WWC Band Rotunda
At the meeting of the Women’s Welcome Committee (WWC) held on Thursday 31 January 1918, Mrs E F Russell reminded the group of an intention raised some time ago to erect a monument on Sinclair Parade to commemorate the memory of fallen soldiers and the work of the committee. She suggested a band rotunda and drinking fountain, as there is no sweeter commemoration than music. The Mayor, Cr J P Crichton, who was present at the meeting promised to obtain an estimate of the cost of such a monument and Mrs Russell further suggested that the cost could be paid from members’ weekly contribution.
On 18 June 1918, the Port Melbourne Council adopted a report from the Public Works Committee that included the recommendation that the plan of the bandstand proposed to be erected on Sinclair Parade at the expense of the Women’s Welcome Committee be adopted.
By 10 August 1918, the Electric Sparks column in the Standard newspaper was able to report the ‘the builder is erecting the brick base of the band stand on the Front, the gift to the town of the Welcome Home Committee, which is being paid for out of members own contributions‘.
With about 1,000 people in attendance, the rotunda was opened by the Mayor, Cr Richard Gill, about 3pm on the afternoon of Sunday 27 October 1918. Mr J Matthews MP spoke of the work of the Women’s Welcome Committee saying that it was the wish of members of Parliament that the committee should be given every facility to welcome the returned soldiers, and the committee’s actives should not be hampered. The ladies, however, we given a narrow space at the base of the pier and had to distribute their gifts as the soldiers were carried past in cars. Arrangements for returned soldiers were under the dual control of the navy and military and that presented an insurmountable barrier to giving the ladies better opportunities to do their work.
However legitimate Mr Matthews’ complaint, it was a distraction from the actual opening of the rotunda and the acceptance by the Mayor of the memorial as a gift from the committee to the people of Port Melbourne. Also there is no mention of the recital by the Port Citizens’ Band which was previewed in the Standard newspaper on 26 October 1918.
The minutes of the Port Melbourne Council meeting held Wednesday 6 November 1918 show that Mrs Catherine Suffolk, Honourable Secretary of the WWC had written to the council asking that the committee be permitted to attend the council meeting ‘for the purpose of vesting in the Council for the benefit of the Citizens, the Memorial Band Rotunda, erected by the committee in honor [sic] of the Australians who fought in this great war‘.
The Standard the following Saturday reported that about 20 ladies from the WWC, led by the Mayoress, had attended the meeting and handed over the rotunda to Council, representing the citizens of Port Melbourne. The Council accepted the gift and complimented the committee for its interest in the soldiers and sailors of Australia, and its admirable choice of a memorial as a monument to their valour.
The minutes of the meeting show that the Council’s Public Works Committee formally recommended that the Council accept the rotunda on behalf of the citizens and that a letter of thanks be sent to the committee.
The Standard reports on 7 December 1918 that the WWC received a letter from Council on behalf of the citizens, accepting with gratitude and pleasure the committee’s gift of the band stand. The letter added: ‘The erection of this substantial memorial by the ladies of your committee, without any assistance from the public, is typical of the sacrifices made by the Australian women during the war‘.
These days the rotunda is not used for band recitals on a regular basis but it does provide a shaded spot to sit and look over to the piers and the ships that still come each day carrying tourists and people returning from Tasmania rather than soldiers returning from the war front.
The dedication plaque on the rotunda which had faded over the years to become almost unreadable has been restored and regilded by the City of Port Phillip and once again proclaims the most concrete example of the work of an extraordinary group of Port Melbourne women.
1918 ‘Women’s Welcome Committee.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 9 February, p. 2. , viewed 15 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88367921
1918 Town of Port Melbourne Council Minutes, 18 June.
1918 ‘ELECTRIC SPARKS’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 10 August, p. 3. , viewed 15 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88366701
1918 ‘Band Rotunda to be Opened Sunday Afternoon.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 26 October, p. 3. , viewed 15 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88368812
1918 ‘Welcoming Returned Soldiers.’, The Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), 28 October, p. 7. , viewed 15 Feb 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article155240666
1918 ‘ITEMS OF INTEREST’, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), 28 October, p. 6. , viewed 15 Feb 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1411491
1918 Town of Port Melbourne Council Minutes, 6 November.
1918 ‘Rotunda Presented To Council.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 9 November, p. 2. , viewed 15 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88369577
1918 ‘ITEMS OF NEWS.’, Port Melbourne Standard (Vic. : 1914 – 1920), 7 December, p. 2. , viewed 15 Jan 2019, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article88367279