CHILDREN AT THE ANTIPODES AND THE HEIR TO THE THRONE.
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR."]
St,—Several weeks have elapsed since the Royal celebra- tions in Melbourne, but I trust the world-wide interest which has been taken in the events of those days will ensure your acceptance of this letter, although it may be deemed late. I am a close reader of the English and Australasian papers, but have failed to see that in the excellent and elaborate reports of the many functions of that time sufficient notice was given of one .unprecedented display in the Melbourne prog,ramme, the State-school children's fete, which was
admirably . orgauised. and managed, making a triumph foi, one of the most successful educational systems in the worid, a system which will shortly be still further liberalised by the introduction of free technical teaching and the provision of culminating point in the University. Permit me spacetao tell as concisely as I can of this school fête; I am very sure that it was the first successful gathering of the kind ever witnessed by their Royal Highnesses. • Upwards of five thousand children were engaged in fourtal events occupying three hours, and amongst these were five s0- mentary military drill displays. Eight hundred cadets, lads fr about twelve to nineteen years of age, went through maned sa‘)ract firing exercises with the utmost precision,—their feu de joie fired as one man ; bayonet exercise was given by two hundred smaller boys, and about half that number, dressed correctly in mas.e. war's costume, gave a remarkably steady display of cutlass drill. The mixed events for boys and girls comprised four, which, as testified by prolonged applause, a vast multitude of onlookers agreed could not be exceeded in beauty. These were a mime drill display, maypole dances, flower song and dance, and a Unioi Jack display. In the mirror drill about one thousand girls took admirably blended. In each hand they held small mirrors. To the music of a military band they danced and sang part aged five to sixteen, perfectly attired in special dreansseds:tehnet different shades of muslin—pink, blue, white, and yellow— through charming evolutions at short intervals, throwing little arms up and flashing mirrors in the bright sunshine. The may- pole dance is so well known to your English readers that ftv words are necessary, but it is not seen often enough in Australia. There were ten or a dozen poles, and, I think, about twenty-fire small children to each. The streamers of the poles were lengths of variegated art muslin ; at each pole the children were in different fancy costumes, one group in white satin, with silver adorninents, white wreaths and shoes: one all in pink, with wreaths of spring flowers ; another "Hearts,"—white dresses with coloured hearts sewn on; and another red, white, and blue. To shown the care taken in dressing—and this may be applied to the whole of the events—it has to be said that the stockings and shoes of all the children matched the dresSes perfectly. The boys and girls engaged in the flower song and dance considerably exceeded the "mirror" number • here, again, the special dressing of the children was most effective. The group composing the choir stood in front of the dancers; each member of the choir wore a handsome wreath and held a big half-hoop of beautiful flowers. As the choristers swayed and posed to the rhythm of the song, these flower half-hoops were waved and held aloft; the hundreds of .lancers behind marked portions of the verses by shaking above their heads bouquets which had been supplied to each one. It was a unique and brilliant sight, these radiantly happy, well-dressed children on an immense verdant oval iu a flood of sunshine, surrounded by some fifty thousand enthusiastic spectators, all clad in black or wearing some semblance of mourning. The Union Jack display was distinguished by much ingenuity, and evoked cheer upon cheer. A frame fixed near the centre of the ground illustrated on a large scale the formation of the flap.. First, a body of youngsters carry.ing flags bearing the St. George's Cross advance i to the tune, "British Grenadiers" ; a red cross was placed on the frame. Next came the Scots—little chaps uniformly clad in the national garb carrying the St. Andrew's Cross flag—pipers played them in, and the blue cross was added to the red on the frame. Tease were followed by a body of Irish lads dressed in knee breeches, green cutaway coats, brogues, and hats of a peculiar shape, as nearly as possible resembling Paddy's famed head.covering; a miniature shillelagh in one hand, and the other holding a flag showing the Irish Cross, they advanced to the air of "St. Patrick's Day," and thereupon the Irish Cron joined the frame flag; a similar number of Welsh wee girls in the distinctive dress of that country completed the representation of Motherland, and the world-famed flag was built. The four bodies now united, singiog appropriate songs, and at the end they parted in the centre to allow the figure of Britannia to advance,—a tall, handsome gid wearing the well-known helmet and other correct costume, and leading a younger and slighter bewreathed and spring-like Empire ; it was satisfying to see that our future
maiden, Australia, round whom, as the strains of
Britannia" pealed from a military band, she wrapped the folds of the British Ensign. The symbolism was electrically under- stood by the vast multitude of onlookers ; prolonged and most enthusiastic cheers rent the air. You are no doubt aware that 0 the training received in our State School Cadet Force many ar now serving in Africa owe qualities which have helped the Kh witnessed samples of this training. I sat within a te!r, feet of the Royal box, and therefore had opPortunitY.,r. judging the deep interest the Duke and Duchess took in la!' children's display ; so deeply were they interested that it toog more than one reminder from the Governor-General to cartals them away to other engagements. This children's fete i! repeated twice at much cost and trouble to the Edncatio. Department, and each
of people. Despite e grandeur of the repetition tition was attended bpyrocestenssiostooto,
review, illuminations, &c., there is no doubt that it was the ra interesting of all the celebrations, and it must have beenj` revelation to our visitors to witness so many thousands of grown, well-dressed, and bright, happy children alert in ev.. movement, and prompt to obey intelligently the signals Tilalc° governed the evolutions. The men who framed the programme' which wsu an unusual combination of militarism pleasant fancy, and pstriotism—distinctive and memorable—have not yet, I think, met with that meed of praise which they deserved. Every item during the three hours was given with clock-like regularity, sod. one may say, the stage was not e ipty for a moment ; a party of children marched in while the others were going out. The weather was perfection, a crisp, sunny atmosphere ; there vs, nothing to mar the brightness of the day, and even much squeezing and jostling did not affect the exhilarated spirits of
the people. Snowing the value of your space, I would not ask insertion of this letter were I not convinced that the marvellously successful work done in connection with this 'display by the officers of the Victorian system of State education deserves to be widely known wherever the English language is spoken. Witnessing these thousands of well-trained children en- gendered suggestive thoughts as to the future of our
Commonwealth. —I am, Sir, Ste., Essendon, Victoria. GEORGE MACARTNEY.