Sudden deluge swamps Brisbane – January 1941

Marooned in the bookmakers ring at Albion Park after a storm Brisbane, January 1941. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 66217

Marooned in the bookmaker's ring at Albion Park after a storm, Brisbane, January 1941

A sudden deluge hit the inner suburbs of Brisbane on the afternoon of January 18, 1941, in what the Sunday Mail described as “the fiercest one-hour storm in the city’s history”. The Weather Bureaus rain gauge recorded 336 points (85mm) in less than an hour. In the eastern suburb of Hawthorne, 604 points (153mm) was recorded on a private rain gauge.

Albion Park racetrack after a storm Brisbane January 1941. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg  66216

Albion Park racetrack after a storm Brisbane January 1941

Along with the usual havoc flooding in the inner city causes, the news reports of the day focused on the impact on Brisbanes many Saturday afternoon sporting activities. A cricket match between Queensland and Victoria at the Gabba was abandoned as the crowd huddling in the grandstand was treated instead to an exhibition of lightning, thunder, hail and heavy rain. The strong wind blew the Stanley Street sightboard from its supports, while outside the grounds the water level nearly reached the running boards of parked cars.

Soldiers enjoying a day at the races despite the storm at Albion Park Brisbane, January 1941. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 66218

Soldiers enjoying a day at the races despite the storm at Albion Park Brisbane, January 1941

Tragically, two golfers were struck by lightning near the seventh fairway of the Victoria Park golf course on the inner north side. The men had been sheltering under a tree at the time. One was killed instantly, while the other was lucky to escape serious injury. The ambulance sent to the scene was delayed due to flooding. At the Albion Park track, also in the inner north, horse racing was suspended for over an hour while the storm lasted. It seems the stewards considered it a point of honour to resume the meet if at all practicable, even though the Third Division races were run over a partially flooded track.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

Queensland Places – History of Golden Gate

Golden Gate - Forsyth's Mill Crushing Works, 1904, State Library of Queensland neg. No. 47329

Golden Gate - Forsyth's Mill Crushing Works, 1904

The town of Golden Gate developed late in the period of the Croydon gold rush, but once it was surveyed and settled, it was to become one of the area’s most important centres.  Golden Gate was officially surveyed on 11 April 1893, however some buildings were already in place by that time.

The first Golden Gate mine had been taken up by Joseph Hardy and James Fulton in 1886.  The Normanton to Croydon railway line reached Golden Gate in 1891 and a railway station was constructed, but was later moved a little over a mile to the west in 1892.  Golden Gate’s population was to grow rapidly during its early period, peaking in around 1900.  By this time, Golden Gate’s six hundred residents supported a number of hotels including the Railway, the Commercial, the Australian, the Welcome, the Exchange, the International, Tattersalls and the Golden Gate.

There were also eight stores, including a baker, a newsagency and tobacconist, a barber and billiards room, three butchers and a drapery.  In addition there were three churches as well as a school, which operated from 1896 to 1921.  A post office, opened in 1891, continued until 1919 when it was closed.  By 1922 however, mining yields had declined to the point where further large scale mining was no longer viable.  At this time, Forsyth’s Pioneer Mill closed down, effectively ending the town’s economic and commercial prospects.

As is the case with many similar mining based towns, there are remains of the town and the surrounding mining operations able to still be seen.  As well, intermittent efforts have been made to reopen some mining operations in the hope that more modern methods of mining and processing will produce commercial yields.  However, as with other places, this has met with limited success.

This image, dating from 1904, shows Forsyth’s mill and crushing works, when it was till a viable mining operation.  We can speculate that one of the figures posed in front of the building may be Forsyth himself.

Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

Digitised @SLQ – Boer War Diary describes Queensland troop movement

Officers of the 5th Queensland Contingent taken on the day of their return, May 1902. Front row: Captain Dodds, Major Toll, Lieutenant Loynes -- Back row: Lieutenant G. Koch, S. Hunter, B.W. Cook, F.B.T. Koch. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 54984

Officers of the 5th Queensland Contingent taken on the day of their return, May 1902. Major Toll is sitting in the middle of the front row

A newly digitised Boer war diary of the 5th Queensland Imperial Bushmen by Major F.W. Toll shows “actual movements and marches of the unit whilst attached to Genl. Plumers’column” from April 1901 through May 1902.  It is  in the John Oxley Library as part of Collection OM84-11.

