Sunday, 16 February 2014

Townsville South State School: 130 Years Old

Townsville South State School is about to celebrate its 130th birthday. The school opened on 26th February 1884 and was originally called the Ross Island State School. A building committee to establish the school had been set up in May 1882 and consisted of the following elected members: Murdo Cameron*, John Reardon, Harry Hack, Alfred Wales, Thomas Page, Thomas Pearce and William Martin (Secretary).

Ross Island pyramid, Townsville South State School.
Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection
By sheer virtue of its geography, Ross Island was isolated from the main part of Townsville, so the need for a school seemed obvious. But the feelings of isolation went deeper. At the same time as the school was being built, the ratepayers of Ross Island signed a petition proposing that Ross Island be excised from the municipal district of Townsville. The petition, with more than 120 signatures, asked for the suburb to be declared a separate municipality, with the suggested name to be either Musgrave or South Townsville.  The petition was addressed to Sir Anthony Musgrave, who was the governor of Queensland at the time, hence the suggestion to call the new municipality 'Musgrave'.  The appeal to Musgrave's vanity failed though, and Ross Island remained a part of Townsville.

Class photo, Grade III.I, Ross Island State School, 1920.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
The first building at the school was described as being of the 'best Maryborough hardwood' and could accommodate 120 students. It was 50 feet long and 25 feet wide, with wide verandahs on both the back and front of the building.  The teacher's residence was a house of six rooms which included a kitchen.

Population growth in the suburb ensured that the school prospered, and new wings had to be added to the main building in 1885 and 1892. Further additions were made to the school between 1898 and in 1919 the school was raised. By 1920 there were 599 pupils enrolled at the school. In 1936 the school changed its named from Ross Island to Townsville South State School.

Flooding in Tully Street, outside the Townsville South State School.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
* Murdo Cameron built the first hotel in South Townsville, known as the Bridge Hotel, on the site of what is now the Metropole Hotel. He was also Mayor of Townsville on three occasions.