david coombe history

 

S.T. Gill and the Old Colonists' Festival Dinner, March 1851


SUMMARY: The story behind S.T. Gill's cheeky lithograph of the Old Colonists' Festival Dinner, March 1851.

Article type: NARRATIVE & CATALOGUE


1851. Angas Comings and Goings

George Fife Angas – a major backer of the South Australian venture – finally made it to Adelaide in January 1851. A public dinner to welcome him was attended by 80 gentlemen. His two sons already in South Australia, George French Angas the artist and John Howard Angas, sat beside him at the dinner.

The arrival of Angas senior stirred some "old colonists" to push for a celebration of the earliest settlers who'd arrived before 1840. (Angas clearly wasn't one.) An Old Colonists' festival committee soon decided to hold a grand dinner on 27 March, the anniversary of the sale of Adelaide's Town Acres. Over the ensuing weeks the eligibility criteria was progressively relaxed until it was open to all, subject to a limit of 500 tickets at 10s. 6d. each.

The arrival of the father may have prompted the departure of the son. George French Angas, last noted at his father's dinner on 7 February, was next reported in Mount Gambier on his way to Portland thence Melbourne and destined for New Zealand. He made stops in Melbourne and Sydney to sell "original sketches in New Zealand and Australia". He would not be around to paint what was expected to be the biggest event of the colonists in the history of Adelaide. (He'd also missed the previous grand occasion, the departure of Sturt's expedition in August 1844.)

The Dinner, Thursday 27 March

The day for the dinner – Thursday 27 March – was declared a Public Holiday for the Government departments. A week before the event the Register newspaper felt compelled to advise all "who are anxious to be present at the dinner, to lose no time in securing tickets, as we are confident that the proceedings of that day will present a scene which South Australia has not yet witnessed, and such as will be worthy to be treasured up in the memories of all who shall have the fortune to be there."1 The dinner was a men's only affair. A ball to be held the following day (of course) included women.

To accommodate the dinner and ball the committee had erected a canvas pavilion, 120 feet by 80 feet, at the rear of the City Bridge Hotel between it and Trinity Church. Morphett Street was closed to traffic. The pavilion was bedecked with flags and boughs, lit by candelabras. Twenty tables were set up and the Adelaide Amateur Band provided the music. The theme was rustic.

As an incentive to a recollection of the state of Adelaide in its earlier times, two large Emus, a Kangaroo, and a Wallaby, had been procured, and were allowed to hop or walk about, just as it pleased these native Australian captives, either in the pavilion, or the surrounding enclosure, to the no small amusement of some of our later arrivals, who had never before seen either of these specimens of our natural history in a living state. The shrubs, with which the pavilion was ornamented, were, for the most part, those that are indigenous to Australia, and the cross-beams and rafters were constructed of such materials, and arranged in such a form, as to give an aspect of wild rusticity to it.2

Formalities began at 4:15pm by which time 600 were seated at the tables. After dinner came speeches, toasts and anthems. There were twenty-two scheduled toasts and several unscheduled ones. According to James Allen's Adelaide Times, the uproar began during George Fife Angas' speech.

Angas began by admitting his arrival was recent but claimed he was always "a sincere friend to the colony". Angas was in the midst of campaigning for election for the Barossa district. Germans made up a significant portion of the electorate. When, in his speech, Angas praised the German migrants as the "first to cultivate the land" he triggered several minutes uproar. The chairman, J. H. Fisher, said he was determined to keep all politics out of the occasion, but he wasn't totally successful in settling the crowd.

John Brown's speech was the next to be disrupted.

The confusion and uproar now became tremendous. The company had increased to about 800 persons, most of whom were standing, chatting, cheering, hissing, &c., so that nothing else could possibly be heard ... The Chairman endeavoured to restore order, but the Band injudiciously struck up and increased the confusion ... [Another] speaker went on at great length, but it was impossible to hear him from the confusion that prevailed, and from the cries of "Your ten minutes are over; – cut it short, – that will do," &c., amidst which he resumed his seat ... [After Charles Sturt's attempt to speak] the uproar was immense, and, to add to the confusion, the band struck up a most screeching and discordant air.2

The Register proposed an apolitical explanation for the disorder.

