Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Looking back at Townsville's Centenary - 1964

This month marks 150 years since the proclamation of Townsville as a municipality in 1866. The population at that time is likely to have been only a few hundred but when the city turned 100, it had grown to be the home of roughly 60,000 people.

His Excellency the Governor, Sir Henry Abel Smith (in white), unveiling the Centenary Memorial Plaque in Anzac Park, 1 November 1964. Dr R.A. Douglas (second from left), grandson of Andrew Ball, watches on.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by Townsville City Libraries.
The centenary celebrations were timed to coincide with the arrival of a party of white settlers who arrived in Cleveland Bay in late 1864 and included a Centenary Pageant at the Sports Reserve, a Centenary Community Fair held in Hanran Park, the official opening of Jezzine Barracks, and the unveiling of a memorial plaque in Anzac Park.

On Sunday, 1 November, Queensland Governor Sir Henry Abel-Smith, unveiled the bronze plaque in Anzac Memorial Park that commemorated one hundred years of European settlement. Set in a massive granite rock brought from Kissing Point, the plaque was inscribed with the names of the men who were key figures in Townsville’s founding - John Melton Black, Andrew Ball, Mark Watt Reid and Robert Towns.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported that Sir Henry Abel Smith told the assembled crowd that “it was indeed an historic occasion”.

“During the past century a swamp has been turned into the second city in Queensland, one of the most beautiful tropical cities in the world and undoubtedly the most healthy,” Sir Henry said.

The Governor believed that Townsville’s greatest accomplishment had been to “show the whole world that a city predominantly of western races could spring up and be one of the healthiest places in the world,” he said.

Also present at the ceremony was respected Townsville physician, Dr R.A. Douglas - grandson of pioneer Andrew Ball - who was believed to be the only descendant of the men mentioned on the plaque, still living in Townsville.

“The memorial, in timeless bronze and native granite, is something that should last forever, and these men in a thousand years will still be recognised as the main founders of Townsville,” Dr Douglas said.

But the organisers of the Centenary Pageant, held on the afternoon of Saturday 31 October, which featured 100 performers, were disappointed with the “handful” of people who turned up to watch the two-hour pageant.

According to the Bulletin, half an hour out from the start time, there were less than 30 people in attendance. The pageant, which took the form of tableaux and floats, featured Indigenous dancers and historical re-enactments, all designed to highlight the city’s progress over the previous 100 years.
Re-enactment of 1866 Speech by first Mayor, Mr. John Melton Black at Incorporation of Townsville Municipality.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by Townsville City Libraries.
The chosen highlights included the arrival of the first white settlers to the area; the first Townsville race meeting; the speech delivered when the city became a municipality; the founding of Anglican and Roman Catholic churches; and the raising of the newly-designed Australian flag by the Earl of Hopetoun here in 1901.

By the time the pageant cast had assembled for a final circuit of the Sports Reserve, 300 people were in attendance, but this was still a disappointing turnout.

There had been no lack of enthusiasm from locals when earlier that morning, the Governor had inspected 300 troops at a ceremonial parade at Jezzine Barracks. A precursor to the official opening of the barracks, an estimated 2,000 people watched the parade and then took the opportunity to inspect the new barracks.

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