During the period 2016 to 2018, North Queensland Rifle Association (NQRA) clubs provided photographs they thought might be suitable for inclusion in the NQRA History book. As expected many old photographs came with little or no information. There was one photograph, titled ‘1930 Ladies Bracelet Match’, submitted by the Cairns Rifle Club, which raised more questions than answers.
Those questions included: Was this a match for lady shooters only? Could it be assumed that this match was an annual event? Was this match shot in conjunction with the annual prize meeting? Initial research provided little insight into the origins and conditions of the competition. It was later identified that Mr George Kennedy won this 1930 Ladies Bracelet Match in Cairns.
In June 2021, the Townsville Marksmen Rifle Club (TMRC) received an inquiry from a lady named Janyce seeking information on a Townsville Rifle Club (TRC) bracelet trophy won by her grandfather on 23 April 1923. As can be seen in the photograph, two rifles are etched into the bracelet face which suggests the bracelet might have been specifically designed for rifle shooting competition purposes.
This request for information caused the NQRA history data collection to be reviewed. It was initially thought that this ladies bracelet might have some connection to the photograph of the 1930 Ladies Bracelet shoot held at the Cairns rifle range. The TRC meeting minute book held in the James Cook University Historical Collection was revisited. The minutes of the meeting in early May 1923 confirmed that Wm C Hone had indeed won the TRC Ladies Bracelet Match at the Cluden Rifle Range in Townsville.
The final step in the research was to interrogate the newspaper shooting reports via Trove which provides electronic access to early newspaper articles. The Townsville Daily Bulletin – Wednesday 25 April 1923 – page 4 reported:
ANNUAL BRACELET SHOOT
The Townsville Rifle Club’s annual ladies’ bracelet shoot was held on Monday (St. George’s Day) over 500, 600, 800 and 900 yards. Rain commenced to fall early in the morning, which delayed the start from town for about an hour, and also interfered with the attendance of the ladies who always look forward to the outing. The rain eased before the range was reached, and eventually held off all day, and the shooting conditions were ideal. The first two ranges were finished before lunch, and at this stage eleven reached the burst. Upon the finish of the day’s shooting it was found that seven members had reached the burst of 125, and this meant a shoot off to decide who would become the possessors of the four bracelets and the places were filled in the following order – W. Hone, first: V. L. Lalor, second: W.V Gribben, third: and W. Hammett, fourth.
During the morning His Worship the Mayor accompanied by the Mayoress and the Club’s Patron (Mr J.N. Parkes), arrived for lunch, and stayed for the remainder of the day. The Mayor kindly consented to present the prizes won, and congratulated each recipient.
In recognition of Mr J.N. Parkes long term as patron of the club, the members presented Mr Parkes with a smokers’ outfit. The Mayor made the presentation to which Mr Parkes responded, remarking that it gave him great pleasure in assisting rifle shooting, as he considered it his duty as a citizen to do so.
The club is greatly indebted to the ladies who assisted in making the luncheon a success. As secretary for the day, Mr W.A. Dean was in his old place and handled his duties in his usual capable way. Mr Geo. Gregory was initiated as range officer, and filled the role admirably, and had everything running smoothly.
Below are the scores:-
As a result of researching Bracelet Shoot newspaper reports in Trove, it was confirmed that this competition was conducted more broadly across Australia for approximately 70 years from about 1885 to at least 1955. The table below lists some of the rifle clubs that conducted Bracelet Shoots in one form or another. Sadly, it will be noted that many of the rifle clubs listed no longer exist.
