Thursday, May 11, 2023


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

The First Annual Military Ball

With the Proserpine Show Ball occurring this weekend after being revitalised only a couple of years ago, it is a reminder of just how popular balls have been in our district over the years. The first Proserpine Show Ball was held in 1910 but this was just one of the many types of balls that were an integral part of society and eagerly anticipated by locals. There were Nurses’ Balls, Teachers’ Balls, Rugby League Balls and Debutante Balls to name just a few. In 1919, after four years of wartime deprivation, the first Annual Military Ball was introduced and, not surprisingly, keenly embraced by the community.


The First Annual Military Ball in Proserpine was held at the Tivoli Theatre on ANZAC night, April 25, 1919 (This was on the site of what is now Porters Plumbing). This event was greatly anticipated as a commemoration to mark the anniversary of the Anzac Campaign. Programs were printed and over 200 tickets were sold.

Earlier on in the day of the ball, an Anzac Day parade and ceremony were held in Main Street Proserpine. Although the weather on the big day was gloomy, there was a splendid roll up at the First Annual Military Ball.

The organiser, Lieutenant Meredith, President of the Ball Committee, had received permission to wear uniforms by Returned Soldiers, Citizen Forces and the Rejected Volunteers who had been in camp. Although the theme of the ball was not fancy dress, the guests were invited to wear the national dress of any of the Allies or evening dress. As had been expected, the ladies of district did not disappoint and turned out in their finest ballgowns. Returned soldiers were attired in their khaki uniforms. Officers from Bowen had also expressed interest in attending the ball.

“The Proserpine Guardian” April 19, 1919, reported: “The Red Cross and Repatriation ladies have promised to provide the supper, so that it behoves each and every patriotic lady of Proserpine to help them in their colossal task.”

To cope with the large number of attendees, Mrs Kemp and Mrs Booth took on the task of co-ordinating contributions of poultry, salads, cakes etcetera, all of which were gratefully accepted. And so it was that according to reports from those who attended the ball, the sumptuous supper was a credit to the ladies who worked cheerfully at their enormous task. It was served in the skating rink at the Tivoli Hall “which was an ideal place as the ladies had a comfortable room to attend to their duties and the tarpaulins erected prevented the dew from interfering with those at supper” (“The Proserpine Guardian” April 26, 1919).

The hall was nicely decorated with the flags of the Allies, palms, and red, white, and blue bunting. The Proserpine Citizens Band were called on to play the military and dance music. They played the National Anthem followed by the ANZAC Grand March and Lancers. Eighty to ninety couples paraded about the hall. Those who assisted the Citizens Band were Miss Waldron on the piano and Mrs Lascelles and Mrs AL Scotts who contributed extras. The dance program continued well into the early hours of the morning, concluding at 2:30am with the only interruption being made during supper. The names of the twenty dances were aptly named, all relating to a significant battle or other war - related aspect and concluding with the suitably entitled “Dinkum’s Medley”.  

Masters of Ceremony for this inaugural ball were Sergeant W Biggs (a returned World War 1 soldier) and Mr W McNeil.

Story courtesy Proserpine Historical Museum and “The Proserpine Guardian” and photo courtesy Proserpine Historical Museum.

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