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The Skipping Girl in Kingston?

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The Original Skipping Girl. Courtesy Sister Maree Simm.

Melbourne’s famous Skipping Girl sign sat atop a building in Victoria Street Abbotsford for many years. Believed to be Melbourne’s first animated neon sign, it was an advertisement for Skipping Girl Vinegar. Nicknamed ‘Little Audrey’ the young skipper depicts a design inspired by eight year old Kitty Minogue [1], ‘whose brother Jim won the competition to design a sign for the Skipping girl vinegar makers in 1915.’ [2] The sign was placed on top of Nycander & Co’s Skipping Girl Vinegar factory, opposite the end of Burnley Street, by Electric Signs (later Whiteway Neon) in 1936. It remained there until the demolition of the building in 1968 necessitated its removal and it was sold for £100. Public outcry was such that a replica was created by Mauri brothers, who had bought the vinegar factory in the 60s and had since moved to Altona. The new sign was reinstated atop the Crusader Electroplating factory, about 100 metres away from its original position. Comedian Barry Humphries located the original, which had been sold by Whelan the Wrecker to an Abbotsford car dealer, in 1974 and composed a song ‘Ode to the Skipping Girl’ in her honour.

At that time, its model, who had become Sr Felicitas Minogue csb, a Brigidine nun, was living and working in what is now the City of Kingston. Sr Felicitas lived at the Brigidine Convent Mentone for a considerable time in the 1960s and 70s. She taught in the primary school at Kilbreda from at least 1968 – 1972, having spent 34 years as Infant Mistress at Kilbride, another Brigidine school in Albert Park. Sr Felicitas moved from Mentone to Bonbeach and died in 1984. She was buried in the Brigidine plot at the Cheltenham Pioneers’ Cemetery.

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Sister Felicitas, 1972. Courtesy Kilbreda College.

Another inspiration for the sign was Irene Barron, a junior artist for the Claude Neon, who had to skip for her fellow designers to help them create the animation for the frock and the rope passing her feet.

In May 2008, an appeal was launched to ‘Help Audrey skip again’. The iconic Melbourne sign was ‘included on the Victorian Heritage Register of the State’s most significant places and objects. [3] Having fallen into disrepair and non-operational for more than a decade, National Trust Chairman, Dr Graeme Blackman, launched the appeal to raise funds for Audrey’s repair and future maintenance.

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Skipping Girl Today 2008. Courtesy Graham Whitehead.

Author

Damian Smith

Footnotes

  1. The Age reported in 1980 that the manager of the factory based the sign on a photograph of a local milk bar owner’s daughter, Alma Burns. It is also believed that Kitty was used for the design on the bottle label and Alma for the neon sign.
  2. Chris Beck, The Age 15 April 2004.
  3. Skipping Girl appeal Media Release www.nattrust.com.au

Category: Did You Know?
Reference Number: 440
Date Created: 14/11/2008
Date Revised:

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