Saturday, 24 January 2015

Bush Children's Health Scheme

The Royal Queensland Bush Children’s Health Scheme was set up in 1935 to help children in need of medical help, particularly in communities where medical or surgical facilities were lacking.
Alderman Joan Innes Reid and nurse R. Wandell opening the Bush Children's Appeal of 1968, Townsville.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

Early efforts to boost the health of western Queensland children began in 1931 when members of Townsville’s Toc ‘H’ group arranged to bring twenty-five children from the Richmond and Cloncurry districts to Townsville, to spend part of their summer holidays by the sea.  The international Toc ‘H’ movement started during World War I, with benevolent aims that sought to “ease the burdens of others through service”.

The endeavours of Toc ‘H’ in Queensland were taken one step further in 1935, when Sir Leslie Orme Wilson, then Governor of Queensland, called together a group of eminent medical professionals, with a view to establishing a State-wide scheme that addressed the health needs of children in remote and regional Queensland centres.  The group included, among others, Dr Raphael Cilento, Director-General of Health and Medical Services and Dr Alfred Jefferis Turner, Medical Officer to the Child Welfare Department.

The main object of the Scheme was to seek out and assist all children living in the far west, or elsewhere in Queensland, who were in need of medical or surgical treatment, which was not available in their own communities.  Children were considered eligible for assistance if they were aged between five and thirteen years, and if their parents were unable to afford the cost of the specialist care required. 

Children were recommended to the Scheme by bush nurses, school health Sisters, church missionaries, the Flying Doctors, school Headmasters, police officers and others.

In Townsville in 1946, the Rotary Club secured a group of huts in Rowes Bay that had been used by the Army during World War II for the purposes of establishing a Home in Townsville that could be used by the Bush Children’s Scheme.  Within six years, a modern dental clinic and a surgery were also part of the complex.
An aerial view of the Bush Children's Home at Rowes Bay, 1970.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection

The Scheme covered the cost of transporting the children to the most suitable place of treatment, using chaperones, called escorts, many of whom were volunteers from the Red Cross.  The usual length of stay was six weeks, but many children requiring specialist treatment might stay up to two years, all at no cost to the child’s parents.

Diseases and complaints treated under the scheme included ear, throat and eye trouble, osteomyelitis, heart defects, acute malnutrition, rheumatic fever, cleft palates and hare lips, muscular dystrophy, foot deformities, spastic paralysis and others.  The Scheme also provided for dental care, speech pathology and hearing aids.  Malnutrition was one of the most prevalent ailments.

In his 1952 annual report, Dr J. Breinl, the Scheme’s Chairman, felt that it was a “sad commentary on their way of life that many people who lived and worked in the outback, more often than not under extremely trying conditions, raised their children lacking regular medical and dental care and found extreme difficulty in providing proper food”.

Dr Breinl considered the work of the Bush Children’s Health Scheme to be of national importance and he hoped it would always continue to receive the support that it had enjoyed in the past from all sections of the community.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Sunlander

Queensland’s iconic Sunlander made its first trip from Brisbane to Cairns in June 1953.  It replaced the steam-powered Sunshine Express, which had been servicing the North Coast line since 1935. 
The Sunlander, delayed by a car parked too close to the railway line, outside the Townsville Showgrounds, July 1976.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
The introduction of the Sunlander immediately cut more than three hours from the previous 45-hour journey, and it provided unparalleled comfort for passengers.  This was Queensland Railway’s second airconditioned train, the first being the Inlander, which serviced the Townsville to Mt Isa line and was introduced just a few months before the Sunlander, in February 1953.
The Sunlander at Mackay.  Photo: Queensland Rail.

Passengers on the Sunlander were excited about the travelling conditions, which compared very favourably against the older steam trains.  No more coal dust, soot and cinders to contend with thanks to the new diesel locomotive.

Along with the air conditioning in the carriages, features such as adjustable seats, individual lighting, carpets, hot and cold water, venetian blinds, shower rooms and a “gleaming dining car” all combined to make the new train a popular one.

Mr A. Anton, a passenger from Toowoomba, said he had travelled the world and he thought the latest Queensland train was “on par” with the best of them, adding that the hot and cold water on the train was “a revelation and a special delight”.

“The Sunlander is like a mobile first-class hotel, incorporating every modern comfort and an almost incredible improvement on the old fashioned trains, which includes practically all of our Queensland trains,” he said.
Sunlander Dining Car, 1978 by Queensland Rail - National museum of Australia
The Sunlander’s first trip to Cairns was met with enthusiastic crowds at stations all along the coast.  In Mackay, 500 people crammed on to the station platform to get a glimpse of the Sunlander, despite the train not being open for inspection at that stop.

