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The Jubilee Celebration at Glenelg in 1886

August 19, 2021

An Account Of The Celebration

All Aboard from King William Street to Glenelg

                                                                          Part 1

Tuesday, December the 28th, marked an epoch in the history of Holdfast Bay. It was the Jubilee Commemoration Day, and colonists of all classes and every age were interested in making the celebration a success. After the most memorable demonstration in the Town Hall on the evening before, when that fine building was crowded to excess by colonists and their families, all assembled to testify to the interest and veneration they felt for The Pioneers of the Province,  it became Glenelg well to follow with the gala of more than ordinary significance.

The weather was pleasant, light rain fell in the night, a cool change set in, and a fresh sea breeze blew in the morning with the cloudy sky restraining the ardent sun from making the day to salt treat. Thousands of people in holiday garb, and bearing no indication of the pressure of the trying season just passed through, thronged the jetty and the beach, and filled almost every available space in the roadways, and the esplanades chatting, laughing, and enjoying themselves to the top of their bent. An experienced an energetic committee had been working hard for some weeks to organise a programme of land and sea sports calculated to amuse the multitude of pleasure seekers, who, however, seemed to come out as much to see and greet friends and acquaintances as to participate in the regular programme of the day. South Australian crowds are proverbially orderly and good humoured, so that the inconvenience of dust, heat and scrooging have little or no effect upon their tempers. They take it all kindly, and bandy merry words with each other all through the day.

Either the Glenelg Railway Company have learned a lesson from past experience of holiday rushes or the public are getting less excitable, but the fact is that there were far less crowding in the trains and the people got into the carriages in a more orderly manner than usual on such occasions. There was a time when intending passengers, over excited and eager to get seats clambered in by the windows and rushed the doors but not so now. The Glenelg Railway Company provided sufficient accommodation for the travelling public to all appearance, and if there was a little overcrowding it was as much the fault of the people themselves. The guards were prompt and obliging, and the police kept a sharp eye upon the heedless or rough members of the public. The Manager Mr. Quan had made every preparation for the rush and as far as we could see his arrangements were perfect. There is but little doubt that the success of the railway traffic was due to the efforts of the manager and his officials.

Trains were dispatched from Victoria Square and North terrace every half hour, making an alternate quarter of an hour service and these were found equal to conveying the thousands to and from Glenelg without any inconvenience worth speaking of. Throughout the day 10 locomotives, 26 carriages, and five trucks were in use on the two lines, and 70 trains were run each way. Up till 10:00 o’clock in the morning those who travelled by train were very few and it was feared that the celebration was not going to prove a success, but after this hour the public came in thousands, and all fears were dispelled. From 10:00 o’clock to 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon every train was comfortably loaded, that which carried the greatest number leaving Victoria Square about 2:00 o’clock. Approximately there were 48,000 passengers carried on the Victoria square line and 35,000 on the North terrace line.

These figures of course include the return journey’s of all the passengers. Many people seem to have adopted. The prudent practise. Of making a half holiday on the 28th., not going down to the Bay. Until the first rush to the trains is over. New sentence. This is certainly the more enjoyable way of doing the thing., and it distributes has traffic. The railway engine on, thereby relieving the officials of a great source of anxiety. After four o’clock, there was a lull, but a few hundreds took a rundown in the evening to witness the fireworks. The task of bringing the visitors back to the city was affected without the overcrowding which has prevailed in the past. This was in great measure attributable to the fact of the fireworks, which induced a number to stay and thus the traffic was relieved. There was no difficulty experienced in purchasing tickets, The company having provided ample ticket windows. To ensure safety, men were placed at every crossing on the lines. The traffic was greater than it has been for the previous years, it being estimated that altogether something like 83,000 persons were carried on the two lines.

The road this year was also more largely patronised, and in the morning particularly it presented a very lively appearance. Hundreds of vehicles of all descriptions were to be seen wending their way to the Bay. Spring carts and drays predominated, and these were well packed with families who had chosen the seashore for their days outing. One or two were tastefully decorated with evergreens. The proprietor’s evidently thinking it their duty to assist in making the scene as animated as it was possible to be. There was a marked absence of ‘four in hands’ all the better class of vehicle, and the licenced cabman did not appear to have profited but the commemoration. Those who were fortunate to arrive early located their vehicles in the vicinity of the jetty, but later arrivals had to take up positions to the North and South; and so many were there that they extended a considerable distance on each side. At the northern end they reached beyond the Patawalonga Creek. In the afternoon, when the steamers ‘Adelaide’ and ‘Yatala’ arrived with their living freights from Port Adelaide, the number of people on the pier was added to considerably, so that before 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon there was only just enough room to move along the jetty freely. The excellent rule of keeping to the right was fairly well observed and thus much unpleasant jostling avoided. As before intimated, the weather was delightful, the fresh sea breeze blowing with steadiness, and sending the yachts and sailing boats along at a spanking rate. The sea was all sparkle and motion, and we are sure there was less dust than ordinary, the day being so cool. ‘

Proclamation Day was very popular from the point of the Golden Jubilee in 1886 right through to Depression and beyond.
This Photograph was taken in 1922 and comes to you courtesy of the State Library of South Australia {PRG280/1/30/92}

This extract comes to you on my website which is found under the heading of ‘panesof’ Please leave a comment if you like this sort of material as I have 1100 pages of South Australian History to share with you in ‘Behind The Streets of Adelaide.’ Go to for more.

Dr Jeff Nicholas

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Dr Jeff Nicholas

This site is about both History & Biography

The Victorian Commons

Researching the House of Commons, 1832-1868

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