Category Archives: Miscellaneous Back

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

 

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

Accession 6341: Dr Wilhelm Lorenz Rechnitz Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Reverend Dr. Wilhelm Rechnitz, 1930 (Image number 6341-0001-0001)

In 2006 the State Library of Queensland received an extensive collection of correspondence, personal papers, photographs and scholarly articles of Dr Wilhelm Rechnitz (1899-1979).
Wilhelm Lorenz Rechnitz was a German citizen born in Cottbus, southeast of Berlin, on 24 October 1899. In the mid 1930s he was living in England, working as a teacher and a private tutor.

In 1940 Rechnitz was deported to Australia on HMT Dunera and imprisoned at Tatura Internment Camp in Victoria. After his release, he lived in Melbourne and in the Torres Strait. On 28 March 1954 Rechnitz was ordained as an Anglican priest. Until his retirement in 1973, he worked as a priest for the Diocese of Carpentaria.

A linguist by training, Rechnitz worked for many years on translations of The Church of England services and of sections of the Bible into the Meriam language (a Papuan language spoken by the people on the Torres Strait Islands of Erub, Ugar and Mer). Many letters in this accession are from various publishing houses responding to Rechnitz’s requests to have his articles and books published.

In the early 1970s Wilhelm Rechnitz retired to Brisbane, where he died in 1979.

I have started listing and describing the collection, beginning with Rechnitz’s correspondence. A prolific writer of letters, Rechnitz kept in touch throughout his life with many relatives, friends and acquaintances in England, Germany and The United States.

Accession 6341, Series 1: Correspondence

Accession 6341, Series 1: Correspondence

 

Accession 6341, Series 1: Correspondence

 

Accession 6341, Series 1: Correspondence

Several letters are about the loss of Rechnitz’s book collection. Before his forced departure for Australia, Rechnitz left his books in the care of Reverend P. Wilton Vale. The books were stored in Vale’s church in London and were destroyed when the church was hit by a bomb.

Accession 6341, Series 1: Correspondence

A friend, Fred Robinson, writes often from England and Germany. In a letter from 1964, he describes his shock at seeing Berlin again after the war. Some parts of the city had simply disappeared in the bombing raids. In another letter, sent from London, Robinson writes about his visits to the theatre and ballet performances, expressing his lack of enthusiasm for Rudolf Nurejev. In a letter sent in 1966, Robinson writes about being bored by the current theatre productions of plays by Chekhov and Turgenev, despite the fact that Ingrid Bergman, John Gielgud and Michael Redgrave had parts in them.

Another friend, John Egles, a teacher, writes from England in 1962 about exhibitions and theatre performances. He mentions an exhibition of Oscar Kokoschka’s paintings and a performance of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt.

Series 1 of this accession, Correspondence, contains many letters from publishing houses, German and Australian, discussing manuscripts sent by Rechnitz to be considered for publication.

There are several letters in the collection from a young woman, Gisela, whom Rechintz met through his friend Joseph Moffett in London before World War II. These were sent in 1943 and 1944. Gisela repeatedly asks Rechnitz if he has any plans to travel to Europe. In one letter Gisela asks Rechnitz what makes him believe in God.

References:

John A. Moses and Wilhelm Lorenz Rechnitz, Wilhelm Lorenz Rechnitz: altphilologe und priester: schriften (St Lucia, Qld: Broughton Press, 1992)

“A lost plea (a curiosity from the archives),” Tom Wrobel, accessed on 10 November, 2014, http://dmlbs.wordpress.com/tag/wilhelm-lorenz-rechnitz/

Veronika Farley, Archivist, Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland

Accession M 1750: Jules Guerassimoff Cutting Books

Accession M 1750

This interesting accession contains two large scrapbooks with press cuttings and photographs about Jules Guerassimoff’s rugby career with the Wallabies, including newspaper articles about tours to South Africa (1963), New Zealand (1964), England, France and Canada (1966-1967).

Accession M 1750

Accession M 1750

Guerassimoff was born in Thangoll, central Queensland, on 28 June 1940. His grandparents were Russians who left Siberia in the late 1920s with false papers, reaching Australia after travelling through Japan, Canada and China.

Jules Guerassimoff, Accession M 1750

Accession M 1750

Accession M 1750

Jules Guerassimoff played interstate rugby during the 1960s and international rugby with the Wallabies in the 1960s and 1970s. His Wallaby number was 490 and his position flanker. He played 12 tests for the Wallabies.

