Charlie and the Clothing Factory: Mr Clymo, Women’s Football and Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour

 

Charlie Clymo, Geelong Football Club’s 1931 Premiership coach, is often represented as one of Australian football’s mystery men, the bloke who turned up out of the blue at Geelong for one season, coached them to a flag, then disappeared after the Grand Final back into the mists of history. However, when one looks at his career before arriving at the Cats, one can see that his credentials to coach at the top level were impeccable. The issue, instead, appears to be more about why he didn’t coach in the VFL earlier than he did – Clymo was a major figure in country Victorian football, in particular the Ballarat region (and sport more generally in that area, but that’s another story), at a time when it was very strong and some of its most successful teams were comparable in standard to those in the VFL.  For example, unofficial historian of the Ballarat Football league, Wayne Hankin, was quoted in a 2009 Melbourne Age article as saying “Anywhere up to the 1920s there was still talk around town of Golden Point – and other clubs up here too [in the Ballarat area: my note] – going into the VFL; they were strong enough for the first half of the ’20s.”

 

After playing 43 VFL games for St Kilda from 1907-9, including being a member of that club’s first ever finals team in his debut season, Clymo made a habit of coaching teams in the Ballarat area to premierships: Golden Point in the Ballarat Football League in 1910, 1914 and 1919; the Ballarat team in 1923; Moolort in the Maryborough league in 1924; and Ballarat Imperial back in the Ballarat Football League in 1929. In this context, his success with Geelong in 1931 is really no surprise at all.

 

Also, it may not be a surprise if one learns that, back in 1918, Charlie Clymo was one of the coaches in a football game in Ballarat which established a then-record crowd for a match in the area: 7,000. What will probably be a great surprise, though, is that this match was played between two women’s teams, one made up of workers from a Ballarat clothing company coached by Clymo (Lucas & Co.), the other of employees from a Melbourne-based company of a similar kind (Federal Khaki Clothing Company). The game was a fund-raiser for the entrance to Ballarat’s Avenue of Honour.

 

Charlie Clymo (Coach), with the Lucas & Co. girls’ football team (Source: Ballarat Star newspaper, 11th December, 1918)

 

A contemporary newspaper article about this match, by E. H. Price, is reproduced below. In it, one can see what a major event this women’s football match was for the city at that time. I have placed the article in italics to separate it from my text.

 

The Ballarat Star Monday 30 September 1918

 

 FOOTBALL MATCH

 

A CAPITAL EXHIBITION.

 

LUCAS’ GIRLS SUCCESSFUL

 

The 120 girls from the Federal Khaki Clothing factory, in Melbourne, who arrived in Ballarat on Friday evening, had a busy day on Saturday. In the morning they were conducted over Lucas and. Co’s’ works, and subsequently were motored out to inspect the Avenue of Honor. Early in the afternoon the girls met at the corner of Doveton and Sturt streets, and headed by the City Band, under the conductorship of Mr Percy Code, marched to the Soldiers’ Statue. The Khaki Bugle Band and girls carrying rifles marched in excellent step. There were thousands of people in the street. A halt was made at the Soldiers’ Statue, in front of which, patriotic addresses were delivered. Mayor Hollway, who presided, briefly introduced Major Baird, M. L. A., who remarked that they had been honored that day by a visit from Melbourne of young ladies in khaki. They had got used to seeing men in khaki, but in Ballarat they had not yet got used to seeing the lady friends in khaki. They were gathered around the statue which had been erected to the memory of gallant Victorians who first heard the call of Empire 17 or 18 years ago, when the South African war was being fought. It was then Australians first struck a blow, for the defence of the grand old Empire. At one time it was said that young Australians would never be the men their fathers were. Australian soldiers, both in South Africa and the present war, had shown that they had possessed the spirit of the pioneers who had carved out this country, and won the battles of Waterloo and Soudan. Young Australians, with much preparation, stormed the heights at Gallipoli in a way that proved they were worthy sons of worthy fathers.

 

A voice—How are you treating them?

 

Major Baird—That is a rebuke which can be hurled at every man and woman as well as at me. (Hear, hear). The people of Australia had to see that the returned soldiers were properly treated and unless they did it they could not expect them to be properly treated. Continuing, the Major said that it was for the people of today to see that the heroic and patriotic spirit which had been exhibited so much in this war was transmitted to the coming generation.

 

At the conclusion of Major Baird’s address the Khaki Bugle Band sounded the Last Post.

