Saturday, August 08, 2015

Saturday Morning Musings - Armidale soap maker George Mallaby and the Great Paris Exhibition of 1900

I have been enjoying my buckets series, but have put it aside today for another topic.

Next week's Armidale Express History Revisited column is on the Armidale soap maker George Mallaby. By happenstance, Mallaby visited the 1900 Great Exhibition in Paris where he also seems to have won a gold medal for his soap. The image shows the Exhibition site.

This Exhibition was quite something. Visited by nearly 50 million people, it was a celebration of industry, science and art, with the majority of pavilions built in the Art Nouveau style.

How the Paris World's Fair brought Art Nouveau to the Masses in 1900 from io9 contains some rather good images of the Exhibition. There is also a link in the story to other European Art Nouveau buildings. Have a browse. It's quite fun.

This was, it seems, the last of the great world fairs, at least for a period. Despite the huge crowds, It was a financial disaster, costing all those involved dearly. It was just so grand. This photo is of the Russian pavilion.

Equally importantly, the Great War would soon tear the whole structure down. I suppose that we can think of it as hubris, a belief in progress and power. The US was challenging, but the European empires were at their peak.  

I have always liked this period because of the optimism and belief in progress, the joy of new discoveries. 

The Australian art historian Robert Hughes coined the phrase The Shock of the New largely to describe the period. 

The Great War did not just destroy the dynasties, it cast a darkening shadow over the human spirit. 

In all this, I wonder what George Mallaby thought of the Exhibition? He and his wife, both working in mill, married young and left for Australia soon after. By 1900, Mallaby had established a substantial business in Armidale with considerable real estate holdings providing comfort and security for his wife and now seven children. The Mallabies were Methodists, strictly observing the Sabbath and suspicious of ostentation. 

There is a big gap between Armidale of the 1890s, between the rhythms of local industry and church and family life, and Europe's gilded age. I am sure that he found it interesting, but George was probably a pragmatic man. Having won his medal, marketing was always important, he moved on to the more important business of visiting  his old home in Yorkshire. His parents had died, and he wanted to pay for their funeral plot.        


Anonymous said...

Art Nouveau Paris - my favourite. I wonder whether Armidale George Mallaby and Aus/Pom actor George Mallaby were connected? Actor George was born in Hartlepool in 1939, so obviously not a direct line link, but surely a branch of the family.
I met George (actor, obviously) in 1982 when he was in Canberra in a pretty woeful production of Treasure Island, directed, I think, by George Whalley (GW was not my favourite person). GM was Long John Silver. The other import was another TV star Gordon I forget his surname, who played Squire Trelawney. I was in a production of The Drunkard at the PITS at the same time; they were friends of Gordon Todd (the D's writer/director) and since they were doing only matinees, often used to pop in for a drink in the evenings. Both really nice guys. A long way from Armidale, Paris, the Yorkshire mills and soap, but there you are. Perhaps we may cross paths in the skies. Off to UK just after you for a couple of weeks, including a conference stay in Merton College, which should be fun, then a monthish in Turkey, (DV) if you remember your schoolboy latin. Was supposed to go last year, but I broke my wrist, and ended up in surgery 2 days before we were scheduled to leave. Buggerit, as Nanny Ogg would say. Cheers, JCW.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi JCW. Your comment was caught by the spam system until I realised the fact and redeemed it. I wondered about the actor for Mallaby is an unusual name. On Europe, Deo Volente indeed. You must remember, as Alan Cash once said, that you are a Latinist. I am a Latin failure. I am getting to the point that I am going to get out them there books and try to refresh my memory.

2 tanners said...

If I recall correctly, George Mallaby the actor was English, although I too was caught by the name. To be close relatives, someone would have had to have returned to England and then a family member migrated to Australia again. He also wrote quite a number of the Homicide scripts.

To me, Deo Volente carries a passivity reflective of Insha'Allah. It is my recollection that the war cry of the Crusaders was "Deus Vult!". That probably indicates more closely my attitude. I'm not going to get a ticket to Europe by waiting on God's will - I can do it tomorrow, although it would be more likely to be Thailand or Myanmar. I can buy one as soon as *I* decide that God wills it!

Finally, in a totally rambling post/response, there is a free Android program called Memrise which I am using to supplement my face-to-face language lessons, in a rather abstruse language. It also offers Latin and can be done on your phone, in 5 minute chunks. So far, week 1, I'm finding it pretty good. If I evaluate that it has made a substantial difference to me, I'll pony up for the expensive version, not because I need it but because devs should be paid for their work.

Anonymous said...

Construe correctly
I am a Latinist
You (s)are a Latin failure
He is a classicist.
I remember the meeting well, and in one of those amazing ironies of life, I took over the very last ever Latin class at TAS from AC.

2 tanners said...


What a singular declension!

Anonymous said...

Agree tanners, but the questions remain:

1. what is the difference between plump and cheeky
2. why was the TAS Latin class forthwith cancelled?


ps agree with JCW that the plural of you should be youse :)

Anonymous said...

Thoroughly confused, here. You need to go back to JDB's original reply to understand the gist of the Latinist comment. The original story is that I was introduced to Alan Cash (then H'master of TAS)as a 'classicist'. When I had to admit that I had no Greek, AC promptly informed me that he was a classicist, whereas I was a Latinist. JDB refers to himself as a Latin failure, hence the paradigm. Sorry to disappoint you, kvd, but it's not 'youse, it's a mistype of you (s)for you singular. So, the joke for James goes; I (ie JCW) am a Latinist; you (s) (ie JDB) are a Latin failure; he (Alan Cash) is a classicist. You probably had to be there! As to your queries, kvd; I dunno - what is the difference between plump and cheeky? re Latin, poor old Latin. It was tottering along on its very last legs in the mid 90s when I moved to Armidale, and there was only a Year 10 class of about 6 boys. A Cash came out of retirement to teach it, and I took over for the final term when he went away. gosh; 20 years ago now, and our original encounter was many years before that!

Anonymous said...

Hi JCW. Understood the joke, and 'the gist' as you put it. Sorry if you, in turn, misunderstood my reference of your "you(s)" to youse as the plural of you.

Life is not a competition - but if it is, I choose not to play.


Jim Belshaw said...

Checking George Mallaby and the distribution of the Mallaby name, one George Mallaby came from North East England, the second from Yorkshire just to the south. The name appears to come from that area.

Bob, having checked Deus Vult, the Turkey link suggests that DV should indeed have been that. Which abstruse language are you doing? I'm sure that you mentioned it.

JCW, I had blocked the word construe out of my mind. Too many painful memories. Did laugh. Then with 2t, had to look up the word declension just to check. More memories. We used to recite. I tried to check on the web site if TAS had reintroduced Latin. I had a vague feeling that it had.

Don't think competition comes into it kvd. But this has been an entertaining exchange if carrying me back to a somewhat distant point in my life.