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Biography: The Cavanaghs
Oral History: Clubs, Sports

Leisure: Sports for All

Early Dunedin was noted for its four 'eights': eight hours to work, eight hours to play, eight hours to sleep and eight shillings a day. This definition of work and leisure was especially true of 'the Flat' and its male workers.

Women found it harder to divide up their time and justify leisure activities. The demands of running households and caring for children did not stop at five o'clock. Nor were sports seen as appropriate behaviour for females. But definitions of femininity changed remarkably between 1890 and 1940.

Caledonian GroundsThe men of southern Dunedin enjoyed many opportunities for communal leisure. Some of Dunedin's main sports fields - the Oval, the Caledonian, Carisbrook, Forbury Raceway, Tahuna Park - could be found within the area. Southern men worked hard and they expected to play hard as well. They believed they had earned their leisure time. In the 1890s they developed a host of clubs and societies to help them make the most of it. An undated athletics festival at the 'Cale' (pronounced Cally) is shown in this photograph. Cycle races, athletic contests, soccer matches and the Highland games at New Year were all held here. In 2000 the Caledonian Grounds were relocated to new facilities built on Logan Park after its South Dunedin site was sold to 'The Warehouse' chain store by the Dunedin City Council. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Lawn TennisThe physical health of young women came to be seen as vital for their future as child-bearers. Changes in fashion made it easier for women to participate in athletic activities. Girls' hockey and basketball (netball) became popular in the schools and sports competitions were organised for the young women working in town. By the 1930s women's sports were thriving. The girls had claimed their space on the sports fields of South Dunedin as shown by this cartoon from the Sketcherof May, 1905. (Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

Beach picnicAlcohol accompanied nearly all of men's recreational activities in the 1890s. Drinking helped break down barriers and added to the conviviality of these exclusive male environments. Taming these male pleasures was a key aim of the women's movement. They had some success. Alcohol consumption declined significantly and from 1917 pubs closed at 6 o'clock. Recreation became more tied to the family by the 1930s. Picnics, excursions and holidays became highly popular leisure activities that could include the whole family. (An unidentified family picnics at St Clair beach. Otago Witness 1927 Christmas Annual, Otago Settlers Museum Collection)

CavanaghsSports clubs proliferated on 'the Flat' in the early twentieth century. There were clubs for gymnastics, harriers, cricket, soccer and bowling, lawn tennis, golf, croquet, surf life saving and trotting. Fierce suburban rivalries found expression in the struggles of Dunedin's rugby clubs, with some of the toughest battles between Southern and University. In the 1930s when 'Old Vic' Cavanagh (left) coached 'Varsity' and 'Young Vic' Cavanagh (right) coached Southern, crowds of 10,000 to 15,000 would attend the games. (Cavanagh Family Photograph, 1936)

Rugby MatchRugby appealed to males of all backgrounds (the Rugby Union tried to encourage women to attend in the 1920s by offering free admission to club games and building toilets for them). Carisbrook, the home of Otago rugby, probably during the 1930 test between British Isles and the All Blacks. The Hillside workshops are in the background. (Hocken Library - Uare Taoka O Hakena, University of Otago)

Marching teamsWomen's marching teams - a distinctly Australasian phenomena, was a popular sporting activity for many young Southern Dunedin women. Here the team from Mackintosh Caley Phoenix Limited leads the competition march-past followed by the team from the Wax Vesta Match Company. (Mid 1930s, photograph Mrs Hilda Mayer)


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