Soapbox Speakers

Archive for July, 2018|Monthly archive page

News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 29th July.

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 30, 2018 at 10:36 am

“Sport is the dessert trolley of life.”
Gerard Healy.

1. Wish granted! Last week Maria spoke for a few minutes on the Ladder of Knowledge and did such a good job that this scribe hoped she woould come back to become a permanent speaker. Well, she turned up today with a box and found a place to speak! She soon had passers-by stopping to listen. For a speaker to achieve that on their first day at Speakers’ Corner is extraordinary.

When she had had enough, Maria joined Mr B’s audience and he invited her to speak on his ladder briefly. She spoke about the finance industry and the dishonesty of the banks. People began asking questions. She again did a good job. Maria is a commercial lawyer and has a lot to say.

Maria will be back in two weeks, she promises. Your scribe hopes to persuade Mr B to give her longer on his ladder next time. (Mr B, just remember that I have considerable power when I write these weely posts.)

2. Mr B read the first stanza of a Keats poem that didn’t sound like Keats at all:

Ode to Spring.
“Thank thou Spring, that thou do be. 

For without thou there’d be seasons three.
We would surely be in strife;

especially the wildlife.”
It got worse from there. But he read another poem and we discussed it.

3. Mr B expressed his amazement of Coyote Pederson, whom he found on Youtube. Coyote tests Schmidt’s Pain index by allowing insects to sting him.
If you don’t want to watch the whole video begin at 13 minutes.

4. Other subjects discussed:
– If there were a button that could kill all humanity, would you press it? Mr B pointed out that by not pressing it we would be condoning the suffering of trillions of animals in cruel farming practises. The discussion was “energetic”.

– Mr B was scathing of the Thais who recently thrust the poor cave kids into a monastery. For 9 days the kids will be head-shaven monks to “express their gratitude” for being saved. Mr B said that we shouldn’t force people to feel grateful, and if their cave experience doesn’t give them PTSD, this will.

– The Gympie Gympie stinging tree in Qld, which produces so much pain it has killed horses and sent men mad.

– Helmut explained why Sir Isaac Newton was an ignoramus.

– There is an idea going around that despite all our electronic forms of communication, we feel less connected than we have ever been. Mr B argued the contrary. He said that people in the last three centuries felt less connected than we do, because they didn’t have the technology to overcome the tyranny of distance. Uncle Pete was ardent in his rebuttal.

– Steve Maxwell had a sign which indicated his topic of the day: “Make Australia Grate Again”.

– Debate raged about the importance of breast feeding.

5. This scribe has sunk over twelve million dollars into promoting our Facebook page and it has not yet produced a dollar of income or increased the size of a crowd at Speakers’ Corner. Its value must be questioned. This lyre sponge, from our Unusual Creatures Series, has little comprehension of what a Facebook page is, and even less comprehension of what twelve million dollars could buy.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 22nd July.

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 23, 2018 at 11:02 am

“Intolerance is violence to the intellect and hatred, violence to the heart.”
Indian proverb.

1. Mr B ruined his voice box again and it served him right. He shouldn’t bark at his grasshoppers like he does, no matter how wrong they are.

He began his meeting talking about functional insanity, and was at pains to point out that he wasn’t talking about anyone at Speakers’ Corner. Like hell he wasn’t. He explained how functional insanity differs from your everyday, run-of-the-mill insanity.

He treated the topic respectfully and his grasshoppers disgracefully.

Here he is in full flight today at Speakers’ Corner:

2. When Mirko got up to speak on the Ladder of Knowledge he had refreshingly new material to present to us which, unfortunately, was as incomprehensible as his regular material. From what this humble scribe gathered, the tenet of his speech seemed to be that every time you take three steps forward you complete a  walking ‘cycle’. Brains-trust Laurence figured out that by taking three steps forward your feet are in the position they were when you started, and that’s a cycle. Fair enough, except that you are back in the same position after two steps, but who’s counting? The point is, Mirko must have been making sense after all, because Uncle Pete understood him well enough. At one point, when your humble scribe was completely bamboozled, Uncle Pete asked Mirko, “Is it two polarity?”

“Yes!” confirmed Mirko, validated and vindicated.

You could have pushed this scribe over with a feather. Mirko had been making sense after all! Peter had understood him!

I’m sorry Mirko, that I wasn’t bright enough to understand you. With your new topic I was thinking you had lost yet another marble, but it turns out that you were making sense all the time. The expression, “Pearls before swine” comes to mind.

