Doing their share

Mary Lou Byrne, 19 July 2012 · # ·

Top row: Joan Warford, Thora Wood. Second row: Amy Bice, J. O’Neill, Gladys Mitchell, Beatrice Edmunds, Dorrie Ward. Bottom row: Eileen Neill, Edith Dickinson, Gladys Fiminster, Gertrude Edmunds. Centre: Meta Hayter (Mrs. Bennett-White).

At the outbreak of war, residents threw themselves – says “Jack” Carroll – “into whatever way they were best able to do their share.”

The forbears of some of them had served in the Crimean War and the much smaller Sudan War. Some had themselves served in the Boer War and the Boxer Rebellion, but all realised that this new conflict was of a totally different nature and that the attainment of victory would be a long and arduous job.

Some 1,140 of the younger residents voluntarily enlisted for Service overseas. The Mosman Red Cross was outstanding, so much so that their leader was honoured with an M.B.E. decoration. So too, was Mrs. Bennett White (Meta Hayter), organiser of a Concert Troupe of young girls to be known as “The Cheer-ohs”. This band of versatile entertainers in the four years of War and eight years afterwards, raised no less than a sum of £55,000 for the various patriotic and repatriation funds…

Carroll, Jack & Mosman Historical Society 1953, The settlement and growth of Mosman, Mosman Historical Society, Sydney

Mosman’s Cheer-oh Girls entertained with their revues and concerts in military camps and hospitals.

During the four years of World War 1 they travelled to other parts of Australia to perform and their popularity spread with even a visit to New Zealand.

In 1918 they were booked by the Mosman-Neutral Bay Rifle Club for a fundraiser for a Rifle Club cottage for a returned soldier –

…with so heavy a booking for the entertainment, that it required a second show to be organised… This particular Cottage was completed in the 1918/19 year and officially opened by the Captain, A.D. Walker. It was handed over to a Mrs Lester, the widow of an A.I.F. man.1

In early 1921 arrangements were made for another Cheer-oh concert to raise funds for an Honour Board and for Club Funds.

Mosman-Neutral Bay Rifle Club, Grand Revue by the Cheer-oh Girls, 1921

Formed by Meta Hayter (Mrs Bennett-White), they continued to perform eight years after the war fundraising for the Red Cross and various charitable bodies including the patriotic and repatriation funds. They “contributed excellent programmes and too high praise cannot be rendered to those ladies who worked with the fullest enthusiasm wherever their help could be availed of.”2

Another group of entertainers that were mentioned for fund raising concerts were the Sunshine Girls and the Merrymakers, pictured below, who were active from 1915—1919.

Back row (L-R): Enid Hirst (Mrs Moors), Yvonne Anrousseau, Dorothy Nall, Nora Connolly, Olive Clarke, Kathleen Waddington. Front row: Queenie Clarke, Kathleen North, Eileen North, Doris North (Mrs Ken Donaldson) organiser, Saidee North.

1 Mosman-Neutral Bay Rifle Club. Club Chronology 1915-1920. Sydney, 2004

2 Ibid.


Steve Flora · 12 February 2014 · #

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Great work on the “Cheer-oh Girls” … just wanted to share this review for one of their performances that I recently ran across:

THE MUSWELLBROOK CHRONICLE (NSW) Saturday 6 October 1917, P. 2
THECHEER-OH” GIRLS. “On Tuesday night, the 2nd inst., famous “Cheer-oh” Girls visited Denman and gave a most attractive and interesting concert at Day’s Hall, in aid of the War Chest Fund. The artists, seven in all, under the leadership of Mrs. Bennett White, are to be highly complimented on their efforts and for their patriotism, as they have to date raised about £2,500 towards patriotic funds. The rain-storm interfered greatly with the attendance here, but all the locals turned out, and the takings were about-£20. Mr. F. J. Lynch (Woburn, Denman), on behalf of the War Chest Committee, in a few appropriate words thanked the “Cheer-oh Girls” for coming to Denman to give the entertainment, and on behalf of the audience thanked and complimented them on their splendid programme. The “Critic’s” opinion of the show is as follows: Mrs. Bennett White, a “hit”; Miss Dorrie Ward, a “star”; Mrs. Victor Morse, “bird”; Miss Jack Neil, a “catch”; Miss Gertrude Edmonds a “hicll-hoy”; Miss Beatrice Edmonds a “yacka-hoola” and Miss Edith Dickerson a “trick.” In fact they are a very good combination of artists.”

I am particularly interested in Beatrice and Gertrude Edmonds (both shown in the “Cheer Oh Girls” photo. Would be very interested if anyone knows anything further regarding their time in Sydney during WWI (they both wound up marrying British military types in 1920 and moved to the UK). Thanks,
Steve Flora

Bern · 13 February 2014 · #

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Thanks Steve. We’ll post your question on our Facebook page too.

Steve Flora · 18 February 2019 · #

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Hello, please note that Gertrude, Beatrice and Irene Edmonds last name was “Edmonds” and not “Edmunds” as is noted in the caption to the Cheer Ohs photo above. Also, some might find this biography of Beatrice Edmonds (nee Fripp) Jauncey interesting.