This interruption, as well as many others that occurred during the evening, appeared to arise – not from any opposition on the part of the company to the toasts – but from, in the first instance, the anxiety of the more distant to obtain a better position, and aggravated by the officiousness of several individuals who appeared to have more wine than wit in their heads.2

As proceedings finally drew to a close, chairman Fisher held up a lithographed print marking the occasion.

He then called attention to a representation of the scene around them as a specimen of art executed in the colony within the short space of four days. The centre of the lithograph, for such it appeared to us to be, was occupied by a representation of the interior of the pavilion, with the guests seated at table, and the Chairman in the act of addressing the meeting. In the right-hand corner, at the top, was a view of the Governor's house; at the bottom a view of the Port. The other spaces were occupied by a view of Adelaide when the colonists first landed, and of a new settlement, or recently enclosed section with its mud hut. The Chairman thought it was highly creditable to the artist, and hoped he would meet with encouragement.2

A Pre-emptive Lithograph

The chairman was standing holding a print of the chairman standing! The dinner was the centrepiece of the picture. Nearly every man's glass is raised. Others embrace. The band is at full volume. The drawing – a fairly basic one – shows celebratory but sober colonists.

Thumbnail image for SLSA B 22263In commemoration of the Old Colonist's Festival | State Library of South Australia B 22263 

The artist was recently arrived German architect Tilman Wilhelm Gloystein (1816-1894).3 The printers were Adelaide's Penman and Galbraith. The lithograph could be bought the next day from Alfred Waddy's Artists' Repository, King William-street. (Unfortunately Waddy's business itself was put up for sale just a fortnight later.)

Daguerreotype: "Half Seas Over"

The following week a photograph emerged.

DAGUERREOTYPE LIKENESSES. – We have just seen a sketch of a jovial party, taken by Mr. Oglesby, at the pavilion lately erected for the Old Colonists' Festival, wherein are introduced three well known persons; but as all seem half seas over, we refrain from giving their names; so true to life are the portraits, that nothing but a looking glass can come up to the style in which Mr. O. has finished them off.4

Upon Sober Reflection?

One can come to market too early. Gloystein's pre-emptory sobriety was Sam Gill's topical opportunity. Gill couldn't resist the temptation to reflect Adelaide as she was and capture the "wine over wit". It took him three weeks. The day before publication, Andrew Murray's South Australian had a sneak peek.

OLD COLONISTS' FESTIVAL. – We have just seen a proof impression of a lithograph print from a drawing by Mr Gill, of the Old Colonists' dinner. It is sketched with great spirit and accuracy, and the artist has thrown far more interest into it than such subjects usually admit. It gives an excellent idea of the mighty assembly, of the grouping, and the general arrangements immediately after the removal of the cloth. The utmost credit is due to the talented artist, and as much in their way to the printers, Messrs Penman and Co., who have produced the picture in a style which has not been equalled in the colony. The size, including an ornamental border, is about 21 inches by 15. On the margin are the names of the committee, guests, &c. The whole is surmounted by the arms of Australia with their supporters, the kangaroo and emu, beautifully executed; and at the corners are emblematical representations of the aboriginal and European inhabitants of the province. We understand the picture will be published on Saturday, and will, no doubt, by a rapid sale, repay the trouble its elaborate character must have occasioned the artist.5

Thumbnail image for SLSA B 21360Old Colonists' Festival Dinner | State Library of South Australia B 21360 

It was clever marketing to list ninety prominent men at the edges.

Allen's Adelaide Times referred to the risky nature of such art and hoped the print would be "one of the few profitable speculations of this nature".6

But the Register (and Observer) couldn't ignore the insobreity and Gill's apparent honesty.