Mirko, you remind me of another genius:

“They did not listen, they did not know how. 
Perhaps they’ll listen now.”

3. Speaking of Vincent Van Gogh, that’s who Steve Maxwell talked about today. In the mid 1800s a bloke founded Mort Docks, the first dry dock in Australia. (That’s when no alcohol is allowed on the premises.) Funnily enough, the gimmick worked and it made that bloke a multi-millionaire. That allowed his son, John Peter Russell, to go to France to study Impressionism. Impressionism is a type of art. But it is not, as you might think, a type of art for people who can’t paint properly, it’s a type of art all on its own. Who would have thought? In France this fellow, John Peter Russell, met Vincent Van Gogh who was a Dutchman also studying Impressionism, but missing an ear. They became friends. It turns out that the fellow with the three names is the only artist to have painted a portrait of Vincent Van Gogh, (other than Vincent himself, who made a habit of it).

Compare the two artists’ portrait of Vincent. I have given each of them a mark out of ten, and you can see that John’s painting is far better than Vincent’s. And bigger, too. Vincent could have learned a lot from his friend, had he tried. But as often the case with people who lack talent, it seems Vincent was better than John at promoting himself. We have all heard of Vincent Van Gogh (thanks to Don McLean) but we have never heard of John Peter Russell.

John Peter Russell’s portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.    9/10.


Vincent Van Gogh’s portrait of Vincent Van Gogh.    2/10.

A reader just informed this scribe that Vincent was not a good promoter of his work. Vincent only sold one painting in his life. Presumably, that was to his mother.
It’s hardly a surprise, is it? If he were alive today he wouldn’t make the Archibald finalists, would he? So, why is he famous? It can’t solely be due to Don McLean. Singers can only do so much. Ask Steve Maxwell when you see him next. He’ll know.

4. Steve also spoke about Australian history and politics, and about Rimbaud the Poet. The poet’s name was Rimbaud and he was a poet. This scribe googled his poems to find a good one to present here.

 5. A passer-by asked if she could step up onto the Ladder of Knowledge. Maria spoke for five minutes about free speech, and did a damned good job of it. She was fluent and had something to say. She railed against our apathy. We hope she becomes a permanent speaker at Speakers’ Corner.

6. We were reminded of The Groom of the Stool who was a fellow in bygone times who would wipe the king’s bottom after the king defecated. Mr B said that no human being should ever wipe another healthy adult human’s bottom, because to do so demeans humanity. We have a human responsibility to wipe our own arses, he said plainly.

He added that there are other tasks we should do for ourselves, rather than let another human being do them for us. We should clean our own houses, for example. He also applauded the Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovi, and the French President, Emmanuel Macron. She, Vladamir Putin and President Macron were on the dias and about to greet the players after an important soccer game. It was pouring with rain. Putin had a minder who held an umbrella over him. But not Kolinda or Macron. They knew better. They know that it is every person’s duty to hold their own umbrella. But, because they wanted to greet every player from France and Croati warmly, they chose to forgo an umbrella and stand in the rain.

Mr B applauded you both. So does this scribe.

Mr Putin: do you also have a Groom of the Stool?

7. Did humans evolve from monkeys? No, we didn’t. An ancestor common to apes, great apes, monkeys and hominims (and lemurs, lorisoids and tarsiers) was a small rodent-like animal called the plesiadapis, that lived 55 to 58 million years ago. It was about the size of a 2kg possum.
(an artist’s impression)



And there was the propliopithecus. It lived about 25 to 30 million years ago. Larger, and weighed about 4.5kgs:

It’s doubtful these pictures are photographs; more likely, they are artists’ impressions and they may not be accurate. As we have already discovered above, impressionist artists don’t aim for accuracy. Impressionists Vincent and John both painted Vincent, and their portraits differ considerably.

8. Other subjects discussed:

– Mr B said that Politician Craig Kelly was right when he said we can’t keep complaining to the Russians about their destruction of Flight MH17; we need to focus on the future. But was it a political mistake to say the truth?

– Is property make-believe? A social construct? Or is it real? Who owns my apricot tree? Me? The possums who take the fruit? Or the aphids who live there 24/7?

– Are we being hypocrites when we criticise Trump for being too friendly with Russia? Would we call him stupid and reckless if he was antagonistic towards Russia? Do we want good relations with Russia, or bad ones? Is diplomacy relevant anyway? Is money, trade and the sale of armaments the real glue for lasting peace?

