Social Events: The Port School Ball

The annual Port School Ball was an ‘institution’ in the Port community. Reputed to be the only two-night function of its kind in the southern hemisphere, it consisted of various marches and dances; as well as huge sit-down suppers for the large number of attendees, that many people in the local community lent a hand in preparing. There were always elaborate decorations, rousing bands and orchestras, photographers, and on the second night – the kids fancy dress was their most anticipated evening of the year.

The event’s beginnings date back to 1896 when during the Brunner coalmine disaster it was decided that the school should hold a ball to assist the relief fund. Afterwards, it was decided to make it an annual event. Held initially at Wenley & Lenore’s woolstore. Thereafter the wool broker firms made a store available, often free or just a small charge to cover insurance.

One ex-Port School pupil recalled in the 1960s:

“We started with an emptry wool store..(it took) six weeks of work, cleaning and scraping the wool grease off with glass, hanging flags. (I) even had to be a bush carpenter. What a great team we had.
..The eggs to be cooked. The baskets of meat and lettuce. Sandwiches and hot savouries to be made. We had to install our own rock gas plant. There was the night the coppers didn’t boil quickly enough. The local garage men helped out with a blow-lamp and supper was served on time – well, almost.
..Oh boy, the mess to clean up on Saturday after the ball, the borrowed gear to be returned – and then the great moment: what was the profit?? Never had a failure; always on the right side.
The last Port School Ball was held in 1959. As one recalled: “The ball is over, but the memories live on.”