 'the action of His Excellency, Sir George Bowen, was indefensible and intolerable and would never be sanctioned by Her Majesty, the Queen'.15

I Perhaps the worst affair was the Sunday Railway picnic to Mount Macedon in 1874. Over 1,500 railways workers went to the bush by train. They had sports, they had four brass bands, they had dancing and there were booths where liquor was served. Melbourne Punch reported that everybody had such a good time that some had to be left behind when the trains left that night, but yet they still turned up at work the next day with the excuse lost in the bush, all night Sir, and couldn't make anyone hear'. 16

On 3 March, at the monthly meeting of Presbytery of Melbourne, the Reverend Dr Cameron called it one of the greatest outrages ever carried out under the sanction of Government, and called for a deputation to the Chief Secretary. 17

On 16 March, the Chief Secretary, received a formidable gathering, Dr Adam Cairns, plus 18 other clergy and 17 laymen. The Reverend J. C. Symons read a lengthy memorial that included:

That we believe, not only on the ground of divine authority, but also from the national rights and liberties which should be enjoyed by every citizen, that no man should, under any circumstances, be required to work on the Lord's Day for the mere pleasure of others; and that especially the State should not require, or permit any of its employes to engage in their ordinary work except when absolutely necessary; nor should it hold out any inducements to them, nor afford the facilities for violating the rest and sacredness of the Lord's Day, 18

The Chief Secretary, Mr Francis, said that all that was contemplated was just a run on the mountainside for the railway employees; no one knew there were to be bands and scenes of debauchery. It would not happen again.

The major battle, the Battle of Stalingrad of Sabbatarianism, was over the opening of the Public Library and the National Gallery on Sunday. This was an annual, as regular as the blooming of the daffodils. The first unsuccessful attempts to have public buildings open on Sunday were made in the 1850s and altogether it was an issue before Parliament, eighteen times.19 Oddly enough the Zoo was open on Sundays, although the Government had been careful. It cost a shilling for adults and sixpence for children on the other days of the week, but the feeling was that if admission was free on Sundays then consciences were clear. Of course, Sunday was by far the most popular day and 6,000 to 8,000 went through the Gardens.20 So it was all right to look at monkeys on a Sunday, but not all right to read a book or look at a picture.

In 1882 the Sabbatarians, at last, missed a trick. Two prominent 'Openers', Professor Pearson and Mr Bromley, were appointed to the Board of Library Trustees. They waited until April the next year when Parliament was in recess, then acted. They put up a motion for Opening and it went through by one vote. This was a declaration of war.

The leading Sabbatarians formed the Sunday Observance League and issued a manifesto which contained the words: 'We assert the supreme majesty of God's Sabbath law against its violators, nation or individual. We will fight to the death for Sunday for every toiler of the nation.'

There were Town Hall meetings for and against. The Sunday Liberation Society had a splendid roll-up in the Town Hall on 3 May. There were several clerics on the platform including the Rev. Dr Bromby of St Paul's, the Rev. Charles Strong and the Reverends T. Capel S.J. and H. Daly S.J. Mr Strong said Sunday was not a day of gloom. He had his best breakfast, his best dinner and best supper on Sunday. 'You cannot possibly carry out the principle of not doing any work on Sunday. Ministers must work on Sunday, church officers, must work, the organist must work and the servants in the house have some little work on Sunday.'21

There was a deputation to the Premier. He was told Sunday schools would be depleted, but meanwhile the Gallery, Library and Museum, which was open only during very non-church hours, 1.20 p.m. to 5 p.m. did nobly. On the first afternoon, 6,000 people went through the turnstiles.22

Perhaps all would have been well had it not been for Chloe. Chloe was the rather hippy, haughty nude, now in the saloon bar at Young & Jackson's hotel, opposite St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne. She was painted by the Chevalier Jules Lefebvre of Paris and exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1876, where she won the Grand Medal of Honour. A. M.23 records that George Moore in his Confessions of a Young Man writes with faint contempt of 'Lefebvre and Bouguereau', both painters of fleshy, romantic nudes. And he tells of a meeting with Marie, the model for Chloe: 'Her end was a tragic one. She invited her friends to dinner, and, with the few pence that remained, she bought some boxes of matches, boiled them, and drank the water. No one knew why; some said it was love.'

