Legend of the Lady of the Lake

BY HELEN TULLY

Lady of the Lake, 1973. Courtesy of Southern Cross Austereo, NFSA: 66066

In the 25 March 2013 edition of his Gang-Gang column, Canberra Times journalist Ian Warden wrote about what he considered one of the highlights of the NFSA’s Imagining the Capital: Canberra on Film screening; footage of a 1973 beauty contest known as Lady of the Lake:

Gang-Gang has to know and report more about this lost ritual! […] Is there anyone who ever attended the occasion who can reminisce about it and/or who knows the history of the event? When did it end?

Following a day of intense research, we have answers to Ian’s questions. Not only that, we have published the full Lady of the Lake segment, of which only a few seconds were screened at our 10 March event.

Canberra’s Cathy James, from Griffith, was the winner of the Lady of the Lake competition held as part of the Aquatic Carnival. The Aquatic Carnival was one of the events in the Canberra Week program of 1973, and held in and around Lake Burley Griffin’s West Basin on Saturday 17 March 1973. The Aquatic Festival, organised in just three weeks by the ACT Health Services National Fitness Council, attracted 8,000 visitors to the lake area to watch various water and aerial displays and competitions.

The competition was, according to Judge Jo Spencer in Canberra Times 19 March 1973, “to be judged differently from normal fashion quests, the object being that it reflect the natural mood of the day”.

The winner was selected from a final group of 15 Canberra beauties: Miss Margaret Keleris, 21, Page, Miss Narelle Ezzy, 20 Red Hill, Mrs Joanne Cox, 22, Lyneham, Miss Christine Suchocko, 23, Braddon, Mrs Janice Trainer, 23, Macgregor, Miss Denise Powell, 16, Holder, Mrs Irene Lord, 22 Higgins, Mrs Brenda McHarg, 22, Weetangera, Miss Sandra Hithins, 23, Mawson, Miss Marilyn Thompson, 18, Turner, Miss Perrie Morris, 17, O’Connor, Mrs Shelia Crook, 19, Holt, Miss Marilyn Kelleher, 18, Chifley, Mrs Julie Beattie, 23, Holder.

Cathy James was presented her sash by one of the other judges, Kep Enderby, Minister for the Capital Territory.

Lady of the Lake footage courtesy of Southern Cross Austereo, NFSA: 66066
Please note this clip has no sound.

What led to the NFSA discovering this Lady of the Lake?

To help prepare for the Centenary of Canberra, the NFSA ‘s TV team decided to take a closer look at the CTC 7 News collection. CTC 7, now Southern Cross Ten, was Canberra’s first commercial television station. The CTC 7 news collection, which spans both film and video tape eras, was listed in the NFSA’s catalogue with only brief content descriptions based on news production diaries from the station.

After some initial research, a number of 16mm reels, – including Newsreel No. 0316, which contained the Lady of the Lake vision – were selected for further preservation work which included the transfer of the content to both videotape and digital files to facilitate identification and cataloguing.

Due to the number of titles held in this collection, the transfer and identification is an ongoing process. The initial project did however, reaffirm to the NFSA that the CTC 7 News Collection is a highly significant news collection. It documents the history of Canberra from the late 1960s to 2001 and is a record of what and who was making the news, providing insight into the social, political and economic climate of the last five decades.

You can view other gems from this CTC 7 collection in our TV Collection highlights. More stories will be added throughout the year.

This project is possible thanks to the support and cooperation of Southern Cross Austereo.