Saturday, 28 December 2013

CWA Shark-proof swimming enclosure

The photo below comes to us courtesy of brothers Tony and Michael Christensen and shows the shark-proof swimming enclosure that was erected on The Strand in Townsville in the 1930s, through the efforts of the Country Women’s Association (CWA).  The photo was taken in the 1950s, so the enclosure is looking a bit worn out, but the story behind why and how it came to be built is an interesting one.
CWA shark-proof swimming enclosure, 1956.
Photo courtesy: Tony Christensen and Michael Christensen.
The first of a number of holiday huts owned by the CWA on The Strand was built in 1924 at a cost of £350, which had been donated by Mr Daking Smith, of Charters Towers.  In honour of the donation, the hut was named ‘Daking Smith Hut’ and was officially opened in September 1924 by the Governor General Lord Forster.  The new hut enabled CWA members in the north and west to holiday at the ‘seaside’, something many families had not previously been able to enjoy.  The first family to occupy the new hut was to be a family of ten, and all of the children had never before seen the sea.  That same year the CWA constructed a small rock pool for children to swim in but it was constantly silting up with sand, so wasn’t very practical.

Opening of CWA Hut at Kissing Point, Townsville.
Photo courtesy: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
On the 4th January 1933, a shocking fatality occurred opposite the CWA huts.  A 38 year-old shearer’s cook named Stanley Victor Locksley, who was holidaying from Hughenden, was attacked by a shark while swimming at Kissing Point.  The large shark (thought to have been a grey nurse shark) inflicted massive stomach wounds and Locksley died from his injuries.  Ironically, at the annual meeting of the CWA the previous year, a resolution was submitted by the Prairie branch ‘that steps be taken to collect money for a safe bathing enclosure’. The resolution had been carried unanimously.
The attack on Locksley ‘clearly demonstrated’ to the executive of the CWA that ‘bathing in the sea without protection, was utterly out of the question’.  Moves were then made to begin canvassing support for the erection of a shark-proof swimming enclosure.  Because the enclosure would benefit northern and western visitors to Townsville’s CWA huts, branches of the CWA right throughout north Queensland donated funds towards the swimming enclosure. The following donations were noted in the Queenslander on 6th April 1933:  Home Hill, £5; Richmond, £10; Stone River, £2; Kairi, £1/1/- ; Bowen, half a guinea; Hughenden, £10.  Other branches that indicated they intended to donate, included Prairie and Finch Hatton. 
Somewhat surprisingly, the CWA initially encountered opposition from the City Council, who opposed the construction of a swimming enclosure opposite the huts.  The council was against ‘further obstructions breaking the continuity of the beach’.  To placate the CWA, the council offered to provide all occupants of CWA huts with free admission to the city baths (located further along The Strand).  But this did not dampen the CWA’s resolve to provide their members with a safe swimming enclosure.  Plans and specifications were drawn up by honourable architect C.D. Lynch, and after much opposition the authority of the Governor-in-Council was obtained on 9th June 1933.  By this time the City Council, Harbour Board and Marine Department had finally agreed to the project. 

The enclosure was erected by volunteer labour and with the help of assistance from local businesses who provided trucks to carry timber piles as well as help from the Council and Harbour Board (who provided a pile driver).  Mr St. John Robinson conducted three refreshment booths and catered for a private luncheon for 60 people at his rodeo, and donated the proceeds to the project.  The enclosure itself measured 70 yards by 40 yards and was made of large ti-tree piles, spaced 10ft apart, with specially-made, heavy duty 4 ½ inch-thick chain mesh.   

The swimming enclosure was officially opened on the 9th September 1933 by Mr T.M. Barry in front of a large crowd.  It was named the ‘Ethel Crowther Bathing Enclosure’ after Mrs Ethel Crowther who was President of the CWA at the time. 