In Cairns, 3000 people took advantage of the opportunity to inspect the Sunlander when it was opened to the public the day after its arrival.

Many people had joined the train at stops along the line, including Mr I. MacDonald, who boarded the Sunlander at Townsville.  Mr MacDonald said he was particularly impressed by the comfortable seats, the absence of noise and dirt, the “up-to-the-minute” toilet facilities and the “effortless manner in which the train sped along”.

Mr MacDonald was certain that the new service would attract tourists to the north.

“Putting trains like the Sunlander on the run will do more to attract tourists to Northern Queensland than a whole publishing house full of literature,” he said.

“They will come to the Far North just for the pleasure of riding in the trains.”

In spite of all the fanfare, the Sunlander’s maiden trip was not without a few hitches.  When it arrived in Cairns it was nearly an hour late.  The official reason given was a delay at Townsville’s Stuart station due to a small mechanical failure. 

One other delay hardly rated a mention, though it no doubt contributed to the train’s late arrival.  In Sarina, the train had left the station without its guard, who was still in the Station Master’s office when the train pulled out.  He caught a taxi to Mackay to rejoin the train, which subsequently delayed the train leaving Mackay by half an hour.

After 61 years of loyal service, the iconic passenger train made its last journey north in late December 2014.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Herries' Private Hospital - Cairns

In Queensland in the early 1900s many women gave birth either in their own home or at a private hospital.  Some of these private hospitals were known as "lying-in" hospitals, and were run by nurses with midwifery experience, in their own homes.  Some private hospitals catered for both maternity as well as general patients.
This photo of Herries' Private Hospital was taken sometime before 1927.  The two boys on bicycles are sons of Janet and Robert Herries (at left is Jim and at right is Gib).
Photo: Cairns Historical Society.
Herries' Private Hospital was a private hospital in Cairns that catered for both maternity and general patients.  Situated at 180 McLeod Street, it was run by Nurse Janet Abercrombie Herries between 1921 and 1939.

Janet was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1869, to parents Elizabeth Drew Lang and John Mackie.  In August 1900, at the age of 30, she emigrated to Australia, arriving in Rockhampton aboard the Duke of Norfolk.  In 1902 she married Robert Herries (a fellow Scotsman) in Mossman and by about 1915 they were living in Bunda Street, in Cairns, with their four sons: Robert John Mackie Herries, b. 1904; Charles Albert Herries, b. 1906; James McLeod Herries, b. abt. 1911; Gilbert Lang Herries, b. 1913.  

Here's a link to a photo of Janet & her sons on Flickr:

Until the move to Cairns, Robert Herries had worked in many of the sugar mills in north Queensland, from Mackay to Mossman.  In Cairns he worked as a waterside worker, while Janet's profession was only ever listed on electoral rolls as "home duties".  This was despite her long career as a nurse - Janet worked up until the age of 70.

Herries' Hospital was for many years a household name in Cairns.  The hospital could accommodate up to ten patients at a time and women travelled from regional towns throughout far north Queensland to have their babies at Herries' Hospital, such was its reputation.

As well as being an experienced and caring nurse and midwife, Janet also appears to have been a tenacious businesswoman.  She doesn't appear to have been frightened to stand up for herself.  In 1920, Janet sued a Mt Garnet man named Frederick Christensen for his daughter's debt.*  Clara Christensen had a baby at Nurse Herries' hospital but the bill went unpaid.  Christensen claimed that Clara was not his daughter, and that he had only "lived with her mother".  

In court, Nurse Herries was asked why she was not pursuing the father of Clara's child for the confinement fees, rather than pursuing Mr Christensen.  She said that Clara had not told her who the father of the baby was, and that Mr Christensen had agreed to pay the fees when he visited Clara at Herries Hospital.  Nurse Herries even had to justify why she had taken Clara in to her care in the first place, if she could not be sure of the father of the child?  Janet told the court that when the girl came to her place she was in such a state that she could not refuse her admission.  I just feel like I have to say here: Bravo Nurse Herries!!

The building itself is reputed to have been moved from Cooktown to Cairns in 1920.  It was once a retail shop, occupying a corner position on Charlotte and Walker Streets, Cooktown.  Janet originally leased the premises at 180 McLeod Street but in 1924, she bought the house.  It suffered extensive damage during a cyclone in 1927, when its roof was blown across street and into the cemetery.  The house remained in the Herries family until 1996 and recently, the house, which had become very run-down, was magnificently restored by new owners.

For modern pics, see for example:

* Cairns Post, 6 May, 1920, p. 2. "Nursing Expenses. Small Debts Action." 

Other sources for this article include; Trove; Qld Heritage Register.

If you have further information about Nurse Herries, or her hospital, I'd be very happy to hear from you.