 

The procession them wended its way to the Eastern Oval where the feature of the day, a football match between teams representing the girls of Messrs Lucas and Co. and the Khaki Girls took place.

 

It is estimated that the number of people attracted to the Oval was about 7000, which was computed to be the largest crowd that has attended a football match in Ballarat. Needless to say the majority of people present were keenly interested in the fortune of the Ballarat team. The Lucas girls, who were attired in pink and white dresses, received a great ovation when they entered the playing arena. Neatly dressed in khaki and white, the visiting team was also well received. Mr. Bremner acted as central umpire and had the game well in hand. Both teams were allowed to have their coaches on the field of play. Mr Chas. Clymo, who had coached the Lucas girls, kept a keen eye for directing the home team in the successful prosecution of the game. The opening exchanges in the match were remarkably fast, both ends being visited in quick succession. Losing the toss, the home girls had to play against the wind. The Khaki girls were the first to score, and at quarter time led by a goal and 1 behind. Miss Parry notched the ‘sixer’ for the visitors. The second quarter witnessed a determined and vigorous contest, Lucas’ girls playing with great vim and excellence. Their fine efforts were rewarded with success. Miss Elsie Jones scored the first goal for the Ballarat team amidst the vociferous applause of the crowd. At half-time Lucas’ girls were only l point behind the visitors. During the intervals the players, were regaled with refreshments of the juicy orange type. The third quarter produced some very interesting play, neither side showing much indication of tiredness. Great enthusiasm prevailed when May Halfpenny scored the second behind for Lucas’, thus making the scores equal. At three quarter time the score was 1 goal 2 behinds each. Notwithstanding the prediction of many that the players would give way, the last quarter saw a continuance of the keenness and determination of the previous quarters. The Lucas’ girls put up a great performance, and through May Halfpenny added two goals to their score. A most interesting and well contested match resulted as follows:—

 

Points.

Lucas Girls : 3 goals 6 behinds … 24

 

Khaki Girls : 1 goal 2 behinds … 8

 

The Lucas’ girls, and also their coach, Mr Clymo, are to be complimented upon the splendid victory. Although they were lighter than their opponents, they were faster on their feet. On more than one occasion, the spectators were delighted with the fast and beautiful runs made by one of the members of the home team.

 

The gate receipts amounted to £175, but as large numbers of tickets were sold outside, it is expected that the total proceeds will be over £330. This goes towards the cost of the entrance to the Avenue of Honor. All the expenses of the visit of the Khaki Girls are being paid by the firm and employees of Lucas and Co., so all profits will go to the object of the event.

 

After the football match, the Khaki Girls were entertained at tea at the Alexandra Cafe, by the Lucas’s Girls. Mr. McDonald, assistant manager of the Defence Clothing Works, spoke on behalf of the Khaki Girls. He said he wished to thank the firm of E. Lucas and Co. and their girls for the magnificent manner in which they had been entertained since their arrival on Friday night. If they had much more of the same treatment they would be utterly spoiled, and would not feel like commencing work again. He also wished to thank the citizens who had placed their motor cars at their disposal for the trip through the Avenue, also, those who had opened their homes to the girls. They were sorry they had not won the match, but they could show they were true sports and were not downhearted. Here one of the girls called out: “Are we downhearted?” and was responded to by a hearty chorus of “No.” He called for three cheers for the Lucas girls, which was followed by their singing, ‘For they are jolly good lassies’.

 

In reply, Mr. Price said they were grateful to the Khaki girls for having come to Ballarat to assist them, in raising funds for the entrance to the Avenue. He hoped their stay had been as pleasant as they had stated. He was glad Lucas’s had won the match, but was also sorry the others had to be the losers. Neither side need be ashamed of the game they had played. It was excellent, and, no doubt, both sides had learned some points that would be useful to them in the future.

 

Mrs. Thompson said that she was glad the Khaki Girls had been the ones to take the lead in helping to raise the first instalment for the Avenue Entrance fund, and she hoped that when the entrance was completed they would be able to come up to the opening ceremony, and be the first to march through. She was proud to have made their acquaintance, and, of course, next to Lucas’s girls, they were easily best she had come in contact with. Mr. Price called for three hearty cheers for the Khaki Girls, which was followed by singing ‘For they are jolly good lassies’.  A start was then made for the station, where the majority of the girls entrained for Melbourne, about forty remaining until the morning.