– For the third week in a row we heard about that monkey and its typewriter in infinite time. At this rate, the monkey will have typed the play before we have finished the topic.

– Why do Christians and atheists so often confuse the origin of life with evolution, when the two are completely different? Mr B gave a rational (but unappreciated) reason. He says we often use the word ‘life’ when we mean ‘living things’. The two terms have different meanings. “You can find life a half mile deep under the ice in Antartica.”  See the problem with that sentence? Few people do.

– Do we determine a person’s nationality by their genes? By their acculturation? By their birth certificate? Or by their citizenship? Or by . . .what?

– The Child Sexual Abuse Redress Scheme. The idea is to give people who suffered sexual abuse in the “care” of a religious institution $150,000, counselling, and a letter of apology from the institution (if wanted). Should sexual abuse victims in jail for being paedophiles be excluded from the scheme?  Mr B said no, and put forth an idea for a scheme he thought was even better. (Hint: it wasn’t THAT good.)

– A sunken Russian warship was recently found. Supposedly it has in it $176 billion worth of gold bullion.
$176 BILLION?  Really??
$176b just to pay the salary and crew?  Really??
$176b on a ship that is in a war, and could be sunk?  Really??
The Korean salvage company that found the ship has only been listed on the Korean Stock Exchange a month, and has only $100,000 in its kitty. It’s funny how they found the vessel so quickly. Really??
In short, Mr B was suspicious.

9. If the creatures above are not unusual enough, here is a photograph of an extant creature in our Unusual Creature Series. It’s a golden-mantled tree kangaroo, and it has its own Facebook page.






News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 15th July.

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 16, 2018 at 9:18 am

“Tolerance is the only real test of civilizations.” 
Arthur Helps.

1. It’s not every day you turn 70, but today that happened to Uncle Pete. However, dear reader, he is not slowing down. He was vociferous as ever, and he didn’t hold back when a young woman bravely stood on The Ladder of Knowledge and spoke her mind. He “et her know clearly that he didn’t agree with what she was saying.

As it happened, that young woman did a great job, and her name is Maggie. Maggie spoke about attitudes and belief systems. She is writing her PhD on the subject and she wasn’t just interesting, she was inspiring. Yes, admittedly, Uncle Pete did disagree with something she said, but then, Uncle Pete sometimes disagrees with Mirko, so we can’t take him too seriously.

Here is Maggie up on the Ladder of Knowledge.

2. Mr B admitted that when he hears of women being raped, and reads about the high rate of domestic violence, he feels a little guilty about being male, even though logic tells him he shouldn’t feel that way.

If he sometimes feels that way, how many other men feel that way?

And why in almost every television situation comedy is the man of the house a boofhead? What message is that sending, and to whom?

Women are quite rightly speaking up about being harassed, but are men beginning to feel defensive? If so, can that partly explain the problems we are having when both men and women feel they aren’t being heard?

3. Other subjects discussed:
– Henry Dudeney’s Wheel Paradox.

– Last week, Mr B presented to his grasshoppers the infinite monkey theorem, and this week Uncle Pete responded. Laurence, our very own hermit crab, gave him a hard time.

– On the Ladder of Knowledge Mirko did a fine job of consistently contradicting himself. He does it purposely, of course, because he likes to play with our heads.

– Should women take responsibility for how vulnerable they make themselves to rape? Or should they insist on being able to do what they want, and demand that men act with honour?

– ‘The Last Leaf’ by O Henry. With a word of advice at the end.

– The Americans have been complaining that the Russians have been interfering with their elections for president. Mr B idly wondered if the Americans have ever interfered with the elections and governments of other nations. The response he received was unequivocal.

– Collective Consciousness. Usually it’s Albert that brings this topic up, but this time Mr B touched on it. With the help of his grasshoppers he listed the professions that were necessary in order to bring the 13 Thai boys from the caves. The point being: it was a joint effort of many professions, and as a species we really can work together when we choose to.

– Yesterday it was Wuthering Heights Day. In Sydney Park more than 300 participants dressed up as Kate Bush and sang the song. Mr B enjoyed the spectacle so much he felt the need to tell us all about it.

4. In our Unusual Animal Series we have a Mishmi Takin (a goat-antelope found in the Himalayas). This particular Mishmi Takin doesn’t know we have a Facebook page.




News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 8th July.