While the research identified that two of the first club bracelet trophy awards occurred in 1884 at the Blackall Rifle Club (The Western Champion 30 May 1884 page 2) and Hamilton Rifle Club (Hamilton Spectator 11 Sep 1884 page 3), it is likely that the first designated and specifically named Bracelet Shoot was conducted by the Military Rifle Club in South Australia in 1885. It was reported (The South Australian Advertiser 10 March 1885 page 7) that a very handsome bracelet, valued at £40, was gifted to the club by a Victorian lady, Mrs J Dunne of Netley Park. The club placed such prestige on this prize that it was contested over four separate competitions each at 500, 600 and 700 yards with the highest combined aggregate to be awarded the Netley Bracelet. An additional condition of the match was the competitor had to nominate a lady who would receive the bracelet if the competitor was victorious. The final results were tallied (The Adelaide Observer 15 Aug 1885 page 19) with Mr E Marsson declared the winner with 280 and the bracelet was presented to Miss Marsson who one might assume was his daughter. The Military Rifle Club was only narrowly ahead of the Woodend Rifle Club in Victoria which conducted a designated match for a ladies bracelet at the end of May 1885.
The Ladies Match held in conjunction with the 1887 Tasmanian Championships, and won by Sergeant Major Welsh, was held under quite specific conditions:
‘Ladies’ Match (M.H. or S.) – Restricted to members nominated by ladies who are subscribers of 5s. Distance, 500 yds No. of shots, seven. Position, any. Rifles Martini-Henry or Snider. Entrance fee, none. M.-H. allows S. 4 points. One prize of £5 (or bracelet), one prize of £3 (or bracelet), one prize of £2 ( or bracelet), three prizes of £1, four prizes of 10s. A competitor may not represent more than one lady in this competition.’ (Launceston Daily Telegraph 11 November 1887 page 3)
As a feature event in the Centenary Rifle Meeting, the Victorian Rifle Association conducted a Ladies Match in 1888 under similar conditions as the 1887 Tasmanian Ladies Match (The Argus 12 Nov 1888 page 8).
The newspaper reports suggested there was no set format for the Bracelet Shoots as the conditions set by each club were quite different. The 1888 bracelet competition in the Myamyn Rifle Club was at the behest of the ladies on the day in that ‘Competitors were required to be nominated by ladies and there were nine who sent forth valiant knights to the tournament’ (Portland Guardian 11 June 1888 page 3). The Bowen Rifle Club (Bowen Independent 20 May 1922, page 4), Geraldton Rifle Club (Geraldton Guardian 23 Sep 1926 page 4), Norseman Rifle Club (The Norseman-Esperance News 1 Dec 1955 page 4) and Kalgoorlie Citizen’s Rifle Club were similar to the Myamyn Rifle Club in that they had the ladies in attendance on the day draw a shooter’s name and if that shooter won the day then the lady who drew the shooter was awarded the bracelet. The Kalgoorlie Rifle Club in 1952 hosted a ladies day during which the ladies shot various matches including smallbore with the bracelet being awarded to Mrs J Warnes (Kalgoorlie Miner 3 Sep 1952 page 4).
Examining the dates of the various newspaper reports, it could be the Townsville Rifle Club may have conducted the Ladies Bracelet Shoot annually from 1913 to 1950, except during the recesses that occurred during the Great War and World War II.
The last identified Bracelet Match report covered the shoot held in 1955 by the Norsemen Rifle Club in West Australia. It must be emphasised that while all manner of articles on shooting up to 1954 are readily available via Trove, there is little information about the Bracelet Match available via the internet from 1955 onwards. The late Mr Jock Hucker (98+ years of age at the time of questioning), a member of the Townsville Marksmen Rifle Club until his passing in March 2023, began his shooting career with the Woorndo Rifle Club in Victoria in 1947/48 and does not recall hearing of any Bracelet Shoots being conducted since he joined the sport.
In a break with what appears to have become tradition and for some unknown reason, in 1947 the Norseman Rifle Club conducted their annual Bracelet Shoot awarding a handbag instead of a bracelet (Norseman-Esperance News 31 Oct 1947 page 1).
There were also newspaper reports of various shotgun clubs holding Bracelet Shoots across Australia.
It would interesting to learn if the bracelets were of a similar design albeit it appears unlikely as many were purchased from or donated by local businessmen or jewellers. Photographs of bracelets awarded for shooting competitions, and still held in family collections, might determine if the bracelet design was similar across Australian rifle clubs at any time during which these matches were conducted.