Outrage Sunday 15 Modern Manners

Why has Colin Barnett not endorsed a Tim Winton book? The question has to be asked after reading a superb WA book of etiquette published in 1979.

“In this day and age of noise, speed, conflict and hassle it is refreshing to know that someone…should have undertaken this important work of recording the simple courtesies of human communication in the social environment,” Sir Charles Court foreworded to Marjory McGann’s Keepsake.

“In all areas of endeavour there is a right way and a wrong way to approach the job in hand, and too frequently today we tend to overlook the courtesies which mean so much to so many people.”

Quite right. Sir Charles pointed out we appreciate observing good procedure – especially with nuptials.

“Weddings are perhaps the best example of this: invariably parents, on the day of their daughter’s marriage, for instance, are eager to see the event go off smoothly and with dignity befitting the occasion,” Sir Charles (KCMG, OBE, MLA) wrote.

No argument there: Krazy Kym and I certainly went off in Vegas with dignified smoothness and her parents were reassured when they got the 3am phone call informing them what had happened and that all was well.

As Sir Charles noted in his foreword, people who have guidance through the major events of their lives tend to look back on them with many happy memories – and that is certainly true of KK and myself, even though Mr Elvis Presley was there instead of Mrs McGann, and we do not fully recall some of the moments of that wonderful day.

Sir Charles made the connection between the appearance of Keepsake and our great state’s 150th anniversary, and commended the author: “I wish her, and this new book, every success.”

There are some splendid images of what a good wedding should look like, but Keepsake also covers many other important matters. There are extremely helpful chapters on Titles of Address, Table of Precedence, Letter Writing, and Speech. I know some regular visitors to this weblog – and I mean this in the sense of caring constructive criticism – would benefit from reading the Telephone and Office Manners chapter.

“Do not hold long discussions with other employees in your employer’s time, about your private life and do not even mention your private life to another employee while a client is present. Little asides such as ‘Jim and Daisy had an argument at the dance last night’ immediately shut the client out,” Mrs McGann wrote.

After reading this I could not help but remember a recent visit to The Lazy Aussie’s workplace where I noted there was quite a bit of dance discussion. Also, he and his colleague Ljuke might be interested to note Mrs McGann’s counsel on workplace appearance: “Dress with care; first impressions are always best and good grooming is an important part of any work you may be employed to do. Hair should be freshly shampooed and brushed, shoes polished, nails nicely manicured, make-up natural. Always check on your overall grooming during the day as you may have more than one appointment.” While it was hard to discern if The Lazy Aussie’s hair had been shampooed that day, he clearly had not undertaken a grooming check.

I do not mean to boast, but a social occasion at Chez Cohen on Friday evening went off smoothly and with dignity thanks to absorbing Mrs McGann’s advice on folding table napkins in Formal Occasions.

KK’s cousin Carl had returned to Perth after a taxing time in Kazakhstan raping and pillaging the earth contributing meaningful solutions to the world’s energy needs. As KK had Keepsake to hand she knew how to handle the accordion pleats in a Princess napkin. It is easy and all about pressing the top flaps hard to make the crease. As host I was pleased to see Cousin Carl note these little touches and feel he could unwind in a comfortable and relaxed environment after some weeks of handling unhygienic Tenges and trying to communicate with locals who can tire quickly of Borat jokes.

Needless to say Mrs McGann’s advice for what goes beside the immaculate linen is also top-hole: there are recipes for Baked Fish with Almond Sauce, Chicken and Asparagus, La Mard Seafood Cocktail, La Mard Special With Eggs, La Mard Favourite, La Mard Dressing, Cucumber Sauce, and of course Pavlova. With Pavlova the key is beating your whites stiffly, and using any nuts you have in the house for decorating.

There were only minor embarrassments on Friday night: KK had not checked there was a bottle of Cherry Herring on the drinks trolley, nor had she got her melons out. I knew these should have been offered after familiarising myself with Mrs McGann’s paragraphs on Dining Out: she suggests melon or fruits in season as appetizers, and has the Cherry Herring in a handy list of liqueurs with a pronunciation guide (“Quantro”, “Cream de Monthe”). I know KK will not be making those mistakes again.

Keepsake has other excellent chapters: Some Rules for Beauty, What Makes a First Class Model?, and Introductions. Refreshingly there is also information on A Brief History and the Function of Parliamentary Government and Do You Know Your Council?. I think this was one of the reasons Sir Charles liked the cut of Mrs McGann’s jib: she knew The True Gentleman and The Real Lady were civic-minded and knowledgeable about our thriving democracy. Knowing who sits in which pew and where is important, as is a bride’s trousseau – but so is being cognizant of the basics of local and state government.

The highlights of Keepsake, however, are the pearls of wisdom scattered thoughtfully on every page. Our young friend TL101 will be grateful to learn manners and personal appearance are an index of character. “Fortunes are made by pleasing manners…civility in a man is what beauty is to a woman; it creates a lasting impression – politeness is kindness of manner.”

And our older female friends such as Shazza and Poor Lisa will be mindful of this reminder: “A lady…would not bounce into a room and sit sloppily into a chair with her knees wide apart…a lady should not actually tell risqué jokes in mixed company…a lady should not be strident in conversation or assert opinions too vigorously to older people…men do not like to feel inferior.”

Mrs McGann and her husband and son lived at Dalkeith, not a million miles from Sir Charles. Keepsake was typset on an I.B.M. Electronic Composer and printed by Koon Wah Lithographers in Singapore. It was published by prestigious local firm Access Press. We need more books like Keepsake in local bookshops.

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49 Responses to Outrage Sunday 15 Modern Manners

  1. The Legend 101 says:

    Talking about not enough books, I wonder why Bost of the bookshops in Perth shutdown and people and buying from the Internet because it has more.


  2. The Legend 101 says:



  3. sharon says:

    Crying with laughter. Or ROFL as the kids say. I failed on every count while entertaining guests at Chez Shaz last night.


  4. Which one’s Marjory, glasses or the tent wearer?


  5. kinkied says:

    I miss the days when the good citizens of Midland would write to the local newspaper for etiquette advice:

    ‘Anxious’ (Midland), writes: ‘I have a tender regard for my first cousin, whom I met first a few months ago, and I have been keeping company with her, but her mother bas a notion to stop our acquaintance, and I should like to know, through your columns, if there is any harm in continuing our regard for each other, or is it illegal?’ (10 November 1927)

    And despite wanting to plough his cousin, he still manages to get the whom/who distinction right. Imagine that in Midland nowadays.


  6. golden1 says:



  7. langhorne says:

    That wedding photo – ick.


  8. I have a signed copy of this book and ponder on how things might have turned out…I suspect the autograph is a fake but the book is always available at the annual Save the Children Fund book sale at UWA so you can inscribe your own message from Mrs. McGann as a cautionary note.
    thanks for the memories, David.


    • rottobloggo says:

      Thank you, Terri-ann.

      Mine is inscribed, too, in lovely copperplate:

      To Frank & Nell
      With loves and best wishes
      March 1980

      By the way, have you broken an engagement? If so, this is the go:

      “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Adelaide,
      Ron and I have decided to cancel our engagement. We would like you to know we are returning your lovely silver teapot.
      Michaelle Stofen


      • We would like you to know we are returning your lovely silver teapot, as I would rather you appreciate its utter, utter ugliness then that cheating cunt enjoy “infusion one” from it. Love…


  9. Russell Wolfe's Lovechild says:

    I think Marjory would have thrown some kick-arse Dalkeith swingers parties during the 1970’s. I can confirm it is all about pressing the top flaps hard.


  10. Pete says:

    Oh dear, is there a section covering how to deal with looser blogs who completely fuck up your search rankings? Ms McGanns school for Subiaco ladies may have trouble recruiting new starts via the interwebs for the next deb period.


  11. Grrr says:

    This is the best Outrage Sunday to date.
    I will bookmark it for future reference so that each time I ride the information superhighway I will be reminded that I needs must dash off to UWA to procure a copy of this tome.


  12. The Bartender's skills with a Manhatten says:

    “There are some splendid images of what a good wedding should look like…”

    Let me guess:

    Step 1: Be White
    Step 2: Be Blonde

    And while I applaud a lady of Mrs. McGann’s age for undertaking such a project in her twilight years, the photograph of the funeral home parlor on the book cover is a bit off-putting.


  13. Pingback: Outrage Sunday 112 When Macca Writes Your Love Story | The Worst of Perth

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