This article by me first appeared in Hawkesbury Gazette, Wednesday, 28 June 2017.
Along the Hawkesbury River during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, tea-meetings were a very popular form of entertainment and fund-raising for church and community groups. Church tea-meetings were held on various dates throughout the year and generally lasted all day and into the early evening. The Sackville Methodists (or Wesleyans) celebrated the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) birthday on 9 November, Lower Portland Church of England celebrated on 1 January, Leets Vale Wesleyans celebrated Empire Day on Queen Victoria’s birthday on 24 May and the churches at Wisemans Ferry, St Albans and Lower Hawkesbury each had an annual gathering. Ebenezer Uniting Church (originally known as Ebenezer Presbyterians) continues its tradition of an annual reunion on Anniversary Day in mid-June each year.
Local newspapers reported that people arrived at the tea-meetings ‘by vehicle, boat, steamer or on foot’. After the food was served, there were usually games such as cricket, rounders, twos and threes, Jolly Miller and Kiss-in-the-ring. The Lower Hawkesbury Wesleyans apparently excelled in providing ‘tasties’ at these functions and were ‘unsurpassed for giving a really first class spread’ that ‘would satisfy the taste of the most fastidious’. At their tea-meeting in 1899, the steamer Hawkesbury picked up about 230 passengers enroute to the event while the Surprise delivered a load of passengers from Sydney. In September 1900, the Hawkesbury left Sackville at 9.30am, picked up about 130 passengers at wharves along the river and arrived at the Lower Hawkesbury destination by 2.00pm. The Narara brought about 50 people from Sydney, while the Surprise from the Upper Hawkesbury and the Thistle from the Macdonald River, each arrived with about 60 passengers. A concert was held in the open air, followed by games and afternoon tea. However, some preferred to ‘trip the light fantastic’ in a nearby hall until the steamers whistled ‘all aboard’ at 7.15pm.
Eight Hour Day was also celebrated annually and an excellent example from 1909 is when the Sackville School of Arts Committee decorated the hall with ‘waratahs, evergreens, May and other flowers’, provided tables loaded with cakes, sweets, soft drinks and lollies for afternoon tea and a concert and dance in the evening. Other entertainments were scull races, throwing at the stump, bicycle races, tilting at the ring, blindfold striking at tin, a ladies’ race, quoit match, throwing the cricket ball, obstacle race and ladies’ nail driving competition.
In 1938, the Sackville Hall hosted a tea-meeting and celebration for the Centenary of Methodism in the Hawkesbury with a ‘Grand Concert by the Bondi O.K. Choir’. The Methodist newspaper reported that ‘Methodists from all over the river will be present, together with descendants of the old families’. The celebrations continued over the next two days at Lower Portland, followed later by St Albans, Lower Hawkesbury and Leets Vale.
Hawkesbury River at Mud Island, photo Carol Roberts c2011
Copyright Carol Roberts, 2018.
Purtell, J. Hawkesbury River Boats and People, 2nd Edn., Deerubbin Press, Berowra Heights, 2011.
‘Sackville’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 20 November 1897, National Library of Australia Trove Article 72553526, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72553526, accessed 6 June 2016.
‘Sackville’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 7 October 1899, National Library of Australia Trove Article 66442135, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66442135, accessed 15 June 2017.
‘Tea meeting at Lower Hawkesbury’, Hawkesbury Advocate, Friday, 21 September 1900, National Library of Australia Trove Article 66370245, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66370245, accessed 15 June 2017.
‘Sackville’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Saturday, 9 October 1909, National Library of Australia Trove Article 85863311, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article85863311, accessed 15 June 2017.
‘River reminiscences, the golden nineties on the Hawkesbury’, Windsor and Richmond Gazette, Friday, 3 July 1936, National Library of Australia Trove Article 86049016, http:// nla.gov.au/nla.news-article86049016, accessed 6 June 2016.