LITHOGRAPHIC PRINT OF THE OLD COLONISTS' FESTIVAL. – We have seen a lithographic print of the Old Colonists' Festival, drawn by Mr. S. T. Gill, and executed by Penman and Galbraith. The artist has bestowed immense pains on his task, and the execution is most creditable. Judging from the attitude of some of the figures, we should say it pictures the scene as it appeared rather late in the evening, or towards "early dawn."7

Is it a significant distinction that Gill was "printed and published by" Penman and Galbraith, whereas Gloystein was just "printed by" them? Did Gloystein personally take the financial risk for his picture? Was Gill's a joint venture? Gill's list of prominent names flanking the scene would not have hurt sales. Who outsold whom? Was the market was prepared to wait those few weeks?

The new colonist Gloystein was early to the presses – too early as it happened. But without his pre-emptory picture, offence may have been taken at Sam Gill's. Gloystein was the straight man to Sam Gill's funny man.

Gill added a further touch of cheek. Surmounting his picture is the "Advance Australia" arms, in which is a smiley face. ☺

Footnotes

1. South Australian Register, 21 March 1851: 2. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38434339>
2. Adelaide Times, 28 March 1851: 3. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207068058>
3. A brief biography of Gloystein, including his death from uraemic poisoning, is given in Jill Orr-Young, 2009, St Kilda Botanical Gardens Future Directions Plan, <http://www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/St_Kilda_Bot_Gardens_Future_Directions_Plan.pdf> accessed 15 April 2020
4. South Australian Register, 5 April 1851: 2. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38434666>
5. South Australian, 18 April 1851: 3. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71686566>
6. Adelaide Times, 19 April 1851: 5. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article207068714>
7. South Australian Register, 19 April 1851: 3. <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38451440>


List of Works

You can scroll down to see all pictures along with detailed notes or click a link to jump to a specific work from the list.

Detailed notes each include a link to the map location for the view where available.

Dates in the descriptive text are generally in yyyy-mm-dd format and more specifically in Extended Date/Time Format (EDTF) .


In commemoration of the Old Colonist's Festival | SLSA B 22263

Thumbnail image for SLSA B 22263In commemoration of the Old Colonist's Festival | State Library of South Australia B 22263 
Artist: Gloystein, T. W. | Date: 1851-03-26

T.W. Gloystein's lithograph of the Old Colonist's Festival dinner. "Printed by Penman & Galbraith".

Displayed at the dinner itself, the lithograph could be bought the next day from Alfred Waddy's Artists' Repository, King William-street.

527 10/09/2021 10:36:46 AM


Old Colonists' Festival Dinner | SLSA B 21360

Thumbnail image for SLSA B 21360Old Colonists' Festival Dinner | State Library of South Australia B 21360 
Artist: Gill, S.T. | Date: 1851-04 | Appleyard cat. 113
Catalogue: S.T. Gill and the Old Colonists' Festival Dinner

The old colonists' festival dinner was held in a tent at the rear of the City Bridge Hotel, Morphett Street (Acre 54 on the corner of Hindley Street) on 27 March 1851.

S.T. Gill's lithograph of the Old Colonist's Festival dinner. "Printed & Published by Penman & Galbraith". Published 19 April 1851.

There are several holdings of this lithograph including SLSA and AGSA.

Map | S. T. Gill - Adelaide

331 10/09/2021 10:37:16 AM


Old Colonists' Festival Dinner | AGSA 575G464

Thumbnail image for AGSA 575G464Old Colonists' Festival Dinner | Art Gallery of South Australia 575G464 
Artist: Gill, S.T. | Date: 1851-04 | Appleyard cat. 113
Catalogue: S.T. Gill and the Old Colonists' Festival Dinner

The old colonists' festival dinner was held in a tent at the rear of the City Bridge Hotel, Morphett Street (Acre 54 on the corner of Hindley Street) on 27 March 1851.

S.T. Gill's lithograph of the Old Colonist's Festival dinner. "Printed & Published by Penman & Galbraith". Published 19 April 1851.

There are several holdings of this lithograph including SLSA and AGSA.

494 10/09/2021 10:37:25 AM



David Coombe, September 2021 | text copyright (except where indicated)
Updated 30 September 2021.

CITE THIS: David Coombe, 2021, S.T. Gill and the Old Colonists' Festival Dinner, March 1851, accessed dd mmm yyyy, <http://coombe.id.au/S_T_Gill/S_T_Gill_and_Old_Colonists_Festival.htm>