How to crown a Queen

In this episode of “The Centaur Fund Series”, Madonna Grehan, guest blogger and John Oxley Library Fellow for 2015, sheds light on Toowoomba’s first Queen of the Carnival of Flowers.

On Saturday evening 28 October 1950, a reported crowd of 40,000 people assembled at the corner of Ruthven and Margaret Streets, eagerly anticipating the crowning of Toowoomba’s inaugural Queen of the Carnival of Flowers, Miss Fay Ryan. It was an event embedded with pageantry.

Toowoomba Floral Festival girls from Centaur Floral Festival - Mardi Gras souvenir program

Toowoomba Floral Festival girls from Centaur Floral Festival - Mardi Gras souvenir program

At 8.30pm a trumpet fanfare announced the Queen’s arrival. A page preceded her, bearing the all-important crown on a pillow. Resplendent in a white coronation gown, the winner of the competition gracefully ascended the dais and took the throne. Senator Annabelle Rankin MP declared Toowoomba’s thanks to Miss Ryan for her philanthropic efforts and crowned the Carnival Queen. With formalities concluded, this regal party made a short walk to meet and greet some of the crowd. The whole show went off without a hitch, surprising and delighting onlookers.
The spectacle’s success, in part, was thanks to detailed instructions on how to crown a queen, supplied by Joe Cranitch, Organising Secretary of the Centaur Memorial Fund Appeal in Brisbane. Going by newspaper reports of the Toowoomba event, Cranitch’s recommendations were followed to the letter.

Joe Cranitch, 1950, from Cranitch family collection

Joe Cranitch, 1950, from Cranitch family collection

A Postal Official on extended leave from his permanent position, Cranitch had run the Centaur Fund’s highly successful Queen of the Nurses Quest in 1948. He had also been involved with organising the Miss Australia Quest in Queensland, raising money for the Returned Sailor’s Soldier’s & Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia.
Cranitch mapped out his imaginary plan for the Toowoomba Queen’s crowning on 11 October 1950, following an approach from Max S Herring, Manager of Queensland Trustees Ltd. Cranitch pointed out that although he was unfamiliar with the detail of the Toowoomba competition, the crowning of the queen was the highlight of events, and should be a dignified affair.
He described the lay-out of a stage for twenty people including dignitaries and the furniture necessary to seat them. As if rehearsing the event himself, he described the Queen’s arrival, recommending who should sit where, on the dais. He imagined the crowning in detail and the departure of the Queen with her attendants, whisked away from the enthusiastic street party to a waiting car.
For the benefit of the Toowoomba Committee, Cranitch posted a sample “scroll” that the Centaur Fund used as a ‘thank you’ message to its supporters. The Centaur Memorial Fund’s scroll was created by Bert Murphy, a draftsman employed by the Post Master General’s Department and son of the artist “Ned” Ashton Murphy. According to Cranitch’s description, Bert Murphy’s design bore several images: the 2/3 Australian Hospital Ship Centaur in the centre and in the four corners, a lamp representing the profession of nursing, Centaur House at 337 Queen Street in Brisbane, and two nursing badges. Cranitch recommended that Toowoomba fashion its own version of the scroll for Senator Rankin to use when proclaiming the Queen’s coronation.
The 1950 Carnival of Flowers was a roaring success, attracting throngs of visitors to the Darling Downs and securing Toowoomba’s profile as a “Garden City”. Combined, the four entrants in the inaugural Queen competition raised almost £1700 for Legacy and Toowoomba’s Youth Clubs. In December 1950, a public meeting confirmed that the event would be held annually.

Decorated float in the Carnival of Flowers parade in Toowoomba, 2002, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: twb00005

Decorated float in the Carnival of Flowers parade in Toowoomba, 2002, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: twb00005

Photo of a scooter decorated for the Carnival Parade sent to us by Nurse Diana Patton, née Lyne

Photo of a scooter decorated for the Carnival Parade sent to us by Nurse Diana Patton, née Lyne

Footage of the crowning of the floral queen from the 1953 Carnival of Flowers can be viewed at the National Film and Sound Archive website.

Madonna's previous blog stories in this series can be found here:

ATNA Nurses’ Rest Home, 17-19 Mallon St, Bowen Hills

Avenging the Nurses: Government’s response to the sinking of 2/3 Australian Hospital Ship Centaur

Centaur Day, 14 May, and Red Roses for Remembrance

Queen of the Nurses Quest


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Hi Madonna. Thanks for sending the link to the blog post. I enjoyed it and have sent the link on to others in the Family History Team at State Library Victoria. What a day! what an event! 40,000 people!Also loved the 1953 Carnival of Flowers parade footage..All the best from your friends at SLV. Grant

Hi Grant, great to hear from you. Here is hoping that there's some more home movie footage out there in those garages. Madonna

Delightful cameo of the way communities celebrated and remembered, and so evocative of the times

Perfect timing with the Carnival of Flowers on from tomorrow. The film clip in colour showed a different time... thanks for an interesting article.

Loved the blog and the film footage of the carnival. It reminded me how much, as a child, I loved going to the annual floral exhibition in Launceston. I guess the Gay mardi gras is the modern equivalent of such wonderful pageantry.

thanks Beth, the changing use of language is one of the interesting aspects of this and other history. The Centaur Memorial Fund had a huge Mardi Gras Festival in October 1948 with a fete and an equally huge Ball at Cloudland. The chairman of the Ball committee was the ABC Manager Eric Scholl, so they were gala affairs and a who's who of the social set. By the time television came along, these big festivals were already not as successful as they seemed in the 1940s. Madonna

As a nurse at Toowoomba General Hospital,1954---1958, I bought a motor scoter,so as to get home to Currumbin on days off. Carnival of flowers was wonderful , and with help I decorated my Vespa all over with flowers and road proudly in the parade .I was 18 years old and today my love of gardening extends to me now tutoring gardening,for U 3 A in Melbourne..Great memories.

Many thanks for that lovely reminiscence Diana. Did anyone take a photo of you and your Vespa with all the trimmings? We'd love to see that!Toowoomba Hospital nurses were great supporters of the Centaur Memorial Fund over the years. They raised money to furnish one of the rooms at Centaur House and raised$$$ for the Nurses Rest Home at Mallon St Bowen Hills. Madonna

I have purchased 5Bayview Terrace Clontaf and I was Toled that it was owned by M R Hornibrook I would like to know if this was correcr as M R and my father were very good friends.Ian

Hello Ian - My understanding is that my grandfather, MR Hornibrook, owned the house next door at 7 Bayview Tce as a holiday house, overlooking his project of the Hornibrook Highway and just near the Golf Course which he developed. You may be interested in my Blog, Betty Mansion which tells the story of my aunt Betty’s dolls house which was in the garden of the Clontarf house and quite a local landmark.Julie

Hi Simon,The head of Qld Trustees at the time was Maurice Stanley Herring. I'm not sure if he went by the nickname Max however this name is not familiar to any of his family. Kind regardsPeter Herring

Hello PeterApologies for the tardy response and thanks for the clarification.The wording in this blog, including the name "Max", has been taken from Centaur Memorial Fund correspondence of the period.It may be that he was called Max as a young man, 1950, but equally it could even be a typographical error. The letter I used was addressed to Mr Herring at the QLD Trustees office, 152 Margaret St Toowoomba.Let me know if there's anything else I can clarify for you from this letter. There is only one to Mr Herring.sincerelyMadonna Grehan