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.

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