Interestingly, most players received no pay during the tour to South Africa: ‘Most of the Wallabies have made a big financial sacrifice to come on the present tour. Only three of them are receiving full pay from their employers during an absence of more than three months, some are on half pay and a number of others, including two schoolteachers and 12 students, will be heavily out of pocket. (by A. C. Parker)

Accession M 1750

In one of the newpspaper articles in this accession, entitled ‘Jules changed mind’, we learn that Guerassimoff had no particular interest in playing rugby union (he played rugby league at school), until he won a State reserve jersey against France at the end of the 1961 season. That year, aged 22, he was included in the Queensland team going on a tour to New Zealand: ‘After four tough matches on that tour he was ready to face the Australian selectors in a tough series of trials in Sydney.’

After Australia defeated South Africa in the Second test (9-5), Guerassimoff’s teammate Greg Davis said: ‘I could not have played nearly as well without Jules. He was tremendous. I knew that if I went for a man or the ball and missed, Jules would be there to succeed.’

References:

“2013 CLASSIC WALLABIES STATESMEN BIOS”, accessed on 10 November, 2014,

http://www.rugby.com.au/Portals/16/Images/Classics/2013%20CLASSIC%20WALLABIES%20STATESMEN%20BIOS.pdf,

Veronika Farley, Archivist, Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland

 

Have Your Say!

State Library of Queensland is developing a fresh plan for the future. SLQ2020 will be a five year plan which will set a high level direction for State Library to ensure our programs and services meet the needs of all Queenslanders.

Community involvement is an important part of our planning process and we want to hear from you — our clients, our stakeholders and members of the community. We would like to encourage those with an interest in Queensland heritage and culture to get involved in helping shape and improve our forward planning.

SLQ2020

To stimulate your thoughts have a read of the SLQ2020 discussion paper.

You can submit your response by:

  • Commenting on this blog post
  • Answering the questions online here
  • Emailing us at planning@slq.qld.gov.au
  • Joining the conversation on Twitter (#SLQ2020)
  • Commenting on Facebook (#SLQ2020)
  • Writing to us at:  SLQ2020 (People and Planning), PO Box 3488, South Brisbane QLD 4101, Australia

Please provide your feedback by 1 August 2014.

Next steps

Your feedback will be considered along with other information gathered in a variety of ways to inform the development of the new plan. A draft of SLQ’s new Strategic Plan will be available by December 2014 for further comment and the plan for 2015–2020 released by 1 July 2015.

Golf in Queensland

Golf in Queensland is said to have had its genesis at Eidsvold cattle station, near Gayndah, with the development of a small golf course on the property by its two Scottish lessees, the Ivory brothers. Later, in 1893, other early courses were developed at Townsville and Ravenshoe. The first formal golf club to be established in Queensland was the Brisbane Golf Club, constituted in 1890, with its course completed in 1896. Other courses, at many locations around Queensland, were to be formed and developed in the years and decades which followed. This was especially so from the 1920s, a period of prosperity, with many golf clubs and courses tracing their formation to this time. Some examples include Royal Queensland Gold Club (1920), Sandgate (1921), Wynnum (1923), Gailes (1924), Indooroopilly (1926), Oxley (1928) and Nudgee (1929/30).

As well, during the 1920s, municipal golf courses were being developed around Australia, with the general aim of encouraging sport and recreation, which could be accessed by the community in an affordable way. Victoria Park Golf Club, in inner Brisbane, is an example of one of the more successful of these municipal golf courses, with the initial work on the course dating to 1930. The Victoria Park course was designed by Stan Francis with much of the work being undertaken through relief schemes operating in this time of economic depression, such as the Intermittent Relief Scheme. Work on the Victoria Park Golf Club House commenced at the beginning of 1931 and was completed in September of that year. The building was designed by the Brisbane City Architect, A.H. Foster, with the plans drawn by Reyburn Jameson. The building, in a Spanish mission style, still stands today, although in a location which, due to road changes and development in the vicinity, has become somewhat isolated.

Victoria Park Golf Club House, 1931, State Library of Queensland Neg. No. 191374

Victoria Park Golf Club House, 1931

This image, dating to 1931, shows the Victoria Park Golf Club House nearing completion. This former club house building, in acknowledgement of its importance within Brisbane’s built environment, has been listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.

There are many other golf courses in the Brisbane and wider Queensland area, all of which have their own individual histories. Many were built or developed on former farming and agricultural land and therefore preserve areas of open space to the benefit of the community. For instance, Nudgee Golf Club was developed in the early 1930s on land which was formerly the Child and Hooper families’ farms and vineyard, thereby retaining open green space in this area of Brisbane’s north. At one stage, a subdivision just to the north of the present location of Nudgee Golf course was planned, however the development of the golf club as well as the setting aside of land for the nearby Brisbane airport, meant that this proposed development did not proceed as envisaged.

Part of Nudgee Farms Estate Map, ca 1920s

Part of Nudgee Farms Estate Map, ca 1920s

This image, showing a section of a real estate map from the 1920s, shows the site of the Child and Hooper families properties, where the future Nudgee Golf course would be developed.
Golf in Brisbane, as well as throughout Queensland, continues to grow and develop as a sport and pastime. As well, golf has become an increasingly important part of the tourism landscape, with many courses now developed as part of various resorts.

Further reading – Golf Queensland celebrates 100 years

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

Playback Oral History Workshop – June 5 – 6

Do you recall members of your family sitting by the wireless listening to the voice of the radio announcer in your lifetime, or the voice of a person sharing their own account of an actual experience in recent times? Perhaps you have searched online and discovered extensive oral stories telling personal experiences. If you have engaged in active listening, you will be aware of the enduring legacy oral stories bring to an informed society.

On June 5 and 6, State Library of Queensland hosted a 2 day oral history workshop as part of Playback, an OPAL (Online Public Access Libraries) project supporting Queensland public libraries who identified significant oral histories in their collections and submitted them to State Library for digitisation and long-term preservation.

State Library of Queensland

Workshop members at State Library of Queensland

Twenty-four local history and specialist librarians, archivists and cultural heritage officers attended the workshop to explore various aspects of oral histories. Guest speaker Alistair Thomson, Professor of History, Monash University, Oral Historian and author, shared his experience of working on the joint Australian Generations Oral History project, and followed with a master-class on what constitutes a great oral history interview.

State Library of Queensland

Guest speaker Professor Alistair Thomson talks to the audience attending the Playback Oral History Workshop

Professor Alistair Thompson leads a master-class for workshop participants

Independent radio producer and oral historian, Hamish Sewell also contributed to the workshop, sharing his work on the Story Project and his latest project involving oral stories being told through sound trail technology. Both sessions were filmed and will be available on State Library website shortly.

Independent radio producer and oral historian, Hamish Sewell at State Library of Queensland

The contents of the material submitted by public libraries, museums and historical groups include personal tales and accounts of early settlement in local areas, the effects of WWII on a northern community, the history of the sugar industry, connection to country and German settlement.

In stage two of Playback, library staff and heritage workers from Mapoon, Balonne, Townsville, Mourilyan, Mitchell, Gold Coast City, Moreton Bay Regional Council, James Cook University and the Redlands City Council will begin to plan an event to showcase the newly digitised oral stories in their communities later this year.

Jane and Diane meet at the Playback Oral History Workshop

Kelly of Moreton Bay Regional Libraries meets Robyn from Townsville City Libraries

Thank you to all SLQ staff who contributed to the workshops and to all who will assist with the online access of the content.

Oral stories!  Have you listened recently?

If you would like to view some of the activity during the workshop check the twitter hashtag #playbackslq

Anne Scheu – Distributed Collections Coordinator and Chrissi Theodosiou – A/Senior Research Officer, State Library of Queensland

“Changeover Day”, 14 February 1966

February 14, 1966 saw the introduction of decimal currency to Australia. On Changeover Day, the old system of pounds, shillings and pence gave way to the new dollars and cents. A year earlier, an extensive public education program had been launched by the Decimal Currency Board. The following advertisement is from the National Film and Sound Archives collection.

Schools introduced the new currency to their students. Television advertisements were aired featuring a cartoon character called Dollar Bill. The Retail Traders’ Association held special lectures for members. In the lead-up The Courier-Mail ran a regular column, ABC of Decimals, which advised the public on conversions and practical applications. There was even a telephone service, The Dollar Jills, on hand to answer questions.

All of these preparations paid off, with the changeover remarkably smooth. Prime Minister Harold Holt said Australians deserved a “pat on the back for the good-natured way they have accepted decimal currency into their daily routine”. Brisbanites could take their share of the credit, though there were a few complaints due to confusion over conversion and suspicions of overcharging by some shopkeepers.

Three weeks before the changeover, The Courier-Mail conducted a street survey to record what Brisbane citizens thought of the new currency. It received a mixed reception: ” [The notes] look like lolly wrappers. They would go better on a jam tin than in a wallet” was one response. Another man expressed his indifference – “I wouldn’t really care if Ned Kelly’s portrait was on them, as long as I have enough”.

As part of State Library of Queensland’s collection, the John Oxley Library holds a few educational materials produced by the Decimal Currency Board including – Dollar & Cents & You (1966) and For businessmen : how to change over to dollars & cents (1965). Also part of our collection are two school textbooks from 1966, which were published in Brisbane by Jacaranda Press - Third year mathematics A : decimal currency and Third year mathematics A and B : decimal currency.

YouTube clips via National Film and Sound Archive and National Archives of Australia.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

A colourful convict and Moreton Bay: James Hardy Vaux

James Hardy Vaux.  Originally published in Knapp & Baldwin's, New Newgate Calendar, 1825

James Hardy Vaux

The life of James Hardy Vaux is extraordinary on many counts. He was intelligent and, by the standards of the time, well-educated. He was given many opportunities to improve himself but was transported 3 times and committed a variety of crimes in between.

Born in Surrey 1882, he was transported to Australia: on the Minorca 1801; on the Indian 1810 (alias James Lowe) and finally on the Waterloo 1831 (alias James Young). His life was one of possibility frustrated by his criminal tendencies and extravagant ways yet he had a combination of skill and personal appeal to find his way out of 3 potential death sentences and endless sticky situations.

As a young man he was given openings to earn a living, initially as a hatter in London then as a linen draper’s apprentice in Liverpool, followed by a job as a copying clerk in Lincoln’s Inn. His tastes for gambling, drinking and smart dress exceeded his ability to pay for them so he became a pickpocket and forger. He served in the navy but deserted. He continued for short periods with other jobs in a legal firm and then a clothing business. He was arrested for pickpocketing a handkerchief. The jury valued the item at a level which allowed him to avoid death.

After his arrival on the Minorca in 1801 he was given comfortable employment as a clerk on the Hawkesbury, in Sydney and in Parramatta. Although he had suffered in a road-gang, he then forged Governor King’s initials on commissariat orders. Despite all this he won favour with the Governor and Marsden so that he accompanied them on the Buffalo in 1807 to England, writing King’s log and teaching Marsden’s children. He became insubordinate once his sentence expired and deserted at Portsmouth.

In London he returned to thieving and married a prostitute. Narrowly escaping a further conviction he was, in February 1809, eventually sentenced to death at the Old Bailey under the alias James Lowe for stealing from a jeweller’s shop. His sentence was commuted to transportation for life. After time on the hulk Retribution he left, again for Sydney, on the Indian in 1810.

Despite the advantage of a position as deputy-overseer of the town gang in Sydney, he was found guilty of receiving stolen property and in 1811, sentenced to twelve months of hard labour and sent to the Newcastle penal settlement

In 1812 he wrote a dictionary of “flash language”, a first dictionary in Australia and a way for magistrates to understand criminal talk, often impenetrable to outsiders, but which drew the convicts together in a secret code.

In January 1814, he tried to escape in the Earl Spencer, was flogged and returned to Newcastle. He married again in 1818 and whilst working for Judge Barron Field as a clerk he recorded his memoirs which Judge Field edited. He became notorious and excited curiosity.

In 1820, having received a conditional pardon, he worked as a clerk in the colonial secretary’s office. At the end of 1826 Governor Darling dismissed him as he did not want those with a convict background working in such positions. In 1827 he married for the third time, although there was no evidence that his previous 2 wives were dead. He broke the terms of his conditional pardon when he absconded in April 1829 and went to Ireland.

Convicted as James Young of forging bank notes he escaped the death sentence for the third time. Arriving on the Waterloo in 1831, and now infamous, he was recognised, his earlier life sentence revived and he was sent to the hulk, Phoenix.

Judge Therry was curious to meet him and compared him in his Reminiscences to Robespierre: “his address very courteous and his voice was one of a remarkably soft and insinuating tone”. Vaux was of course, very remorseful about his criminal life in discussion with the Judge.

Governor Ralph Darling wanted him sent indefinitely to Moreton Bay, not prepared to make any concessions to him. How Vaux, with such an incredible and well-known criminal background, proceeded to escape this fate, is an insight into his survival skills

Sir Ralph Darling. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 194696

Sir Ralph Darling

Governor Ralph Darling: unswayed by Vaux

The Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser 3 January 1832 recorded: “The Governor Phillip takes nearly forty prisoners to Moreton Bay, among whom is that public of all characters, James Hardy Vaux. “

The Sydney Herald 13 September 1832 stated: “The celebrated James Hardy Vaux has been transplanted per Governor Philip from Moreton Bay, to the more congenial soil for specials at Port Macquarie. “

What happened in between these reports?

He sent a number of petitions. His plea to Governor Darling was his most humble. He “was conscious of having justly merited the severe fate of Moreton Bay”. He said the Governor “would not cherish vindictive feelings towards so insignificant an individual.” He “tremblingly appeals” to have his destination changed to Port Macquarie. His memoirs were published only because the Newcastle Commandant had requested him to write them and to his “great astonishment” Judge Field, to whom he was later assigned, had edited them and had them published. His “disrespectful and unbecoming language” in a letter to the Australian was the result of “bitter disappointment”. Governor Darling left NSW and Vaux continued to write grovelling petitions to the Colonial Secretary and Darling’s successor reiterating that he had been given a conditional pardon because of his clerical work in the Commissariat and Supreme Court, and “his conduct and character…irreproachable”. He justified absconding in 1829 by saying that he “unhappily adopted the rash resolution to withdraw himself from the colony..to escape the misery he had endured from [his] wife’s ill conduct”. His crime in Ireland arose from “dire necessity”. He had spent “seventeen months in close confinement”. NSW was his “natural home having neither friend nor relation in his native land”. He expressed his “sincere contrition” and intention to “transgress no more”.

He did however know that there was some protection from “the horrors of Moreton Bay” and the unlimited sentence imposed by his not having committed a colonial offence after his most recent arrival. Given his long history of crime this loophole seems astonishing. James Hardy Vaux had the law on his side and Clunie (the Moreton Bay Commandant) wrote on 24 January 1832: “This man must be moved from Moreton Bay to Port Macquarie”. He had spent a month at Moreton Bay. “James Hardy Vaux of historical celebrity, has proceeded from Moreton Bay to Port Macquarie, on a tour of inspection, preparatory to his introducing a second series of his interesting flash anecdotes”, wrote the Sydney Monitor 15 September 1832 sarcastically.

The original documents are recorded in Letters received relating to Moreton Bay and Queensland 1822-1860. There is a descriptive index at http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/resources/family-history/info-guides/letters . It is searchable in Google using keywords (in this case ‘Vaux’), State Library of Queensland and A2. The documents are on microfilm at the State Library of Queensland.

In 1837 he returned to Sydney and became clerk to a wine merchant. In May 1839 he was charged with criminal assault and was sentenced to two years imprisonment. The Sydney Gazette and NSW Advertiser 10 August 1839 contained an article on him attributing his survival to “the elegance of his dress, and his specious appearance, and good deal of contrivance.”

Although Governor Sir George Gipps decided that his life sentence should be reinstated, he was released in 1841 on the recommendation of Chief Justice Sir James Dowling and was not heard of again.

Neither severe punishment nor generous treatment deterred him from a criminal life, so the lines from Shakespeare seem particularly apt for Vaux: “The fault, is not in our stars, But in ourselves”.

Stephanie Ryan – Senior Librarian, State Library of Queensland

1911 cyclone

Two children sitting with a badly damaged piano amongst the debris from the Port Douglas cyclone of 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164590

Two children sitting with a badly damaged piano amongst the debris from the Port Douglas cyclone of 1911

On March 16, 1911, a cyclone devastated the small Far North Queensland community of Port Douglas, 70km north of Cairns, razing many of its buildings.

During the storm, many of the townspeople took refuge at the government bond store, which was described as “a substantial building”, though it was no match for the full force of the cyclone. By extraordinary chance, the 40-odd people sheltering there managed to escape before the building collapsed.

Cyclone damage at Port Douglas, 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 164579

Cyclone damage at Port Douglas, 1911

Councillor Andrew Jack was killed when a “stack of timbers” fell on him at his farm near Port Douglas, where he resided with his wife and children.

A second fatality was 30-year-old Timothy Joseph O’Brien, who was helping his mother and sister find shelter when struck by a “mass of wood and iron”, which dislocated his neck and fractured his skull. There were also tales of heroism. A Mr Twine, manager of the Queensland National Bank, risked his life to save others during the storm by bringing them back to shelter.

Storm debris from the 1911 cyclone at Port Douglas. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 127066

Two men and a boy examine an eight foot sheet of corrugated iron embedded in the ground to a depth of 3 ft, 6 inches by the cyclone. Note repairs already effected to Crosbie's Hotel in the background.

In the aftermath, Port Douglas residents quickly came to the realisation that their town was virtually wiped out – “only about seven residences were partly left standing, besides the Queensland National Bank, the Customs House, the Post Office, and McLean’s Hotel”.

Two boys looking at the results of a cyclone in Port Douglas, 1911. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg  127068

A sheet of corrugated roofing iron has been wrapped round a pole and behind the two boys are piles of additional debris created by the cyclone.

With more than 100 people left homeless, many camped out at the damaged Masonic Hall or at one of the houses left standing. The photograph above shows the extent of the damage.

Telegraphic communication was disrupted with 30 poles blown down within 11km of the town. The nearby settlement of Mossman was also affected by the cyclone.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland