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Friday, 15 May 2009
Diamond Jubilee, 1897, Phil Fargher's Experience
Topic: MilitiaRC - Rifle Clubs

Diamond Jubilee, 1897

Phil Fargher's Experience


The cover of To Bisley and Back with the Kolapore Cup


After a playing a successful part in the team shooting in the competition at Bisley and finally securing the Kolapore cup, Phil Fargher wrote about his adventure upon arrival back in Australia. The book was called "To Bisley and Back with the Kolapore Cup", and was published in Melbourne during  1898.  It is a most entertaining book written by one of the leading marksmen in Australia at the time. Fargher played a long and distinguished role in promoting the rifle shooting movement in Australia.


Phil Fargher, “To Bisley and Back with the Kolapore Cup”, 1898.


We left Glasgow on Saturday night immediately after the matches, and went right through to Bisley, where we arrived tired out with the long journey.

We continued our practices the following week in rather bad weather, which enabled us to find out some of the weak points of the new rifle. The effect of the wind of 600 yards is much greater than with the Martini Henry, owing I presume to the lightness of the bullet and greater changes are necessary for any variation the wind.

About this time, there was great excitement in anticipation of the Jubilee. Everybody appeared to be Jubilee mad, and the talk was of nothing else for some days before that event came off. We could get no information as to what arrangements were being made for us, and the members of the team were in a state of uncertainty. We were all anxious to see the procession, and certainly thought that a place would be provided for us along the line of route, but in this we were disappointed. We received a telegram the evening before the event giving us permission to fall in with the colonial troops at 7 a.m. at Chelsea Barracks, and march on foot in the procession in rear of the mounted troops. No sleeping accommodation was provided, which made it necessary for us to get a late train into London, and dodge about all night waiting for the morning. We decided not to accept the "chance," but to go "on our own," and if necessary to pay for a seat from which to see the show.

This treatment was in keeping with the manner in which the team was neglected by the official and military people right throughout our visit. They took no notice of us until political pressure was brought to bear, and when they did grant any concession, it was at the last moment and under such restrictions as to make it worse than useless.

I will mention one or two instances to show how things were managed. In connection with the Naval Review at Spithead, which we were very anxious to sec, we could get no information until the night before it took place, when we received a telegram to say that we could join the colonial troops by going to London that night, sleep in a tent in Chelsea Barracks, and parade at 4am for the purpose of being marched to the train for Portsmouth. This necessitated losing a night's sleep, and trotting about all day from 4 a.m. until a late hour at night, when we could have joined the train at Woking, which is within five miles of Bisley, and nearly half-way to Portsmouth. As it was only about a fortnight to the Bisley matches, we did not care to take the risk of catching cold by sleeping in a tent in wet weather, or getting out of form by the fatigue involved in a long day's exertion, so we refused the concession which had been so grudgingly and ungraciously granted.

We received an invitation to attend a display of the working of their guns from the Maxim and Nordenfeldt Co., but we did not get it until the clay after the affair came off.

Sir Henry Irving gave a theatrical performance to the colonial troops in England, which was a great affair. We heard of it for the first time when we saw the report in the newspapers the day after it took place.

These little things did not trouble us much, as we did not wish to do any "gallivanting around," but it would have been just the same in any case, our opportunities being strictly limited so far as the official set were concerned.

On Jubilee Day the weather was splendid, and we got a good position from which to see the procession - thanks to the Melbourne Rifle Club uniform and a couple of policemen-in front of the crowd at Trafalgar Square.

We were rather late in getting to London, and the streets through which the procession was to pass were already full of people. We were standing in the rear of a big crowd, when a policeman noticed Walker and Kirk, who were dressed in the Melbourne Rifle Club uniform. On finding that they were Australians, he made an opening through the crowd and told them to come to the front - the remainder of us followed, as a matter of course.

It was a great Show in every respect, and was a grand opportunity for the display of loyalty on the part of the hundreds of thousands of people who were bubbling over with it. One little Welshman, who stood beside me for a couple of hours, kept shouting so enthusiastically and continuously that he became quite exhausted. I was at a loss to know why the little fellow made so much noise, but I suppose it was because so many others were shouting too.