 

Lucas’s girls wish to express their appreciation and thanks to all who assisted to make the visit of the Khaki Girls pleasant ; also to the following gentlemen who helped in rendering the football match such a success.—Mr. A. F. White, who so ably carried out all arrangements at the entrance gates, and his willing helpers. Messrs. Bray, Guy, Uren, J. Hoskin, L. Evans, G. Williams, W. Palmer, C. D. Ross, R. Inglis, E. Bodycomb, T. Harris, J. C. Kelsall, T. J. Marsh; also the Ballarat City Band, the umpires, Messrs. W. Bremner, W. C. James, J. Nolan, N. McWilliam, P. Beaton; the Y.M.C.A., for placing their building at the disposal of the footballers, and to the Electric Supply Co., for displaying all advertising signs on their trams free of charge. The special thanks of the football team are due to Mr. Clymo for his untiring efforts in coaching them; to Mr. R. A. Francis and Mr. Smith, of the Pleasant street school, who always had a team of boys from the school ready to assist them in their practice. It is due to these gentlemen that the girls were able to give such a good display of football to the public.— On behalf of the Lucas girls,

 

E. H. PRICE.

 

Main Sources

 

Melbourne Age article (online) by Peter Hanlon, “Who was Charlie Clymo?” August 7, 2009

 

Trove NLA online newspaper archive

 

Wikipedia entry on Charlie Clymo

 

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About

Kevin Densley is a poet and writer-in-general. His work has appeared in print in Australia, the UK and the USA, as well as on many online venues. His fourth book-length poetry collection, Sacredly Profane, has just been published (late 2020) by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Recent other writing includes screenplays for films with a tertiary education purpose.

Comments

  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Thanks again for another historical story Kevin. There are so many wonderful stories to be told about historical events and unfortunately many them for whatever reason are never told. It obviously was a huge event at the time and it’s quite likely some of my forebears may have been in the crowd.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Fantastic read Kevin, and great photo.

    Always find it interesting to read about talk of Ballarat teams entering the VFA and/or the VFL at various stages, how different the football landscape would have looked had this happened in that era.

  3. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your comments, Colin. Yes, a great deal of history is simply waiting to be given the light of day again, such as that which can be found in old newspapers.

    And thanks, Luke – glad you enjoyed my piece and the excellent photo. Yes, over the years there certainly have been numerous worthy candidates for VFA and VFL spots.

  4. Shane Reid says

    Gee, what a story Kevin. Something I really love about the TAC cup is the reality that all of Victoria is represented, metro and country. There must be countless wonderful tales of bush footy, like this, waiting to be discovered

  5. Kevin Densley says

    ! totally agree, Shane! Thank you for your comments.

  6. Roger Lowrey says

    Another fine contribution Kevin.

    As I have discovered through researching old primary source material, it is a pleasant respectful counterpoint to our current discourse to hear references to Mr, Mrs, Miss etc.

    Yes, quaint of course and almost with an intoxicating zephyr of Jane Austen about them – but I love them anyway because they are of their time.

    RDL

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Glad you liked this piece, Roger. Yes, old newspapers certainly have the qualities you describe. NLA’s TROVE archive is indeed a treasure trove in all sorts of ways.

  8. Ta Kevin, Charlie Clymo seemed an intriguing character.

    I noticed when he coached Geelong to the 1931 premiership he was given a year off work from his employer J Selkirk brickmakers. In this same period i surmise he continued his role with the Ballarat Fire Brigade, as it said he spent 40 years in the Fire Brigade. Do i surmise it was a purely voluntary role,like the CFA?

    Quaint old language to read. The world has changed a lot from that period though i’m not interested in some moral judgement about how some people may perceive the terminology. I am intrigued by; ‘refreshments of the juicy orange type.’

    I’m curious if there’s photos of the match . Do i surmise the apparel the girls wear in the photo are their playing garb? I’m unsure how they would look to their AFL equivalents a century down the track.

    Keep up the good work. Social History,all history is good to know/understand .

    Glen!

  9. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for your interesting comments and questions, Glen. There are probably Footy Almanac readers who know more about the history of the Ballarat Fire Brigade than I do, though my feeling is that your surmises about it are probably correct.

    I’m pretty certain the apparel the girls wore in the photo was their actual footy uniform. They are described in the article as wearing “pink and white dresses” and one would think they would be photographed for the newspaper is their team gear, as is the norm for footy team photos.

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