Our Stories

Market Gardener's Picnic

The Market Gardeners of Melbourne and their families looked forward to the Annual Picnic. It was one of the few days that work ceased on their properties. The other days the god fearing people ceased work was on a Sunday so that they could attend church to worship their God with other members of the community.

Picnic were held at a number of different sites over the years, the first being held in 1884 at Lilydale and continued for over 50 years until the late 1930’s, its demise owing to the commencement of World War II.

In 1888 the picnic was held at Sorrento and was aptly reported in the Brighton Southern Cross, Saturday 18 February 1899, on page 2.



The market gardener’s and fruit growers’ sixteenth annual picnic was held last Monday, and proved to be one of the most successful that has yet taken place. This picnic is more popular than any other held on the Bay, and “Hygeia” tickets were all sold out in a week after issue, necessitating arrangements being made for the conveyance of excursionists by the Ozone. The Hygeia was charted to take 1,600, and over 800 purchased Ozone tickets before their sale was stopped on Wednesday prior to the picnic. The Ozone proprietary report that about 300 persons bought tickets at the ordinary rate in order to attend the picnic and participate in the benefits which are not available, on the ordinary trips. Special trains conveyed the greater number of picnickers from Ringwood, Mordialloc, and stations en route, and at a few minutes past 9:am. The Hygeia cast off her moorings, glided out into the Bay, and was soon swiftly racing along on her journey. The Brighton Brass Band played lively nautical airs, and everyone looked forward to having a good time. After a general run round the ship, in the course of which old acquaintances were renewed and many new ones made, some congenial amusement claimed the attention of the excursionists, in the pursuit of which the time passed all too quickly. the nautical airs of the band gave way to lively quadrilles, dreamy waltzes, &c., and many of the younger folk entered into the spirit of the amusement with a vigour and heartiness that threatened to annihilate the unfortunate musicians.

An enterprising side-showman started a game of quoits at a convenient spot in the bow of the boat and did a thriving trade. A crowd of youthful enthusiasts surrounded him and mercilessly chaffed the champions who were taken down by an occasional “dark horse”. In the saloon a number of vocalists gathered round the piano and supplied an impromptu programme of songs which lasted throughout the trip. those not engaged as indicated were to be found in different places – some on deck, reading or gossiping; some in the saloon playing cards, whilst others found relaxation in promenading the deck, drinking in the pure ozone, taking observations of some passing vessel, or admiring the beauties of the receding foreshore and the broad stretch of rippling shining water. The pleasures of the trip were not marred by even the faintest suspicion of sea-sickness. Sorrento was reached at about noon and the merry makers streamed up the pier to the park or the Back Beach. Here well-stocked baskets were brought into requisition and a vigorous attack made on their contents. At about 1 p.p., the Ozone arrived after a pleasant run via Queenscliff and her passengers having landed arrangements were made for the afternoon’s enjoyment. Those immediately interested in the races adjourned to the sports enclosure, where the track had been carefully prepared and an interesting programme of events was gone through. The great number preferred the shadier spots in the park, at the Back Beach or in the dancing pavilion. To the Back Beach is a pleasant ride on the tram, but many of those who took the waggonettes as a means of transit complained of the uneven state of the white dusty road and the apparent lack of springs in the vehicles, while not a few of the gentler sex lamented on the absence of coverings and the consequent damage to carefully preserved – we nearly wrote prepared – complexions. In the park eager photographers flew from group to group, snapping one here and another there.

After a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon had been spent in admiring the beauty spots around Sorento, dancing, and other modes of flirting, a warning whistle from the Ozone brought her complement of tired passengers trooping on board, and at 5 p.m. she had started on the return journey. A short hour afterwards the Hygeia also got under way and a pleasant trip up the Bay was made in the cool of the evening, Port Melbourne being reached at about 9 p.m.

Further Reading

Market Gardeners’ Picnic  https://localhistory.kingston.vic.gov.au/articles/213