May Day Parades

From Waler Data Base @FaceBook. Image: A G. Hall & Son lorry, decorated with a large ginger beer bottle and sign ‘our toast – the to all 8 hours’*. c. 1924. Searcy Collection, State Library S.A.

May Day parades on 1st May were huge in Australia once. Many decorated horse floats in the parades. The day was to celebrate gaining the 8-hour day, and to pay respect to workers. Australia was the first country to bring in these rights for workers – which also benefited working horses.

Brewers Eight Hour Day
‘A horse drawn float for Eight Hours Day decorated to advertise the Walkerville Co-operative Brewing Co. Ltd. at Southwark, South Australia; the four horses are wearing plumes and brass decorations, they pull a lorry which carries a pyramid formation of bottles topped by a small flag decorated barrel. 1923.’ State Library of S.A.

The Eight Hour Day march commemorated a successful protest march held on April 21,1856 by Victorian stonemasons and other members of the building trades. The protest resulted in an agreement by the Victorian Government to ensure all workers on public sites had an eight-hour working day. In recognition of the significance of this achievement, April 21 was made a public holiday in 1879 and commemorative marches were held each year from 1879 until 1951. The Eight Hour Day holiday was renamed Labour Day in 1934. In 1955 the Labour Day march and celebrations were replaced by Moomba celebrations.

Melbourne Eight hour day

8 Hours Day was a huge celebration after the 8-hour day came about. Businesses and unions decorated floats and proudly took part in city and town parades. Tens of thousands turned out to celebrate and watch. There were prizes for the best turnouts – they went to a lot of trouble – some were stunning, some hilarious. A great glimpse into the spirit of the times. What mighty horses. They too would have been glad of a fair working day.

Image: Colour postcard depicting a procession on Bourke Street, Melbourne during Eight Hour Day celebrations. c. 1919-1930. Museums Victoria.

Townsville May Day Parade
The float of the W. W. F. of Australia, Townsville Branch at the May Day Parade, Townsville showgrounds, c.1915. Townsville City Council Libraries.

Posted by Enoch Waler

Waler gelding purpose bred to help educate and advocate for Walers, in person and via Facebook and Instagram.