University anniversaries

Jubilee celebrations 1902

Senate conversazione

In the evening of 2 October 1902 a Conversazione was held at the University. It was attended by an immense crowd of visitors, including the delegates, representatives of the army and navy and of the political, social, artistic, professional, and commercial world of Sydney, and many members of Convocation from every quarter of the State.

The Conversazione in the Great Hall

The Conversazione in the Great Hall, photo, The Sydney Mail, 8 October 1902, Google News Archive.

From half-past 7 until nearly 9 o'clock there was a constant stream of carriages, cabs, and coupes, and as the occupants alighted and quickly disappeared within the brilliantly illuminated Quadrangle, the vehicles quickly withdrew to a convenient position on the roadway to the left of the main entrance. Here the line of lights which indicated their presence threw an additional glow upon a scene which was both interesting and animated.

The Chancellor (Sir Normand MacLaurin), arrayed in his official robes, and Lady MacLaurin, who wore a gown of black brocade with silver sequins on the bodice and a dark red rose in her hair, received the guests at the southern entrance to the Great Hall, to
which a covered passage, decorated with flags and ferns, led from a couple of largo marquees which had been erected immediately at the rear of the main building, and which were used for the reception of cloaks and hats. It was along this passage that the guests, in animated conversation, moved, and as they were announced and welcomed by the Chancellor, they engaged in promenading the hall, while music was being played from the organ loft.

Academic dress naturally predominated among the costumes and the degree-hoods of various faculties and institutions gave variety to a particularly brilliant scene. Among those present, in addition to the visiting delegates, were His Excellency the Visitor of the University (Sir Harry Rawson) GCMG CB (who on 29 January 1902 became the first naval officer since Captain Bligh appointed Governor of New South Wales), His Excellency Sir George Clarke (Governor of Victoria), Lady Clarke and Miss Clarke, His Excellency the Naval Commander-in-Chief (Sir Lewis Beaumont) and Lady Beaumont, Brigadier-General Finn, the Heads of the affiliated Colleges, and a large number of graduates.

At about 8.30 pm His Excellency Sir Harry Rawson, at the invitation of Professor Anderson Stuart, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, unveiled a portrait (above) of the Chancellor. This picture by the English artist, Mr Ronald Grey during a recent visit to Australia, was an excellent likeness. It showed Sir Normand in profile at three-quarter length, seated in his robes of office.

While performing the ceremony, the Governor explained that the portrait had been presented to the University by subscribers, to effect the preservation, in that Hall of Fame, of the memory of a great benefactor to the University of Sydney - a man who had given time, and thought, and labour, steadily and continuously, to the higher education of the State.

The Chancellor responded suitably.

Sir Henry Normand MacLaurin

The portrait, courtesy of the University Art Collection, is reproduced with the permission of the University of Sydney.

An inspection of the Great Hall and some noteworthy exhibits followed, while orchestral music was dispensed from the loft above the organ.

Ranged upon tables along the wall of the Great Hall were a number of valuable exhibits. The attention of the guests was particularly attracted by the imposing array of congratulatory addresses from other Universities, upon many of which artistic taste and skill had been lavished to good purpose.

The Hall was connected with the Macleay Museum by a canopied and carpeted passage, blazing with electric light, and decorated with the flags of all nations.

In the Museum, which was similarly adorned, strings of lights dipped from the ceiling and in addition to a profusion of bunting, there were many grouped trophies representative of the world's Powers.

A buffet supper was provided in the Museum and it was a strange, almost an uncanny supper-room, with refreshments served within touch of an array of stuffed shark aud turtle, bottled snakes, a variety of animals, and wild fowl, not to mention a couple of hundred gaping human skulls.

After supper the visitors made a tour of the scientific laboratories. Experiments were conducted for the gratification of the guests. The paths between the different departments were lined with festoons of flaglets and electric globes.

