Tag Archives: debutante balls

THIS WRITING LIFE: Frocking Up & Other Fun

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Cos I’m a proud auntie and because we like a good frock-up here on the blog, I thought you might like to see some of the action from my gorgeous niece’s debutante ball, held recently in my home town of Mount Gambier.

But first, some adventures from the trip south…

We took a bit of detour off the Hume Highway to Holbrook, whose famous submarine, the HMAS Otway, had been yarnbombed and transformed into a true yellow submarine. Doesn’t that make you smile? Even on a gloomy day it’s bright and happy. Holbrook’s a great place to break your drive along the Hume. Call in, if you get the chance.

HMAS Otway covered in yellow crochet squaresAs you can see, the weather wasn’t much chop. Even the poor old Dog on the Tuckerbox at Gundagai looked miserable.

A wet Dog on the Tuckerbox at GundagaiLeading up to the big night, I did a some talks at Ballarat Library, Wiridjil Hall and Warrnambool Library – all fabulous events that I enjoyed hugely. But I’d like to give a special shout out to the wonderful people at Wiridjil, a tiny place a little inland from the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. We had the BEST time. Thanks to Margaret and Terry for asking me to come and for organising the event. And thanks to all the people who turned up on such a blustery cold day. It was such a delight to meet and talk with you. We sure warmed that hall up!

Here’s me with fans Cheryl, Kristen and little Harley. As you can see, there were lots of smiles!

Me with fans Cheryl and Kristen at Wiridjil HallJim and I arrived early, so to kill some time we drove down for a look at the Twelve Apostles. Oh boy, was it windy. Good thing there was solid railing or I might never have made it to the talk.

Cathryn at the 12 Apostles, VictoriaAfter the talk and a delicious morning tea, we did a bit of cheese tasting and buying on the way to Warrnambool (as you do). Delicious it was too! But how’s this for a bit of dairy humour at Apostle Whey Cheese. Loved it.

A Loch Ness Cow at Apostle Whey CheeseWith my talks done and a day or so to spare, it was time for a bit of R&R at the old whaling station of Port Fairy. We stayed in the most amazing historic cottage at Seacombe House. Open fire, four-poster bed, massive bathroom with spa and the acclaimed Stag Restaurant almost at the door. Sigh. T’was very romantic. Going to do it again.

Also snuck in some golf at the Port Fairy Golf Links. As you can see, it was a tad nippy. That’s a fleece beanie and fleece ear-warmers, not to mention about five layers of clothing, that I’m wearing in this photo. At least the sun is out at that point. When we teed off the rain was sleeting sideways at us. Urk.

Playing Golf at Port Fairy Golf LinksThen it was on to Mount Gambier and an old-fashioned frock-up!

Hundreds of proud mums, dads, relatives and friends packed the Barn Palais to watch twelve girls make their debut on what was a typical winter night in the lower south-east of SA. In other words, cold, wet and miserable. But it was warm, happy and buzzing inside, and that’s what counts.

Before the ball itself we had some entertainment…

The Blue Lake Highland Pipe Band!

Pipe BandHighland dancers!

Highland dancersAnd fairies! I’d show you a snap but they moved too quick for the camera.

Then the big moment when the girls were presented one by one to the Mayor and Lady Mayoress, complete with super-cute flower girls traipsing behind. All the debs and their partners looked stunning. But none more so than my niece Megan. Must take after her auntie (hee!)

Here she is about to be presented. The Dress Stewart sash and brooch Megan is wearing is the same as I wore for my debut back in 1985.

Megan about to be presented

Doing her debutante dance with partner Mitchell…

Debutante danceAnd here’s me with Megan. Yes, she’s very tall and I’m short…

Me and my beautiful niece Megan

And here are all the debs, their partners and flower girls looking beautiful.

All the debutantesAfter a good time was had by all in Mt Gambier (where I whupped my dad’s butt on the golf course) it was off to Melbourne for more R&R and to see the Italian Masterpieces exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria.

