Monday, 23 May 2016

A.N.A. was forerunner to modern Health Funds

The Australian Natives’ Association (A.N.A.) was a national organisation that provided sick pay and medical and funeral benefits to its members. In many ways, it was a forerunner to modern health funds and insurance schemes, but the A.N.A. also sought to influence government policy on a range of issues relating to Australian national interests.

Delegates at the Australian Natives’ Association, Biennial State Conference, held at Townsville, Easter 1936. Townsville delegates were A.D. Murgatroyd (top row, second from left) and G.W. Ballment (third row, second from right).
Photo: Courtesy of Roy Murgatroyd.
The organisation, which was initially open only to white Australian-born males, was formed in Victoria in 1871 and was soon actively involved in promoting the cause of federation of the Australian colonies. Australia’s first two Prime Ministers, Sir Edmund Barton and Sir Alfred Deakin, were A.N.A. members.

The first branch outside of Victoria was established at Charters Towers in 1879 and by 1901 more than 200 branches existed throughout Australia.

Joining fees and weekly subscription fees varied according to age. In the 1930s the weekly subscription for a 16 year-old was set at 13 pence per week and this rose to 25 pence per week for a 45 year-old. This ensured a sick pay benefit of £1 per week for six months, and a funeral benefit of £30 upon death, payable to the nearest relative. Once a member reached the age of 65, no further payments were required, but all benefits remained.

The A.N.A. considered itself a “Patriotic and National Association”, and in a 1930s advertising pamphlet, the association’s aims were clearly laid out, declaring:

“The Australian Natives’ Association is a National organisation and has for its main plank the development and maintenance of a united Australia; the recognition and encouragement of high ideals of National life and character, and the stimulation of Australian literature, art, science and industry.”

“The native-born object to any part of Australia – near or remote from the equator – being made the dumping ground for the demoralised, decrepit, lunatic, and destitute populations of old world countries, including Britain or any part of the Empire.”

Immigration was clearly a key area of concern for the A.N.A., and was high on the agenda at the association’s State conference, held in Townsville in 1936.

Townsville delegate, Mr Arthur Murgatroyd, told the conference that he had no objection to “other nationals coming into Australia”, however, he added that he thought it would be “a catastrophe at the present time to bring immigrants to Australia when they could not handle the question of unemployment”.

“If they could make sure that immigrants had sufficient capital to settle them on the land, and not to make them a charge on Australia he would have no objection to them, but if they were going to displace Australians, the A.N.A. would be failing in its duty to Australians if they neglected to protest,” the Townsville Daily Bulletin reported.

This discussion came at a time when Australia was still suffering the effects of the Great Depression, and unemployment levels were high.

Mr Murgatroyd urged the association to oppose “the resumption of immigration to Australia until such time as unemployment had been reduced at least to pre-war figures”.

The conference also heard other ideas for tackling the unemployment problem, including a proposal to move to a shorter working week, which might provide more jobs for a greater number of people; and proposals to push for compulsory superannuation, and compulsory retirement at age 65.

Many of these issues carried over to the federal conference of the A.N.A., which was held in Canberra in November 1936. The Canberra Times noted:

"An important question for discussion was the shorter working week. It could not be disputed that recent inventions tended to swell the ranks of the unemployed and make it more difficult for great numbers of young men to secure employment."

The Commonwealth Government considered holding an inquiry into a shorter working week, in light of agitation from the A.N.A.

Headline from the Canberra Times, 10 November 1936.
Source: Trove
Another issue for the conference was the appointment of Australians as Governors-General. The A.N.A believed that Sir Isaac Isaacs, who was the first Australian to serve as Governor-General (from 1931-1936), was an excellent example of why Australian-born men should be considered for the position.

The Canberra Times reported in some detail:

"The conference of the Federal Council of the Australian Natives Association which opened at Canberra yesterday made constitutional reform a prominent subject of its discussions. A feature of its decisions was a resolution in favour of the appointment of Australians to the office of Governor-General, one
delegate insisting that Australians would fill the office with more
competence and as much dignity as men from overseas."

"I think it is fitting that organisations such as yours should come here for your Federal conference and concentrate upon the Federal Capital as we all have something in common in Canberra. This is yours and ours and we should all do something to make it worthy of the nation," said the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in opening the meeting of the Federal Council of the Australian Natives' Association, at which delegates from all States were present."

"Mr. Lyons said that the association had done much to foster a Federal spirit in Australia. That had been very important in the past, but he thought it was still more important now. The constitution was established in such a way as to make it possible for us to express ourselves Federally and from the State standpoint. Federation should be a harmonious expression. There should not be lack of harmony for us as between the Commonwealth and States. As a citizen of Tasmania, he did not think that he should be called upon to have any conflict with the Commonwealth."

Monday, 16 May 2016

Botanic Gardens thrived under WWI Veteran's curatorship

When Pat Andrews was appointed curator of the Townsville Botanical Gardens in 1936, he was following in the footsteps of the two highly accomplished curators that had preceded him.
Percival Pacific (Pat) Andrews, is pictured in the centre of the photo with family members, outside the curator’s cottage in the Townsville Botanical Gardens, North Ward (now known as Queen's Gardens).
Photo: Courtesy of Natalie Embregts.
Mr William Anderson, the first curator at the Botanical Gardens, spent 54 years in the role and was responsible for planning and setting up the gardens in North Ward. He was also instrumental in beautifying Townsville, planting Banyan figs on The Strand at Anzac Park and establishing the garden beds in Flinders Street in the 1920s. Anderson Gardens was later named in his honour.

Upon his retirement in 1930, Mr Anderson was succeeded by Mr George Johnson, who had spent 37 years as curator at Lissner Park, in Charters Towers, before coming to work at the Botanical Gardens in Townsville under Mr Anderson in 1926.

But if Pat Andrews, whose proper name was Percival Pacific Andrews, felt at all daunted by the thought of living up to the reputation of his predecessors, it does not appear to have stopped him from making his own mark on the gardens, where he went on to work for the next 30 years.

Mr Andrews was a decorated veteran of the First World War, having served in Egypt, Gallipoli, France and Belgium. In March 1918, he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for gallant conduct and devotion to duty in the field during a period of severe bombing and attack in October 1917.

After the war, Mr Andrews returned to Australia with his English bride Gwendoline, and took up a solider settlement selection at Boulia. Drought during the 1920s forced them off their land, and in 1928 he joined the Townsville City Council as a gardener. He was appointed curator in 1936 after the retirement of George Johnson.

Mr and Mrs Andrews lived on site with their seven children in a five-roomed cottage that had been built in the gardens in 1935.

Curator's cottage, Botanical Gardens, North Ward, 1940.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
Only a year after taking over as curator, Mr Andrews introduced roses to the Botanical Gardens on the site of two disused tennis courts adjacent to the curator’s residence. Extensive preparations were made, with 24 garden beds excavated to a depth of 3ft and the soil replaced with black soil, leaf mould and manure. Over 260 plants were put in, covering 20-odd varieties, and trellises were erected to carry the climbing varieties.

View of Castle Hill from the Botanical Gardens, North Ward, no date.
(The rose garden can be seen on the left in this postcard)
Photo: W. J. Laurie, Townsville City Libraries.
In 1940, Mr Andrews came up with the novel idea of adding an apiary to the rapidly expanding park at North Ward. A swarm of bees originally trapped in a fence post in Queen’s Park, adjoining the gardens, had been allowed to develop in a small single-storey hive, which was then added to by a double-decked casing on the bottom. This was then fitted with sliding doors on the ends and sides so that the bees - which were reportedly English and Italian species - could be observed at work through glass walls.

In the late 1940s, Mr Andrews was responsible for the propagation of several hundred Poinciana trees that were destined for an “Avenue of Poincianas” stretching over four miles from Ross River Meatworks to Stuart.

A new overpass at Cluden was recently named in honour of Percival Pacific Andrews, in recognition of his service to Australia as an ANZAC, along with his contribution to the Townsville community as curator of the Botanical Gardens.
The family of Percival Pacific (Pat) Andrews, assembled for the official opening of the rail overpass at Cluden that was named in his honour, 2016.
Photo: Trisha Fielding.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

NQ Midwives - "Invisible Heroines"

I’ve been researching and writing about midwives who lived and worked in North Queensland in the early twentieth century for a number of years now, and I have grown to have so much respect for the service and support these women provided to other women, and for their incredible work ethic.

Nurse Field, of Bowen, who ran a private hospital called Palm Cottage, c. 1916.
Photo: State Library of Queensland.
In the early 1900s, and long before giving birth in a public hospital was commonplace, many women chose to attend a “lying-in” hospital, which was a facility run by a private midwife in her own home, where a pregnant woman could go just before the baby was due to be born and remain there throughout her labour and for several days afterwards.

Many of these private midwives lacked any formal training, either in nursing or midwifery, but they were nonetheless highly respected within their communities, performing as they did, a vital, though mostly unseen, service.

There is considerable evidence to suggest that many of the women who ran these lying-in hospitals worked most of their lives as midwives. Charlotte Sherlaw ran the Garvald House Maternity Home in Cook Street, North Ward and was referred to as “Granny Sherlaw”, because of her age. Another private midwife from Townsville, Mercy Flowers, was referred to as “Granny Flowers” throughout her life, even though she had remarried after her first husband’s death, and had taken a different surname. Janet Veitch, who ran the Southesk Private Hospital in North Street, West End, appears to have been delivering babies right up until just before she died in 1927, at the age of 65. Margaret Walsh, who ran a lying-in hospital at her home in McIlwraith Street, South Townsville, only retired from her profession at the age of 74, due to ill-health.

With a population of roughly 20,000 during the years 1915 – 1918, Townsville’s private midwives were kept very busy as the city’s birth rate was high. From the reports of the city’s medical officer, it is possible to ascertain that 643 babies were born in 1915, 605 in 1916, 700 in 1917, and 780 in 1918. The 1917 birth rate for Townsville was considered to be “exceptionally high”, at 35 per thousand living. In comparison, Queensland’s birth rate for 1917 was 29 per thousand living.

