I wonder who made the dress?
The marriage took place at the home of Donald Campbell in early April 1858 near Marong, then a tiny Central Victorian town with some built structures and some canvas dwellings. I imagine the Autumnal weather would have been cool, but not yet cold and was perhaps timed to coincide with other goings on at the homestead. Sheep farming was most probably the dominate industry when the homestead was built, but now there was gold and changes must have been rapid. Maggie was 20 and her new husband Richard Larritt, the local Surveyor 35.
Donald Campbell's wife was Maggie's maternal aunt and it is almost certain she would have been the main organising force behind the wedding. Would there have been dress fabric from Scotland? Perhaps Maggie's mother sent fabric and lace? How did Maggie celebrate in this new country where she would build her home? How much did she feel the need to have physical items from Scotland to accompany her ideas of what it meant to be a bride? The dress would have been made by hand, as would everything for her trousseau. Was the white dress in vogue yet? Did Maggie do this sewing work or was there another dress maker? Perhaps Maggie and her Aunt were sewing for months beforehand? Although it is also likely that Maggie brought a lot of trousseau items with her from Scotland.
I haven't been able to work out exactly when Maggie Larritt (nee Ferguson) arrived in Australia, but she was born to Scottish parents in Ireland. Her father was in the Military and had died at the time she married. I am unsure if she was in Australia just prior to or a long time before her marriage.
Maggie and her Aunt needed to be practical and would be working as women did to ensure Maggie and Richard had a comfortable home. Thinking about Colonial Australia more generally, this women's role that ensured some comforts of home is to be celebrated. It is not something that was recorded in any formal way.
Meanwhile there was possibly also an indigenous woman working in the house, supporting the daily functions of these women who wore such large skirts. Would an indigenous maid have been paid for her labour? How would she have viewed the white fella rituals of marriage? I haven't found any record of this domestic help or of who worked for Maggie after the marriage when she lived at Dudley House. I can assume Maggie almost certainly had a maid and that maid could also have been indigenous.
The time of Maggie's marriage would have been one of great joy, yet as with all migrant stories there must have also been great homesickness. The details such as the question of who made Maggie's dress are lost to our modern interpretations of her story, but the certainty that she felt little connection to the local land is something I feel safe I can assume.
Save the Date, exhibition 'Mrs Larritt in Upsidedown Country' opening Saturday 17th November 2018 at Dudley House, View St Bendigo.
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Visual artist, drawing advocate, and mother of two red headed teenage boys.