The 60th annual Maytime Fair will be held at Xavier College, Kew from 9am to 5pm on Saturday 7 May. The Fair turns 60 this year, so there will be fanfare and jubilation for the birthday of the much-loved event.
But the event that raises huge sums of money each year for Jesuit Mission’s projects in disadvantaged communities abroad had humble beginnings, as this edited extract from Fr Kevin Cronin’s book, Missioned in Company, shows.
An invitation was extended to a select group of people in Melbourne to attend a meeting at Xavier College on the 10th June 1951. That invitation may be regarded as the first, and still rather cautious, step forward towards a definite mission-support structure at a more general level. It had grown out of a suggestion to Fr Smith by Florence Stoney. Florence had a little earlier been approached by Fr Pat Harper SJ.
‘We’ve got a mission in India and we’ve got to help,’ was the message he had brought her at her Through Street home. ‘Now you’ve got ideas. In fact, you’ve nearly driven me mad with your ideas in the Sodality! You tell me how we’re going to help them!’
A committee was formed and a general discussion took place as to the best means of raising money. A fete, a garden party, a dance, a flower show, a picture night – all were proposed but no agreement reached. Significantly, however, Fr Costelloe placed the buildings and grounds of Xavier College at the disposal of the committee as a venue for the fete if it were decided to hold one.
Not long after, a picture night was held at the Astor, the proceeds of which amounted to 1,540 pounds, much to the delight of all. Buoyed by this success, the committee decided to hold a fete at Xavier College on 3 May 1952. In the January 1952 edition of Our Mission, readers were asked to ‘start putting aside those odds and end which all amount up to a successful fete.’
One day in April, Fr Smith happened to be riding a motorcycle past St Patrick’s Cathedral. ‘I suddenly caught sight of this huge sign-board right there before my eyes, fairly shouting at me... “Come to Xavier College on May 3rd. Grand Maytime Fair in aid of the newly established Australian Jesuit Mission in India. Stalls. Wheels. Kids’ entertainment of all sorts!” Believe me, I panicked. May 3rd was only about three weeks away, and we’d done almost nothing!’
In the event, the enthusiasm, planning and selfless hard work of everyone involved was met with an equally enthusiastic response. Reporting in the Our Mission of June 1952, Fr Smith wrote: ‘The fair is only a pleasant memory now, but it brought the Mission fund 7,000 pounds. It was a wonderful success. We called it a Maytime Fair and Our Lady smiled on it from the start, inspiring lots of people to help and giving us a perfect afternoon and evening after a week of rain.
The 60th annual Maytime Fair will be held at Xavier College, Kew on Saturday 7 May 2011. We look forward to seeing you there.
Pictured: Early missionaries to India. (Front row, left to right) John Moore, Ted O’Connor, (Back row, left to right) Os Summerton, Brian Slack, Brian O’Connell