Some women turned to private midwifery as a way to earn a living after being widowed. Rose Blaxland was widowed soon after marrying Colonel George Glendower Blaxland, the first paid Commandant of the Queensland Volunteer (Defence) Force, in 1899. Records show that in 1920, Rose was operating a lying-in hospital in her own home, at 24 Flinders Street, where she had lived since 1900. Rose outlived her husband by 42 years, so she used her skills as a midwife to make ends meet. Most often referred to as Nurse Blaxland, she too was later affectionately dubbed “Granny” Blaxland.

Rose Blaxland is listed on this page from the 'Register of Midwifery Nurses', held by Queensland State Archives.
Photo: Trisha Fielding.
At the same time as they made their homes available to expectant mothers, many private midwives also raised large families of their own, skilfully juggling their commitments as a wife and mother with those of a professional midwife. South Townsville midwife Margaret Walsh raised a large family while at the same time running a private lying-in hospital. Between 1887 and 1911, Margaret and her husband William, had 13 children.

During their lives, the work of private midwives went relatively unnoticed, performed, as it was, with quiet devotion and discretion. In death, these women were remembered for their enormous contribution to so many families, in newspaper obituaries that illustrate the high regard in which they were held. Rose Blaxland’s obituary from the Townsville Daily Bulletin, Friday 16 October, 1942, read:

An old resident, Nurse Rose Isabell Blaxland, late of 24 Flinders Street West End, passed away at an early hour on Wednesday morning last, at the age of 88 years. She was born in Kent, England, in 1854, and landed in Brisbane in 1874, where she joined the nursing staff of one of the hospitals, and later became associated with the Lady Bowen Hospital and obtained her certificate for midwifery. Deceased came to Townsville in 1884 and for the last 40 years resided at 24 Flinders Street West. During her life she practised her profession and often had to travel by stage coach to carry out her duties.  Many a mother can testify to her unswerving devotion to duty and her gentle and tender kindness.

Nurse Amy Field – Bowen

Born in Bowen in 1870, Amy Louisa Wilcox Field (see photo at top of post) trained as a nurse in Warwick for three years under Matron McNamara and later nursed in private homes in Bowen and Proserpine. She would travel to Proserpine by coach, and on at least one occasion travelled there on a railway pumper. In 1908 she opened a private hospital in Bowen called Palm Cottage, where, by the time of her retirement in 1936, more than 2,000 children had been born.

Known as “the Lady with the lamp”, this excerpt from Nurse Field’s obituary in the Mackay Daily Mercury, speaks of the high esteem in which she was held, especially by the women she nursed.

“Every one of those mothers must retain in her heart a deep feeling of gratitude - gratitude for the efficiency that gave them safety in their time of travail; for the devoted attention that she gave to them all, regardless of position; and for that loving-kindness that only the born nurse can give to her patients. Many of those mothers could tell of acts of unselfishness performed by Nurse Field on their behalf; of sleepless nights spent at their bedsides, asking no thanks; of the occasion when she rode, on a railway hand-driven tricycle to Proserpine to give her professional services. What a pity that those many kind works cannot be put into the printed word and set forth for the whole world to see, as an outstanding example of her profession. She was a true friend to all of her patients.”

Nurse Field died in August 1939, at the age of 68, only three years after retiring from nursing.

Nurse Janet Herries – Cairns

Herries Hospital, Cairns, taken sometime before 1927.
Photo: Cairns Historical Society.
Herries Private Hospital was a hospital in Cairns that catered for both maternity and general patients.  Situated at 180 McLeod Street, it was run by Nurse Janet Abercrombie Herries between 1921 and 1939. Janet was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1869, to parents Elizabeth Drew Lang and John Mackie. In August 1900, at the age of 30, she emigrated to Australia, arriving in Rockhampton aboard the Duke of Norfolk.  In 1902 she married Robert Herries (a fellow Scotsman) in Mossman and by about 1915 they were living in Bunda Street, in Cairns, with their four sons.

As well as being an experienced and caring nurse and midwife, Janet also appears to have been a tenacious businesswoman who was not afraid to stand up for herself. In 1920, Janet sued a Mt Garnet man named Frederick Christensen for his daughter’s debt. Clara Christensen had a baby at Nurse Herries' hospital but the bill went unpaid. Christensen claimed that Clara was not his daughter, and that he had only “lived with her mother”. 

Interestingly, despite her long career as a nurse, Janet’s profession was only ever listed on electoral rolls as “home duties”, though she worked right up until the age of 70.

If you have a private midwife/nurse in your family tree, and you have photos or information that you'd like to share, I'd really like to hear from you. Please email me at the address listed under Contacts at the top right of the blog. 


· Various memoranda from City Inspector to Town Clerk, Townsville Museum
· Burial Registers: West End Cemetery and Belgian Gardens Cemetery
· Townsville Daily Bulletin
· Cairns Post
· Daily Mercury (Mackay)
· Queensland Heritage Register
· Reports of City Medical Officer, various years, held by Townsville Museum
· Year Book Australia, 1921 (covers birth stats between 1901-1920)