Temperance societies first appeared in the United States in the early 1800s though they became more active in the late 1880s and early 1900s. Their aim varied from trying to get people to cut down on the consumption of alcohol, to asking people to abstain (teetotalism), right through to demanding the total prohibition of alcohol. The societies had varying degrees of success in the US but still spread to the United Kingdom and Australia, among other places.
The UK societies were inspired by goings on in Ireland, of all places. Activity there was lead by a Belfast professor of theology and a Presbyterian Minister, the Rev. John Edgar, who poured his supply of whiskey out of his window in 1829. One wonders why he had a supply of whiskey in the first place! Readers who have a knowledge of Irish history may be familiar with the Pioneers, an Irish teetotal group still active today – though hardly a major shaker or driver in controlling the level of alcohol consumption in Ireland.
As is often the case in my reviews, I have digressed. Back to Australia and Goulburn.
In Australia, temperance movements began appearing in the 1830s but unlike their US and UK counterparts they never really went in for abstinence or prohibition. The mid to late 1800s were gold rush days in Australia. Australia was doing it well and, by jove, it wasn’t going to give up having a tipple. In 1886 Goulburn had 74 drinking establishments for a population of around 10,000.
The temperance approach in Australia was to promote moderation and in the 1880s, with the support of the temperance movement, a significant number of hotels were built or converted into coffee palaces (so called because of their opulence and grandeur) where no alcohol was served. One such coffee palace was Stock Coffee Palace on Sloan Street in Goulburn.
Stocks Coffee Palace, now a beautiful listed building, continues to exist today though as the Alpine Heritage Motel. It is located at 248 Sloan Street, opposite the Railway Station and about 100m from the tourist office. While it still does not have a bar, it offers in room tea and coffee facilities, like every other motel in Australia, and alcohol is permitted on the premises – in moderation of course!
A later, longer lasting but no more successful approach, to reducing alcohol consumption was getting laws passed which prohibited the sale of alcohol after 6pm. This had a serious unintended consequence called the 6 o’clock swill. Men would rush from work to their nearest watering hole, drink as much as they could by the appointed hour of six and role home plastered. Today’s happy hour (the serving of discounted drinks around 6pm) started out as the Australian way of celebrating the abolition of the 6 o’clock laws.
Another tactic used by temperance societies, not only in Australia but around the world, was the provision of public water fountains aimed at luring people away from alcohol to water to quench their thirst. Generally these fountains were very ornate. One such fountain (and the inspiration of this review) can be seen just outside Belmore Park on Auburn Street, in the heart of Goulburn. This fountain with rather fine-looking carved lions heads dispensing water was donated by the Temperance Societies of Goulburn in 1886. I do like the names of some of these societies which included the Sons of Temperance, Good Templars, Daughters of Temperance, Guiding Star Lodge of Rechahbites, and the Wesleyan Band of Hope.
Fear not dear reader, alcohol remains readily available in Goulburn.
One more digression, if you will?
As I was researching this review I was lead to an article in the Goulburn Evening Penny Post newspaper of 29 July 1886 concerning the construction of the temperance fountain. This article was of little interest or value but my eyes were drawn to the next article entitled “A Salvation Army Prosecution”. What, I wondered, had resulted in this venerable organisation being hauled in front of Goulburn court?
The Salvos (as they are affectionately known in Australia) had been charged with “obstructing the public thoroughfare to the detriment of Mr. Muir, solicitor, who was riding a spirited animal in the street…….. The evidence of the prosecution was to the effect that the Salvation Army continued to sing and play a cornet and wave handkerchiefs whilst Muir’s horse shied and pranced”.
The court, being unable to determine guilt, fined each party 2 shillings and 6 pence.
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