OM84-11 Major F W Toll Diary 1901-1902, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Troops arrive in South Africa, 1901

The Toll diary immediately transports one through time and space, providing priceless description of how troops arrived in South Africa and their activities for more than a year. Toll noted that troops from Queensland sailed into Port Elizabeth on 1 April 1901, where they were issued equipment and were entertained by ladies at Feather Market Hall. Horses were branded and sick men sent to hospital. The next day, troops moved out to Kroonstadt, with three trains needed for all the men and the horses. The diary continues through to May 1902, when the British declared victory,  and the Queensland troops’ work thus was finished.  They returned to Australia by ship, landed in Brisbane on the 7 May “with no bands to meet us” and dispersed.

OM84-11 Major F W Toll Diary 1901-1902, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Toll Diary excerpt

In addition to recording daily movement, Toll also provided a list of names at the back of the diary, as well as records detailing number of men killed in action, discharged and more. Follow Major Toll’s description of the troops’ activities by accessing the digitised content in One Search, State Library of Queensland’s catalogue.

C. Cottle – Digital Collections Curator, State Library of Queensland


Heritage listing for the Cairns Technical College and High School building

Guest blogger – Susan Boulton, Queensland State Archives

The Queensland Heritage Council listed the Cairns Technical College and High School building on the Queensland Heritage Register in May 2014.

Designed by architect Nigel Laman Thomas of the Department of Public Works in July 1938, the following plan held at Queensland State Archives shows the layout of the building, with Ionic columns at the entrance.

Cairns Technical College, July 1938. Queensland State Archives Digital Image ID 27002

Cairns Technical College, July 1938

Characterised by its neo-classical style, it is a prominent three-storey brick building as evidenced by this photograph which is situated at the corner of Sheridan and Upward Streets in Cairns.

Technical College, Cairns, July 1940. Queensland State Archives. Digital Image ID 2994

Technical College, Cairns, July 1940

A letter in Public Works batch file (Item ID 128134) gives the wording for a “commemorative plate” for the building. The letter written on 16 December 1940 by R M Riddell to the Under Secretary of Works requests the wording acknowledge the three fold purpose of the building used as a “State Intermediate and High School, and Technical College”. Riddell was appointed the Inspector of Technical Colleges when the branch of the Department of Public Instruction was formed in 1905.

The Cairns Technical College and High School building was opened during the Second World War. Correspondence about wartime concerns includes the following contained in Public Works batch file, Item ID 127962:

  • re-timbering of air raid slit trenches dug in the sandy soil of the school’s playing field to accommodate about 200 students
  • College compliance with the Queensland Government compulsory brown out of lighting regulations
  • the Civil Defence Organisation directive about the use of the kitchen in the Domestic Science Branch to prepare food for a mobile canteen in the event of an air raid.

Discover more about the development, administration and evolution of this building in the other Public Works batch files in ‘A’ Series – High Schools and Technical Colleges, including Item ID 127961, 1928–1933, and Item ID 128124, 1935–1970.

Susan Boulton - A/ Manager Public Access, Queensland State Archives


Scottish Adventurers on the Darling Downs

An interesting story was recently uncovered when a client enquiry requesting information about a couple of Scotsmen grew into a tale of courage and success.

John and George Gammie left their homeland in Scotland, in search of wealth, adventure and a new life. After searching resources held at the State Library of Queensland, a picture was starting to develop about the exploration and true grit of John and George Gammie. The Gammie brothers were the sons of Dr Peter Gammie and his wife Mary, formerly Mary McRobb of Aberdeen. George, the youngest of five children, was subsequently baptised at Forgue, Aberdeenshire on 30 August 1819. His elder brother John, one of twins, was born on 5 April 1817. George and John arrived in Sydney with letters of introduction to Governor Sir George Gipps. They made their way to Bathurst and found work and eventually purchased land on the Darling Downs in the 1840’s. They had arrived in Australia after being tempted to explore this distant land after hearing an address given by Ernest Elphinstone Dalrymple, a gallant young officer in the Highland regiment, who had returned home to Scotland for a family celebration.

