The Chemical Formulary

If you’ve ever wondered what goes into the wide array of products and chemical concoctions we use at home and work every day, you will be fascinated by The Chemical Formulary – an amazing collection of formulas for producing domestic and industrial products.

The Chemical Formulary’s title page describes it as “a condensed collection of valuable, timely, practical formulae for making thousands of products in all fields of industry.”

The first volume of this work, published in the US in 1933, was designed to provide information for chemists and allied workers to save them time and effort. Harry Bennett, the work’s editor, made it clear that the formulas are best used as a starting point for solving problems, and are most appropriately used by chemists or technical workers familiar with a specific field, rather than “the layman”.

Chemistry laboratory probably at Gatton Agricultural College Queensland, undated. State Library of Queensland.

Chemistry laboratory probably at Gatton Agricultural College Queensland, undated. State Library of Queensland.

The work includes formulas for adhesives, paints, coatings, polishes, metal treatments, cleaners, inks, plastics, cosmetics, foods, drinks and flavours – to name just a few. Reading the formulas from early editions gives a fascinating insight into products and lifestyles throughout the decades. While it may no longer be legal or acceptable to make your own fireworks and explosives, or concoct turtle oil cream for your face, other treatments, such as cleaners and polishes remain useful and relevant. For the “layman”, the idea of making your own bubble gum scented toilet solution may be a bit much, but there are a number of basic preparations and explanations that may be of interest. There are also many basic recipes for things such as breads and cakes, and fascinating accounts of how various foods are made. The first volume, for example, explains the processes behind the manufacture of many cheese varieties, including Camembert, Cheshire, Gorgonzola, Parmesan and Stilton. There are also some formulas that may seem novel to readers today, such as dog attack repellent aerosol or freckle removers.

M.C. Ellwoods Chemist and Druggist premises, Sandgate Road, Albion about 1925. State Library of Queensland.

M.C. Ellwoods Chemist and Druggist premises, Sandgate Road, Albion about 1925. State Library of Queensland.

The various editions draw on the expertise of an Editorial Board composed of chemists and engineers from many industries. Information has also been obtained from publications, laboratories, manufacturers and individuals to cover the wide range of fields dealt with in the books. The costs and safety of various ingredients are also discussed.

Continuing until volume 34 in 1997, the later volumes are not merely duplicates or revisions of earlier ones, but are completely new works providing further formulas and more detailed information about processes and principles.

The Chemical Formulary is available in hard copy in State Library of Queensland’s reference collection, and is also available online, accessible through our One Search catalogue. This interesting resource provides valuable insight into the development of chemical products since 1933 and the complexity of the composition of goods we use unthinkingly on a daily basis.

“You couldn’t have a full-blooded Chinese or aborigine teaching” 1949

At the beginning of 1949, a 17 year old student challenged the Department of Public Instruction in a way that illuminated public attitudes and initiated controversy, expressed in the country’s newspapers from Brisbane to Broken Hill and from Townsville to Tasmania.

In January 1949, the Department of Public Instruction awarded John Hinton Quinlem, a student who had excelled academically and in sports at Brisbane Grammar School, a teaching fellowship to study Arts at the University of Queensland, subject to a satisfactory medical examination and interview. His application was supported by Brisbane Grammar’s Principal, Mr H R Piggott. Quinlem passed the medical examination, but in 16 February’s Courier Mail he stated that during the interview every attempt was made to dissuade him from teaching and to consider journalism. While his writing ability was duly acknowledged, he was questioned about his Chinese parentage and attitude to China. In the same article, the Courier Mail reported that the Director of Secondary Education informed Brisbane Grammar School’s Principal that there was a regulation “preventing Chinese from entering the teaching service.” The Director General said, “If the fellowship was refused after a personal interview, it must be because of the candidate’s lack of personality or vocal ability. He knew of no regulation preventing a person of foreign parentage becoming a teacher.” The Teachers’ Union secretary, Mr G A Daughtery, agreed that foreign parentage did not prevent union membership, but added “You couldn’t have a full-blooded Chinese or aborigine teaching.”

The Courier Mail, 16 February 1949.

The Courier Mail, 16 February 1949.

The Courier Mail came out strongly in support of John Quinlem over the next few days. On 17 February, a letter was published from John Quinlem’s brother, Kennedy Quinlem. “Would Mr. Daughtery, secretary of the Teachers’ Union (C-M., 16/2/49), consider allowing himself to be taught mathematics by Australian-born P. Chong, M.A., D.Sc. (Cantab.); the most highly qualified of the three full-blooded Chinese lecturers at Sydney University? Though highly respected by staff and students at Sydney, I suppose they would not be suitable for Queensland schools if they applied.”

On 18 February, the Courier Mail continued:

“The Chinese Consul (Mr. T. M. Chen) charged the Teachers’ Union secretary (Mr. G. A. Daughtery) yesterday with racial discrimination. Such a statement is contradictory of the policy so often emphasised by the External Affairs Minister (Dr. Evatt) that Australia never introduces racial discrimination into its foreign or migration policies. Quinlem has been advised by leading Brisbane Chinese to take legal action against the Education Department.”

