University anniversaries

75th anniversary, 1927

The University of Sydney pageant and mask, 'The Temple on the Hills', 8 to 12 May 1928

There were five performances of the University of Sydney pageant and mask held in the Great Hall between 8 and 12 May 1928, which raised £1,000 for the University's 75th Anniversary Appeal.

Professor John Le Gay Brereton and several assistants wrote the text of the mask entitled "The Temple on the Hill".

The descriptions and photos of performances held on 8 May 1928 on this webpage are from 'The Sydney Morning Herald', 9 May 1928.


The Pageant Committee

Members of the Pageant Committee

Members of the Pageant Committee at Challis House, photo, Sydney Morning Herald, 14 April 1928, National Library of Australia.

Students of the present and of the future

To precede the historical scenes, a whimsical episode, amusingly satirical, has been introduced. This is a meeting between an undergraduate of the present day, William Jackson, and a girl student of the year 2027, styling herself Posthae.

Posthae and the other students of the future who appear in the pageant are garbed in costumes of yellow and blue tunics and blue shorts; and the humorous changes foreshadowed in the speeches of Posthae and in the demeanour of the other girls, with their monocles and cigarettes, reveal an age of complete independence on the part of women.

Jackson, who comes from a group of students in the auditorium to meet the visitor of 100 years hence, vainly pleads that the present is an age of youth and freedom, "when brides renounce obeying", and that any liberty the stranger possesses is inherited from his day.

Posthae blandly replies that he is entirely out of date, and that the assumption of youth at the present day is grotesquely senile; that its art is old and ugly, its dancing feeble waddlings and its music a battered corse. The subjection of man is illustrated in the dictum of Posthae that he ought to be excluded from the University and forbidden to leave his proper sphere the home, and in her complaint that the Senate weakly yielded upon this point and, after consulting their husbands, decided to admit men to the University, and to establish a chair of domestic science for their benefit.

This whimsical scene was cleverly played last night by Miss Margaret Nelson as Posthae and Mr Ralph Shiress as Jackson, and the business of the attendant students was excellently contrived.

Students of the future

Students of the future, photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.

Striking historical scenes

The chapters of history forming the mask began as primitive man slouched on, heavy of tread, to the incidental music composed by Mr Arnold Mote. The score ranged from the slowly moving strain of this scene to more definite colour of the music accompanying the death of Hypatia and the poignantly beautiful melody heard as Socrates fell upon drinking the hemlock. Miss Freda Franks, who played the incidental music on the piano, composed the bright chant of the colleges, sung as their representatives entered with banners to greet their Alma Mater.

With the stroke of a gong, the pageant began with a graceful dance of court jesters and gipsies, seen with attractive effect beneath the changing colours of the lights from the balconies and stage-screens. These screens were exceedingly well placed, and in the absence of a proscenium, the task of lighting the stage was accomplished very well. As the vari-coloured shafts of light played upon the ensembles, the effect was exceedingly beautiful.

Clio, the Muse of History, whose function it was to introduce the personages and events of the drama, came on immediately after the dance of the jesters and gipsies. Miss Dorothy Tremlett, graceful in the white Grecian robe of this character, with purple cloak depending from the right shoulder, filled the duty of narrator effectively, and gave due weight to the speeches heralding the historical scenes which brought on:

  • pre-historic man
  • Ani, and his Egyptian attendants –. this scene, where the dancers wore characteristic head-dresses and flame-coloured skirts, caught the eye by its harmony of colour.
  • Sappho, writing her poetry, surrounded by attendant maidens, in a bright tableau seen through the misty veils of the dancers in the foreground – the Dance of the Veils, with the tones in grey and soft blue, was of striking beauty.
  • Socrates, accompanied by Xantippe and Plato, taking the cup of hemlock
  • Hypatia, Theon's daughter, dying beneath the blows of the Alexandrian mob
  • the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent, before whose throne, as he sat attended by two stalwart knights in chain armour, there passed Michelangelo, Donatelli and Botticelli
  • Queen Elizabeth and her court – this scene with Queen Elizabeth (impersonated by Miss Blaine de Chair) in the centre of her court, was the most picturesque. Miss de Chair, a winsome Queen in the Royal blue and white satin, high Medici collar and red wig and tiara, moved with appropriate authority, and the scene in which the honour of knighthood was conferred upon Sir Walter Raleigh was convincingly played. Other characters figuring in the group surrounding the monarch were Shakespeare (Mr Lawrence Campbell), Bacon, Spenser and Sir Phillp Sidney. The scene closed with a stately dance, in which the courtiers engaged in the presence of the Queen, the climax coming as the gallants raised their swords to form an arch of steel beneath which their partners passed in the measure of the minuet.
  • and in the last of these scenes, a mythical meeting of famous members of the Royal Society.
– Clio, the Muse of History
Clio, the Muse of History

Dorothy Tremlet as Clio, Muse of History

– Ani, and his Egyptian attendants
Egyptian dancers and scribes

Egyptian dancers and scribes, photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.

– Queen Elizabeth and her court
Queen Elixabeth and her court

Queen Elixabeth and her court, photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.

Queen Elizabeth

Blaine de Chair, daughter of the Governor, Sir Dudley de Chair and Lady de Chair, as Queen Elizabeth, photo from the SMH, 8 May 1928, courtesy NLA Newspapers.

Lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth

Gretel Bellmore as Lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth and Somerset de Chair as Sir Walter Raleigh, photo from the SMH, 12 May 1928, courtesy NLA Newspapers.

1928

Queen Elizabeth receives Sir Francis Drake, photo, The Australasian, 19 May 1928, National Library of Australia.

Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh

Mr Throsby (left) as Sir Francis Drake and Mr Somerset de Chair as Sir Walter Raleigh, photo from the SMH, 8 May 1928, courtesy NLA Newspapers. From left in the background, Mr R Swinson, Miss de Chair, Mr Allard, Mr Foot, Miss Bullmore and Mr McNicol.

Christopher Wren and Samuel Pepys

Mr Spain as Christopher Wren and Mr Hancock as Samuel Pepys, photo from the SMH, 12 May 1928, courtesy NLA Newspapers.

In the Elizabethan set

Elizabeth Robinson and Mr Penfold in the Elizabethan set, photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.

A stately dance

Gwen Ramsay and Nancy Ruthven performing a stately dance, photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.

A stately dance

Miss Elder and Mr Swinton performing a stately dance, photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.

A stately dance

beth Anderson and Mr McNicoll performing a stately dance, photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.

Alma Mater (Sydney University)

The procession of the Faculties, marching through the Hall to the stage and each presenting its gifts at the feet of Alma Mater (Sydney University), was admirably managed, and the scene at the climax of this spectacle, as the participants in their rich and many-hued costumes grouped beneath their banners on the crowded stage, was picturesque in the extreme.

Alma Mater, surrounded by the 10 Faculties, hails them as her shields against the hosts of ignorance and resolves to go forward in her purpose "blessing this our country that we love."

This scene, towards the close of the brilliant spectacle, was one of its most moving incidents in last night's performance, as Miss Alathea Solomon, a handsome Alma Mater in her cerise robe and decorative head-dress and the central figure of a crowded stage, declaimed with dignity, attractive tone and just inflection, the rich speeches at this point. As Alma Mater, voicing her certainty of the future, exclaimed, "I need the help of friends," and then emphasised that she stood "not as a beggar, whining in the street, but as a benefactor" who confidently called to those "who know and feel the truth I utter", these allusions to the University appeal gave an added significance to the rich, colourful scene.

Alathea Solomon BSc as 'Alma Mater' (University of Sydney), photo, The Sydney Mail, 9 May 1928, Google News Archive.


Clio's speech towards the end, introducing the names of benefactors to the University, the audience standing meanwhile, was very telling.