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
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
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