Chloe came to Melbourne for the grand International Exhibition of 1880 and was exhibited in the French Court as a fine example of French art. The art critics were very kind, for, after all, she had already been praised by the famous critic Anatole de Montaiglon who spoke of 'the immaculate whiteness of her body' ...'the clean immobility of her pause'... 'Everything is young and of the same youth; the delicacy of the wrists and ankles, the slenderness of the calves and legs, the virginity of the chest ... it is indeed the precise and chaste elegance which precedes the fullness of beauty, of which it is the first flower.'24

Dr Thomas Fitzgerald, later Sir Thomas, the distinguished surgeon of the Melbourne Hospital, bought the picture and in 1882 he offered it on loan to the National Gallery. There was no fuss until the 'Opening' controversy, and then on 7 May 1883, this letter appeared in the Argus.

I highly approve of the determination of the trustees of our picture gallery to open it to the public on Sunday, and would suggest that the indecent picture of a naked woman called by a classical name, which hangs in the north-east corner of the gallery should at once be removed. Would any of the gentlemen trustees permit a nude picture of their daughter, or sister, to be hung there; and if not, why anyone else's daughter? ...The visitors to the Gallery are in proportion of at least three females to one male, and all the pictures in the neighborhood of this particular one have to be passed by, for no decent woman with her daughters would dare to stop in front of it. For whose delectation is it hung there? It may safely be said not for female visitors and therefore it must be for males, young and old, and only those of vicious proclivities. No artist has yet painted and exhibited a naked woman naturally, and probably never will.

I am etc.
Emerald Hill

Next day there was a letter signed by eight art students, some of whom were to become very famous in Australian art.

We the undersigned students feeling deeply the foolish and injudicious remarks of your correspondent, Mr John Russell, think it is our duty in the cause of art to protest against his sweeping condemnation of a work so pure and elevating in sentiment and masterly in execution as M. Lefebvre's picture of 'Cloe'. We wonder how your correspondent or his female relatives managed to get so far into the building as the Picture Galley, considering that there are two nude female figures guarding the entrance.

His objection on the score of its being the portrait of someone's daughter or sister is scarcely worth answering, as it would apply with equal or greater force to each of the many nude figures which abound in our sculpture gallery, while, as to the objection to ladies standing before it, surely this would apply to the nude figures of males, of which we possess several.

As students and lovers of art are not notorious for their evil and vicious proclivities we do not consider it necessary to make any reply to his remarks bearing on that particular point. In conclusion we would be the last to wish to see anything in any way bordering on the indecent in our Gallery, but maintain that in the present case any indecency whatever exists only in the remarks of your correspondent.

Yours etc.
Thomas Trood.
F. McCubbin.
Louis Abrahams.
Thomas Humphrey.
Chas. S. Bennett.
T.St.G. Tucker.
F. Longstaff.
Alexr. Colquhoun.

The correspondence thrived for a month. One correspondent said that he knew of a lady who heard objectionable remarks being made by young men standing in front of Chloe and for this reason he thought the picture should be removed. Yet at the same time it would be impossible to banish from all our art collections those pictures which displayed the human form. Therefore he made this suggestion. There should be a special room for such art, to which nobody under a certain age should be admitted. Also there should be separate hours, one for males and one for females. If this were arranged then the 'possibility of circumstances such as those alluded to above could not occur'.25

Indeed many worried over this terrible thought of male and female looking at the undraped form at the same time. Heaven knows what might result from this:

Most people will allow that the Chloe cannot be admired by a brother and sister together, nor yet by a lover and a sweetheart, and a picture which thus scatters a family party is out of place in a collec- ton which is supposed to be more for the recreation and education of the people than as a school of art for students.

