YALLOURN’S GLOOMCHASERS ORCHESTRA & JOCK SLOAN
The following brief advertisement was published in ‘The Advocate’ in 1930; and refers to a popular local orchestra known as ‘The Gloomchasers’ being the main attraction at Yallourn Catholic Church’s Annual Ball.
The background information regarding the Gloomchasers is interesting; and underlines how the group became ‘much sought-after’ for social functions throughout the district. The Gloomchasers Orchestra played a major role in the social gatherings in Yallourn and other nearby towns during those years.
The orchestra was established sometime in the late 1920’s. The name of the group may have originated from the type of music that endeavored to chase away the gloom that burdened so many people during those austere times of the Great Depression.
The footnotes, which accompany this article, attempt to provide some background information regarding the death of a local musician named Jock Sloan. Jock appears to have been a popular figure in the Gloomchasers and a vibrant personality in and around Yallourn.
September 25th 1930 ‘ THE ADVOCATE’ Page: 25
YALLOURN. On Tuesday next, the Annual Catholic ball will be held at Yallourn, when a record attendance is expected. The committee has engaged the services of the famous ‘Gloomchasers’ orchestra, which has become so popular at functions of this kind.
The catering arrangements are being planned on a lavish scale by the ladies' committee. Secretarial duties will be in the hands of Mr. A. V. Slater.
1. ‘The Advocate’ was a Melbourne based newspaper that was first published in 1868. It was once described as the ‘Australian Illustrated Weekly’ with a major emphasis upon news from Ireland and, in later years, it was published for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
2. The first documented record of the Yallourn Gloomchasers Orchestra (or band as it was sometimes called) was in February 1929 when the group performed at the Morwell Ladies’ Croquet Club Grand Ball at the Mechanics Hall….
“The hall was tastefully decorated, the floor in excellent order and good music provided by the "Gloom chasers" Orchestra of Yallourn. Supper, provided by Meadows, was served and nothing was left undone to ensure all present spending an enjoyable time.” Source: ‘The Morwell Advertiser.’ 1st March 1929.
3. It seems that the orchestra was well-accepted for its entertainment value and, according to the newspaper reports of the time, had a steady stream of bookings for functions in Yallourn and the surrounding district.
4. Advertisements of that era highlighted that the orchestra could provide music for both old time and modern dancing. Perhaps the size of the group depended on: (i) The nature of the event and (ii) How much local clubs and organizations could afford to pay for professional musicians in those grim times. It is difficult to establish the number of members in the group and the complete range of instruments that they played. In those days, most bands comprised at least a piano, drum, accordion and perhaps a wind instrument (eg saxophone).
5. From studying the papers of that era, it was discovered that the orchestra played at various clubs and venues throughout Gippsland including…
• Trafalgar Rovers Football Club Annual Ball
• Morwell Tennis Club Ball
• The Hibernian Ball
• Morwell Spinsters at Home Gathering
• St Theresa’s Church Hall - fund raising dances at Yallourn
• Yallourn Football Club End of Season Ball
• Mirboo South Grand Ball
• The ANA dances at the Yallourn Fire Brigade Hall
• Brown Coal Mine dances
• The Yinnar Wanderers Football Club Annual Ball
• St Mary’s Church of England Building Fund Grand Ball (Morwell)
6. The list goes on; and documented reports, from the various functions, indicate that the orchestra always gave spirited and energetic performances. One press report described the music of the orchestra as ‘delightful’ while another comment was ‘excellent.’
7. It is known that the Gloomchasers Orchestra and another local musical group called ‘The Sundowners’ provided continuous dance music, from 8.30pm until 2.30am, at the Foundation Ball of the Australian Natives Association which was held at the St John’s Hall in Yallourn in January 1933.
8. One of the special events at which the orchestra featured was the Yallourn Grand Charity Ball in October 1930. The function was organised by the Yallourn and Brown Coal Mine Benevolent and Distress Society and all proceeds were donated to those local residents who suffered hardship (ie due to unemployment). The evening was a resounding success and the Gloomchasers Orchestra, together with the Yallourn Brass Band, received great praise for their contribution in assisting the organizers to raise more £140.0.0 (pounds)….
“The "Gloomchasers" Orchestra afterwards took up the strains and modern and old-time dancing was indulged in to excellent ta music provided by them till the early hours of the morning.” Source: ‘The Morwell Advertiser.’ 31st October 1930.
9. There is no evidence to support the following idea but perhaps there were many talented musicians among the hundreds of men in the camps at that time.
10. The names of the musicians were difficult to uncover but it is known that one of the principal members of the Gloomchasers, in earlier times, was a young man named Jock Sloan. Unfortunately, Jock died in the most tragic of circumstances. On the morning of 20th August 1930, Jock was hit by a train while crossing the railway line on his way to work one morning near the Yallourn Power House …
“Jock passed away, death being due to internal injuries. Deceased, who was 22 years of age, was a member of the well-known Yallourn Gloomchasers Orchestra, whose services have been much in demand for some considerable time past-both at home and abroad. He was also a member of the Morwell football team and took part in second semi-final match played at Mirboo North, on Saturday last. He was a sober, industrious young man, and was held in high esteem by all with whom he came in contact.”
11. Furthermore, in the same article…
“Much sympathy is expressed for the deceased's father and brothers in their sad and sudden bereavement. The coffin was carried from hearse to grave by members of "Gloomchasers" Orchestra, whilst the President, Secretary and other members of Morwell Football Club were the pall bearers. Among the many floral tributes were beautiful wreaths from Morwell Football Club, Gloomchasers Orchestra, Comrades, and others.” Source: ‘The Morwell Advertiser’ August 22nd 1930.
12. ‘In Memoriam’ notices, regarding Jock’s passing, were placed in local papers in 1932 and 1933. The 1933 notice read as follows…
“In Memoriam SLOAN. In fond remembrance of our much-loved comrade and esteemed member of our orchestra-Jock Sloan, who passed away on August 20th, 1930. “Gone but not Forgotten." -Inserted by members of the Gloomchasers Orchestra, Yallourn. Thanks.” Source: ‘The Morwell Advertiser.’ 24th August 1933.
13. There appears to be no obvious references to the Gloomchasers Orchestra in Gippsland newspapers after 1934. However, the same name ‘crops up’ again in an item published in the Crookwell CWA Gazette in 1937…
“In 1937 ….A baby show and C.W.A ball were held to raise funds for the rest room. The "Gloomchasers" orchestra was engaged for the ball. (What a lovely name for an orchestra, particularly considering the state of the economy at that time!)”
Note: Crookwell is a small town located on the Southern Tablelands of NSW about 240km South-West of Sydney.
14. The name Gloomchasers Orchestra appears regularly in various New South Wales newspapers in the period 1920-50. It seems fair to suggest that there was more than one Gloomchasers Orchestras.
15. ‘Gloomchasers’ is also the name given to a band that was formed by Australian guitarist Nic Dalton (born 1964).
CAN YOU HELP WITH FURTHER INFORMATION?
Jock Sloan was the eldest son of Mr D. Sloan (a Yallourn resident). Perhaps relatives or friends of the Sloan family may be able to add to the above story of the Gloomchasers Orchestra. Please contact Julie if you can provide further information for the website. Thank you.
The footnotes for this story were researched and written by Roger Spaull and the article was presented and posted by Julie George for the Virtual Yallourn website in June 2019. The above advertisement from ‘The Advocate’ in 1930 has been faithfully reproduced. The only amendments to the original copy are the font style, font size and spacing, to enhance the article for purposes of posting on the Virtual Yallourn website.