Dalrymple spoke of his travels in India, Ceylon and the United States and predicted the Civil War between the North and the South over slavery, which broke out nearly 30 years later. He spoke about the explorations of Allan Cunningham in Australia. Ernest told his audience about the fertile land and fortunes to be made, for those adventurous enough to take the journey to this new land.  He then surprised his audience by announcing that he had decided to resign from his commission and was forming a party of Aberdonians and was making his way across the seas to Australia. Dalrymple made his plans and a group of fellows came forward with their intention of joining him. These were George and Patrick Leslie, George and John Gammie, George McAdam and James Fletcher. An article in the Courier Mail gives the full account of the Scottish Adventurers on the Downs

Sketch of sheep washing on the Darling Downs 1860s. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Sketch of sheep washing on the Darling Downs 1860s

Homestead at East Talgai Station Queensland ca. 1877. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Homestead at East Talgai Station Queensland ca. 1877

John and George Gammie had been working on a station near Bathurst when their employer fell on hard times; he was unable to pay their wages and offered them 3000 Catarrh stricken sheep and an old grey mare as payment. Unsure what they were going to do they decided to make the journey to Queensland and join Dalrymple and the Leslies on the Darling Downs. They set out without a map and only makeshift directions on how to get there. They trekked overland finally reaching the Downs, settling on land next to the Leslies.   They were hard working and soon established themselves in the district; John Gammie took up a lease on land known as the Pilton run, which had been transferred from Philip Pinnock. An article appearing in the Sydney Morning Herald, on 2 August, 1848, estimated the area was 30,000 acres, with grazing capabilities, for 10,000 sheep. His neighbour John Taylor secured the adjoining run named Goomburra an estimated area, 45,000 acres. The Goomburra run comprised of the two heads of Dalrymple Creek from their sources to the boundary line between Goomburra run and the licensed station of Mr. Geo. Gammie, about one mile below the main line of road leading from Warwick to Cambooya. Both brothers never looked back, They increased their flocks considerably by the purchase of 7000 sheep from the Forbes at Clifton, and in 1848 they took over the old Talgai run.  They continued to purchase more pastoral runs, such as Stonehenge and by 1854 George was shearing as many as 60,000 sheep.  In the same year cattle in the Hunter River country were being sold at the famine price of 5/ and 6/ a head, and the Gammies bought a great herd of 10,000 cattle and drove them to the Darling Downs. These facts are gleaned from Thomas Hall’s reminiscences, and Hall relates that after the cattle had been fattened several drafts were sent to Ipswich to be boiled down for tallow, and the balance sold to W. B. Tooth, Clifton, at £3 per head.  The Gammies made a handsome profit on their speculation. They strengthened their flocks with the best merino sheep obtainable, on the advice of Mr. Fred Bracket, the manager of Rosenthal.  Although drought, flood, and disease decimated their flocks the Gammies became very wealthy. This fact is revealed in the letter books of the late James Morgan, father of the late Sir Arthur Morgan, who managed the property from 1849 to 1854.

Portrait of shearers and farm workers in front of a farm building at Talgai Queensland. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Portrait of shearers and farm workers in front of a farm building at Talgai Queensland

John Gammie also had a keen interest in growing cotton at Talgai and in the Courier on the 30 July 1862, was described as the most practical and most successful, sheep-farmer of his day. A letter from him to the Courier received a few months prior to his death, gave his views on the possibility of producing cotton in Queensland, at a cheap rate with European labour.  His letter to the Courier dated 1 March 1853, said:-

Dear Sir,
Hearing that you contemplate visiting Europe shortly, I avail myself of the opportunity thus afforded me to send to the manufacturers of Lancashire a sample of cotton, the product of my garden. My station is situated on the tableland, Darling Downs, 1200 foot above sea level, and 100 miles from navigation. I assert to you, as a practical man, that it is possible for each sheep station, having two shepherds and one hut-keeper, to produce as many bales of cotton in their own time as I shear wool off my sheep.

It is the produce of sea-island seed; the picking extended over three months; and that picking comes in between our shearing and weaning. I was four or five years on the Mississippi and New Orleans, and engaged in the cotton trade, and am convinced that this country offers great advantages over the States for producing this commodity, and at a cheaper rate than has been grown with slave labour, and, as I have already hinted, can be worked to advantage on all wool-producing establishments in these northern districts, and particularly on those stations where married men and families are employed.
Yours very truly
John Gammie

Sadly, it was reported in the Moreton Bay Courier on Monday 8 August 1853, that John Gammie had died suddenly at his lodgings in Ipswich aged 34. Then in early 1855 North Talgai was sold to Messrs. Hood and Douglas and soon afterwards George Gammie returned to England.