I am, etc.
"Can it be right', asked A Mother, 'that a mother cannot take her young daughter to a public gallery, never to speak of her sons, without feeling her cheeks tingling with shame?'

Decency thought that as Chloe was only a temporary visitor to the Gallery, she should be made more respectable. True, clothes could not be painted on her, but a modern costume could be draped around the picture. Then why not make the marble statues decent, a suit of tweed and a felt hat for Antinous and a blanket for the recumbent Bacchante?

Yet perhaps the most charming of the letters received was this:

It seems to me that the picture has a strictly and positively moral tendency in promoting the cause of matrimony. The artist shows us (I write as a bachelor) what a really beautiful thing a young maiden is - a matter that I am sure you will agree with me in stating we can otherwise know nothing of except by hearsay, and I maintain that if anything can fan the incipient sparks of affection into such a flame of love or shall induce a young man to go straightway and commit matrimony, it is the sight of Chloe.

I am, yours etc.
The *Bulletin* in Sydney was amused at the incredible exhibition of modesty in Melbourne and wrote:
But Chloe, Nature fully knows
Purest in her suit,
She scorns all sham in-chloe-sure,
Corset, bustle, boot.
You have no faults, Chloe, to
With you a god might live in
On 26 May the *Argus* decided to close the correspondence and in a leading article the newspaper said:
What is to be done with this shameless minx Chloe, who for all the innocence of her looks is, we are assured, a most corrupting and demoralising personage? Shall she be banished from all place of public resort as an improper person or be made to attire herself as a girl of the period?
Word came through on 29 May that Chloe was to be withdrawn from public exhibition. Dr Fitzgerald, who lent the picture, had now asked for its return. The Trustees, no doubt, were immensely relieved that this problem, at least, was out of their hands.28

However the Sabbatarians by the extraordinary publicity had made Chloe's reputation for all time. When Sir Thomas Fitzgerald died in 1908, Young & Jackson's Princes Bridge Hotel bought the picture from his estate for £800 and put it on display in the saloon bar. Chloe has been there ever since except for a period during the First World War when she was exhibited for the Red Cross. She raised £300 at sixpence a head admission. There is no record of her tingling any cheeks with shame at Young & Jacksons and she is now Melbourne's number one tourist attraction with perhaps just the edge on the stuffed figure of the racehorse Phar Lap at the Museum.

Chloe may have been withdrawn but the Sunday Opening battle was far from over. There were mass meetings For and Against in the Melbourne Town Hall, at Fitzroy, Collingwood and Prahran. For example, at the Melbourne Town Hall the Reverend W. H. Fitchett said that if the galleries were opened on Sundays the theatres would soon be opened, and soon the colony would be like other countries where the ring of the hammer was heard and the smoke of the chimney stacks was seen on the Sabbath Day. 29

At the Prahran Town Hall the Reverend Murdoch Macdonald moved: 'That this meeting believing Sunday to be a day given by God for worship and rest, protests against the opening of the Public Library, Art Gallery and Museum, and the consequent needless national employment of labor on that day as being a violation of Divine Law and of human right.'30

Some of the meetings were very lively indeed. On 4 June there was a meeting in support of Opening at the Fitzroy Town Hall and the Mayor, Cr James Moore, was on the platform. A week later there was another meeting, this time in protest. The Mayor once more was on the platform, but this time he made it clear that he was only present 'in compliance with a requisition' and his views were well known. The Reverend Nye, a Wesleyan, opened the meeting with prayer and there were hisses and yells. First there was a resolution in favour of keeping the Library closed, then Cr McMahon moved the amendment: "That in the opinion of this meeting the opening of the Public Library, Museum and Art Gallery on a Sunday afternoon is a Christian movement tending to promote the moral and intellectual improvement of the people.

