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December - His Majesty's Theatre & Midland Railway Workshops

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His Majesty's Theatre dome and curtains, click to view a larger image

The Premier's announcement of two final heritage icons for 2004 saw His Majesty's Theatre & the Midland Railways Workshops nominated by the people of Western Australia as the final icons.

Heritage Icon: December - His Majesty's Theatre

Opened on Christmas Eve in 1904, His Majesty's Theatre has become one of Western Australia's best-known landmarks. This stunning example of Edwardian era architecture is the design masterpiece of William Wolfe and contractor Gustav Liebe, who built the theatre for Perth businessman and one-time Lord Mayor of Perth, Thomas G Molloy. His Majesty's was named after the reigning British monarch of 1904, King Edward VII. It is believed to be the only remaining working Edwardian theatre in Australia and is one of only two remaining His Majesty's Theatre's in the world.

One of the theatre's most impressive features at the time was the dome roof, which was designed to improve ventilation in the auditorium. The dome slid open sideways so that on a warm summer evening the audience could benefit from the cooling effects of the night air.

From 1904 to the late 1970s, the theatre was privately owned, however in 1977 the WA government purchased the building. Between 1978and 1980 it underwent extensive refurbishment and restorations.

His Majesty's Theatre at dusk, click to view a larger image

Throughout its colourful and exciting history, His Majesty's Theatre has hosted a myriad of performance genres - from ballet to contemporary dance, opera to musical theatre, vaudeville to stand-up comedy, Shakespearean drama to pantomime and more.

Performers such as Dame Nellie Melba, Anna Pavlova, Gladys Moncrieff, Dame Margot Fonteyn and Sir Robert Helpmann, Katharine Hepburn, Vivien Leigh, Sir John Gielgud, Claudette Colbert, Rex Harrison and Geoffrey Rush.

Heritage Icon: December - Midland Railway Workshops

The history of one of Western Australia's most influential workplaces, seen through the eyes of generations of workers, is the subject of a new book launched by Premier Geoff Gallop today.

The 1904 Powerhouse at the Midland Railway Workshops, Click to view a larger image

'The Midland Railway Workshops', by WAN photographer Nic Ellis and Murdoch University journalism lecturer Chris Smyth, links the theme of workshops families to events in the wider world.

Dr Gallop said the 112-page book, published by St George Books captured the unique atmosphere of the workshops.

"For most of its 90-year operating life the site was the most important engineering establishment in the State," he said.

"The Railway Workshops incubated the industrial skills and innovation that drove WA's development. In its heyday, the site employed more than 3,200 people, including almost 600 apprentices, and the book tells the stories of some of those men and women.

"Collectively, these glimpses of their working lives give us the bigger story of the site itself, and of WA, for almost all of the 20th century."

Launching the book in the 1904 Power House at the workshops, the Premier said it grew from a collection of photographs taken by Mr Ellis in the year before the site closed. St George Books and the new custodian of the site, the Midland Redevelopment Authority, together endorsed the project to commemorate both WA's 175th anniversary and centenary of the workshops.

"Other historic photographs were added from various sources, and the candid studies of faces and figures bring the workshops vividly to life," Dr Gallop said.

"You can almost smell the hot machinery, fumes and sweat, and hear the workers' voices telling stories against the noisy background of their workplace.

"From the days of steam, through World War 1, the Depression, World War II when munitions were manufactured here, the restructuring and modernisation that began in the 1950s, to the decline and closure a decade ago, the history of the Railway Workshops is one of the great WA stories.

A performance at the Midland Railway Workshops, Click to view a larger image

"Today, in its centenary year, the Midland Redevelopment Authority is bringing the site back to life."

The Premier said residential and commercial development was planned around the workshops' historic core, and educational, cultural and other uses were planned for the superb heritage buildings. The State Government's $100million commitment over the life of the redevelopment would ensure the legacy of the workshops lived on for many generations to come.

Dr Gallop said like many Western Australians, he had a personal connection to the workshops. His uncle, Bill Gallop - now 85 - started on the site as an apprentice in 1935 and retired as a senior foreman boilermaker in 1979.

The Premier presented the first copy of 'The Midland Railway Workshops' to Kevin Mountain, a man who spent all his working life at the workshops and lowered the flag the day the site closed. These days, Mr Mountain is the MRA's ambassador and a volunteer for the Midland History Project, helping to record the site's social history and collect memorabilia.

'The Midland Railway Workshops' book costs $24.95 and is available from WAN and most bookstores. People can also buy it at the Railway Workshops Centenary Open Day on Sunday, October 24.