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 9, 2018 at 9:57 am

“When the eagles are silent the parrots begin to jabber.” 
Winston Churchill.

1. Last week this scribe suggested we ban dissent at Speakers’ Corner after poor Mr B had to endure tons of it. Mr B must have thought it was a good idea, because today he instituted the ban. He was tired of people disagreeing with him, so he banned dissent.

One grasshopper took the advice on board and agreed with that idea, fine fellow. (Though was that a smirk?) As for the rest of Mr B’s grasshoppers and garden gnomes, no one took any notice of the ban. For the rest of the day there was perpetual dissent. Sigh.

Your thoughtful scribe suggests that you share this meme on social media to ensure everyone is informed of the ban.

2. The Infinite Monkey Theorem. Do you remember the old chestnut about the monkey randomly tapping on a typewriter? That if you gave it an infinite amount of time it would eventually type a work of Shakespeare’s? Mr B suggested that would happen, given that a finite task must be completed when there is infinite time in which to perform it. “But if that is the reason”, he continued, “that would suggest two plays were possible, because that’s also a finite task. And so on. A whole library, even! Provided the number of books was finite, then the task would eventually be completed because there is infinite time in which to do it. Finite task with infinite time. True or false?”

As you would expect, Mr B’s brain-dead garden gnomes had trouble grappling with the idea. “The universe couldn’t exist for that long,” said one. “Waddaya mean by ‘time’?” asked another. Holy moly.

One thing is obvious: the monkey would have a better chance of writing a decent play than any of the hecklers.

Uncle Pete promises that next week he will explain why the monkey cannot complete the finite task in infinite time. Oh dear.

3. Do Androids dream of electric sheep? Today Mr B answered that question, first posed by writer Philip K Dick. However, Mr B “forgot” to acknowledge that he “borrowed” the answer from a radio play called ‘Ruby The Galactic Gumshoe‘.

4. Other topics discussed:
– Should we be judged on what we have done in our life, or on the person we have become?

– Idiot judges, who give an offender more time in jail because they ‘want to send a message’. And other idiot judges who say stupid things like, ‘The community should be ashamed.’

– Mr B made two requests:
(i) would the three idiot musketeers (the two Peters and Helmut) please develop some insight, so that they become aware of the forces behind their stupid bloody infuriating antics.
(ii) Would Helmut please speak elsewhere and take the two remaining idiot musketeers with him? And take with him Ben the Whisperer and any other dissastisfied garden gnome who feels compelled to interrupt poor Mr B?
(I don’t fancy his chances that they’ll comply with his request.)

– Mirko excelled himself today by being even more “unorthodox” than usual. If you have heard MIrko speak then you will realise that’s quite a feat.

– Ray, Steve and Helmut spoke as well, but this scribe doesn’t know what they said because he was too absorbed in what Mr B was saying.

– The story of the lemon tree.

5. These giant isopods feature in our unusual creature series. The one on the left recently unsubscribed from our Facebook page for reasons unclear. If you’re not a subscriber you can take its place.



News for Speakers’ Corner, Sunday 1st July

In News for Speakers' Corner on July 2, 2018 at 12:15 pm

“We are only vulnerable and ridiculous through our pretensions.”
Delphine de Girardin.

1. It was a beautiful winter’s day and Steve Maxwell looked resplendent. This thoughtless scribe didn’t think to take a photo, so you’ll just have to imagine Steve looking resplendent. When you’ve done that go on to the next line.

Steve spoke about the upcoming 4th July, Independence Day. He explained how the American revolution influenced Australia’s early history.

2. Today poor Mr B suffered from the antics of his garden gnomes. They were impatient and chattery, and rude even, and they kept inaccurately predicting what Mr B would say next. Worst of all, they were dissenting.

As a result, Mr B was grumpy and frustrated. Not a pretty sight.

Speaking of garden gnomes, here is a work of art by the artist Bill Barton.

3. Other subjects discussed:
– Uncle Pete spoke about education and was scathing of certain teaching methods. (He doesn’t have the highest respect for the subject, ‘Social Sciences’, either.) And, he was critical of David Gonski (a man hired to design education reforms and their funding).

– Mr B spoke about Australia’s low standard of living. He wasn’t referring to the normal meaning of the term; he was suggesting that many Australians have low standards in how they live their life. Eg. There is too much theft, he said, too much complacency, and too much selfishness, and too much complaining about trivial matters. We have to lift our standards, he said.

