Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

History Revisited - marching into town's heart

Francis Schaupp was an annoyed man. As Armidale’s Inspector of Nuisances, his job was to maintain public order. He took this role most seriously.

The city had long had a problem with larrikins, disobedient youths who congregated in the streets, drank, and created disorder.

The big snowstorm of August 1881 was the heaviest in memory. The larrikins had pelted pedestrians, horse riders and carriage occupants with snowballs. Their unerring accuracy had created outrage at the failure of the police to protect the streets from such disorderly behaviour.

By 1886 the problem had eased. The streets seemed secure from public nuisance. However, Inspector Schaupp now had a new problem, one that concerned him greatly. A new religious organisation had arrived, one that threatened the quite order of Armidale’s streets.

Funded in 1865 by William and Catherine Booth as the North London Christian Mission, the Salvation Army had developed on military lines with its own uniforms, colours and hymns, often with words set to popular and folkloric tunes sung in the pubs. Booth became the General, his minister’s officers, while other members became soldiers.

The arrival of the Salvation Army in Armidale created consternation. The marching in the streets, the band, the public presence of women in uniform, were an affront to civic decency. Inspector Schaupp single-handedly set out to stop them.

To the larrikins, by contrast, the Salvation Army was an opportunity, a break from boredom. Both the “Hallelujah Lasses” in their scarlet uniforms and the good Inspector in the top hat he always wore were targets. At one meeting, the flour bombs crushed the Inspector’s top hat and glued it to his head!

In this case, the Inspector had met his match. The Army was quickly accepted into the structure of Armidale life.

In 1891, General Booth himself visited Armidale and was accorded a massive welcome fit, in historian John Ferrier’s words, for an Empire hero. Much had changed in just five years.

Growing up in Armidale, the Sallies still marched and played.

The corner just across the road from our house seemed to be a favourite place. There each year at Christmas, the band would form up on the footpath and play just as it had done so many years before.

To me as a child, the Salvation Army with its band and uniforms seemed strange, different, part of the intrinsic colour of local life.

The world changes, of course. As it does, the rhythm of life changes. Part of the role of the historian is to record those changes and represent them so that they are not lost but reinterpreted in the light of current needs and attitudes.

The Sallies today have adjusted to change. The old is still there, but now they work in somewhat different ways, they present differently.

But just speaking personally, I have very fond memories of the old Sallies and the role they played.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 2 January 2013. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the Express columns are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the columns by clicking here for 2013.


Rummuser said...

Nice to see you resuming after such a long time.

I would love to see you in a SA uniform with a drum marching along.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Ramana. It has been a long break, hasn't it? I hope to do better this year.