There was an uproar. According to the Argus Thomas Walker, a lecturer, made a move towards the platform, after having sent up a note saying he wished to speak to the amendment. He was met by two or three gentlemen who told him he would not be allowed to speak, but Mr Walker rushed on. The Argus said:

He was violently pushed off the platform and in an instant the meeting was broken up. After Mr Walker was knocked over a body of his supporters rushed to his defence. The Mayor's table was pushed aside, several blows were struck, two or three women at the rear of the hall fainted, and the lights were extinguished. Mr Walker was put on the platform again but he advised them to disperse.30
Of course, Parliament was showered with petitions of every kind. The Openers collected 38,000 signatures for Opening as against 11,000 by the Sabbatarians. Yet, as Dr F.B. Smith said, the Sabbath petitions were more impressive because they were more persistent and they came from hundreds of small towns and congregations.31 It was easy to have a petition to be signed on a Church door, but not so easy hunting for them around hotel bars, football grounds and door to door.

The whole issue came up for debate in the Legislative Assembly on 4 July. Mr W.J. Shiels, a future premier, gave one of the great speeches of his career. He traced the history of the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian Sabbath, and he quoted all the leading theologians of the day. He even quoted Thackeray:

The poor man's sins are glaring;
In the face of ghostly warning,
He is caught in the fact
Of an overt act
Buying greens on a Sunday morning.
Shiel's passionate plea had little effect. At just on 1 a.m. the following morning the House passed a resolution which castigated the Library Trustees for exceeding their prerogative in opening the Institution on Sundays and added the lines: 'Further, that the trustees be called upon to immediately revert to the original practice and close the institutions under their charge on Sundays until Parliament shall otherwise determine.' The vote was 35 to 12.32

Yet the anti-Sabbatarians, despite their defeat, did have a final laugh. That very weekend the 'magnificent new Liverpool liner', the George Roper, 2033 tons, went aground at Point Lonsdale in very heavy seas. On the Saturday there was a public auction of the wreck and it was bought by a syndicate which included Mr Bruce, of the firm Paterson, Laing & Bruce, Mr Hugh Thompson, Mr John Blyth, Mr Edward Duckett, Mr J. M. Robison, Mr Thomas Robison and a Mr Campbell. The cargo value was estimated at £50,000 and at daybreak on Sunday, with a chartered vessel and a gang of 10 fishermen, many of these gentlemen set out to salvage what they could from the George Roper. But the point was this: most of the names had been on petitions for the closing of the Public Library and Gallery on Sunday, and Mr Bruce, in particular, was a leading Sabbatarian.

On 10 July Mr Shiels facetiously asked the Premier if he were prepared to bring in a bill to prevent such goings on taking place on a Sunday,33 The Bulletin was most caustic:

So [the Sabbatarians ] chartered a steamer and sent her down the Bay on a Sunday to save as much as they could from the stranded vessel. The weather was rough and a good few men had a narrow squeak for their lives, but then didn't the purchasers strike a patch! And that's why we like them. You see it is wicked to Look at a picture of read on a Sunday, but when it comes to business, why - give us Sabbatarians.34
At this time public libraries, art galleries and museums were open on Sundays in Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and even in Bendigo and Ballarat. In 1886 the *Age*35 set out to show the extraordinary contrast between Melbourne and sydney. Not only was everything open from the Library to the Wechanics Institute but there was all manner of entertainment to be had on Sunday nights. It was interesting to glance down the columns to note the places of amusement which were in active competition with the churches. At the Theatre Royal there was a 'grand concert and oration'; at West's Academy there was a musical programme followed by a spiritualistic lecture; at the Royal Standard Theatre there was an address on 'The Sun and What We Owe It'; the Academy of Music was occupied by a gentleman who gave poetical lectures illustrated by imitations of well-known actors, orators, etc, and on top of this four straight concerts were advertised.

