Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Jubilee Pioneers Luncheon - Townsville

In 1951, celebrations took place all around Australia to celebrate the Jubilee (50th anniversary) of Australia's nationhood. In Townsville, a Pioneer's Luncheon was held on 7th May at the Showgrounds, with around 300 of the city's most senior residents in attendance.
Jubilee Pioneer's Luncheon, held at Townsville Showgrounds, 7 May 1951.
Photo:  Fraley Studio Townsville, Townsville City Libraries.
The Townsville Daily Bulletin described those who would be in attendance:

“They will comprise men and women who have meant much to the development of the district, and of the north. Few of them are marked by wealth or high position, but they represent the real backbone of the nation, the people who do their job where they find it, without inordinate ambition, working conscientiously, unnoticed, often misunderstood, but steady and the essential basis of progress everywhere.”[1]
Mr George King (seated front left) at the Jubilee Pioneer's Luncheon, Townsville Showgrounds 7 May 1951, was the oldest person at the gathering. Seated on his right is 94 year-old Mrs Isobel Tippet (the oldest woman present at the Pioneers Luncheon). Seated on the far right is Townsville Mayor Alderman J.S. Gill.
Photo: Fraley Studio Townsville, Townsville City Libraries.
“Pride of place at Monday’s Pioneer Luncheon was given to Mr. George William King, of 29 Gregory Street, North Ward. Aged 95 years, Mr. King was the oldest person at the gathering. Born in Warwick on February 14, 1856, he now lives with one of his daughters, Mrs. P. Olsen. Mr. King married in 1883 and had 12 children - nine of whom are living. Among his other descendants are 41 grand-children, 51 great grand-children, and two great great grand-children.”[2] 

Remarkably, the newspaper listed the names and addresses of every person who was invited to the function! If you have trouble reading these screen shots, just go to Trove and search for the original article[3]
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 8 May 1951, p. 2.
Source: Trove.
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 8 May 1951, p. 2.
Source: Trove.
Townsville Daily Bulletin, 8 May 1951, p. 2.
Source: Trove.

[1] Townsville Daily Bulletin, 5 May 1951, p. 2.
[2] ‘His City Honoured Him’, Townsville Daily Bulletin, 8 May 1951, p. 2.
[3] ‘Talked of Old Times’, Townsville Daily Bulletin, 8 May 1951, p. 2.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Ross River Meatworks

Construction on the Ross River Meatworks began in August 1891, and by June the following year the first cattle were being processed there. As well as providing a solution to the problem of how to deal with an oversupply of cattle in the region, the meatworks proved an economic boon for the region, employing 700 workers at its peak.
Ross River Meatworks, Townsville, c. 1930.
Photo:  State Library of Queensland.

Within just a year of construction beginning, the first shipment of frozen beef - 600 tons of it - left the Townsville harbour aboard the Otarama, bound for London. By the end of November, the meat had arrived in good condition, and the venture was hailed as huge success.

To introduce the meat shipped by the Queensland Meat Export and Agency Company to the British public, a banquet on “an extensive scale” was to be held once the steamer Ruahine reached London. The Ruahine was the second ship to arrive carrying frozen Queensland meat (this time from both Townsville and Brisbane) and 150 invited guests were expected to attend.
Freezer hands at the Ross River Meatworks, Townsville, c. 1900.
Photo:  Townsville City Libraries.

An editorial in the North Queensland Register reflected the optimistic mood generated by the success of the first shipment.

“Far-seeing capitalists already recognise that there is going to be a great development of the meat export trade from Australia, and are preparing to assist it by building a new line of steamers, specially designed for the work.”

“In time to come, freezing works will be established in every port of this coast, and the annual return from exported meat will rival those of gold, wool and other products of North Queensland.”

Before very long the meatworks was the subject of complaints from locals about the foul smell created by the waste material that emptied into the Ross River from the meatworks. There were fears that the waste from the meatworks would bring disease and in early September 1897, these fears were realised.

The Central Board of Health in Brisbane received an urgent telegram from the Health Officer at Townsville advising that an epidemic of typhoid fever that had broken out at the Ross River Meatworks had reached 25 cases, and was increasing daily.

It appears the outbreak was left to run its natural course, as the Health Officer had no actual power to act, and in any case the Central Board of Health felt it was the responsibility of the local council to prevent any further spread of the disease.
Cooperage at the Ross River Meatworks, Townsville, c. 1900.
Photo:  Townsville City Libraries.

One local reporter, who had visited the meatworks in June, believed that the stench wasn’t actually coming from the river, it was from waste material that had been through a “digester” and left to rot on the ground. He suggested that if the material could be effectively dried it would present less of a problem.

Overall, the reporter felt there was, “nothing unwholesome in a good solid meat works stink. People in time get used to it but of course I admit it is rough on visitors and while I was there it stopped my watch,” he said.

After receiving complaints from nearby residents, the council demanded the QME & A. Company rectify the “nuisance” by the end of the year.

To try and reduce the stench, the company took steps to utilise waste products more effectively, which resulted in the production of fertiliser that proved a very profitable side venture.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Creelman Memorial Hall

The foundation stone for the Creelman Memorial Hall, once located in Harold Street, West End, was laid on 16 April, 1921. Designed by Townsville architect Stephen Harvey, the building was purpose-built to accommodate Presbyterian Sunday School pupils.
Creelman Memorial Hall, West End, Townsville, 1924.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
William Marshall Creelman, to whom the building was erected as a memorial, died after a brief illness in December 1919. Mr Creelman was a very prominent member and office holder in the Presbyterian Church, having become a member in 1894, an elder in 1896, and Session Clerk in 1897. He was also Treasurer of the church and served 24 years as Superintendent of the Sunday School he started at his own home in West End.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported in October 1916, that, “for several years, by the kindness of Mr Creelman, Sunday School had been held on the verandahs of his house, and now there were between 70 and 80 scholars, it was time they had a hall”. After several years of fundraising, work finally began on the hall.

