A wedding with a difference

Douglas Mawson and Francesca (Paquita) Delprat on their wedding day, 31 March 1914
Douglas Mawson and Francesca (Paquita) Delprat on their wedding day, 31 March 1914. From left: Hester Berry (bridesmaid), J. K. Davis (best man), William Mawson, Douglas Mawson, G. D. Delprat (bride’s father), Paquita Mawson, H. Delprat (bride’s mother), Elizabeth Delprat (bride’s sister), T. W. Edgeworth David and G. D. Delprat Jr (bride's brother, groomsman) © Mawson Collection South Australian Museum

One of Aurora’s passengers did not join the celebrations. Poor Sidney Jeffryes was quietly put on a train for Toowoomba, where he was to be met by his sister, Norma, but never reached his destination. His erratic behaviour saw him escorted off the train and into asylum, first at Ararat in western Victoria and then in Melbourne.

Mawson wrote to Norma that he felt Jeffryes must have known his condition before going to Antarctica; she replied that he had never previously shown any sign of insanity. For this ‘new boy’, his year in Antarctica with that tight, familiar Cape Denison group was by any measure a disaster.

Mawson had other, more pleasant, matters to attend to. His betrothal to Paquita was well known in Adelaide circles. He had kept in touch with her through numerous letters written in 1912 (brought back to Australia by Aurora in 1913) and the odd wireless message. She waited the extra year, and by the time the ship arrived in Adelaide the pair were ready for marriage.

Melbourne was now the home town of the Delprat family, so Mawson took the train there for the big event, on 31 March 1914. The wedding was at Holy Trinity Church of England, Balaclava, and the reception at the Delprats’ Toorak home. Edgeworth David was there; also John King Davis, who was best man, and other members of the AAE.

See a report of Douglas Mawson's wedding, from the Chronicle Newspaper, Toowoomba [PDF].

Antarctica loomed large in the lavish décor. An aurora australis (the night lights) decorated the ceiling of the marquee, and an Aurora (the ship) sat on each table, surrounded by flowers and a guard of Adélie penguins made from icing. Atop the wedding cake was an ‘iceberg’, with models of sledge dogs and snow petrels on each tier.

After spending the night at Melbourne’s Oriental Hotel, the bride and groom went to Port Melbourne. There they boarded Orama, a passenger ship bound for Marseilles via Suez.

Theirs was to be an unusual honeymoon. With them on the voyage were Davis and Archie McLean, along with other friends, with whom the newly-weds spent much of their time. Always thinking ahead, Mawson spent much of his time planning the next moves, in which both Davis and McLean – especially the latter – would have a part.

After a stopover at Cairo and Naples and a train journey from Marseilles, the party were met at London’s Victoria Station on 3 May by none other than Sir Earnest and Lady Shackleton – along with another Antarctic comrade, Frank Wild.

This page was last modified on August 5, 2015.