Melburnians, however, were unconcerned as to what was done in other cities, and although there were opening campaigns right through the eighteen-nineties, Parliament did not legislate for the opening of the Library, Gallery and Museum until 22 September 1904 and Melbourne was the last city in the British Empire to receive this service.

Even now Melbourne does not have Sunday newspapers. Apart from Hobart it is the only is the only Australian capital that does not have them. Indeed it is one of the few cities in the world that does not have them. Parliament banned Sunday newspapers in Victoria such a long time ago, few people know why or how it ever came about.

In 1876 there was a Sunday newspaper in Melbourne called Gossip which ran for only a few issues, but in 1889 there was the threat of a new newspaper, the Sunday Times, and the Government felt the old Police Offences Statute which covered Sunday trading was insufficiently strong, so Mr H. Wrixon, often called Mr Righteous Wrixon, brought down the Sunday Newspapers Bill.

One of the main reasons for the Bill was this, Mr. Wrixon said:

In the publication and sale of Sunday newspapers large numbers of boys must be employed who would attend where people mostly congregated, that was near the churches, and there, by shouting out the sames of their papers, and perhaps the latest horror upon which they relied to sell the paper, they would become a perfect nuisance to al peaceful and law abiding citizens.
The *Bulletin* commented: Mr Wrixon must indeed be as ignorant as he is rich and puritanical if he imagines that anything more than an insignificant minority of the adult male population attends Church on Sundays,'36

Mr L. L. Smith on behalf of the Opposition said that it was impossible to argue for the bill on religious grounds. If they thought they were stopping Sabbath labour by stopping Sunday newspapers, then they were wrong. Sunday newspapers were set up by compositors who worked on Saturday nights and Monday newspapers were produced by men who worked on Sunday nights. Perhaps it would have been better had they legislated against Monday newspapers.

Then the question was raised about the Daily Telegraph, a Melbourne morning daily which was produced with Church backing. However Mr Balfour, a leading Sabbatarian, pointed out that nobody on the Daily Telegraph worked between midnight Saturday and midnight Sunday. The result of this was that much of the Telegraph's Sunday news did not get into the newspaper until Tuesday, possibly a contributing factor to the collapse of the Telegraph under the first strains of the Land Boom in 1892. The Sunday Newspapers' Bill became law in 1889 and has remained the law in Victoria ever since.37

Over the years, Melbourne continued to battle for its work of art. Although the law against Sunday trading was strict it was never quite possible to keep people out of the hotels. The Southern Cross in 188238 said that every pub in Bourke Street had its back door open on Sundays. The Dean of Rochester announced that Sunday should be spent in preparing for eternity of which it was really a pre-taste.39 Certainly the Melbourne Sunday often seemed that way.

In 1900 a barber was fined five shillings40 for shaving a man on Sunday and the Police dug out an Act of Charles Il, under which to charge him. There were sermons against the new craze for cycling which took people out of the city on the Sabbath nor were the new motion pictures receiving the blessing of the pulpit. In 1911 the Fitzroy Council cancelled the registration of the Fitzroy Cyclorama for its Sunday entertainments. Cr Langdon appealed to no avail that the people who went to the Cyclorama were quite as respectable as those who went to Church. They were giving shows at 3.30 pm. and 8 p.m., a sacred concert with well-known artists and 10,000 Feet of biograph pictures'. One noticed from the advertisements that they also offered a Red Indian Story titled The Rescue of Molly Finney 'a stirring drama depicting every incident.' 41

Sunday trains remained restricted before the First World War and even in 1932 the controversy raged and in that year there was a deputation from nine Protestant Churches to the Victorian Railways Minister, Mr R.G. Menzies, against the running of Sunday excursion trains. Mr W.H. Edgar MLC, who led the deputation, said the demoralizing propaganda that the railways used over the radio ways to advertise these excursions contaminated the ears of decent people. Until this unfortunate business is stopped, I will not turn on the wireless in my home,' said he.