The Rev. W. Sinclair, presiding at the ceremony to lay the foundation stone for the hall in 1921, explained that the building was an extension of a great work established in the district by the late Mr Creelman. The proceedings opened with the singing of the 100th Psalm, followed by a prayer.

The Mayor, Alderman W.H. Green, and Mr S.M. Hopkins, of the business firm Hollis Hopkins; laid two principal foundation stones.

Alderman Green said he regarded it as an honour and a privilege to be asked to lay the first stone in connection with the building, intended for God’s work in the training of youth, and as a memorial to one who had done so much for the boys and girls of that neighbourhood. He believed that “the greatness of the British Empire depended upon its homes, churches and schools, which built the character of the boys and girls”.

Miss Dorothy Swenson then presented the Mayor and Mr Hopkins with miniature polished mallets, with silver inscriptions, as a memento of the occasion. Other inscribed stones were then laid by a number of others representing various branches of church work, including one laid by Mrs Creelman.

Afternoon tea and “dainty refreshments” were provided by a committee of ladies in a temporary marquee on the grounds.

Mr Creelman, who made a living as an accountant, was evidently very highly thought of in secular circles as well. Mr S.M. Hopkins, who laid the second foundation stone, said he had known and worked with the late Mr Creelman for 15 or 16 years. During the time they had worked together he said he had personally seen a side of Mr Creelman that few other people had seen.

While many people knew Mr Creelman well from his church work or Sunday school work, Mr Hopkins knew him through his everyday work in business, and he felt that “in that character no one could wish for a more loyal and true man”.

Mr Hopkins felt sure that Mr Creelman could not have wished for a finer memorial than the hall.
Demolition of Creelman Memorial Hall, 17 July 1972.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.

The Rev. G. Galloway officially opened the W. Creelman Memorial Hall on 23 August, 1921. The building was destroyed during Cyclone Althea in 1971 and demolished in 1972.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A Pub on Every Corner

The city block bounded by The Strand, Flinders, Wickham, and King Streets was once home to a hotel on every corner. The Criterion Hotel, the former Queens Hotel and Tattersall’s Hotel are all still standing, while the Imperial Hotel stood on the now vacant corner until 1938, when it was destroyed by fire.
Two horse-drawn vehicles outside the Imperial Hotel, corner of Flinders and King Streets, Townsville, c. 1889.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.

Early hotels played an important role in the development of regional towns, as they offered accommodation and meals for both locals and travellers alike, as well as served as a place to hold community meetings before purpose-built facilities existed.

The Criterion Hotel on The Strand was the first hotel in Townsville, with the first license issued in 1865 to William Ross, who was among the first party of white settlers in Cleveland Bay. The first meeting of the newly formed Townsville Municipal Council was held there in 1866. The Criterion catered to wealthy visitors, while Tattersall’s Hotel on the diagonal corner was more of a working man’s pub, boasting its own bowling alley.
Horse and buggy outside the Criterion Hotel, The Strand, c.1902.
Photo:  State Library of Queensland.

The first Queens Hotel was constructed for James Evans in 1872. A two-storeyed timber structure, extended in the 1880s along Wickham Street, it was considered one of the best hotels in Queensland and often hosted many important guests, including visiting Queensland Governors.

In 1899 John Henry Tyack took over the hotel and began planning to replace the existing hotel with a much more elaborate building. In 1901 he purchased adjoining land that eventually gave the hotel a 60-metre frontage to The Strand. The final stage of the hotel was not completed until 1925, twelve years after Tyack’s death.
Queens Hotel, The Strand, c. 1900.
Photo:  State Library of Queensland.

An early rival of the Queens Hotel was the Imperial Hotel, which was built in 1882 for David Buchanan. The Imperial enjoyed a prime position close to the bustling wharves on Ross Creek, which ensured a regular flow of customers.

But in 1900, this prime position proved a disadvantage, when, despite strict quarantine regulations, one of the hotel’s employees contracted bubonic plague. Peter Backland, a 33-year-old yardman at the hotel, died within 24 hours. His duties included collecting and transporting the luggage of hotel guests to and from the wharves – the likely source of the infection.

When Backland was diagnosed, the Imperial Hotel was quarantined and 35 guests, 16 servants, and 7 members of the licensee’s family were isolated. One newspaper reported:

“The Imperial hotel is such an institution in Townsville that its compulsory sequestration for five hours, to say nothing of five days, would be regarded as a calamity.”

The livelihood of the hotel’s licensees, Mr and Mrs Edward Byrne, was threatened because they were unable to trade during the period of quarantine. Mrs Byrne expressed her frustration in a letter to her son:

“For a few days while the fumigation business was going on we breathed phenyle, swallowed nothing else but abominable fumes, and everything and everybody was stamped with a look of sulphury and melancholy dejection.”

The incident was so potentially damaging to the hotel’s reputation that soon they denied that Backland had even worked there. The Health Officer, Dr Row, told the press that the Imperial Hotel had no connection with the case, and that because the plague case occurred in an outbuilding, far removed from the hotel, all the “contacts” had been released.