– If you were held down and injected with a drug that prompted you to kill someone, and then became well again the following day, should you go to jail for the crime? That question was easy enough for the grasshoppers to answer, but the questions then became harder. The line between who should go to jail and who shouldn’t became blurred.
Mr B gave us one of his wackiest ideas: a prison sentence could be cut short if a prisoner exhbited insight. He said each prisoner should write an essay explaining why what they did was wrong. If the letter wasn’t insightful enough they wouldn’t get early release.   Mr B received plenty of flak for that brain explosion!

– In courts, judges award longer sentences to people who show no remorse. Is that fair?

– Is banning plastic carry bags a good idea?

– Last week Peter the Younger spoke about global warming and this week Mr B responded. To do so he first explained how ice ages come about. (Hint: it has something to do with the changing tilt of the Earth as it revolves around the sun in an elliptical orbit.)

– Mirko again got up onto the Ladder of Knowledge and spoke about his ‘two polarity gravity field’, for goodness sake.

– Helmut enthralled passers-by with his talk of matter and energy.

– Ray remained near the kiosk and spoke about God. Two atheists turned up to give him a hard time.

– An audience member, Tim, has done his PhD on property rights and naturally wanted to talk about it. The poor fellow had to squeeze two hundred terrabytes of knowledge into ten minutes. He did well, and happily answered questions. Unfortunately, he had to deal with dissent as well. Perhaps we should ban dissent at Speakers’ Corner? Now there’s an idea!


4. During our unusual creature series, this amblypygi subscribed to our Facebook page. Why haven’t you?

5. Steve Maxwell  has given us another interesting episode of his Passing Parade.

Steve cleverly kept an article he found in a 1947 edition of ‘The Herald. (Presumably he didn’t keep it at the time of publication because he hadn’t yet been born.) That 1947 article is reproduced below. Steve adds a postscript at the end.

“But Quiet Flows the Yarra”  The Herald, 7th January 1947.
(The title of the article is a reference to “And Quiet Flows the Don”; a popular epic novel of 1940’s by Russian author Nikhail Alexandrovich Sholokhov (1905-1984).)

The little man in the bowler hat and the butterfly collar waved his umbrella and flickered his way through the crowd. He couldn’t stand it any longer. “It’s a dirty lie,” he shouted. Then he jabbed his umbrella at the speaker. But he had lost his coherence in his age so he just stood there, wavering on the verge of a stroke.

The speaker hardly flinched. He has been treated with umbrellas regularly, every Sunday afternoon for close on 50 years. The little man was an Irishman, you could tell from his brogue. He had obviously never been to the Yarra Bank before, otherwise he would have known that “ Chummy” Fleming has been saying those same old things about Archbishop Mannix and the Pope for decades.

Yes “Chummy” is still dishing it out from the same old rock platform, under the same old elm under the same red banner proclaiming ANARCHY to the four winds. The incident I have just described took place last Sunday. (January 1947)

At 84, he can still draw the crowds at Melbourne’s most famous Sunday institution, but can’t hold them like he could in the days,  when he often paid for his anti-church and anti-government prejudices with a week-day term in gaol.

Yet there is still a flicker of the old “Chummy” left. I found on Sunday that it doesn’t pay to move on too quickly when he takes the hat round at the end of his “address”. Regulars of the Speakers’ Forum say “Chummy” is the master renters. They told me on Sunday that two speakers, the Man in Mortar Board (who stuck it on with sticking plaster on windy days), and Luke the evangelist, have passed on.

Nevertheless, big crowds are still flocking to the Bank of Melbourne’s best free show. New apostles and new ‘isms have place, and the old chemist with the stethoscope dangling around his collar, who dispenses free medical advice and answers questions on the prostate gland, is still going strong.

Luke’s mantle has fallen on Dave, an evangelist who has no teeth and no singing voice. A badge in his lapel announces that “JESUS LOVE ME.” and like Luke, he has to put up with the members of the audience who persist in reciting his sermon in unison with him.

Joe Williams was thundering away at the Communists across the way.

Joe a former boxing teacher, who is a master of invective, is the greatest entertainment draw these days. He can hurl abuse for hours on end, keeping up swithering fire at neighbouring speakers all the while.

Joe seems to devote himself entirely to attacks on communism. He opens with a tirade against the crowd around Communist Party rostrum. On the next pitch he launches into a very home-made dissertation on dialectical materialism and he ends with a venomous attack on Stalin.

One raucous-voiced interjector was getting the better of Joe for a time on Sunday, so Joe stopped and let him go. “You know,” said Joe. leaning forward confidentially when he finished, ‘I think you could learn to love me if only you tried.’

Joe had his audience with him again in a flash. He challenged other interrupters to come up and have it out. They never do.  Joe is an ex-boxing instructor and looks it.

Under the elm tree, on the other side of the Communist platform, also hurling abuse at their speakers and Joe, was A.G, Payne. Payne calls himself a university lecturer, mainly because students invited him up to address them at a lunch-time meeting last year. He always carries the copy of the University newspaper Farrago, which reported his address for the benefit of sceptics.

‘Don’t interrupt a scholar and a gentleman -you’re a low-down monstrosity, you’re a miserable skunk,’ is his favourite method of dealing with persistent hecklers.

Behind Payne’s pitch, strung up on the railway fence, is a banner announcing ‘Socialist Labour Party – Revolutionary political action backed by scientific industrial organisation.’ beneath it, addressing the wind, is a short middle-aged women in a wide brimmed hat stuck in place with an enormous hatpin. She speaks with closed eyes but her high pitched voice rings monotonously on. A regular told me that, only three or four ever meet around her. As he was telling, Casey dropped over to interrupt her. Casey, apparently, is the Yarra Bank’s best-known interjector. He spends a brief period at each pitch Sunday after Sunday. Usually he takes up his stand on the rockery alongside the speaker, asking questions on subjects ranging from the existence of the devil to the A plus B theorem of Douglas Credit. Casey keeps it up until one or the other speakers suggests he tell the crowd why he left the Salvation Army. He likes that. That gives him the floor.

But not all the speakers are eccentrics. The Yarra bank started after the maritime strikes of the 1890’s. Militant unionists chose the Melbourne docks opposite the Yarra Bank to establish an outdoor speaker’s forum from which they attack the Government of Victoria. When the strikes ended trade unionists relocated the Speaker’s Forum on the open ground of Yarra Bank. It soon became the traditional rallying grounds for May Day and a regular Sunday forum.

Tom Man, the English strike leader and politician, spoke there as did Ramsay MacDonald, the future British Prime Minister.

The biggest crowd that assembled there, over 100,000 people, was during the ant-conscription rallies of World War One. Labor leader Mr. Secuillin MHR. Frank Brennan, Maurice Blackburn, E J Holloway John Cain and John Curtin Australian Pre-minister, all developed their oratory skills on the Yarra Bank. Best of the Communism speakers was the veteran D.G. O’Day. He attracted a regular crowed of 500.

Dominican Catholic priest Fr. Vincent Ryan held a large meeting on the Catholic Evidence Guild. He was an impressive sight, dressed in medieval robes. He only paused from time to time from his mission to preach faith and morals to drink lemonade.

A small number of vendors did a steady trade in ice-cream and lemonade. Only one vender who did before WW2 is remembered: The Peanut King was a Melbourne eccentric who dispensed his wares resplendent in top hat and frock coat.

Postscript from Steve Maxwell:

Unlike the 24 hours news and views we are so used to in this time of instant information the orators of Melbourne were governed by the setting sun.

Dave was chanting to one of his own hymns as the sun set. Joes’ and Payne’s audiences had split up into small circles arguing on their own. How can you call our Sunday dull when you had the Yarra Bank, less then five minutes from Flinders St Station, any Sabbath afternoon?

Like the wandering Jew, Yarra Bank soapboxers were cast out of the Speaker’s Corner, not by a sudden attack but due to a slow decline in attendance and the onset of modernity. Black and white television was introduced to Melbourne on the 4th of November 1956, only 18 days before the Melbourne Olympic Games. The Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies gave an opening speech. In 1957 the final quarter of the Australian Rules Football was televised.

By 1960 most people in Melbourne had access to television. It was a game changer. Newspaper, radio and the soapboxers were challenged by the new media much as the internet is a challenge nowadays. The city grew and the population dispersed into suburbia.

The Yarra River’s south bank was the site of regular Sunday-afternoon speakers and meetings. The first May Day celebration Melbourne began on May1st 1892. It was lead by the anarchist Chummy Fleming. May day processions would begin at Trades hall and ended at the Yarra Bank Speakers’ Corner where unionists would set up for public speeches.  He started marching 30 minutes before the official march and waited for the main march to catch up with him. He passed away in the mid 1950’s.

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