Walcha history: The Queen of Allies Day

Majestic day: Mrs Fletcher of Langford at Walcha’s Allies Day Queen in January 1916.
Majestic day: Mrs Fletcher of Langford at Walcha’s Allies Day Queen in January 1916.

A movement began in August 1915 to promote an Allies Day as a means of raising funds to relieve the distressed, especially women and children, living in the war zones of northern France, Poland, Serbia and Montenegro. NSW set itself a target of £150,000.

Patriotic funds for Belgium had been set up in Walcha and elsewhere within days of Belgium being invaded on August 2, 1915.

Walcha decided to base its fundraising around a “Queen of the Allies Day” competition for which seven public spirited ladies nominated: Mrs F. C. Fenwicke, Mrs Wm. Fletcher, Mrs Murray, Miss Bath, Miss Nivison, Miss Scott and Miss Steele.

The queen was to be elected by public ballot, with each vote costing one penny. During December 1915 and January 1916, the contestants and their supporters held luncheons, dinners, euchre parties, and whatever else they could think of to earn as many votes as possible. As a result, quite a few of Walcha’s citizens found themselves in a situation where they were “voting” for all seven potential queens.

In all, 178,800 votes, worth £745, were cast, with Mrs Fletcher declared the winner by a big margin. The “coronation” was held at the Temperance Hall in Fitzroy Street on the night of Tuesday, January 25, 1916, with seats sold at auction for prices ranging from 5 shillings to £5 each, raising a further £116.

The queen, with her six maids of honour, took part in the procession of decorated motorcars and horse-drawn vehicles that passed through town on the following morning on its way to the showground where a sports program was held. Allies Day concluded with a social at the Empress Rink in Fitzroy Street.

A report in the Tamworth Daily Observer of January 26, 1916, reads in part: “With extra monies still to come in, Walcha expects to raise over £1,000 and it will not be the fault of the committee’s energetic secretary, W.P. Castle, if that is not so.”

Many other centres in NSW used a queen competition as the primary source of funds; others chose race meetings while “Button Days” appear to have been used extensively in Victoria.