June 24, 2022
The young boys had cricket and football, but what about young girls? In the late 1950s and early 1960s, they were marching!
The marching girl craze was big all around Australia, but it was especially embraced at Cherbourg which was then still a tightly controlled Mission.
The girls, many of whom were living in the Girls Dormitory, jumped at the chance to enjoy a bit more freedom, competing in local competitions in Kingaroy, Murgon, Maryborough and Dalby but also at championships in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba.
They took part in the South Queensland State Championships and then the National Championships in Brisbane in 1959 where Cherbourg teams finished in 2nd and 3rd place in different events in the Midget competition.
They also had the opportunity to march at local shows and even visited Melbourne to march during the 1962 Moomba parade, where one of the young girls, Allyson Tears, celebrated her ninth birthday and even made the front page of the The Age newspaper!
A book detailing this almost forgotten part of Australian history was launched at The Ration Shed in Cherbourg on Friday morning.
“Marching With A Mission. Cherbourg’s Marching Girls” was authored by former marching girl Aunty Lesley Williams, University of Queensland researchers Murray Phillips and Gary Osborne and members of The Ration Shed’s Marching Girls Book Committee (Sandra Morgan, Jeanette Brown, Ada Simpson and the late Bevan Costello).
Former marching girls were interviewed and their stories collected for the book, which has been published by The Ration Shed with support from the State Government.
There were originally two Cherbourg marching girls’ teams in 1957, the Fusiliers (a senior team) and the Mariners (juniors).
By 1959, there were four teams with new names: the Imparas, Dulkaras, Merindas and Magarras.
The former marching girls have kept in touch and gathered together for several reunions a few years ago, where the idea for a book was hatched.
Aunty Lesley said there had originally been about 80 marching girls but sadly many had died over the years.
Forty candles were lit at the book launch and a minute’s silence held in memory of their former colleagues.
“But we know they are watching over us. They are here today in spirit,” Aunty Lesley said.
The book was officially launched by Cherbourg “Champion”, the Director-General of the Department of Communities, Housing and Digital Economy Clare O’Connor.
Clare said readers would “laugh and cry” when they read the book.
“It’s a story of major achievement, a story of sisterhood,” she said.