On the way, we ducked into Dartmoor to visit the Memorial Streetscape, which are carvings made from the stumps of a section of the town’s cedar tree Avenue of Honour. A lovely local lady was kind enough to come out into the cold and give us a brochure explaining all the carvings. Wonderful. Very much worth the detour.

Dartmoor Memorial StreetscapeThe Italian Masterpieces exhibition was spectacular, as were these bears in Federation Court by Italian artist Paola Pivi. The installation is called You started it…I finish it. I’m not sure what it all means but aren’t they happy things? So much fun!

Red bear at the NGVBears at the NGV

And because I’m a romance writer and these things appeal to me, here’s a photo of all the locks on the Yarra footbridge at Southbank in Melbourne. Lovers clip the engraved locks to the footbridge’s wire rail and throw the key into the Yarra River as a sign of eternal love. Awww.

Locks on Yarra footbridge, Southbank, MelbourneSo ended our mini-break. Since our return home it’s been settling back into routine and full steam ahead on my next romantic adventure.

After all, gotta keep these books a-coming!

NIGHTS IN WHITE SATIN: Rural Romance Authors Come Out!

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And come out we did, but perhaps not in the way you’re thinking…

A few weeks ago I posted an update to Facebook where I mentioned that my gorgeous niece About to make my debut at the 1985 Highland Debutante Ball in Mount Gambierwould be making her debut soon. With it I attached of photo of me on my big day and asked if anyone else had made their debut. The update was hugely popular, with readers posting photos and stories from their own debutante balls.

Which then caused fellow rural romance author Karly Lane to state what a cool blog post this would make. I then emailed a heap of rural romance authors, asking who had made their debut and would be willing to go public with memories and photographs. Karly, Jenn J McLeod and Tricia Stringer answered the call. Margareta Osborn did too, but sadly her photos have gone walkabout.

Now, in case you haven’t the faintest idea what a debutante ball is, let me explain…

It’s an old-fashioned event, dating from the times when young, usually aristocratic ladies “came out” to society. In other words, they were fair game for marriage. Modern Australian debutante balls are rather more egalitarian and, I suspect, a lot more fun. They’re group affairs, where everyone frocks-up, gets presented to a local VIP, has a bit of a dance, and mums ‘n dads and family and friends all stand around with their chests puffed out.

As for what they mean… I don’t know. I suspect the event’s paternalistic symbolism has long passed – certainly it had for me! – and now coming out as a debutante holds no more meaning than a first school formal. What it is though, for those that did it, is a wonderful night, forever cemented in memory.

So here we are, in all our white-frocked, innocent glory. Enjoy!


Portrait - croppedI made my debut in 1985 at the Mount Gambier Highland Debutante Ball, coming out to the mayor Mr McDonnell and member for Mount Gambier, Harold Alison, with my partner David Earl (who I had a SHOCKING crush on – oh, the agony!).

It was fabulous, teenage crush agony and all! Being 1985, everything Lady Di was the rage and I wore a suitably puffy, blindingly white dress made my by clever Auntie Merna. Because it was the Highland Ball, we wore sashes. Mine was dress Stewart tartan held in place with a silver and topaz brooch, both of which were Mum’s. I think from when she played bagpipes in the Blue Lake pipe band and which I also think she wore at her debut. It’s terrible that I can’t recall. Sadly, neither can Mum now with Alzheimer’s having stolen her memories.

There were fifteen in my debut group, many school mates and good friends, and deb chatter kept us occupied for weeks. As did rehearsals. I can’t remember how long they went for but it was at least a few months. You, and your partner, had to be dedicated to do the ball.

Dancing at my debut

It’s a while ago, but I was sick with nerves, terrified I’d trip over or wobble on my curtsey or completely forget how to dance the Pride of Erin. But it all went smoothly and everyone had a ball.

It was the best fun, worth all the rehearsals and frock worries. I felt like a princess!


How to bring a halt to a productive writing day! There I was madly writing, ok so I took a small break and went on Facebook…anyway, it was there that I came across Cathryn’s debut post and when I answered the call for fellow debutantes to raise their hands, I ended up getting side-tracked while going through old photo albums to find some happy snaps of my Karly Lane in her debut dressown big night.

I have to admit, I was not that keen on making my debut initially, despite the fact I’d grown up hearing about my mother’s debut, where, as the story goes, she and her best friend poured through the school year book to pick out who they were going to ask to partner them, kinda like ordering from a catalogue! The boy she chose, initially turned her down, and then when he told his mother he’d been asked to partner someone in the debut, his mother MADE HIM go back and accept! That boy turned out to be the man who became my dad! So I always knew it was a big deal for my mum, but I was surprised to discover that it was also a huge deal amongst my class mates in Parkes, where I went to high school, located in central west NSW. In fact, it turned out to be a really big deal. My grandparents even travelled out to Parkes to be there, as well as other family so I was feeling pretty special on the big night.

I do remember that choosing the dress was quite stressful… all the tantrums, tears and pouting…and that was just from my mother! However, we all somehow managed to survive and I ended up with a gorgeous dress.

Karly adjustedBut now, as a mother of teenagers, I do think back and feel a bit bad. I can’t remember how long we had to practice for, it felt like months. Every week we’d turn up to the local leagues club and head upstairs to get ordered around the room by a pair of cranky old ducks, (I said I felt bad about it now!)  These poor women selflessly sacrificed their time year after year to create these elaborate events, putting up with a bunch of whiny, hormonal teenagers who I’m sure tested their patience to the limit ninety-nine percent of the time. And yet, they somehow managed to turn all those sullen, uncoordinated teens into the epitome of grace and elegance. To those women, I’m really sorry for any eye rolling I may or may not have done at rehearsal.

Looking back, I realise I didn’t appreciate the tradition and history behind the event at the time, but I’m very glad that I did it just the same.

Poppys Dilemma - tinyKarly’s latest rural story is Poppy’s Dilemma, available right now from your favourite bookstore. For instant book gratification, try Booktopia, Bookworld, Amazon, Google PlayiBooks, JB Hi-Fi and Kobo.


The Accidental Debutante

jenn collage

Presentation of Debutantes


Police Commissioner’s Ball 1976


His Excellency the Governor of NSW

Sir Roden Cutler.

I think I was supposed to be 18 but… they were a girl short and I was tall and because Dad (as a member of the Police Band) was the pianist, I stepped in at the last minute.

The trouble was, however, at 16 I was so tall they needed to source an extra tall trainee constable to be my partner.

In final rehearsals we were all told not to put too much pressure on Sir Roden’s hand in case we toppled him on his wooden leg! That put the fear of God into me, so it was a very wonky five-second curtsey while he spoke to me about my dad and what a very good musician he was.

Proud daughter, proud dad that night. (And Mum looking very Harlequin in that dress!)

Debut mum and dad - adjusted

Simmering Season cover - tinyThe second in Jenn’s Seasons Collection, Simmering Season, is out now. Grab your copy from Booktopia, Bookworld, Amazon, Google Play. iBooks, JB Hi-Fi and Kobo.


Deb Ball Tumby Bay 1973


Mum made my beautiful dress which I loved. Went to hair dresser for the bouffy hair do. At the time I felt very grown up. I was away at boarding school so didn’t get to attend many practices.

tricia collageOn the night we were all so nervous, would we trip coming down the stairs, would we fall on our face making the curtsy? We bumbled around the floor doing the Queen’s Waltz – an elegant dance that we didn’t do justice to. My partner, Daryl was the love of my life, still is, we’ve been together ever since.


right-as-rain - tinyTricia’s most recent release is the rural romance, Right As Rain. Available right now from your favourite bookseller, or online via Booktopia, Amazon, Google PlayiBooks, JB Hi-FiKobo or direct from the publisher, Harlequin.


I hope you enjoyed this frocked-up trip down memory lane. We sure did!

And we’d also love to hear your debutante ball memories. Please feel free to share along with us.