Hidden behind an old cupboard in the Barony St. John was a pile of papers which dated back to the early 1900’s (some 1906, 1907, 1909, 1916, 1924, etc.)

In amongst this paperwork was a small card about 3″ x 2″.

It is cream in colour and on one side shows an invitation to a “Special Meeting for Women” and admits the bearer and a friend to a meeting in nearby Saltcoats on Monday January 31st.

I’ve had a look at the calendar and 31st January fell on a Monday  in 1898, 1910, 1916 and 1921 so I’m thinking it’s either 1910 or 1916 as the majority of papers were from between those dates.

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The reverse (or front) of the card advertised a series of “thrilling lectures” from Tennyson Smith  at Saltcoats Town Hall and so I set about finding out more about this gentleman.

Mr. Tennyson Smith was an Englishman and a noted temperance and Prohibition orator who traveled around the world delivering “a series of thrilling lectures on the drink question” according to an article I found in the Granby Leader (Colorado, USA) from 1916.

img_2378And according to the South Wales Daily News of October 12th 1895, Mr. Tennyson Smith was “obliged in 1890 to leave England on account of his wife’s health, he went to Australia; and first in Adelaide, subsequently throughout the whole of the South Colony, he continued temperance work achieving marked success. His services being sought by the other colonies, , he made an extended tour of Queensland; and afterwards went to New Zealand…..Since his return to England, he has been warmly welcomed in different parts of the country, his meetings being crowded to excess.”

I found another article in the New South Wales (Australia) Riverine Herald from 1894 which read as follows:

Mr Tennyson Smith’s Crusade

“Last evening the congregation at the Tjeiri Perimee Hall on the occasion of the Presbyterian Church service, gave an indication of what was to follow, and, as soon as the service was concluded, numbers who had been waiting outside, poured in to hear Mr Tennyson Smith deliver Dr Talmage’s famous sermon.

There was scarcely standing room, and, though Mr Tennyson Smith had already introduced himself to the Echuca public at the children’s service in the afternoon, there was apparent that expectation which is always observable when something unusually good is expected.

A few introductory remarks by the Rev. R. Brown, chairman, some singing by a combined choir and the congregation, and Mr Tennyson Smith indulged in some pertinent and straight-out hitting, as a preface to the piece de resistance. He was very forcible in his denunciation of those who were in the habit of sitting in the church pews and “singing themselves to bliss.

He wanted people to show their Christian spirit by helping their follow creatures and personally exerting themselves to aid in the cause of temperance: Mr Tennyson Smith’s style of delivery bespeaks an elocutionist of ability and, though his voice is not over strong, his re petition, from memory, of Dr Talmage’s discourage was wonderfully good. The sermon, in itself, is very powerful and very striking, and it contains one of the clearest arguments against the liquor trail that could be given effect to on a public platform. The congregation listened with the greatest interest, and the three-quarters-of-an-hour of time occupied seemed to pass but too quickly.

What a thriving town Echuca must be,” he sarcastically observed, when making a passionate exhortation to those present to come forward and take the pledge;

You have 48 houses of accommodation for travellers — that must surely be a good sign.

Mr Tennyson Smith is full of energy and lore, and his appeal, “Who will be the first to come forward ?” being answered by a young man from the back, amidst great applause.

A large number signed, the ordeal being freed from monotony by the singing of well-known hymns, interspersed with stirring remarks by the lecturer.

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Another article in the same newspaper reads;

“For the sake of others” is the title of Gough’s most famous oration to be delivered by Mr E. Tennyson Smith, the popular Temperance orator, in the Temperance Hall this evening, and in view of the splendid reception accorded the lecturer and the favourable impression created on the crowded audience last evening there is no doubt another full house will greet Mr Smith on his re-appearance.  This particular oration has a peculiar charm in as much as it was this very lecture delivered by the great master himself which won Mr Tennyson Smith over to the ranks of total abstainers and started him on his life’s work which has proved so successful as to earn for him the title of “The Second Gough.”

The oration includes some of those wonderfully thrilling passages such as the description of a ship on fire, the coach driver’s terrible drive down hill in California and his appalling cry “I can’t find the brake” and the wreck of the lifeboat.

These illustrations are given with all the dramatic fire and realism for which the lecturer is noted, while the oration sparkles with those inimitable humorous stories for which Gough was renowned and which must be heard to be appreciated. In this respect the lecture will form a striking contrast to the more sombre and stately style of Dr Talmage’s discourse given last night. The mission will continue each evening till Thursday, when Mr Tennyson Smith will give his popular dramatic representation, “The trial of a notorious criminal,” undoubtedly the most interactive and entertaining evening of the series. Full particulars of the various meetings will be found in another column.

AN UNEXPECTED RESULT. A most interesting incident occurred during Mr Tennyson Smith’s mission to Shepparton one which promises to be of considerable importance. On the night of the “Trial of Alcohol,” in which Mr Tennyson Smith appears as “Council for the Prosecution,” the question was asked as usual, “Is anyone prepared to say anything in defence of the prisoner, alcohol ?” In response Mr Carpenter (a moderate drinker) held that the crimes committed by alcohol were largely the fault of the Temperance party. He said that; they did not provide places which would prove a counter-attraction to the hotel and asked, where are the young men of Shepparton to go to discuss football, etc., and urged that the prisoner, alcohol, might be acquitted, as the blame lay rather with the Temperance party. Although the argument for the acquittal of the prisoner was rather weak, it was received with much applause by the moderate drinking section of the audience, and it was evidently considered that a considerable blow had been struck at the lecturer. A great surprise was, however, in store for them, and a considerable disappointment for the supporters of the Liquor sale, when Mr Tennyson Smith used his opponents argument as a weapon to strike a blow at the trade. The lecturer on rising to reply said that with sadness he pleaded guilty on behalf of the Temperance party, to the charge made by Mr Carpenter, he confessed that it was a difficulty here, as in other places, as to where young men could congregate for social intercourse, but he said why should we not solve the problem so far as Shepparton is concerned. Why not start a Temperance Club, he then gave a few particulars of the first Temperance Club started in New Zealand, which was largely due to his efforts, and as the outcome of a mission and which, he said, was today a financial success. Said the lecturer – “Now, I will give a guinea to start a subscription list for such a club in Shepparton, who will give another?

I will,” “I will“, “and I will,” were the exclamations in several parts of the hall, followed by rounds of applause. Tho following day Mr Tennyson Smith conferred with Mr Carpenter, as representing the moderate drinkers, and Mr .J. H. Smith (chemist), and other temperance friends as representing the temperance party and suggested a “social” should be arranged (as was done in New Zealand) on the following Wednesday, and that he would return to Shepparton to be present, when the matter could be discussed and a committee formed to carry out the project. This was decided upon. Meanwhile information was collected as to ways and means, and a preliminary meeting held at the house of Mr J. H. Smith (chemist), when resolutions were formulated. The “social” took place on Wednesday, July 25th, and was a great success, the special feature being that fully as many moderate drinkers as teetotalers were present.

Mr Gregson (banker), was voted to the chair. Resolutions were passed that a club should be formed, two separate committees of ladies and gentlemen being elected to carry out the project. Another was made by the committee of the Mechanics’ Institute to hand over the building, etc., to the committee on the most advantageous terms, and it appeared advisable to the club to he connected with it. Over £12 has already been subscribed and about, fifty persons gave in their names to join. The subscription being fixed at 2 shillings per quarter. We shall watch with considerable interest the development of this scheme and trust our Shepparton friends will know it a great success, be that other towns may be induced to follow suit in this”forward” movement.”

What a wonderful insight into a time gone-by.

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