It’s Katharine and Hugo’s one hundredth wedding anniversary. Katharine Susannah Prichard, thirty-five, and Hugo Throssell, thirty-four, were married in Melbourne on Tuesday, 28 January 1919. The day before had been the Foundation Day public holiday, as Australia Day was then known, and the people of Melbourne spent a happy day at fetes and the beach. But the city entered crisis mode on the day of Katharine’s wedding—the Spanish Flu had reached the city and all the theatres and schools were closed; boats and trains to uninfected South Australia were stopped. The epidemic lasted in Australia until August, killing 15,000 Australians and millions around the world. Despite the epidemic, Katharine and Hugo were in an optimistic frame of mind, ready to start a new life after the horror of the war, full of revolutionary zeal to change the world.
They married at the registry office because Katharine was opposed to a church wedding. It was followed by a small reception at her mother’s house in the Melbourne suburb of Armadale. Their four-week honeymoon was spent in the cottage at Emerald, which Katharine’s mother gave to her as a wedding gift. As the flu spread around the city, bush-fires burned near their cottage. But it seemed they had could survive anything after all they’d been through in recent years.
If there are any wedding photos, I’ve not found them; I don’t know what dress Katharine wore, but it probably wasn’t a traditional white gown. I do know how much Hugo paid for the wedding ring and what they bought to eat on their honeymoon, because of two loose receipts which fell, miraculously, out of a scrapbook in the archives, but I’ll save the details of those revelations for my biography.
As Katharine’s biographer, I’m alert to connections to my own life, and this is one—my wedding, eighty-seven years later, was also on 28 January. Despite its tragic ending, their marriage has a mythic appeal in its match of two very different celebrities, the drama around it, and the strong attraction between them which continued even when troubles of many kinds began to overwhelm them.
Picture: West Australian, 29 January 1919, 1. (Katharine is actually the first daughter of T.H. Prichard.)
- More on Katharine at Nathan’s blog at https://nathanhobby.com.