This January Russell Island State School turns 100 years old. Russell Island is one of a group of islands situated between Redland Bay on the mainland and North Stradbroke Island.
For the opening celebrations on January 20, 1916, two special motor boats conveyed guests from Redland Bay to the Island. Among those on board were the Redland Bay School committee and the island’s new teacher, Eileen Willes. At the time the school was situated at the centre of the island. The Daily Mail (Brisbane) described what happened when the two parties landed – “Motor cars not being available they tramped the two miles or so through the bush to the school in the “wild woods”.
What happened next was an event organiser’s nightmare; guest of honour, politician James Stodart, was missing. Stodart was essential to the ceremony as he would officially announce the opening of the school. Stodart had been last seen “paddling his own canoe” (according to the Daily Mail) to the island and it soon became evident that he had lost his way to the ceremony.
“After a long wait the programme was altered, and two search parties were sent out to discover if possible, the “lost link”. The foot party returned without success, but after 2 1/2 hours a big horse drawing the little cart containing a lean man and a fat man [Stodart] hove in sight, and from the cheers that went up it was evident that the lost had been found.”
With the missing MP now found lunch was taken. After the luncheon, several speeches were given, including one by resident Carl Fischer, who expressed the “friendly relations” between Redlanders and the islanders. He also relayed how Russell Island had developed over 40 years, with a number of pineapple farms being established.
After Stodart officially opened the school, those attending let their hair down with dancing and singing – a gramophone and three violins provided the entertainment. There was also thoughtful discussions about the price of pineapples and conscription. The school was opened on the following Monday, January 24, 1916.
Russell Island State School was eventually moved to its present site at the northern end of the island in 1926. In 1931 a special school boat was employed to transport children from the surrounding islands (Lamb, Macleay and Karrangarra) and convey them to the Russell Island State School.
Several photographs of Russell Island between the 1920’s and the 1930’s can be found in the Fischer Family Photographs collection held by State Library of Queensland. Jay Fischer and his wife, Gwendoline Adelaide, acquired land on Russell Island in 1906. They had a large family of six boys and six girls. Their boat, the Adelaide, was used to transport goods and passengers, including school children, from 1920 to 1930.
Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland