Saturday, 23 January 2016

Railway Estate State School turning 100 in 2016

In February 1913, a group of Railway Estate residents met at the National Hotel to discuss the need for a new state school in the locality.
Railway Estate State School, c. 1918.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
The suburb was home to many railway employees and their families, and it was a group of railwaymen, headed by Harry Griffith, George Merchant, W. Smallwood, George Moore, Chas Reeves, W. Jones, J. Hudson, A. Polkinghorne who first began to agitate for a school.

The need for a school seemed straightforward enough, considering the recent rapid growth of the suburb, but the residents had great difficulty convincing the government that there were enough potential students in the area.

At the meeting, Messrs G. Everett and P. Finn reported having canvassed the western side of the railway line and ascertained that there were about 40 school age children, and about 17 children not yet of age, while Messrs C.H. Conn and E.R. Blakeney reported that on the eastern side of the line there were 74 eligible children, with another 40 children not yet of school age.

In addition to the children in Railway Estate it was reported that approximately 90 children from Oonoonba travelled by train daily to attend Townsville schools, and it was expected that these children would attend a school at Railway Estate, if it were built. This took the estimate of the number of potential students to roughly 200.
First Committee, Railway Estate State School, elected 1916.
Back row: (left to right) W.H. Jones, W.H. King, Malcolm Fardon (Head Teacher), W.J. Smallwood, G. Moore. Front row: H. Griffith (Secretary), J. Hudson (Chairman) and C.W. Reeve (Treasurer).
Photo & caption: Townsville City Libraries.
However, it appears departmental heads thought that Railway Estate was well out of the town limits, as the Building Committee was asked, if the school were to be built, where the teachers would find accommodation? There were several boarding houses and one hotel within just a few hundred metres of the school.

Thanks to persistent appeals by the Member for Mundingburra, Mr Thomas Foley, a 1.6 hectare reserve for the school was purchased by the government for £325. After further agitation, which included a “mass demonstration” on the school reserve – where the number of potential students was ascertained by tallying up the number of currant buns handed out to children – approval was given to build the school.

It was 1916 before construction on the school began. Built on concrete blocks two metres high, with the ground underneath asphalted, the main building measured 20 metres by 6.7 metres, and was divided into three rooms, with partitions that could be set aside to make one large room.

There were also two smaller wings built at an angle, each measuring 3.6m by 9m. These wings were cleverly sited to shade sections of the verandah from the morning and afternoon sun. Mr G. Lear erected the buildings for approximately £1,800.

The school opened on 21 August 1916, under the instruction of the first Head Teacher, Mr Malcolm Fardon, with an enrolment of 240 pupils. By the end of the year, the total number of students had reached 292.

At the official opening in early August, the Committee Chairman, Mr P. Finn, reminded the assembled audience of the difficulties encountered over the past few years, in making the school a reality.

He said that when they had first gone around to find out the likely numbers of children that would attend the school, and found that there were nearly 200, some mothers had told him that “there would probably be others by the time the school was up”.

He jokingly added that he was “glad to say some of these had proved as good as their word”.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Japanese Naval Squadrons visit Townsville

In the first two decades of the twentieth century, the Japanese Navy made regular visits to large Australian ports, and at every port of call they were received with great excitement and enthusiasm.

Commanders of the Combined Japanese Fleet at Russo-Japanese War. Left to right: Funakoshi, Shimamura, Togo, Kamimura, Kato, Akiyama. Shimamura, Kamimura and Kato all visited Townsville at one time.
Source: "Remember the great Japanese Navy" by Masanori Itou, Image in the Public Domain.
His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Naval Training Squadron, which was made up of three warships - the flagship Matsushima, and the cruisers Itsukushima and Hashidate, arrived in Townsville in June 1903, carrying more than 1,300 officers and crew. When it docked in Townsville the squadron was on its way home to Japan, after having already visited Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, Hobart and Sydney.

At this time, Japan was considered one of the world’s emerging naval powers, after decisive battles against China in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-95). Townsville was undoubtedly chosen as a stopover because the city was home to one of only two Japanese Consulates in Australia at the time.

At the invitation of the Mayor, Rear Admiral Kamimura and his officers were given a tour of the Town Hall complex in Flinders Street, which included the Theatre Royal and Central Hotel. During the visit to the theatre a group of school children, who were rehearsing for a concert, sang the Japanese National Anthem in the Japanese language, to the “huge delight of the visitors”.

According to the Townsville Daily Bulletin:

“A most pleasant surprise greeted the Admiral and his officers when they entered the area where the Central State School children were rehearsing on the stage.”

