Skipping Girl Sign

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View of the Skipping Girl sign in Victoria streetscape

Coordinates: 37°48′41″S 145°00′39″E / 37.8113°S 145.0108°E / -37.8113; 145.0108

The Skipping Girl Sign or Skipping Girl Vinegar Sign, colloquially known as Little Audrey was the first animated sequence neon sign in Australia.[1][2] It advertised the products of Swedish immigrant and prominent bacteriologist, Oscar Emile Nycander's (1859-1927) vinegar brewery incorporating Australia's first yeast manufactory[3] at 627 Victoria Street, Abbotsford. The sign is now located at 651 Victoria Street in the inner Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford.[4]


Construction consists of a painted metal structure outlined in neon tubing depicting a little girl skipping rope. At night the sign's outlines are illuminated, the skipping rope being displayed in four sequential positions to give the appearance of motion.

1930s version[edit]

The sign was designed for the Nycander factory premises by artist Jim Minogue (who would go on to build the Nylex Clock in 1961), and built in 1936 by Electric Signs, later called Whitewall Neon, then Claude Neon. The company rented the sign to Nycander & Co who in turn placed the sign on top of their Nycander factory at 627 Victoria Street in 1936. The sign advertising their "Skipping Girl" brand of vinegar was immediately popular, becoming a well loved landmark. The origin of the connection between vinegar and a skipping girl is a skipping rhyme, usually "salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper, if I dare, I can do better..." to which the rope would be spun faster.[5][6][7] In 1938, the company promoted its product with a girls' skipping competition.[8]


The large Nycander factory housed 17 fermentation vats, each with a capacity of 35,000 gallons,[9] but in the 1950s was taken over by direct competitors Mauri Brothers & Thompson, resulting in closure of the works in the mid-1960s.[10] When the building was demolished in 1968 the sign was removed. Neon Electric attempted to reacquire 'Little Audrey', but the demolition company Whelan the Wrecker claimed ownership and sold it to CE Haywwood, a used car dealership.[11]

1970s version[edit]

Following public outcry, John (a.k.a. Jack) Benjamin, director of the nearby electroplating factory Crusader Plate, worked with the local council to acquire and reinstate the sign on his company's own roof. Since the original had been sold, a smaller version was built and placed on the roof of the electroplating factory at 651 Victoria Street in 1970.[12] The 1970 version was listed by the National Trust (Victoria) in 2000, and has also been listed on the Victorian Heritage Register.[13][14]

The sign was illuminated until 2002 when the sign's owners decided to cease funding of the power and maintenance required for operation.[15]


In May 2008 an appeal was launched for public donations to restore the sign by energy company AGL Energy, the National Trust (Victoria), the Heritage Council of Victoria, the Melbourne Restoration Fund, the group 'Friends of Audrey', and representatives of the sign's owners Spring & Parks Pty Ltd. Following the appeal, in March 2009 funds for a full restoration were successfully raised.[16]

The sign at dusk

Little Audrey was taken down for repairs on 23 March 2009. After restoration works were completed by Delta Neon, the sign was placed back on its perch on 10 June of the same year. Power was being paid for by AGL Energy using run on power generated by 27 solar panels under their 100% GreenPower energy plan until 2014.[17][1]

Cultural influences[edit]

1973 LP album Country Girl (RCA) features the track Skipping Girl written by Barry Humphries and sung by Australian folk singer Shirley Jacobs (1927—2015).

In the Melbourne made-for-television film 'Bachelor Girl' (1987, dir. Rivka Hartmann) the sign features in a scene in which heroine Dot Bloom cycles past late at night.

The Skipping Girl Vinegar sign features in Australian artist Howard Arkley's (1951-1999) 'Suicide' (1983, acrylic on canvas, 160cmx120cm) drawing on imagery from Arkley's childhood; the neon Skipping Girl Vinegar sign, an image of a telescope from a Boy's Own Annual,[18][19] and memories he shared with his girlfriend Lisa Craswell (d.1987). Speaking of this work in 1996, Arkley recalled: "Lisa Craswell and I used to go there [to the Skipping Girl] together and talk about our childhoods. It would be one or two in the morning, lonely and cold. 'Suicide' was inspired by a nice childhood experience. But it was like the end of my childhood. When Lisa died in 1987, it became for her." [2] This work from the artist's prime period featured posthumously in 'Howard Arkley Retrospective' at the National Gallery of Victoria, 17th November 2006 - 25th February 2007.

When Melbourne's Southbank complex opened on the Yarra River southern frontage in September 1992, Robin Best's neon work 'Running Girl' was chosen for temporary installation atop the pedestrian bridge that joins Southbank with Flinders Street Station. The work refers nostalgically to 'Little Audrey', but transforms her into a contemporary adult female jogger. [20]

Melbourne indie pop group Skipping Girl Vinegar named themselves after the sign, stating "We love her, she's part of Melbourne, and an authentic old world pop icon."[21]

She is also referenced by another Melbourne band, My Friend the Chocolate Cake, in their song "It's All in the Way".

On 1 September 2015 the Skipping Girl Sign was featured on a series of stamps commissioned by Australia Post. The series was called "Signs Of The Times" and was one of three signs to be highlighted. The other two signs were the "Dandy" Pig sign in Dandenong and the Pink Poodle Motel Sign in Surfers Paradise in Queensland.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cilento, Jeanne-Marie, "Living in luxury with Abbotsford's Little Audrey", The Age, 10 February 1996
  2. ^ Heritage Alliance (2001) Historic Electric Signage In Victoria: A Study of Historic Illuminated Signs. Report prepared for Heritage Victoria and the City of Yarra August 2001
  3. ^ Jupp, James & Jupp, James, 1932- (2001). The Australian people : an encyclopedia of the nation, its people and their origins ([2nd ed.]). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; New York ; Oakleigh, Vic., p69.
  4. ^ The Encyclopedia of Melbourne, eds. Andrew Brown-May and Shurlee Swain, p. 664.
  5. ^ Elizabeth Tucker (2008) Children's Folklore: A Handbook, series 'Greenwood Folklore Handbooks', Greenwood Publishing Group, USA
  6. ^ Roud, Steve (2010). The Lore of the Playground: One Hundred Years of Children's Games, Rhymes & Traditions, Melbourne Australia:Random House. p.166.
  7. ^ Alice Bertha Gomme (Editor) (1898) The traditional games of England, Scotland, and Ireland: with tunes, singing-rhymes, and methods of playing according to the variants extant and recorded in different parts of the Kingdom, Volume 2, Part 1 .United Kingdom: D. Nutt, is an early reference which records the vinegar rhyme and versions have been recorded frequently in other literature, in the USA, in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
  8. ^ "THE ARGUS" EXHIBITION. (1938, April 25). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 2. Retrieved December 15, 2015, from
  9. ^ Vinegar of Quality. (1938, April 16). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), p. 8 Supplement: Modern World Exhibition Supplement. Retrieved December 14, 2015, from
  10. ^ Rae, I. (2015) Letter from Melbourne: Skipping Girl. In Chemistry in Australia, May 2015. The Royal Australian Chemical Institute Inc., p.41
  11. ^ Webb, Carolyn, "She's Not Very Bright, But Audrey Wants To Glow Up, And That's A Good Sign", The Age, 6 May 2008
  12. ^ National Trust (Victoria) File No. B6017
  13. ^ "Skipping Girl Neon Sign, Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number H2083, Heritage Overlay HO353". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. 
  14. ^ Kleinman, Rachel, "Skipping Girl sign wins protection", The Age, 7 February 2002
  15. ^ Dimech, Adam, "Discovering Melbourne's Neon Heritage", Adam Dimech Online, 5 September 2010
  16. ^ Johnston, Matt, "Skipping girl gets a light facelift",, 14 March 2009
  17. ^ AGL Energy "Skipping Girl - Keeping Little Audrey Skipping", AGL Energy, Viewed 10 October 2011
  18. ^ Crawford, Ashley & Edgar, Ray (2001). Spray : the work of Howard Arkley (Updated & rev. ed). Craftsman House, Sydney p.63, illus. p.62
  19. ^ Gregory, John & Arkley, Howard, 1951-1999 (2006). Carnival in suburbia : the art of Howard Arkley. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge ; Port Melbourne, Vic. p.69, 106 & 124, illus p.125
  20. ^ Dovey, Kim (2005). Fluid city : transforming Melbourne's urban waterfront. University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, p.47.
  21. ^ Heazlewood, Andy "Skipping Girl Vinegar interview for SPIN magazine", YouTube, 25 November 2008
  22. ^

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