In the Great Hall an excellent programme of music was provided by the Vice-Regal Orchestra, conducted by Mr L de Groen, and the organ, played by Mr A R Mote:

  • Grand Overture, "Dicht and Bauer" (Von Suppe), V.R. Orchestra and organ
  • Organ Solo, Introduction Act III. "Lohengrin" ('Wagner)
  • Grand Selection, "The Geisha" (Jones)
  • Intermezzo, "La Czarin' (Ganne)
  • Song (Cornet Solo), "The Lost Chord" (Sullivan), ace. by V R Orchestra and organ
  • Organ Solo, "Commemoration March'" Op. 37 (A R Mote), composed in honour of the Jubilee, and dedicated by kind permission to the Chancellor, Sir Normand MacLaurin
  • Grand Selection, "The Runaway Girl" (Caryll)
  • Grand March, "University Jubilee" (Mayer), orchestra and organ, composed in honour of the Jubilee of the University, and dedicated by kind permission to the Chancellor, Sir Normand MacLaurin
  • Organ Solo, "Concert Rondo" (Hollins)
  • Gavotte, "Melanie" (Lincke)
  • Festival March, "Tannhauser" (Wagner), orchestra and organ
  • Valse de Concert, "Madame Sans Gene" (Lane)
  • Organ Solo, "Mazurka," Op. 10, No. 1 (Elgar)
  • Grand March, "The Bride Elect" (Sousa)

On the Science Square the New South Wales Police Band, under the conduct of Mr William George Bentley, played a number of selections.

The dresses

The brilliant-coloured robes and gowns worn by the professors and those connected with the Sydney University and other Universities represented, combined with the handsome dresses of the ladies assembled in the Great Hall, formed a most picturesque and bright scene, and one not easily to be forgotten.

The Chancellor, in his embroidered black and gold robes, stood with Lady MacLaurin, who was in black brocade with silver sequins on the bodice aud a dark red rose in her hair, and welcomed all the visitors.

A description of a selection of the dresses appears below:-

  • His Excellency the Governor was in uniform, and Lady Rawson wore a handsome dress of pale yellow brocadod satin, with a bertha and flounce of fine lace, and black velvet straps on the shoulder. Miss Rawson was in pale pink, the seams being herringboned together, and the bodice finished with a lace bertha.
  • Lady Clarke's fine black lace was worn over dark red, and a bunch of pointsettia flowers was arranged on the bodice. Miss Clarke was in turquoise blue satin, the skirt being trimmed with graduated bands of black velvet.
  • Mrs Barff wore black satin trimmed with jet.
  • The Mayoress (Mrs Hughes) was also in black satin relieved with a cluster of pink roses on the bodice.
  • Lady Innes wore pale yellow brocade with a lace bertha and a corsage bouquet of flowers.
  • Miss McDonald (Principal of the Women's College) was in black and white spotted chiffon, the cream lace sleeves and vest being slashed with black velvet and a lace bertha.
  • Lady Harris wore a handsome black and silver-sequined net with pink flowers on the bodice, and diamond ornaments.
  • Lady Manning's white satin was veiled in fine black lace.
  • Mrs Finn was in crashed strawberry-coloured silk with brocaded silk revers.
  • Mrs G H Reid's white silk was veiled in white gauze, and had pale pink roses on the bodice.
  • Mrs Anderson Stuart's black satin had a front panel and vest of turquoise blue crepe-de-chine.
  • Mrs MacCallum was in yellow-brocaded satin trimmed with black-spotted net and lace.
  • Lady Salomons was in black brocade with a handsome lace fichu.
  • Mrs Wilson wore white satin with long accordion-pleated white chiffon sleeves.
  • Miss Curnow's black dress had the bodice handsomely embroidered in gold, and green nettles, wings, and finished with a lace bertha and dark green sash.

— a bertha was a wide deep capelike collar, often of lace, usually to cover up a low neckline.
— a fichu was a woman's triangular scarf of lightweight fabric, worn over the shoulders and crossed or tied in a loose knot at the breast.