“Under the direction of Mr Caldersmith, and on the appearance of the visitors in the gallery, they rose and sang the Japanese National Anthem in the native tongue.”

When the Mayor proposed a toast to the Admiral and the Japanese Squadron, the Admiral made special reference to the earlier compliment, stating that this was “the first time he had heard the Japanese National Anthem sung in the native tongue by others than Japanese.”

“He further expressed delight at the cordiality with which he had been everywhere met by the officials and citizens of Townsville,” the Bulletin reported.

During their stay, Admiral Kamimura and his officers were entertained at a garden party at the Botanical Gardens, and the function was considered a great success, despite the gardens having suffered significant damage during cyclone Leonta, only months earlier.
Admiral Shimamura and the staff of the visiting Japanese Naval Squadron, with citizens of Townsville, in Queens Gardens, 1906.
Source: Townsville City Libraries.
Perhaps having been briefed by the Japanese Consul, Admiral Kamimura reportedly made charitable donations towards the cyclone relief effort, as well as to the Central State School. The distinguished guests were later treated to an evening concert at the school, where the Japanese National Anthem was once again performed in the national language.

About 150 citizens from Townsville and Charters Towers were invited to be guests of Admiral Kamimura “at home” on board his flagship, the Matsushima. According to a Townsville correspondent for The Queenslander, the locals were “delighted” with their visit to the ship.

“The warship was beautifully decorated, the deck being got up in representation of a garden, with delicately-constructed paper trees and flowers, and with national flags and streamers fluttering from the rigging. A programme of games, juggling feats, music, and other amusements made up an extremely enjoyable afternoon.”

The Japanese Navy returned to Townsville again in 1906, 1910, 1911 and 1917. By 1940, Australia’s previously cordial relationship with Japan was severed when Japan aligned itself with Germany and Italy.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The day Castle Hill became a Mountain

In July 1980, a group of high school students embarked on a monolithic quest. Their goal was to add enough soil to the top of Castle Hill to make it high enough to be classified as a mountain.

Two Heatley High School students stand beside the makeshift pyramid filled with soil, that turned Castle Hill into a mountain for a day in July, 1980. On the right is Belinda Guest.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by Townsville City Libraries.
The project was designed to raise funds that would go towards the erection of an assembly hall at the Heatley State High School. Although the school had been operating since 1968, it still lacked many of the facilities that modern schools now take for granted from day one.

The fundraising stunt became front-page news in the Townsville Daily Bulletin. The report read:

Hundreds of students from Heatley High School converged on Townsville’s Castle Hill yesterday – and turned it, for a time, into a mountain.

The students, carrying buckets of soil, marched up the hill in a sponsored “mountathon” designed to yield funds for the school’s planned new assembly hall and gymnasium.

At the top of the hill the soil was poured into a wooden pyramid three metres high – enough to push Castle Hill into the “mountain” class. The hill is just that much too short to qualify.

The pyramid, dismantled later, bore a plaque that was unveiled by Townsville Mayor Perc Tucker, who told the students:

“We are now standing on top of what, for a short time anyway, is officially Castle Mountain.”

“You may be interested to know that your project today has given Castle Hill its proper status.”

“The hill is officially called Cutheringa Mountain – so the person who named it must have known this would happen one day.”

The construction of the makeshift, timber pyramid was supervised by manual arts teacher, Mike Harris, who planted a flag in the soil at the top of the three-metre structure.

The plaque attached to the pyramid read:

“Mt. Cutheringa, officially created by Heatley High, 8th July 1980, unveiled by the Mayor of Townsville, Ald. Perc Tucker.”

However, the Bulletin article carried a footnote that must have dampened some of the excitement of the achievement, noting:

“The Department of Mapping and Survey yesterday put the height of Castle Hill at 275.8 metres – 18.9 metres short of the height conventionally accepted as “mountain” status.”

“The Oxford Dictionary puts this height at 304.8 metres, or 1,000 feet.”

Mr Murray Fielding, a former student at the school, who was 14 when he participated in the fundraiser, recalls the event with fondness.

“We each carried two buckets of dirt up the hill. When we reached the top, we passed the buckets along, hand over hand, like a production line,” Mr Fielding said.

A highlight of the day for Mr Fielding was the visit by the Mayor, Perc Tucker.

“My mates and I loved it when Perc Tucker drove up to the top of the hill in his HX, LE Monaro. It was a beautiful car. It was maroon and had gold mag wheels,” he said.