Tragically, in October 1951, a 43 year-old waterside worker named Albert Kenealey was killed by a shark while swimming in the enclosure. The man was reportedly swinging on the wire fencing when he was attacked by the shark, which tore off his right leg.  The man disappeared from sight, but his body was later found on the beach about 20 yards from the enclosure. 
CWA Huts, Kissing Point, Townsville, 1932.
Photo courtesy: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 22 September 1924, p. 4; 6 September 1933, pp. 3 & 12; 11 September 1933, p. 5.
The Queenslander, 6 April 1933, p. 35; 21 September 1933, p. 37.
Brisbane Courier, 18 February 1933, p. 17.
Cairns Post, 5 January 1933, p. 6; 23 October 1951, p. 3.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

War Memorials in the Landscape - Part 2

War memorials in north Queensland are surprisingly varied.  Many are practical or functional, and there are some that are actually unique in their design, or function.  The types of war memorials that have been dedicated from around the turn of the twentieth century up until the present day have included (and this list is certainly not meant to be exhaustive) – but they include:  memorial gates, arches, fountains (both decorative & for drinking), flagpoles, gardens, swimming pools, trees, sports ovals, halls and public buildings.  Also honour boards were often erected as well as the memorials themselves. 
Honour Board inside the former Townsville Railway Station.  Photo: T. Fielding, 2013.
Three unusual memorials

In other parts of Queensland - in Gigoomgan in the Wide Bay region there’s a memorial wooden bridge (which was privately funded and erected on a public road), and in Mount Morgan there’s a memorial bell hanging outside the local scout hut.  It’s called the Mafeking Bell and it commemorates the Relief of Mafeking, during the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902).  The bell itself was cast from pennies that were donated by local school children, so it’s quite unusual as a war memorial.  In Springsure, the state school there is home to the only World War I memorial fountain located in the grounds of a state school in Queensland.  The fountain is dedicated to past students of Springsure State School who served in World War I.  The names are listed on plaques at the base of the fountain, 79 in total, and somewhat unusually, the list includes first names as well, instead of just the usual initials.
Springsure Memorial Fountain. Photo: Queensland War Memorial Register
War Memorials in Townsville

Being home to a large defence base, Townsville is home to many war memorials.  There’s a memorial in Townsville for almost every conflict and also peace-keeping missions as well.  All arms of the defence forces are represented.  For a complete list of war memorials in Townsville, go to Queensland War Memorial Register and search for Townsville as the location.  Two of the more modern ones include the Battle of the Coral Sea Memorial and the ANZAC Way Memorial, both located in ANZAC Memorial Park, on The Strand.

Cenotaph (Soldier's Memorial), The Strand, Townsville, showing original clock faces, no date.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
ANZAC Memorial Park on the Strand is also home to the cenotaph, where ANZAC Day ceremonies are held.  What we now call the cenotaph, in ANZAC Park, was originally called the ‘Soldier’s Memorial’.  Built in 1923-24, by local stonemasons Melrose and Fenwick, what we now call the cenotaph, is a war memorial that was originally also a clocktower.  It was once a functional clock.  Standing at just over 7.5 metres tall, it’s made of large blocks of grey granite, which sit atop a marble base. At the base of the tower, marble tablets with lead lettering list the names of World War I casualties.  The clock faces are no longer on the memorial. 

At the former Townsville West State School on Ingham Road is the Soldier’s Memorial Gates, dedicated in 1921. The Memorial Gates are set into a recess in the Ingham Road fence.  The gateway is a free-standing masonry archway with a pair of wrought iron gates that include the words ‘Soldiers Memorial Gate of Honour’.  On the cornice of the masonry gate, are the words ‘Their Name Liveth For Ever’, with the dates ‘1914’ and ‘1919’ on each pier.  Mounted just inside the archway are two white marble tablets entitled ‘Honour Roll, Townsville West State School’. Each tablet is inscribed with about 100 names.
West End State School Memorial Gate, 1971.  Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
After World War II, the memorials erected seemed to change to more utilitarian - or useful - memorials.  I’m thinking particularly here of swimming pools – such as Tobruk Memorial Baths, Kokoda Memorial Pool and Long Tan Memorial Pool.  These are example of memorials that are both functional and commemorative.  Even buildings are memorials.  There are lots of RSL clubs that have been dedicated as memorial clubs, as well as many memorial halls, a few hospitals and even churches and chapels.
Tobruk Memorial Baths, The Strand, Townsville.  Photo: T. Fielding, 2012.
Have war memorials always been about reflecting on the loss of life associated with wars?