According to Hall’s account the property then fell into the hands of Massie and Walker. It was cut in two. Clark and Hanmer,  taking the Old Talgai end, and Donald Gunn, the southern half, which was always known as North Toolburrii. Later, North Toolburra and acquired later by the Coutts family.

After arriving in England and with part of the proceeds of the sale of his properties in Queensland, George purchased the Shotover Estate in Oxfordshire. Soon after purchasing the Shotover estate, George Gammie married Ellen Yaldwyn at Midhurst, Sussex on 20 September 1856. The birth of their first child followed almost immediately and is registered in the Headington registration district for the July-September quarter of 1856, as “Female Gammie”. So it is presumed the family were already resident in Shotover House by this date.

It would seem that George Gammie became a permanently resident in England from at least 1856, although he also had connections in New Zealand. More information about this family can be found here and by searching the historical newspapers through Trove.  Other articles can be found in The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser, Saturday 12 August 1848 and the Brisbane Courier 30 July 1862. The family history section of the State Library of Queensland, holds a vast amount of materials, which include personal papers, diaries and photographs. There are also copies of the Pre-separation index of Moreton Bay Region, 1824 – 1859 and Indexes relating to the papers of the N.S.W. Colonial Secretary 1788 – 1825 and much more.

Janette Garrad – Original Content Technician, State Library of Queensland

Election 2015 : we need your help again

It’s election time again and once again we need your help to ensure we have a comprehensive collection of election ephemera.

State Library has significant collections of ephemera.  This material, which is generally regarded by most of us as transient or “throw away” items, provides a unique perspective into Queensland’s social life, popular culture and political viewpoints.

Political ephemera is an area of particular interest.  The 2015 State Election has been called for 31 January 2015 and we are very keen to receive any items such as:

  • How to vote cards
  • Posters
  • Flyers
  • Placards
  • Stickers
  • T shirts
  • Magnets
  • Mail outs
Minor parties material from the 2013 federal election

Minor parties material from the 2013 federal election

Our SLQ staff are always a great help in collecting ephemera from the Brisbane area, but we particularly need your help once again to collect regional material.  So, if you live outside of Brisbane please take a how to vote card for every candidate and send them to us.

Any election material to add to our collection can be forwarded to:

Election Ephemera
Queensland Memory
State Library of Queensland
GPO 3488
South Brisbane Qld 4101

The State Library, and all Queenslanders present and future, thank you for your assistance.

Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

Queensland Places – Burketown

The town of Burketown, located on the Albert River, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, has a long and interesting history. In 1841, Captain J. Lort Stokes discovered the mouth of a river which he named the Albert, after Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. Stokes’ party travelled in a longboat along this newly discovered river for some eighty kilometres, seeking fresh water. The surrounding country, having recently experienced favourable seasons, was in very good condition with expansive grasslands, influencing Stokes to name the area the Plains of Promise.

Burketown itself was named in honour of Robert O’Hara Burke, who had died soon after making the first successful south-north crossing of the Australian continent in 1860-1861. The first European settlers arrived in the area not long after Burke and his expedition partner William John Wills had passed through. By the mid-1860s, several cattle stations, including Gregory Downs, Floraville and Donors Hill had been established inland from the present location of Burketown.

By September 1865, the permanent population of the town had grown to around forty and by October of the same year a store and hotel were under construction. In its early days, Burketown grew slowly, with William Landsborough being appointed the first government resident and police magistrate in February 1866. The town’s first race meeting was held 25 July 1866, with the first official land sales taking place on 14 August 1867. The Burketown post office, opening in July 1866, was closed in 1871, but reopened on a permanent basis in 1883. A major challenge for Burketown, from 1866, was the devastation caused by tropical disease, thought to be typhoid, resulting in a large proportion of the town’s residents being relocated to Sweers Island, for up to eighteen months. As well, Burke suffered a severe setback in 1887, after suffering major damage as the result of a cyclone.

The Burketown Hotel, established in 1920 in a building originally used as the customs bond store, was destroyed by fire in 2012. The Albert Hotel building, originally the Burketown customs house is believed to date from the 1860s. Another famous Burketown Hotel, the Commonwealth, was built in around 1926, but was also destroyed by fire in 1954.

Commonwealth Hotel, Burketown, 1926, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 46423

Commonwealth Hotel, Burketown, 1926

This image shows the Commonwealth Hotel in 1926, soon after it was first established.

Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.