What struck me at first was the splendid quality of the horses ridden by the Life Guards, and also by other mounted troops. Each regiment rides horses of an uniform colour and size. One regiment rides bay horses another chestnut, another grey, and so on; but they are all alike in the splendid quality of the horses.

The colonial troops went by first, and were more noticeable for the high standard of the men themselves than for the gaudiness of their equipment.
The Premiers of the various colonies drove along with the troops of their particular State, and a little cheering was done as they passed, but I saw no reason why G. H. Reid should sit in his carriage bareheaded bowing right and left-certainly, the warmth of the reception did not justify it. The only colonial who was received with anything like enthusiasm was the Premier of Canada.

After the colonials came the great pageant which the press has described as the greatest thing of the kind the world has ever seen. I am quite prepared to take their word for it, as it would he hard to imagine anything in the way of processions that ever did or ever will eclipse this one. Great military swells, fairly covered in gold braid, were cavorting on horseback. Princes and Rajahs of every nationality and of every shade of colour were there, dressed in all possible kinds of uniform, and in rich variegated silks covered with gold lace. It appeared to me that the descendants of all the princes since the days of Saul were present, and dressed in clothes shat had taken from his time: until now to make.

Another impression one could not help receiving was that the Great Ones of this earth are mostly “Made in Germany."

Hundreds of these Great People were simply covered in gold lace and medals of all kinds-the latter being the badges of the different orders to which Their Greatnesses belong.

To give an idea of the magnificence of some of the dresses, they were to the ordinary Australian staff officer in full fig, what a thousand candle power electric light is to a farthing dip.

The horses that these people rode were also covered in gold lace. The carriages which were occupied by the princesses, who were there in great number, and in every possible variation of age and beauty, were covered at each end with hanging material of some sort which was also ornamented with gold lace. The horses in the carriages were also decorated with the same material, and so were the flunkeys who occupied positions fore and aft on the carriages. In fact, one could only catch glimpses of some of the living things in the show through chinks and crevices in the gold lace.

All this led up to the Grand Culmination of the whole show, which consisted of a carriage that scented to be plated with gold, set on golden springs, on golden wheels, hung with gold cloth, drawn by eight cream-colored ponies harnessed in gold, led by a number of  individuals on foot clothed in gold lace. I have often wondered where all the gold of Australia and California had gone. I know now. It was being prepared for the Diamond Jubilee procession, and it all appeared in that magnificent Show.

The Queen looked bright and well. She was quietly dressed in some darkish material, and bowed and smiled pleasantly to the crowd, who were cheering for all they were worth. The little Welshman I have mentioned made a frantic final effort to cheer as the Queen passed us, and nearly expired in the attempt.

The Queen looked pleased, and with good reason, for she occupied the proudest position during that drive ever taken by anyone in the history of the world.

After the mounted troops, in the extreme rear of the procession, came the miscellaneous detachments of the troops on foot that represented the various parts of the British Empire. They consisted of a lot of little squads from ten to twenty or thirty each, and of every shade of colour ranging between white and black, including a squad of Chinese.

The Queensland Rifle Team were the last of all - immediately in rear of the Chinese-trudging along with their rifles held at different angles, looking forlorn and neglected, and entirely out of place in a Show of that kind. When we saw them, and the position they were placed in, we heartily congratulated ourselves on having escaped such humiliation.

There was one very noticeable feature in connection with the procession, and that was the entire absence of the Ministry or M.P.’s. The whole thing was run by the Royal Family, the Aristocracy and the Military, The representatives of the people appeared to be entirely ignored, and took no part in the demonstration. The most amazing part, however, was the fact that the people seemed to expect nothing else, and did not appear to think it al all strange that they, through their Parliamentary representatives, were being overlooked. Yet we hear that England is practically a democracy. From what I saw while in England, I would say that the country is ruled by the Royal Family and Relatives, with the assistance of the Aristocracy and the Military - especially the latter; and that Parliament is simply used for the purposes of raising funds to keep things going. England is certainly not a democratic community as we understand the term in Australia.

Further Reading:

Diamond Jubilee, 1897, Phil Fargher's Diary

Philip Fargher  

Australian Rifle Clubs

The Australian Militia, 1899 - 1920


Citation: Diamond Jubilee, 1897, Phil Fargher's Experience

Posted by Project Leader at 12:01 AM EADT
Updated: Monday, 22 June 2009 12:32 AM EADT

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