Strangely enough, no.  The Boer War memorials, in particular, or more correctly – ‘monuments’ – were erected as reflections of pride in each town or state’s contribution to the ‘Empire’.  But the loss of Australian lives was minimal in that conflict (about 500), compared to the Great War – that is, World War I – where 60,000 Australian lives were lost.  The sheer loss of life and the national grief that followed World War I sparked the trend in increased numbers of memorials.  They became ‘sites’, so to speak, of shared mourning.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

War Memorials in the Landscape - Part 1

Remembrance Day on 11th November marks the anniversary of the armistice which ended World War I in 1918. Every year on this day Australians stop at 11am to observe a minute's silence to remember all those who have given their lives during all wars and conflicts, in the service of their country.

This magnificent bronze statute depicting Simpson and his Donkey assisting an injured soldier is in the grounds of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
Photo:  T. Fielding, 2012.
We solemnly observe this anniversary every year, but what about the countless war memorials that are dotted throughout the north Queensland landscape?  Do we ever stop and look at them?  Do we ever really consider their meaning, or consider how the different memorials reflect changing attitudes towards commemoration itself?  War memorials throughout the whole of Queensland are surprisingly varied, many are practical or functional, and there are some that are actually quite unique.

Charters Towers War Memorial Cenotaph.
Photo: T. Fielding, 2012.
When most people think of war memorials, the familiar soldier standing atop a stone plinth tends to spring to mind. The Charters Towers War Memorial Cenotaph (pictured above) commemorates those who served and died in both World Wars, the Malayan Emergency (1948-1960), the Korean War (1950-1953), the Indonesian Confrontation (1962-66) and the Vietnam War (1962-1972). The soldier's pose is a typical example of such memorials - with the soldier depicted in repose, head bowed slightly in a solemn manner, with rifle pointing downwards.  The Cairns Sailors and Soldiers Memorial (below) depicts a soldier in a similar fashion, although the memorial itself is rather more imposing. It stands 12.5 metres high, and the statue of the soldier is life-sized. The soldier stands at ease atop a clock tower, the faces of which are now painted on and no longer functional.  According to the Queensland War Memorial Register, the time on the clock reads 4.28am, the time of the ANZAC landing at Gallipoli. The memorial commemorates those who died in World War I.
Cairns Soldiers and Sailors Memorial.
Photo:  Trisha Fielding, 2014.

According to Ken Inglis, author of Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape, 'the great majority of soldier statues depict men in passive rather than active stances'.  He further argues that 'for every figure showing warlike action, about ten depict repose'.  The only known war memorial in Queensland that depicts a solider in an animated pose is in Atherton (see below).  The soldier is depicted striding forward holding a rifle with fixed bayonet in one hand and the other other arm is raised, to represent advancing from the trenches in victory.  The memorial commemorates both the First and Second World Wars. 
Soldier atop the Atherton War Memorial.
Photo:  Queensland War Memorial Register.
The soldier-style memorial is by no means the most common post-World War I memorial.  More common are the column, obelisk or pillar memorials.  But what is most interesting about Australian war memorials, is that those who served but returned from war are also listed on a great many memorials - not just those that died.  Ken Inglis has stated: 'More commonly than anybody else in the world, they [Australians] listed on memorials the names of men who had returned, as well as those who had died'.  Inglis estimates that the names of soldiers who survived the war were inscribed on just over half of Australia's war memorials.  But why?

The answer may lie in the fact that the Australians who enlisted and fought during World War I, did so voluntarily.  The prevailing rhetoric of the day appears to suggest that all those who passed by a war memorial should know the names of the men who had heard the call of duty and answered it.  Conversely though, it also means that, particularly in small towns, people could also see who had not answered the call of duty.

But what about those that enlisted but were rejected, on health grounds, for instance?  In Montville, in Queensland, the war memorial there includes enlistments as well as those that were 'rejected'.  Inglis believes that the Montville memorial may be unique in this regard, although he points out that sometimes soldiers who enlisted but were rejected are listed on honour boards. (I'll talk a bit more about honour boards in a subsequent post).

Boer War Memorial Kiosk, Charters Towers.
Photo:  T. Fielding, 2012.
Certainly war memorials existed in Australia before World War I. After the Boer War (also called the South African War, 1899-1902) over 100 memorials were erected throughout Australia. Charters Towers is home to an unusual monument to those who served in the Boer War - a memorial kiosk (pictured above).