Research station recognised for posterity

Guest blogger: Susan Boulton, Queensland State Archives

In August 2014, the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station was entered on the Queensland Heritage Register as a State Heritage Place. The Station played a crucial role in developing Australian sugar cane varieties and today it continues valuable agricultural research and technological innovations.

Situated north of the town of Gordonvale in Far North Queensland, the Meringa SES was established in 1917 as the Entomological Station of the Bureau of Sugar Experiment Stations.

Initially two residences, a laboratory and an insectary were constructed on the site. All buildings were highset and timber framed, as can been seen in this photo of the entomologists’ residences. Look closely and you will see a glass house between the two residences.

Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935. Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 2980

Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935

The complex of research buildings was set among mature trees near the North Coast railway line, as shown in this 1935 photograph.


Sugar Experiment Station, Meringa, near Cairns, c 1935. Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 1331

Sugar Experiment Station, Meringa, near Cairns, c 1935

As the Meringa SES expanded, more land was gazetted as reserves for experimental farms and departmental purposes. More detail about these reserves is available in the Queensland Heritage Register  .

Despite opposition from some scientists and politicians, cane toads were released by the Meringa SES in the mid 1930s because it was hoped they would eat cane beetles. As we now know the toads went on to have a devastating ecological impact.

Cane toads at the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935. Queensland State Archives, Digital Image ID 2981

Cane toads at the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station, North Queensland, c 1935

Cane toads aside, there were great successes, including insecticides to control greyback grubs, reputedly the industry’s worst pest.

Department of Public Works architectural plans for buildings at the Meringa facility available for viewing, photographing and copying at Queensland State Archives include the:

  • entomologist’s Residence, Queensland State Archives, Item ID 585092
  • residence for assistant entomologist, Item ID 582449 and Item ID 582450
  • entomologist’s Laboratory, Item ID 585091 and Item ID 582454
  • glass house, Item ID 582453
  • implement and tractor shed, fertiliser store and stables, Item ID 582456
  • water Services, Item ID 585089
  • cottage for workmen, Item ID 582452

For other records about Sugar Experiment Stations, try searching Queensland State Archives’ online catalogue ArchivesSearch. 

Susan Boulton, Queensland State Archives



2014 was another busy year for John Oxley Library staff involved in web archiving. Each year we select several hundred Queensland websites and online publications to be preserved for future generations. These are captured by us and made publicly available in PANDORA – Australia’s web archive. PANDORA was established by the National Library of Australia in 1996. Today State Library of Queensland is one of 11 Australian institutions selecting and contributing content to the growing national archive. Some highlights and examples of our web archiving work for 2014 include:

PANDORA homepage

PANDORA homepage

These are just a few examples of contemporary Queensland web resources archived for the future. Our web archiving work will continue throughout 2015 with particular focus on Queensland politics and the forthcoming state election, and the ANZAC Centenary.  For more information about our web archiving activities or to suggest a site for archiving, visit the web archiving page on the State Library of Queensland website.

Maxine Fisher - Queensland Digital Content Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

Queenslanders celebrate NYE, 1934

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, December 27, 1934

Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander, December 27, 1934

On the evening of December 31, 1934, partygoers across the state prepared to celebrate the coming of the new year, as illustrated in The Queenslander newspaper (above). As with most years, 1934 had its high and low moments on the domestic scene and overseas. In March, 75 lives were lost when a cyclone crossed the coast north of Port Douglas in the state’s far north. In Europe, a storm was brewing that would eventually lead to a world war, with Adolf Hitler becoming Fuhrer of Germany after the death of President Paul von Hindenburg.

On New Year’s Eve in outback Longreach, an all-night ball was held at the shire hall with more than 600 people in attendance. Dancing and music supplied by Pope and Carter’s orchestra kept the crowd entertained until the event finally wrapped up at 5.15am.

In Thargomindah in the state’s south-west, the new year was welcomed with fireworks and the clattering of tin cans – "enough to wake the dead", the Charleville Times reported. A group of young revellers decided to create more noise by ringing the bell at the shire hall.

Unfortunately, they rang it so vigorously the bell and its entire stand collapsed.

In the inner-northern Brisbane suburb of New Farm, members and guests played bowls under electric lights until 10pm, followed by a buffet supper and dancing. Around 1.30am, revellers in south-east Queensland were fortunate enough to experience some celestial fireworks. "A large meteor … [blazed] a brilliant trail across the heavens, leaving a glare in its wake which lingered for some seconds on the velvet background of the night", reported The Courier-Mail.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland