Amateur and professional historians, family historians and other researchers in search of the more recent history of the Torres Strait will be excited to discover that the Thursday Island based newspaper, Torres News, is now available to search online from 1957 to 2015.
The Torres News is one of over 100 historical Queensland newspapers made available through the National Library’s Trove Newspapers.
The digitisation of this newspaper was of particular interest to me, as my parents met and fell in love while working on Thursday Island from 1969 to 1970. My mother, Elaine Street was a young British nurse working at the Thursday Island Hospital and my father, Michael Sinnamon worked at the National Bank of Australasia.
After a quick search of the Torres News via Trove I was able to uncover a few interesting articles in the paper’s social columns related to my parents’ brief time on Thursday Island.
For my father I found notices of his arrival on the island as well his eventual departure. The 20 October 1970 edition, states my father’s farewell party was hosted by Mr and Mrs Jack Fell. Mrs Fell was Rita Mills, part of the well-known Torres Strait Islander singing trio, the Mills Sisters. I remembered seeing photographs of Jack and Rita Fell in my mother’s collection, so this connection made sense.
As an aside, the availability of the Torres News online, provides a wealth of information on the Mills Sisters, including their performances at places such as Parliament House in Canberra in 1989 and at London’s South Bank Centre in 1993, as part of the Corroboree Sights and Sounds of the First Australians. In 1995, the Mills Sisters received the prestigious Red Ochre Award for outstanding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Artist for lifetime achievement. They were the first Torres Strait Islanders to receive the award.
Although my mother and father’s stay on Thursday Island was brief I can find multiple references to my father regularly playing competitive lawn bowls and a brief wedding notice was published on 24 August 1971. The notice refers to my mother as “Sister Elaine Street (Charlie Brown)”. Charlie Brown was my mother’s nickname at the Thursday Island Hospital with other nurses also adopting names from the Charles M. Schulz Peanuts cartoons.
Myles Sinnamon – Engagement Officer, State Library of Queensland