On the 27th August 1881 a football match took place at the East Melbourne Cricket Ground. The names or nick names of some of the players included, Alcibiades Rataplan, Madame Angot, King Arthur, the Artful Dodger, Macuasquebaugh, Dick Deadeye, Victor the Wrestler, Sparadrap, and a certain Ned Kelly. The players were adorned in elaborate costumes, which according to one observer, ‘tumbled about in the runs, rallies, and rushes like the bits of glass in a kaleidoscope’. The players dressed in characters familiar from ‘opera, tragedy, comedy, farce and pantomime were banded together in strange juxtaposition’, like the ‘silent figures of the Waxworks exhibition’.

Costume Football Match

Costume Football Match, Australasian Sketcher, 10 September, 1881. A/S10/09/81/289

This highly theatrical and bohemian flavoured football match was organised to raise funds for the widow and young family of the late Marcus Clarke, who had recently died. The two contesting ‘teams’ were made up of employees of the Melbourne Opera House  and other theatres in Melbourne. The funds raised from the match came to just over £74.00, a sum of more than $10,000 in today’s money. A handy sum for Mrs Marion Clarke. The result of this match was six goals to one in favour of the Opera House employees. Perhaps they were aided by the greater familiarity with one another’s styles of movement and athletic capacities compared to the more disparate team from the various other theatres.

Marcus Clarke at 20
Marcus Clarke at 20; 1866, H28050/54a

Marion Clarke photo

Marian Dunne – Mrs Marcus Clark,  1870. H2007.44/8

The wonderful illustration in the Australasian Sketcher of this event is a very evocative symbol of the tradition of the arts and sports communities combining for charitable causes. This tradition can be found in other examples from the 19th century through to today with events like the Reclink Community Cup an annual football match between the Rockdogs (Melbourne musicians) and the Megahertz (Community radio presenters and staff).

Costume footy match 1894

The Dramatic Costume Football match, 1894. IAN01/08/94/3

This article has 1 comment

  1. What a great post! Certainly they wouldn’t need numbers on their backs.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *