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Keyframe Article
Third National Fair Organ Rally

Third National Fair Organ Rally

or How Swan Hill Celebrated the Happiest Music on Earth

by Newton Williams


Reprinted from FOPS Australasian News

[Attending organs and owners names are listed at the end of the article]


On the weekend of 16 & 17 November 1996, Pioneer Settlement, Swan Hill, Victoria, hosted the Third National Fair Organ Rally. Visitors and instruments started arriving on Thursday morning and were immediately pressed into service. Reijer surprised us all with four organs and a barrel piano, so it was to work; in this case, busking on the back of a 1928 International truck. As we arranged the organ and carousel horse on the truck, Eileen and Ted arrived from Adelaide and are seconded into the truck, handing out brochures and advertising.

Friday, it literally rained organs; the marvellous street organ 'Amsterdam' was set up in the main street of Swan Hill to delight all. David and Daphne set up for TV advertising; George and Glad set up on the wharf with the dancing platform ready for tomorrow. The reed organ was removed from the church, in preparation for the installation of Roger and Marina Jones' box pipe organ from Nurioopta, SA. They also brought the Meertens' Perlee organ; unfortunately, they could not be with us with the DeCap due to their son's wedding. Isn't that an original excuse!

At 4:30, the crane arrives to lift the Scienceworks calliope on to the top deck of the 120 year old paddle steamer 'Gem'. The Council provide the 100 cubic foot air compressor to power the calliope which runs at 150db. Most rally personnel went over to the country club for their evening meal before returning to the Dumosa Hall for a 'Silent Movie' night. Gordon McKenzie was imported from Melbourne to provide the musical accompaniment as we all laughed our way through Buster Keaton in The General and Charlie Chaplin in The Rink.

Saturday dawns ready for a delightful weekend and the music flowed on and on. From the entrance building, the organs were arranged right down to the back. Mitchells of Gouldburn were the first instruments to come across, with their Otto accordion and hand-cranked organ with music on plastic 'bankcard'. Gordon McKenzie is pressed into service on the Scienceworks calliope; Eileen Hopkins then takes charge as Gordon returns to Melbourne. David and Daphne provide the merry-go-round with their 'Gallery of Clowns' organ. George and Glad, with their Ruth on the Wharf, provide the entertainment as the local ballet school dance the Can Can. Here, also, was their Raffin being kept company by Warren Starr with his barrel and paper roll instruments.

Derek and Ella, with their 'Deanioli', operated in the shade by Locomotive D3688, the only surviving Thompson of Castlemaine steam engine. Ted and Eileen were set up on the veranda of the photographic parlour with their very entertaining unit, truly one of a kind. The Perlee was set up on a table opposite with Roger and Marina doing the honours, and John and Jan are having all the fun with their calliope on its first outing having celebrated its 70th birthday just a fortnight earlier. Roger and Marina have set up the 'Box' organ in the church and this is crammed full of pipes!

Joe Carroudus is on the veranda outside the music shop with the 'Windmill' and his auto playing piano accordion, both of which play Wurlitzer style 125 rolls. Brian Butler is also on the veranda around the corner with Pioneer Settlement's century-old barrel organ; here, also, is the 46-keyless Chiappa on display. The music shop houses the Williams family instruments. This is 'Wurlitzer Heaven' as, inside, we find Wurlitzer #105 and the hand-cranks, the Wurlitzer player piano and Wurlitzer pipe organ console plus two Wurlitzer piano accordions.

Reijer has set up his display on the veranda of the saddlery with four organs and a barrel piano and two carousel horses. Opposite Towaninnie Homestead, Bob and Glad are with their Wurlitzer by the Marraboor River. It is difficult to tell where the pictures finish and the scenery starts. Further down the back, we find Des with the original Findlay 32-keyless organ. Charles Bardwell has 'The Flying Pieman' in fine tune waiting for the arrival of Richard Ellis later in the day. Bob and Carmel have Findlay number 5 out for the first time, having taken delivery of it only 36 hours previously. In the garden of Keats' cottage, David and Avis have the third calliope up and running and on a most picturesque lawn between the lower Murray Inn and the river is the street organ 'Amsterdam'.

Saturday night and the official part of the weekend begins with dinner down at the lower Murray Inn and Chief Commissioner and the Deputy of the Rural City of Swan Hill, Roy Burr and Maren Chandler, presenting trophies and certificates. As the CEO of the City presented the certificates, the heavens opened up; Joe Carroudus receives his certificate to have the ink run off in a big blob! With shies clearing and the stars appearing, we change venue to have our evening meal. With that completed, the business of where the next rally is to be held is discussed with Bombala agreed on for 1997.

As a closing comment, how do you measure the success of a rally? Perhaps the fact that we had made 27 trophies and we needed 30! The following is a list of instruments attending the 1996 Swan Hill Mechanical Organ Rally:

Bill Mitchell Otto Accordion - 'Strassen Orgel'

David & Daphne Holt - 34-keyless Findlay 'Gallery of Clowns'

Mr & Mrs G King - 58-key Ruth / 20-note Raffin

Derek & Ella Deane - 48-key Deanioli 'Ella'

Joe Carroudus - 44-keyless Wurlitzer 'The Windmill'

Brian Butler - 46-note De Kleist Barrel Organ

Mr R Parry - Wurlitzer 153 Duplex / Raffin

Reijer pot-Boeckalaar - 2 barrel organs / 1 book organ

Craig Robson MAA - 76-key Duwynn 'Amsterdam'

Dirk Meertens - Perlee

Bob & Carmel Constance - 34-keyless Findlay 'Findlay No 5'

Richard Ellis - 48-keyless Ellis 'The Flying Pieman'

Des & Dot Lang - 32-keyless Findlay 'Findlay No 1'

Gillian & Newton Williams - 47-keyless Wurlitzer style 105

Miss A Williams - 43-keyless Sagina street organ

Miss M Williams - 'O' scale Orchestrion

Science Museum of Victoria (Eileen Hopkins) - Argo calliope

Mr E Lloyd & Ms E Hopkins - Casio keyboard with Charivari Unit

Mr & Mrs J Ham - Tangley TA43 calliope

David & Avis Benoth - The Robert Harkness Pipes

Mr & Mrs R Jones - Pipe Organ (Manual)


Copyright © Newton Williams 1996

Originally published in edition 1 of The Key Frame 1997.


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