Mum first took me on a merry-go-round on Clacton Pier when I was just a little girl. We always went to Clacton to visit my grandparents during the summer holidays and we usually had a visit to the pier while we were there.
We never went on a lot of rides, we were probably too young for some of them and probably mum did not have enough money for us to ride on everything but we always did the merry-go-round and I have liked them ever since.
Technically a carousel is a ride that only features horses while the ones with other types of animals or vehicles are Merry-Go-Rounds but I have not heard anyone use the term Merry-Go-Round in years.
The traditional fairground rides like carousels are not around as much these days. Not exciting enough for Millennials I suppose but there are several still operating in Australia.
We used to have a nice one in Hobart, it is called “The Gallopers” and was built in 1882. During the summer it would be brought to Hobart and erected on the waterfront for a few days after Christmas. I’d usually go for a ride and take some photos when I came to Hobart to photograph the Sydney Hobart race yachts. It hasn’t appeared for a couple of years and I had heard it was to be set up in the Botanical Gardens however, that scheme did not go ahead.
Late last year I heard that the carousel was to be sold at auction and now I have no idea where it is.
I think it a great shame it was not retained to be enjoyed by the people of Hobart and visitors.
You can read a post I wrote about carousels a couple of years ago here
I think that I have liked Carousels and Merry Go Rounds since mum first put me on one on Clacton Pier when I was around four or five years old.
However, as far as I can remember I’ve never ridden on a carousel horse because I always feel a little uncomfortable about climbing onto and balancing on a horse when it is moving because of my fear of falling.
I read that the difference between a carousel and a merry-go-round is that a merry-go-round has a variety of animals and vehicles while a true carousel has only horses. Most people seem to use the terms interchangeably though.
There are a few carousels still operating in Australia. I have seen a few of them but not all. I hope to rectify that one day. I love the colourful horses, the artwork on the carousel itself and I especially like the ones that are still steam-driven. Sometimes the operator will also have a steam-powered organ as well. The following photos are mine except where credited otherwise.
Hobart is the home of “The Gallopers” a carousel built in 1882 in Norfolk, England and brought to Australia in 1990 virtually as a wreck. It was restored in Kingston, Tasmania and I first made its acquaintance on the Hobart waterfront where it was a regular visitor to summer events. It spends most of its time now at the Botanical Gardens but I was able to photograph it on the waterfront recently during the Tall Ships Festival. The portraits on the upper part of the carousel are of famous people including Australian Prime Ministers. I must say that it gave me a bit of a turn to encounter Paul Keating as well as Malcolm Fraser and Robert Menzies to mention a few.
New South Wales
Sydney has two carousels that I know of. One is at Luna Park on the harbour. I haven’t been to Luna Park for 25 years so I don’t know if the carousel they have now is the same one as they had then as the video I found shows installation of a new carousel and there is nothing about history.
The other one is at Darling Harbour and I saw and rode on it last year when my sister and I were on holiday. As we are too old and fat to climb on to carousel horses we got into a car which was much more convenient for taking pictures. We laughed when we heard the music being played. The Wiggles “Big Red Car” and my sister commented that it was a good thing that her movie camera was not recording sound. Well the laugh was on us. It was!
This carousel is another English built one. The steam engine was built in 1892 and the horses date back to around 1885. They were carved by the company of G & J Lines and Co. of London. I think this is the same company that went on to become Lines Bros. the famous toy making company.
The carousel came to Australia in 1894 and travelled around to country agricultural shows all over New South Wales. It was at the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was a permanent part of the fun fair at Manly and made its home at The Rocks for a while. Now it is owned by the NSW Government. It has been at Darling Harbour since 1988.
Semaphore is the home of another historic carousel which I saw many times during the time I lived in South Australia. This carousel is believed to be the largest operating carousel in Australia with 40 horses. Apparently 36 is the more usual number. The carousel recently celebrated its 75th anniversary.
Melbourne has a carousel at Luna Park which has just celebrated its centenary. It has spent 90 of its 100 years at Luna Park, before that it was in Sydney. The carousel is an American made one from the Philadelphia Toboggan Company. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve seen this carousel.
An hour away from Melbourne Geelong also has a carousel on the waterfront. This is one I still have to visit.
Perth Zoo is the home of another vintage carousel. It has been there since 1947 and originally had 20 horses and 2 boats but in 1968 the boats were removed and replaced by 4 more horses. This carousel is the only known working one in Western Australia and another one on my list to visit.
The only carousel I have read about in Queensland is one known as The Grand Carousel which has been a permanent feature of the Brisbane Exhibition or “Ekka” as they say up there.
Australian Capital Territory
Canberra has a carousel too and I’m rather cross that we ran out of time to see it when we were there a few years ago. I will try to get back there one day as there are a lot of other things I want to see in Canberra. This one has both horses and elephants so technically it is a merry go round. It was installed on the St Kilda esplanade near Melbourne in 1914 and has been in Petrie Plaza, Canberra since 1974. It was designed and built in Victoria but the animals were imported from Germany and the poles came from Scotland.
These are some of the sites I found information on