William Bragg guides 1901 royal visit to university and opening of organ for Elder Hall

William Bragg heads the official party escorting the duchess of Cornwall and York at Adelaide University during  the 1901 royal visit.
Image courtesy State Library of South Australia

Another aspect of William Bragg’s organising skills was called on for the 1901 visit to Adelaide of the duke and duchess of Cornwall and York, later King George V and Queen Mary.

Adelaide was decorated with flags, bunting, flowers and electric lighting. The Bragg family had a perfect view, from the balcony of Dr Charles Todd’s home in Victoria Square, of the royal couple’s processional arrivalThe Braggs attended a levee at Government House where Gwen watched the Church of England Mothers’ Union Address she had prepared. William was introduced with other university staff. At night, Bragg took his two boys to see the city illuminations.

For the duke and duchess’s visit to Adelaide University, William took on most arrangements: protocol, guests, security, tickets, seating, dress, music, photography. Student unruliness was another factor. Because of his own youth, sporting prowess, personal qualities and understanding, William had a special relationship with students. He negotiated their contribution and their songs became a highlight of the program.

The duchess opened the Elder Hall organ, which worked well, thanks to William’s input. A welcome address in Latin, on parchment, was presented to the royal couple in a casket (the work of the School of Design and its director H.P. Gill). The body and base were of Australian blue gum; the shell design suggesting the duke’s naval associations. It was carved with university and Australian motifs and lined with kangaroo skin embossed in gold. The whole was bound with bands and secured by Australian copper, with a single key operating a long triplicate bolt: the work of Arthur Rogers.

That evening the Bragg boys went to the fireworks. William dined with the chancellor and later Bragg and Gwen attended a reception at Government House.
The military review on Saturday at Victoria Park was in front of the Braggs’ new family home at East Terrace, followed by a state concert at the Exhibition Building. On Sunday, Bragg and Gwen attended ceremonies and service at St Peter’s Cathedral.

Following the custom they begun from their trip to England, Bragg and wife Gwen recorded the events in triplicate; the first two copies sent as letters to overseas relatives.

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