On 19 February, the Director-General of Education, to the annoyance of the Courier Mail’s editor, claimed:

“Any girl or boy who displays in size, shape, speech or appearance, departure from the normal in sufficient degree to invite the attention and/or comment of the children, must possess a tremendous amount of personal force to be successful and comfortable in the teaching profession. After examining the case and reviewing this young man’s scholastic career; it is my considered opinion that, by aptitude and attainment, he is more fitted for journalism than for any other profession. [Flippancy on a serious subject of national importance ill becomes a Director-General of Education.— Ed., C.-M.]”

Mr A A Rose, former president of the Greater Brisbane State Schools’ Committee Association, said “that officialdom wanted to freeze John Quinlem out of a teachers’ fellowship. One of the most highly respected teachers at a Toowoomba State school a few years ago was an Australian born son of Chinese parents — Mr. H. Poon”.

John Quinlem’s background

John Quinlem was born on Thursday Island in Queensland, to Gertrude, a Townsville-born woman of Chinese parentage. His father had come from Canton before 1900. John was educated in Queensland; his culture, speech and interests were those of a confident, well-educated Queenslander, not those of someone struggling with the language and way of life. The Director-General’s point that it would be difficult for someone with a “departure from the normal” would have applied only to his Asian face. While the Courier Mail focused support from his brother, the Chinese Consul, the Chinese community and Mr Rose, what is missing is the wider public comment in the form of letters or news items in any of the newspapers. What did the public think?

The bitter feeling towards Chinese caused by economic competition on the goldfields, the suspicion of what was regarded as their pagan religion, and fear of their large scale invasion as ravening hordes among a small white population in a remote corner of the world, had been a significant factor in support for Federation. In 1901, the Immigration Restriction Act was the basis for the unofficial White Australia Policy, which allowed a dictation test in any European language as a way of keeping out unwanted foreigners. It was aimed at Asians, specifically Chinese. John’s father, Chong Quinlem (also Quin Lem) had travelled to, and returned from, China a number of times between 1911 and 1940, and had been exempted from the dictation test. Therefore, he was seen to have been resident in the country for some time, and of good character. These records are kept at National Archives, and provide a photographic record of some family members.

Gertrude, Charles Conway (John's brother) and Chong Quin Lem: Photographs when they left Australia in 1920 forming part of the certificates exempting them from the dictation test when they returned. Copyright Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2013.

Gertrude, Charles Conway (John's brother) and Chong Quin Lem: Photographs when they left Australia in 1920 forming part of the certificates exempting them from the dictation test when they returned. Copyright Commonwealth of Australia (National Archives of Australia) 2013.


Australian born Chinese were beginning to outnumber immigrant Chinese by the mid-20th Century. The fears of the last 100 years, as encapsulated in cartoons such as that of Philip May, were being undermined by these well-assimilated Chinese, such as the Quinlems.

The Mongolian Octopus: his grip on Australia by Phillip May 1886, depicting fear of Chinese

The Mongolian Octopus: his grip on Australia by Phillip May 1886, depicting fear of Chinese.


It has been remarked that while Australians feared the Chinese as a large mass, they paradoxically respected those whom they knew. Letters defending individual Chinese were not uncommon in the papers.

Nevertheless, John Quinlem relented in his battle, making a very Australian plea:

“ ‘The Director-General has at last sold me his own propaganda that I would be taking up the wrong profession.’ Quinlem said last night:— ‘Though I wish nothing more to be said on the matter, I wish to plead for a healthier outlook towards all colours and creeds. We Chinese only want a fair go.’” (Sunday Mail, 20 February 1949).

What happened to John Quinlem?

He completed an Arts degree at the University of Queensland, and in his final year in 1951 edited the university paper Semper Floreat. He mixed with writers such as David Malouf and Christopher Koch. It is said the Chinese, highly intelligent and morally sensitive character, Billy Kwan, in The year of living dangerously (1978) was based on John Quinlem, who later took an interest in theology. He wrote articles for the Sydney Observer in the 1950s, and worked briefly for the Bulletin and Sydney Mirror, but most of his working life was in the Commonwealth public service.

He died in August 2010, and his family described him in the death notice, in Melbourne’s Age on 18 August, as “Scourge of the 1950s establishment.” Emeritus Professor of English, Peter Edwards, in his obituary of Quinlem in the Courier Mail on 16 September 2010, referred to his intellectual brilliance, sense of fun and exuberant chortle as well as his impressive knowledge of Australian cultural and social history, in particular his knowledge of Chinese Australian history.

His brother, Kennedy Quinlem, who completed his architectural studies in 1952, took his father’s actual surname, Chong, as his own. The given names and surname, as with many Chinese, had been reversed.

John Quinlem lived to see the blatant kind of discrimination he experienced in 1949 made illegal, and for such an injustice to be offensive to community standards.

Stephanie Ryan, Senior Librarian Family History, Information Services

Tracing the history of a central Brisbane building

Recently I was asked to research the history of buildings at the corner of Adelaide and Wharf Streets in Brisbane, where the Christie Centre is currently located.

Fortunately, I knew this corner well as I used to work opposite the site. I remembered that the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) was located there, and that they moved out in the mid 1990s.  Armed with this knowledge, I searched the Brisbane Telephone Directories from 1994 -1995 and discovered an entry for the ATO, which included information that they would be moving addresses between March and June in 1995.  But when had the ATO moved in?

I searched State Library of Queensland’s catalogue, One Search, hoping to find some annual reports from the period, but instead found “Working for all Australians 1910-2010: A brief history of the Australian Taxation Office”. This online history of the department includes information about the various buildings that housed staff around the country. I was very pleased to find information about the opening of the new Brisbane building on 15 February 1962, down to the details of changes to the tea ladies’ routine as the cafeteria was being used for the official guests.  Using this date, I was able to search The Courier-Mail on microfilm and find a photograph and article about this opening, with the title “Buffet in a tax ‘temple’”.

But what was on the site before 1962?  Maps and directories were my next information source. Post Office Directories (POD) provided listings of businesses and residents, by street as well as by name.  These directories are a valuable tool when tracing the history of a building, particularly if you have no names of previous occupants.

I began with the 1949 POD, as this is the last year held at SLQ.  My original brief had me looking for 340 Adelaide Street, but searching the POD along Adelaide St, on the left hand side, at the corner with Wharf St I found the street numbers had changed slightly, with 336 at the corner. There was no number 320, but 318 was the Signs Building, with tenants including professional offices. 322 to 336 housed the Adelaide Café, Adelaide House private hotel, a milking-machine supplier and a tailor.

Accommodation was a feature of the site, with POD entries revealing that Adelaide House was there in 1925, Mrs Ethel Manson had a boarding house in 1914 and John Low had a boarding house in 1896. The proximity to the wharves at the bottom of Wharf Street, combined with the location high on the hill, obviously made this a successful site for such businesses.

Searching for photographs in the John Oxley Library collections revealed the changing face of the site through the 1950s, as the early buildings were torn down and the ATO building was constructed.

Tracing the past of this building provides a good example of how SLQ’s resources enable us to trace the history of buildings, learn about previous occupants and interesting events at an address, and find images to bring that history to life.

The corner of Adelaide and Wharf Streets, Brisbane, 1958. Courtesy of Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd.

The corner of Adelaide and Wharf Streets, Brisbane, 1958. Courtesy of Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd.

Construction site of the new Taxation Building Adelaide Street, Brisbane, 1959.

Construction site of the new Taxation Building, Adelaide Street, Brisbane, 1959. Courtesy of Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd. “The new Taxation Building has everything, including a kitchen sink - the largest in Queensland. The sink, 30 feet long, and weighing about a ton, was installed in the staff cafeteria, on the top floor of the building, which is being built at the corner of Wharf and Adelaide Streets.” (Description supplied with photograph).

 Katy Roberts, Library Technician, Visitor Experience

The great “tin rush” of Stanthorpe

The 1870s saw a great rush to mine alluvial tin in a place called Quart Pot Creek on the Darling Downs. This rural locality, 170km south-west of Brisbane, is now known as Stanthorpe, named after the Latin word for tin, stannum. Geoscience Australia records that Tin (Sn) is one of the few metals that has been used and traded by humans for more than 5,000 years. One of its oldest uses is in combination with copper to make bronze. Tin has the advantageous combinations of a low melting point, malleability, and the ability to alloy with other metals. Tin is almost always found closely allied to the granite from which it originates, hence the discovery of tin in the Granite Belt region of Queensland’s Southern Downs.

Tin miners near Stanthorpe, ca. 1872. Photograph by William Boag. State Library of Queensland.

Tin miners near Stanthorpe, ca. 1872. Photograph by William Boag. State Library of Queensland.

Tin was first discovered in the Stanthorpe area in 1852, but was not actually worked until 1872. The area was a quiet backwater, with several pastoral runs and shepherds’ huts dotting the landscape. The Pioneer Tin Mining Company started mining at Stanthorpe in 1872, putting the place on the map. With the global boom in tin prices in the 1870s, prices rose by 20 pounds per ton.  Intermittent booms occurred in subsequent years. With tin found along the watercourses, streams and creeks, the region quickly became the largest alluvial tin mine in Queensland. In 1874, Mr Miles MLA said that “the district of Stanthorpe had contributed more largely to the prosperity of Queensland than any other district in it.” Tin valued at 2.5 million pounds was reportedly produced from the area.  Commercial mining operations continued in the area for over 60 years.

Miners working at St. Leonards Tin Mine Sugarloaf Creek near Stanthorpe ca. 1873

Miners working at St. Leonard's Tin Mine, Sugarloaf Creek near Stanthorpe, ca. 1873. Photograph by William Boag. State Library of Queensland.

The tin miners came from many different backgrounds, including Chinese. Tin mining began in Queensland’s north, around Mt Garnet and the Palmer River, but when substantial deposits were discovered near Stanthorpe, a stampede of European and Asian miners made their way south. In fact, The Warwick Examiner reported in February 1872, “There is a great stampede to the district, parties on horseback, as well as large numbers on foot, with swags before them … Cobb and Co coaches commenced running services twice a day from the railway terminus in Warwick. Passengers clung precariously to every available part of the coach. Express coaches were run.” Goods started coming by teams, and saddle horses were advertised to ride to the diggings. In May, The Warwick Examiner said, “the invasion of tin hunters still arrive in a countless host. All labour which arrives seems to be absorbed.”

It appears that Chinese labourers were arriving by ship into the Port of Brisbane, taking the train or other land transport to Warwick, and then making their way out to the tin fields. There was apparently an agent for Chinese immigration in Queensland called Mr Bauer. According to The Queenslander newspaper of 12 September 1874, “the immigrants were drawn from the ports of Amoy and Swatow, north of Canton and near Formosa (now called Taiwan) and were of very industrious habits. They were indentured for a period of 5 years, working 6 days a week, 9 and 1/2 hours per day, and were to be paid 7 dollars per month. The agreement included food (8 oz meat per day), a suit of clothes and a blanket yearly, free medical attendance and in the case of incurable illness, 50 dollars to pay the return passage home. The agreement was identical to that provided to Chinese labourers who engaged to work on the plantations of the West Indies.”

Chinese gold digger, with his tools suspended from a yoke across his shoulders, starting for work, ca. 1860s. The alluvial methods of tin mining were very similar to those used in panning for gold. State Library of Queensland.

Chinese gold digger, with his tools suspended from a yoke across his shoulders, starting for work, ca. 1860s. The alluvial methods of tin mining were very similar to those used in panning for gold. State Library of Queensland.

The Chinese arrived by train in Warwick and were reported as “long strings of celestials making their way to the mines.” The European settlers were not happy, and complained in 1873 because the Chinese were willing to work for a lower wage and “worked on tribute”, which meant that they willingly worked on alluvial deposits where locals had already lost money or given up hope of finding more tin. It was reported in 1875 that, in some cases, the Chinese were making from half an ounce to one ounce per day of tin in ground that was abandoned by white miners as being “not payable”. In 1877, there were continuing reports in the press of “two hundred Chinamen going up the line, en-route for the tin mines.” In 1877, there was even mention of a shipping line being established to bring the Chinese labourers directly from Hong Kong to Brisbane. One example given was the ship “Killarney”, which arrived in 1875 with 500 passengers bound for the tin fields.

Chinese merchants in the Darling Downs, ca. 1875. State Library of Queensland.

Chinese merchants in the Darling Downs, ca. 1875. State Library of Queensland.

Tin mining was not an easy task. An early Queensland photographer, William Boag, spent time in Stanthorpe in 1873 and took some wonderful black and white glass photographic negatives of the tin miners, which are in State Library of Queensland’s collection. Although in many parts of the tin fields a prospector might discover a few grains of tin in a pie dish full of sand scooped up near a creek, other speculators cut trenches into the ground in pursuit of walnut-sized pieces of ore. Other miners used earth augers, worked by two men, to prospect for alluvial tin. The auger enabled mining to a depth of 35 feet, even in the wettest soil, as the tin was contained in seams along the creeks. Portable steam engines were also used, as the Boag photographs demonstrate. The steam engine was used to drive a water pump, which drained the workings or helped with the task of sluicing. It was a small four-horse power model that was fired with wood and was protected from the weather by a makeshift shelter covered with a canvas tarpaulin.

Prospectors next to a portable steam engine ca. 1870. Photograph by William Boag. State Library of Queensland.

Prospectors next to a portable steam engine ca. 1870. Photograph by William Boag. State Library of Queensland.

The Queenslander reported that nearly all of the tin was gone by 1892, and that, in its heyday, “Stanthorpe had about thirty hotels all doing a roaring trade, its streets at night were thronged with moleskin-clad miners, its trade for many years was enormous; but gradually the rich stores were exhausted, until now it may be said its tin-mining is almost ended.”

Who would have thought that Stanthorpe, now known for its wine and cool climate fruit, was the centre of a mining rush, and that many Chinese labourers came to this inland place from coastal areas of China to make their fortune? Some stayed to become part of the fabric of an iconic Queensland town.

Christina Ealing-Godbold, Senior Librarian, Information Services.


Lady Cilento

The opening of the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in South Brisbane on 29 November gives us reason to look at the extraordinary life and achievements of this great lady.

Phyllis Dorothy McGlew was born in Sydney on 13 March 1894. When she was young, her family moved to Adelaide, where she studied medicine, graduating in 1918. She worked at the Adelaide Hospital before travelling to Britain and working in the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street in London. She returned to Adelaide in 1920 to marry Dr Raphael Cilento, who was knighted in 1935 in recognition of his work in epidemiology in tropical disease. The couple worked in the Malay States, Townsville and New Guinea, before settling in Brisbane in 1928.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, 1918. State Library of Queensland.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, 1918. State Library of Queensland.

Between 1931 and 1938, Phyllis worked at the Hospital for Sick Children (now the Royal Children’s Hospital) in Herston. She then ran a general practice, specialising in the health of mothers and children, while raising her six children. She wrote 24 books, many articles, and regular columns for newspapers and magazines under the name “Medical Mother” and “Mother M.D.” She promoted the use of vitamins, and was an advocate for natural childbirth, family planning, and having fathers present at the birth of their children – advanced ideas that were seen by some at the time as unorthodox. After her husband’s death in 1985, she continued in private practice in Toowong until the early 1980s. She died on 26 July 1987.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, July 1942. State Library of Queensland.

Lady Phyllis Cilento, July 1942. State Library of Queensland.

Lady Cilento, affectionately called “Lady C”, was involved in several organisations, was president of the Queensland Medical Women’s Society in 1929, and founded the Mothercraft Association of Queensland in 1931. She was the first Queensland Mother of the Year, the first Queenslander of the Year, and a Fellow of the International Academy of Preventative Medicine. Given her contributions to the health of mothers and children in Queensland, it is a fitting tribute that our new children’s hospital bears her name.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento, January 1949. State Library of Queensland.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento, January 1949. State Library of Queensland.

State Library of Queensland holds many items that relate to Lady Cilento’s life and work, including her notebook from around 1981, which contains notes, copies of letters and speeches. Our collection also contains Lady Cilento’s published books, including My Life (her autobiography published in the year of her death), A Code for teenagers and their parents, The Cilento way, Lady Cilento on vitamin and mineral deficiencies, Vitamins and you, You don’t have to live with: Chronic ill health, Medical mother, Enjoy your family: A guide for parenthood and Square meals for the family.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento. State Library of Queensland.

Sir Raphael and Lady Phyllis Cilento. State Library of Queensland.

These items can be located through our One Search catalogue.

Frew Park: Reflecting Queensland’s tennis history

Frew Park, a 3.5 hectare parkland developed on the site of the former Milton Tennis Centre, is due to open in December.

The park’s redevelopment will include the new Roy Emerson Tennis Centre, with six tennis courts, a rebound wall, kiosk, and lounge and administration facilities.

In a nod to the site’s history, a new youth playground will be called The Arena. The playground is specifically designed for children aged 10 to 15 years, complementing nearby suburban play areas that cater for younger children. The Arena will include a large climbing wall, five metre high curly slide, climbing nets and cages (including a mesh cage that is eight metres off the ground), and other surfaces for climbing or sitting.

A large open space in the park is named Wendy Turnbull Green, honouring Brisbane tennis legend Wendy Turnbull, who was a Grand Slam winning doubles and mixed doubles player on nine occasions during the 1970s and 1980s.

Frew Park will also include open grassed spaces, picnic areas, exercise equipment and a carpark.

Queensland Lawn Tennis Association Clubhouse at Milton Queensland 1958

Queensland Lawn Tennis Association Clubhouse at Milton, Queensland, 1958. State Library of Queensland.

Those of you who were familiar with the old Milton tennis courts may remember the giant tennis racquet that towered over the centre. Brisbane identity, Stefan Ackerie, who acquired the racquet after the centre was closed in 1999, has kindly donated the racquet to the redevelopment project. It will be rejuvenated before taking pride of place at the entrance to the park.

The Milton Tennis Centre was originally opened in 1915, and had 19 hard courts and four grass courts. It played host to eight Australian Championships, including the first Australian Open in 1969, and 16 Davis Cup ties, including three finals. It also served as a venue for concerts featuring legends such as the Rolling Stones, Elton John and Johnny Cash. It hosted the national lightweight boxing title in 1971, when a crowd of 10,000 watched Jeff White retain his title against Lionel Rose.

View of the tennis courts at Milton where a Davis Cup tournament is being played Brisbane 1958

View of a Davis Cup tournament at the Milton tennis courts, Brisbane, 1958. State Library of Queensland.

The centre regularly seated 7,000 people, and saw many tennis greats traverse its courts, including Rod Laver, Roy Emerson, Tony Roche, John Newcombe and Lindsay Davenport. The wooden grandstands were declared unsafe in 1994, and the centre was closed in 1999 after Tennis Queensland ran into financial difficulties. Following two fires and becoming derelict, the building was demolished in 2002.

The Milton Tennis Centre was home to much of Queensland’s tennis history, and is fondly remembered by those who played on its courts, went there as spectators or attended other events. The new Frew Park redevelopment honours that history and will provide new recreational opportunities for Queenslanders.

Watching a tennis game at Milton 1934

Watching a tennis game at Milton, 1934. State Library of Queensland.

State Library of Queensland holds many treasures relating to the state’s tennis history. We have photographs, publications from the Queensland Lawn Tennis Association and other tennis organisations, articles, annual reports and ephemera, such as programs, rulebooks, handbooks and tickets. These items can be located though our One Search catalogue.

Queensland Ladies Interstate Tennis Team 1908

Queensland Ladies Interstate Tennis Team, 1908. State Library of Queensland.

Pearling Luggers of the Torres Strait

The romance of the beautiful pearling luggers of the Torres Strait is captured in the photographs and resources held by State Library of Queensland.

Pearling lugger in the Torres Strait

Pearling lugger in the Torres Strait. State Library of Queensland.

The luggers were gaff-rigged ketches constructed of wood, and many have continued to sail for more than 60 years.  Typically measuring 15 to 20 meters in length, with low waists and bulwarks to assist diving, the two- masted pearling luggers were graceful with curved lines.   They were a magnificent sight as they entered the open sea under full sail. There were many hundreds of luggers working across the north of Australia, from Thursday Island to Broome.  Many of the luggers were built by Japanese shipwrights on Thursday Island.  Indeed, by the turn of the century, the Japanese had a monopoly on the shipbuilding and slipways of the island.  The Queensland Museum has examined the woods used in the luggers, and has found that typically a mixture of native timbers was used, including melaleuca, turpentine, hoop pine and sometimes imported timbers such as oregon pine.  The Queensland Maritime Museum at South Bank has restored a pearling lugger that was built on Thursday Island in 1907.  Called Penguin, it was a working boat for more than 80 years.

Pearling was enormously important to the economy of northern Australia.  Beginning in 1868 in the Torres Strait, the industry had a boom and bust cycle, with high points being experienced in the 1870s and 1890s.  While pearls were prized, the basis of the industry was the pearling shell, which was in great demand in Australia, America and Europe for buttons, combs, jewellery, insets in furniture and cutlery set handles. At one point in the early 1870s, the price of £400 per ton was reached for pearl shell.  The pearling industry of northern Australia supplied the majority of the world’s need for pearl shell, and was a source of great wealth for some of the fleet owners.

The luggers worked in fleets.  Pearling fleets were multi-national affairs, manned by Torres Strait Islanders, Malays, Indians, Sri Lankans and Japanese, as well as some workers from other Pacific Islands.  The pearling fleet masters were principally Australians and New Zealanders, including James Clarke, Tommy Farquhar and the Hockings Brothers.  Each fleet could have more than 20 luggers, with several schooners providing supplies to the luggers.  Each fleet was painted in identifying colours.  For example, the Farquhar fleet had black hulls with red and white railings.  The name and registration number of each boat was carved into the side, near the bow.

Pearling luggers at Thursday Island

Pearling luggers at Thursday Island. State Library of Queensland.

Typically, a pearling lugger had two or three divers, two or three tenders to operate the air pumps, a cook, an engineer and two sailing crew.  The divers, who were mostly Japanese, risked their lives in rubberised canvas suits, heavy boots laden with lead, and helmets with thick glass.  The divers were paid according to the amount of shell they collected, so every minute on the bottom was precious.

Their lives were in the hands of the tenders above, who operated the air pumps to keep them alive. Initially, pearl shell was easily located in shallow waters.  However, by 1871, a diving suit was designed, allowing access down to 20 fathoms.  As the pearl shell was collected over many years, the remaining shell deposits were at increasingly greater depths, and by the end of the 1930s, divers were going down to 40 fathoms in areas such as the Darnley Deeps. Few Australians could be attracted to the perilous occupation of pearl diving. The bends killed many of the divers, as did shark attacks.  In 1916, the official death rate in workplaces in Queensland was reported as 1.1% of the workforce, contrasting with the 10% quoted for pearling divers.  Cyclones were also a threat to the safety of the pearling fleets, with one cyclone in1899 sinking more than 50 luggers, and killing 300 men.

During World War Two, the pearling luggers were requisitioned by the Australian Navy, as the islands of the Torres Strait became strategically very important.  Many were used by the Americans, patrolling the Torres Strait. The residents of the islands were evacuated from 1942 until 1946.  After the war, it was difficult for the industry to rebuild, and the introduction of plastics made the industry less viable, causing many luggers to be sold and refitted for prawning, crayfishing or other commercial activities.  Some pearling continued until the 1970s, with the introduction of cultured pearling.

The sailing boats once used to trawl for the treasures of the sea are a reminder of Queensland’s past.  Resilient craft, many of the pearling luggers were refloated, refitted and continued to sail many years after the pearling industry had become a remnant of our history.

Christina Ealing-Godbold, Senior Librarian, Information Services

Goodwill (ship) pearling lugger

Goodwill (ship). State Library of Queensland.

World Diabetes Day

14 November is World Diabetes Day (WDD), raising global awareness of this growing health threat, its treatment and prevention.

World Diabetes Day logo

Frederick Banting and Charles Best conceived the idea that led to the discovery of insulin in 1921, and WDD is celebrated annually on 14 November, which marks Frederick Banting’s birthday.

WDD is an official United Nations Day, marked by more than 200 member organisations of the International Diabetes Federation in more than 160 countries. These organisations, along with companies, healthcare workers and people and families living with diabetes, increase awareness by participating in activities, events, exhibitions, workshops and campaigns. The WDD logo is a blue circle, symbolising life and health, the sky and the colour of the United Nations flag. Last year, the Sydney Opera House was even bathed in blue light to mark this special day.

Diabetes is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, with 280 Australians being diagnosed daily. Almost 1.1 million Australians are currently diagnosed, and it is estimated that the total number with diabetes or pre-diabetes is 3.2 million.

What is diabetes?

Our bodies need the hormone insulin to convert glucose (sugar) from our food into energy. People with diabetes do not produce enough insulin, so when they eat foods containing glucose (such as breads, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables, legumes, milk, yoghurt and sweets), they can’t convert this glucose to energy. This leaves them with a higher blood glucose level.

Type 1 diabetes, which is not preventable or curable, occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin, so sufferers rely on up to four insulin injections daily and need to test their blood glucose levels several times a day.

Type 2 diabetes is more common, affecting nearly 90% of all diabetes sufferers. It results from genetic and environmental factors, and lifestyle plays a significant role in the development and management of the disease. People with type 2 diabetes will often need to take tablets or insulin to manage their health. Up to 58% of cases of type 2 diabetes are preventable at the pre-diabetes stage.

What you need to know

As diabetes becomes more common, it is important for everyone to understand their risks, be aware of the symptoms of diabetes, and know how to manage important lifestyle factors. Understanding the disease will help sufferers, and their family and friends, manage their lifestyle, control their diabetes and stay as healthy as possible.

Sydney Opera House lit up for World Diabetes Day

Sydney Opera House lit up for World Diabetes Day

Where to find information

The Diabetes Australia website is a great place to start looking for information, providing practical information on understanding and living with diabetes, as well as valuable information for health professionals and researchers.

State Library of Queensland has some really practical resources, including books, ebooks and information on our health databases. Just search in our One Search catalogue, and look at databases listed in the health and medicine database subject listings.

If you need help locating any health related information, you can also Ask us.


Libraries and structural change 7

In my last post I discussed the ‘promise’ of libraries remarking that it appears to float remarkably freely from anything in particular that libraries do. Because it is amorphous and strange, yet also powerful and therefore not easily ignored, the promise of libraries, may come to be distrusted as a form of irrational sentimentality; dismissed in favour of something more solidly utilitarian – improved educational outcomes for instance, or social cohesion or even economic growth. But you can be useful without being loved and you can be loved without being useful. Usually the reasons for love aren’t clear. Love is a mystery; it floats notoriously freely from rational argument or explanation. Everyone knows that.

Libraries are much loved institutions. This isn’t incidental to what they are or to their continued existence. In fact it can only be central; love being up there in the field of human concerns. We want libraries to continue to be much loved institutions. It would be a terrible loss if they ceased to be that. Thus understanding the predicament of libraries, what to do about them, or with them, at this critical juncture in their history, must entail at least brief consideration of love.

Love is inertial; it may endure without any basis in reality; by the warm glow of a promise alone; or it may be rooted in some combination of promise and reality. Certainly it is rarely rooted solely in reality and is not sustainably rooted in promise alone. Sooner or later the original impetus exhausts itself; sunlight turns to starlight, emitting only theoretical warmth.

It’s always a relief to be loved. Bathed in love’s euphoric glow, whether the love springs from promise or its fulfilment may seem immaterial. But the trouble with being loved for a promise is that at some point the promise has to be fulfilled.

The gap between promise and fulfilment is a sea gap, bridged by what we do; what libraries do – the practice of libraries. Sometimes, suddenly, cataclysmically, sea gaps widen, or reefs and shoals appear where there had been none, rendering the old maps useless, or worse. In the event of such upheaval, plying the once familiar gap between promise and its fulfilment ceases to be a matter of doing what you’d always done, no matter how conscientiously.

It’s not difficult to arouse people’s feelings about libraries. Perhaps uniquely, libraries lend themselves to rhetoric normally reserved for national constitutions: The object of this Act is to contribute to the social cultural and intellectual development of all Queenslanders, heralds State Library’s enabling legislation. Existing to support the free flow of information and ideas, libraries have a special responsibility to oppose the infringement of intellectual freedom, including infringement by omission – neglect of the needs of individuals and communities – and by commission – exclusion, the violation of privacy and censorship, proclaims State Library’s Intellectual Freedom Policy

Rhetoric has its place; it kindles the promise’s fire. It’s always reassuring to feel the promise’s vitality and warmth. You can be far from home, lost on an unfamiliar road, and there the promise appears, through an open door before you, burning brightly; a vision of things, as vital and relevant as ever.

On the other hand, huddling at the promise’s hearth can too easily become a substitute for continuing the journey: refusing the snug torpor of dream but every day pushing further along the road, pushing the road further along; feeling the exhilaration and dread of unfamiliarity, having good days and bad, but always honouring a promise.

It’s pleasing when the stories we need to be true actually turn out to be true and troubling and sometimes a lot worse when they don’t. Aversion to thinking that the ending won’t be happy may induce blindness to evidence pointing to this outcome. In this situation the implicit and dreaded expectation – that the story is turning out to be, well, just a story, its foothold in reality crumbling away – becomes self-fulfilling, for without the drift towards a feared predicament being unflinchingly observed and acknowledged nothing at all can possibly done to arrest and reverse it. It’s important to see clearly, to use the promise responsibly, to illuminate how it might be honoured; as compass more than justification; not just as a way of keeping warm.

Beyond about twenty years ago it was possible for libraries and librarians to be good simply by conscientiously doing what they’d always done, conscientiously following a certain fairly stable, time honoured set of practices. Sea crossings were routine and ship wrecks and other accidents at sea rare; roads passed through familiar, secure territory; being a library wasn’t a voyage of discovery.

About twenty years ago all of this began not to be true. Sea gaps began to widen, reefs and shoals began to appear where there had been none; the old roads began to fall short of the promise. What it meant to be a good library, a good librarian, fundamentally unchanging for generations, began to change. And yet, even as the terms of its fulfilment continue to dramatically shift the promise continues to burn as brightly as ever before.

When structural change undermines the efficacy of inherited, time honoured practices inevitably it’s not clear what to do. The natural initial response to the beleaguerment of a deeply felt promise is consternation and confusion. Naturally, the prospect of the sundering of practice and promise becoming permanent, the idea that for entirely mysterious reasons something wonderful is irrevocably doomed, causes degrees of sadness.

Not knowing what to do can be unnerving. Discovering new routes to the fulfilment of a persistent promise takes time, patience and goodwill; even a little compassion and forgiveness. It requires grasping the promise directly; being alive to its fulfilment, knowing and valuing deep down what it means for someone, anyone, to see, feel, understand something new, something transformative, for the first time. Counterintuitively – and counter to most ways of thinking the future of libraries – it requires looking backwards – back to the time when practice cleaved closely to promise. We need to remember what we’re trying to be, as a condition of formulating new ways of doing that in radically transformed conditions.

Behind the scenes – exhibition preparation

Behind the ‘staff only doors’ of  State Library many staff and volunteers work everyday on a range of activities for our clients today, and for future users. We’re highlighting some of these activities and staff to give you a behind the scenes view of the library and the work that we do.

Have you ever wondered how SLQ prepares objects for exhibition? Read on for a peek at how staff in Exhibitions conservation prepared architectural models for the recent Hot Modernism exhibition.

In the lead up to an exhibition, each display item is assessed by conservation, documented and prepared for display. We mostly conserve books and paper based item, so it was a real treat to have a number of mid-century architectural models in the lab!

In the photograph below Preservation Assistant Kathy Young carefully cleans one of the models used in the exhibition. This original model of the TAB Building in Albion was created by Geoffrey Pie Architect in the 1970s. Fortunately this model had been stored with its original perspex cover and was in relatively good condition. However a build-up of surface dust had accumulated over time and required attention before display.

Preservation Assistant Kathy Young cleaning the TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane.

Preservation Assistant Kathy Young cleaning the TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane.

Notice the fine model details such as cars, figures and foliage in the picture below. To avoid disturbing these original elements a specialised vacuum cleaner on very low suction was used, along with a series of soft goat hair and other fine brushes to carefully dislodge and remove soiling on the model surface.

Detail of TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane

Detail of TAB Model, on loan from private collection, Brisbane

Likewise, the original Torbreck Apartments architectural model also required attention before display. This Highgate Hill building was created by Job and Froud Architects in the 1960s.

Along with cleaning the model required consolidation of flaking paint and plaster to minimise further damage. Below, Conservator Gajendra Rawat applies a weak gelatin solution with a fine brush to resecure areas of flaking paint. The head loupe he is wearing magnifies the area being worked on and alows an accurate application of conservation materials only to the necessary areas.

Conservator Gajendra Rawat consolidating flaking paint on the Torbreck Building architectural model, on loan from Fryer Library, UQ.

Conservator Gajendra Rawat consolidating flaking paint on the Torbreck Building architectural model, on loan from Fryer Library, UQ.

More on the Hot Modernism exhibition.

Information on preserving your collections at home.

Kelly Leahey, Exhibitions Conservator.