Read Part 2 of War Memorials in the Landscape here

Sources & Further Reading:
Ken Inglis, Sacred Places: War Memorials in the Australian Landscape, The Miegunyah Press, 2008.

Queensland War Memorial Register,

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Pic of the week - Townsville high tide

This amazing picture of Townsville during a high tide event in 1924 is my choice for 'Pic of the Week'.  It's one of a number of images doing the rounds in Townsville at the moment via Facebook and emails.

Photo:  From the Hyde Mason Hall Album, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

It's actually from the John Oxley Library collection at State Library of Queensland and shows Townsville being inundated by a high tide of 11 feet.  Taken from the vantage point of Melton Hill, Victoria Bridge can clearly be seen in the swollen Ross Creek, as can several hotels in Palmer Street.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported on Tuesday, 4 March 1924:

The morning tides this week are particularly high. On Monday morning, the tide was 11 feet 5 inches.  This morning it is likely it will reach 12 feet.

It was obviously a recurring problem at this time, as five years later, the Brisbane Courier (26 January 1929, p. 18) reported the following:

The tide this morning was officially given as 11 ft. 5 in. but it reached 13ft. 3 in. the highest for 20 years.  No damage was done. 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Why so many Blue Bird Cafes?

Over the years Queensland appears to have had more than a few cafés that were called the ‘Blue Bird’.  I’ve found mention of at least seven Blue Bird Cafés in north Queensland, including Townsville, Cairns, Innisfail, Tully, Richmond, Julia Creek and Winton.  I’d be interested to know why that particular name was so popular, so if any readers have any thoughts on that, I’d be keen to read your comments.

Blue Bird Cafe, Julia Creek, Queensland, c.1948.

The image above is of the Blue Bird Café in Julia Creek, around 1948.  It was built in 1934 by my Grandfather’s eldest brother – Herb Wilder.  The café was built for Bert Burrows, who operated the Blue Bird until he sold it to Mrs Flo Watson, in 1943.  Although it was the era of the Great Depression, there appears to have been plenty of construction work going on out in Julia Creek at the time, as this article from the North Queensland Register, dated 22 December 1934, shows:

Despite the fact that the seasonal outlook is bad, the town still continues to go ahead in the building line.  Building contractor Herb Wilder is now putting the finishing touches on Mr Bert Burrows’ new café in Burke St next to the Post Office.  Mr Burrows hopes to be well established in the Blue Bird by Christmas.  Mr Wilder will then go on to a new residence for Mr George Peut at the western end of Goldring Street and when completed this building will greatly improve the appearance of the town. 

Ownership of the Blue Bird changed hands a number of times, and in 1950, Julia Creek’s Blue Bird Café was destroyed by a fire in the early hours of the 19th August.  The cause of the fire was unknown but it was a great loss to the town, as it was the only café in town at the time.
Innisfail’s Blue Bird Café appears to have been perhaps the most ornate of all the Blue Bird Cafés in north Queensland. The beautiful Art Deco façade is still much admired to this day.  The café was built in 1936 to replace an earlier timber café of the same name. 
Blue Bird Cafe, Innisfail, Queensland.
It was run by a Greek family until the 1970s and consisted of a bakery (in the basement), a café at street level (where staff wore bluebird brooches on their uniforms) and a dance hall/function room was located on the upper floor.

The following memory of Townsville’s Blue Bird Café was written by Barbara Mathiesen.  Thanks for sharing this wonderful memory with us Barbara!

My Blue Bird Café

In the 1950s a trip to town was always a great delight to me, especially if it ended with a trip to the Blue Bird Café. 

Flinders Street had a great variety of shops, a few hotels, some banks and offices and plenty of cafes.  Shopping took time, each transaction taking place across a counter where the assistant brought out a variety of sizes and styles of the item being sought after, long discussions about the virtues of different brands, materials, sizes etc. were entered into and by the end of the morning most people were ready for a cold drink or a cup of tea, at the very least. 

The Bluebird Café, owned and run by the Marendy family, was perhaps the biggest and best of the cafés in Townsville – it certainly stands out in my mind. 

The Blue Bird was next to the Bank of New South Wales (now Westpac Bank), and right at the front, on the right, was the long, high counter of a milk bar. Customers perched on high stools to enjoy the great variety of cold drinks and ice-creams, sandwiches and cups of tea or coffee that were served here. 

Opposite the milk bar was a similar counter where cakes and pastries could be purchased to take away.  Behind that was the kitchen, a large enclosed space from which emanated an incredible amount of clattering and jangling as the cooks and kitchen hands pushed a huge amount of food and all the accompanying pots and pans, plates and cutlery through the preparation and clearing up processes. After a visit to the Blue Bird my sister and I played cafes as we washed up – and were soon in trouble because our mother didn’t like the rather splendid crashing and jangling sound effects we made with her plates and silver. 

The wide passage between the milk bar and cake counter led to the café, which occupied the full width of the premises. Several rows of fixed tables ran from front to back – a low divider to give privacy running between each pair of tables. 

Waitresses took orders and placed a jug of water and glasses on the table.  We usually had a sandwich, or sometimes pie and vegetables.  Of course the menu stretched to much more than that, but they were our family favourites.  A ham sandwich eaten in a café beat a home-made one hands down. On special occasions we would be allowed an ice-cream sundae, and I’m sure it was at the Blue Bird that I first had a parfait - a tall glass filled with layers of fruit, ice cream and jelly and eaten with a long handled spoon.  Very special. 

My favourite memory of the Blue Bird was when we’d had a long walk, perhaps after visiting our Dad in the General Hospital in Eyre Street.  Before catching the bus home, Mum would sometimes take us to the Blue Bird for an orange drink – and on special occasions, an orange drink with ice cream in it.
Like all the cafes the Blue Bird was a great social hub and a great place for people watching, albeit very discreetly.  How I’d love to go there again.

Barbara Mathiesen.

Blue Bird Cafe, Townsville, Queensland, 1946.  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

Unfortunately the above picture was the only image I could find of Townsville’s Blue Bird Café.  If you have a better photo in your possession, I’d love to see it – Trisha Fielding.

Milk jug from the Blue Bird Cafe, Cairns, recently sold on eBay.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Rat Plague in Western Queensland

In September 1950, The Northern Miner reported that rats had begun to invade Julia Creek in ‘rather large numbers’.  It stated that for some time prior to this, reports had been coming in from the country areas that rats were very numerous, and now they had reached the town of Julia Creek.  A report from Muttaburra in January 1951 stated that ‘hundreds of starving rats are invading homes and gardens at flood-bound Muttaburra’ and that residents there were ‘killing an average of 15 to 20 rats a day in their homes or backyards’.

A mob of sheep on Eddington Station, near Julia Creek, Queensland.
Image:  State Library of Queensland.

My late Grandmother Evelyn Wilder told me her memories of the rat plague on a sheep station near Julia Creek in 1951:

“I went out west with Al in 1951 when he went back shearing.  To Quambetook Station in the Julia Creek district.  I was going to cook for the shearers.  I wasn’t feeling too good at the time, because I was pregnant with our second child.  I remember getting there this first night in a hard-backed old lorry.  I heard this dreadful noise as I got off the truck.  I said, ‘what’s that noise?’  Nobody answered me, but it was rats.  Hordes and hordes of rats - millions of them.  Somebody said there was a rat plague.  All I’d ever seen was plagues of grasshoppers.  What a shock I was in for!  Those rats were about a foot long.  Every step you took you had to kick them out of the way.  It was horrible.  It was impossible for me to sleep at night.  I’d look over and see Al sleeping, and the rats were on his face, chewing on him and he was sleeping through the lot.  I’d wake him up and say, ‘the rats are chewing you’.  He’d say, ‘go to sleep’.  I said, ‘I can’t sleep, we’ve got a baby here, they’ll chew her’.  I wasn’t game to sleep, you see.  So I got to be a nervous wreck.

The rats would chew through everything.  They’d get in the pantry - it didn’t matter that it was locked up - they chewed through boards and everything to get to the stuff in the pantry.  All night long you’d hear peas and other stuff dropping.  You know, they used to get into the bread.  They would get right inside of it and there’d be nothing left of it next day.  You’d get up in the morning and there’d be no food in the pantry.  Of course, I was supposed to cook for the men – prepare five meals a day, seven days a week.  And there was no refrigeration on Quambetook in those days.  The going was very tough with 120 degree heat.  We had canvas water bags to cool off the water. 