There was a slow metamorphosis of the Melbourne Sunday. In 1928 the Brighton Council banned golf at Elsternwick Park on Sundays, and this sort of thing provided good debate material until 1947 when there was a referendum in Melbourne's largest suburban city, the middleclass headquarters of respectability, Camberwell. The ratepayers were asked: 'Are you in favor of non-commercialized sport approved by Camberwell City Council being played on municipal reserves on Sundays?' The answer was a fairly resounding 'no' - a majority of 1771, out of 9,000 votes. In that year out of 12 councils, only two, Richmond and Fitzroy, permitted sport to be played on Sundays. Camberwell reversed its former decision by a two to one vote in 1959.42

In July 1965 Victoria made legal Sunday picture shows 'after Evensong', and the Reverend Sir Irving Benson of the Methodist Church commented: 'What is coming next? Could it be that we will soon be having horse racing, night trotting after 9 p.m, and the hotels open for trade? Is this what our Parliaments and councils want?'43

What next? Well, next was commercialized sport on Sundays upon application to the Chief Secretary, and this became legal after 1 March 1968. The Chief Secretary, Mr Rylah, introduced a special Sunday Entertainment Bill and he said the purpose of this was to remove from the statute book the 1780-1 Act of George III, which was called 'an Act for Preventing Certain Abuses and Profanations on the Lord's Day, Called Sunday.'44 This was the real basis of the Melburnian winged Victory and it said:

.. any house, room or other place which shall be opened for public entertainment or amusement, or for publicly debating on any subject whatsoever upon any part of the Lord's Day, and to which persons shall be admitted by the payment of money, shall be deemed a disorderly home or place.
Actually some profanations had been going on for some time. There was a way around the old Act. Instead of demanding money at the turnstiles, sporting organizations 'accepted donations'. In the 1960s Olympic Park was a regular 'disorderly house' for soccer and there was even a little disorderly housing at such august places as the Kooyong Tennis Club.

There was surprisingly little protest against the Sunday Entertainment Bill and with its introduction the perfect tranquillity of the Melbourne Sunday was at end. It is said that the very second when the Governor signed his assent to the bill there was a warm sigh from Chloe in the saloon bar at Young & Jackson's hotel. Perhaps even at this late stage she saw promise of her return to the National Gallery. Yet that might be too much of a risk. It could give play to no end of vicious proclivities.


  1. The Herald, 14 January, 1955.
  2. Truth, 13 October, 1906.
  3. Smith, Dr F. B., 'The Sunday Observance Controversy', Thesis (University of Melbourne).
  4. The Argus, 17 May, 1883.
  5. Melbourne Punch, 14 September, 1876.
  6. Southern Cross, 27 July, 1871.
  7. The Argus, 16 January, 1856.
  8. The Argus, 20 August, 1855.
  9. The Argus, 7 December, 1855.
  10. The Argus, 28 November, 1855.
  11. The Victorian Independent, I September, 187I.
  12. Melbourne Punch, 2 March, 1876.
  13. The Age, 14 August, 1875.
  14. The Bulletin, 9 March 1895
  15. The Age, 20 November, 1877.
  16. Melbourne Punch, 5 March, 1874.
  17. The Argus, 4 March, 1874.
  18. The Argus, 17 March, 1874.
  19. Smith, Dr F. B., 'The Sunday Observance Controversy', Thesis.
  20. Victorian Parliamentary Debates, vols. 37 and 43.
  21. The Argus, 4 May, 1883.
  22. The book of the Public Library, 1856-1906.
  23. A.M., October, 1948.
  24. Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1875.
  25. The Argus, 25 May, 1883.
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  34. The Bulletin, 21 July, 1883.
  35. The Age, 23 September, 1886.
  36. The Bulletin, 9 November 1889
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