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.

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