In the end we put a piece of tin up, so they couldn’t get into the pantry.  We had a bit of peace after that.  I’ve never seen rats like them.  They used to shriek and squeal, it was indescribable.  In the end, the baby got very sick.  We had to get the Ambulance out and we went in to the hospital at Julia Creek.  After that I brought her home (to Townsville).  She was on a diet for a long time of dry toast and Vegemite.  I think it was the rats.  I’ve never seen anything like that and never want to again.  They’d eat the country out as they went along. The rats were like a carpet, all the rats going along.”
The Nothern Miner, 30 September 1950, p. 3.
Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton), 21 January 1951, p. 1.
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 4 July 1950, p. 2.
Interview with Evelyn Wilder, private collection of Trisha Fielding.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Cholera ship - the SS Dorunda, 1885

In late 1885 a ship carrying over 470 passengers and crew docked at ports in north Queensland en route from London to Brisbane.  It was also carrying cholera. 

SS Dorunda, docked at Port Said, Egypt, n.d.
Image: State Library of Queensland.

The British India Steam Navigation Company’s ship Dorunda sailed from London on 20th October 1885, with many of its 367 passengers, immigrants - bound for the port of Brisbane.  The Dorunda stopped at Malta on October 29, Port Said, Egypt on November 2 and Aden on November 9, where the (mainly Indian) crew was exchanged.  On November 27 the Dorunda reached Batavia, in Java.  Up until this point in the voyage, there had been little sickness of note according to the ship’s medical officer, Dr Thomas Hickling. 

At Batavia about 560 tons of coal was loaded onto the ship, and whilst this was being loaded about twenty of the saloon passengers disembarked and travelled to the township of Batavia by rail.  No other passengers or crew were allowed to disembark the vessel.  Although it was discouraged, a few passengers bought fruit from a small boat that came up alongside the Dorunda.  No cargo was taken on board, but fresh vegetables, fruit and potatoes were brought on board for the consumption of saloon passengers only.  No water was taken on board at this stop.

Four days later, on 2nd December, a 62-year old man became ill with symptoms similar to cholera.  He gradually recovered and Dr Hickling did not believe the man had cholera.  On the 6th December, an 18-month old child died after suffering convulsions from diarrhoea.  Two family members of the child had been treated for diarrhoea just days earlier. 

The Dorunda reached Thursday Island on 7th December and Cooktown on 9th December.  At Thursday Island the health officer had boarded the ship and found no reason not to allow the Dorunda to continue its journey.  The same thing happened at Cooktown, despite the seven cases of diarrhoea.  Twelve passengers (female immigrants) were landed at Cooktown as well as mail and cargo. 

On the same day, a 33-year old man named Thomas Doran fell ill and died that night.  Dr Hickling reported to the captain that he had no doubt the illness was Asiatic cholera.  The Dorunda was now on its way to Townsville.  Two of Thomas Doran’s three children (Frank and Henry) became ill with vomiting and diarrhoea on the night of Doran’s death and died the following day.   

On the 10th December the Dorunda arrived at Townsville.  The health officer was informed of the illness aboard the ship but proceeded to board the ship to decide for himself.  He confirmed that the ship was indeed afflicted with epidemic cholera but returned to town seemingly unconcerned that he might be taking the illness with him!  The residents of Townsville then lobbied to have him placed under quarantine in his own home.  
Under orders from the Colonial Secretary, the Dorunda then proceeded directly to the quarantine station at Peel Island, off Brisbane, bypassing its intended destinations of Mackay and Rockhampton.  Townsville’s quarantine station at Magnetic Island was deemed unsuitable and apparently ill-equipped to deal with so many passengers.  The Dorunda arrived in Moreton Bay on 14th December and passengers were landed at Peel Island on the following day.  The ship was fumigated and the immigrant passengers’ belongings and bedding were destroyed.  All passengers and crew were isolated on Peel Island for several weeks. 
Advertisement advising readers of precautions against cholera and diarrhoea, October 1885. 
Image: State Library of Queensland.
The outbreak of cholera claimed at least 16 lives, possibly several more if the earlier, suspicious cases are taken into account.  In total, 75 people were treated for illness of a choleraic nature.  The source of the illness was not proven.  None of the saloon passengers who had left the ship briefly in Java fell ill with cholera.   

No cases of cholera developed on mainland Queensland. 


Cornish, W.R. ‘On an outbreak of cholera amongst British emigrants proceeding from London to Queensland in the S.S. Dorunda in December 1885’, British Medical Journal, 25 September 1886, pp. 577-580.
Cairns Post, 17 December 1885.
Queenslander, 19 December 1885.

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Religious Trends - West End Cemetery - Part 2

Key symbols commonly found on Catholic graves

Roman Catholic monuments in Australia up until the 1880s were predominantly Gothic in design with seraphs and angels common motifs, and crosses found on the majority of memorials.  In areas where the population was high in Irish immigrants, the Celtic cross was particularly favoured.  The crucifix was another favoured form of the cross and iconic representations of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and the Saints were also prevalent.

An example of a 'Celtic' style cross, which includes the IHS symbol.  Photo: T. Fielding.

During the years the West End Cemetery was in heavy use (late 1860s – 1930s) the cross appears to be the most common monument for Catholic graves.  The Celtic cross and the Calvary cross appear equally favoured as monuments and the cross is often used as a motif, along with the IHS symbol.  Often these occur in combination.  The cross was a symbol of faith in all forms whilst the IHS symbol originated in the medieval cult of the name of Jesus and is a Latinised version of the Greek letters of the name and symbolise faith and piety towards the Catholic religion.

Key symbols commonly found on non-Catholic graves

One of the key differences between Roman Catholic monuments and non-Catholic monuments is that non-Catholic adherents (though there were exceptions) did not utilise the cross in commemorating their dead.  The cross ‘was shunned as being too popish and iconographic for funerary monuments’.  The Protestant view was that the use of the Virgin Mary, the Saints, and even the crucifix would encourage the worship of idols, rather than God.  In the Georgian period the non-Catholic religions erected plain-shaped headstones (Gothic, Norman and anthropomorphic) and used a minimum of decoration but in the Victorian and Edwardian eras more and more decoration was employed, and memorials took the shape of obelisks, columns, urns, pedestals, pediments, ledger stones and table-tops.  Angels and weeping willows could be found on Church of England headstones, but figurative sculpture was less popular among non-conformist religions such as the Presbyterians, Weslyans and Independents.

An example of an 'anthropomorphic' shaped headstone.  Photo: T. Fielding

The symbolism on non-catholic headstones in the West End Cemetery between the late 1860s and the late 1920s varied very little.  Ivy, a symbol of fidelity and eternal life is utilised very heavily during this period.  Another very common motif is the clasped handshake symbol.  Often the cuffs depict both men and women’s clothing suggesting a farewell in this life and a reunion in the next. This particular style of headstone was also erected in this cemetery for a number of Anglicans and was extremely popular with Methodists. 

By the 1930s, monuments such as obelisks and pedestals with draped urns and broken columns became popular large monuments in the West End Cemetery, particularly with Church of England and Presbyterian followers.  A change that can be observed in the West End Cemetery is the use of crosses on non-catholic graves.

In this article I’ve only focused on the five most common religions represented in the cemetery. Up to the year 1900, those five religions (Church of England, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Weslyan and Methodist*) accounted for approximately 85% of burials. The other three largest groups recorded were listed as Pagan, Heathen and unknown.  While they were recorded as such, it’s likely that many of these last three groups were actually Indigenous, or of Chinese or South Sea Island origin.

* Both Weslyan and Methodist were recorded as separate religions in the West End Cemetery register.

Monday, 22 April 2013

West End Cemetery - Religious Trends in Townsville

Cemeteries are a rich resource for the historical study of social conditions and demographic trends in a community.  Headstone inscriptions can provide information on birth and death rates, the prevalence of disease, patterns of migration and settlement, marriage patterns and religious trends. Townsville’s West End Cemetery is a unique window into the lives of the city’s early inhabitants; providing valuable information on mortality rates and disease; monumental symbolism and the social and religious trends in the community, from the 1860s to the mid 1900s.
Townsville's West End Cemetery, 2012.  Photo: Trisha Fielding.
Surveyed in 1865, West End Cemetery was Townsville's first official cemetery but its second burial ground. An unofficial burial ground was located somewhere in the present suburb of North Ward, but was abandoned within a couple of years as settlement spread rapidly around the base of Castle Hill and into North Ward.  It wasn’t officially gazetted as a cemetery reserve until 1872 however the burial ground was in use from at least March 1868 when Captain Henry Sinclair, founder of Bowen, was buried there.  Sinclair’s headstone is believed to be the oldest in situ monument in the cemetery. The earliest burial records for the cemetery date from 1873.
The total number of burials at this cemetery has been estimated to be over 8,000.[1] This seems a reasonable estimate given that the burial register lists numbered graves up to 7,718 along with the fact that graves often contained more than one burial. 

Religious Trends 

Cemeteries provide a wealth of information for the study of religious trends in a community.  This is because denominational differences are clearly reflected in epitaphs and mortuary symbolism.  Roman Catholic, Church of England and Presbyterian religions all have a high statistical representation in the West End Cemetery. Between 1870 and 1900, 44.7 per cent of the 4,555 burials recorded in the burial register were recorded as Anglican or Church of England, 23.1 per cent were recorded as Roman Catholic, 10.3 per cent Presbyterian and 6.6 per cent Weslyan (only two burials during this period were recorded specifically as Methodist).[2] 

 Between 1901 and 1940, 41.4 per cent of burials were registered as Church of England, 23.8 per cent Roman Catholic, 13 per cent Presbyterian, 3.4 per cent Weslyan and 5 per cent Methodist.[3] 
These figures are consistent with Queensland-wide statistics. In 1891, religious adherence in Queensland largely reflected the country of origin of the population: Anglicans, Methodists and Baptists were mainly English, Presbyterians were largely Scottish, Roman Catholics mainly Irish, and Lutherans usually German.[4]  The largest denomination was Anglican (36.2 per cent), followed by Catholic (23.6 per cent) and Judaism was the only non-Christian religion specifically enumerated. [5]

Headstone/monument shapes
Simple slab shapes such as Norman and Gothic (after Georgian architecture) and anthropomorphic (human-like) were used widely in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and are found throughout the West End Cemetery. Others include more elaborate monument styles favoured during the later Victorian period (c. 1860-1900) and into the Edwardian period including the taller, shrouded urn; winged-angel; obelisk; broken-column; Calvary cross and Celtic cross style monuments. Table or altar monuments were commonly used from the late eighteenth century to the late nineteenth century.

This impressive monument was erected in memory of Viola Bismuth Noble.  
Photo: T. Fielding, 2012.
Common symbols include the broken column (for a life cut short), ivy (hope and immortality), the poppy (sleep), the cross (faith), weeping willows (grief and loss), the broken chain (loss), the dove and olive sprig (faith and renewal), the anchor (faith), the trumpet (resurrection), clasped hands (farewell and reunion), an hourglass (the passing of time), the bodyless, or winged cherub (the flight of the soul), a book (the Bible or Book of Life), a rose (symbolising English origin), thistle (symbolising Scottish origin) and the shamrock (symbolising Irish origin).[6] 
Clasped hands, symbolising both farewell, and also hope of a reunion in the afterlife. (Note the male and female cuffs).
Photo: Trisha Fielding, 2012. 

Other interesting symbols found throughout this cemetery include Masonic symbols (compass and square) and the Knights Templar symbol (cross and crown).

 In my next blog I’ll talk about the differences in the symbolism used on the headstones for some of the different religious denominations in the West End Cemetery.

[1] Peter Bell and David Young, unpublished report for the Townsville City Council, West End Cemetery Townsville: Conservation Strategy’, 1997, held by City Libraries Townsville Local History Collection.
[2] K. M. Gillespie, unpublished report, ‘A Monumental View of West End 1987, Appendix F, p. 2, held by City Libraries Townsville, Local History Collection.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Government Statistician’s Office, Queensland Past and Present: 100 Years of Statistics, 1896-1996, Queensland Government, Brisbane, 1998, p. 86.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Graeme M. Griffin and Des Tobin, In the Midst of Life… The Australian Response to Death, 2nd Edition, Melbourne University Press, 1997, p. 92, and Lionel Gilbert, A Grave Look at History: Glimpses of a Vanishing Form of Folk Art, John Ferguson Pty Limited, 1980, p. 33.