Monday, 30 March 2015

Annual Sunday School Picnics

The first Sunday School picnic in Townsville was held in 1878, and was organised by Esther Camp, who, along with her husband George Camp, was a tireless worker for the early Methodist Church in Townsville.
Methodist Sunday School Picnic, Townsville, c.1910.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

By the early 1900s, the annual outing had become so popular, that hundreds of children from Sunday Schools throughout Townsville looked forward to their picnic with great excitement.

In May 1912, the Townsville Daily Bulletin reported on the success of the annual picnic, which had come to be held in conjunction with Empire Day, which was celebrated each year on 24 May.

“The children attending the various Methodist Sunday Schools throughout Townsville celebrated their annual outing on Empire Day by uniting in a combined picnic at the Botanical Gardens.”

After assembling at their various schools, the children were escorted to the gardens by their teachers in buses and trucks, and once there, “set about the task of enjoying themselves”. 

“Soon swings were to be seen going in all directions, cricket, football and rounders engaging the attention of others, whilst many more found enjoyment in ring games etc.”

The winners of the sporting competitions received prizes, and toys were handed out to the smaller children.  Before the evening meal, each of the schools joined together to give a hearty rendition of the National Anthem, which, according to the Bulletin, culminated in “cheers for His Majesty King George V”.

At the end of a long day, the children made their way home, “tired and yet happy with the remembrance of an exceedingly enjoyable day”.

Empire Day had begun in Australia in 1905, to celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday – May 24 – even though the monarch had died four years previous.  It was also known throughout Australia as Cracker Night or Bonfire Night, and in later years, the original significance of the day was virtually lost.

But in Queensland in the early days of the holiday, the desire to see Empire Day retained as a day of celebration was impressed upon the Home Secretary, the Hon. J.G. Appel, in Brisbane in December 1910, by an influential deputation organised by the Queensland Sunday School Union.

Present at this meeting were a number of Churchmen in authority in Queensland at the time, including representatives from the Congregational Union, the Presbyterian Sunday School Union, the Baptist Sunday School Committee, and the Methodist Sunday School Committee.  

The delegation emphasised the popularity of Empire Day as a holiday, particularly because of the tradition of Sunday School picnics on that anniversary.

Mr Appel, for his part, said that he personally favoured the retention of Empire Day because of its long association with the Sunday School holiday, and because of its important association with the late Queen Victoria.  He was inclined to favour celebrating the King’s birthday on May 24 but wasn’t keen to make a decision on his own.
Methodist Sunday School Picnic, Townsville, c. 1930.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

Although Empire Day gradually faded away, the popularity of the Sunday School picnics remained, and by the 1940s, Townsville’s annual Sunday School picnics had moved to the King’s Birthday holiday in June.  In 1947 approximately 2,500 children were transported out of Townsville by rail in a single day, to attend their annual Sunday School picnic at various locations such as Kulburn (Black River), Bluewater and Nome.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Early Aviator Thrilled Townsville Crowds

In 1913, a 23 year-old English-born aviator, Arthur W. Jones, brought his imported Caudron bi-plane to Townsville for two exhibition flights that thrilled Townsville crowds. The display was one of the many activities organised for the city’s 50th birthday Jubilee celebrations.  
Arthur W. Jones and his Caudron bi-plane at Cluden, August 1913.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

The single-engine, French designed aircraft had been shipped to Townsville aboard the SS. Kyarra, and in the lead up to the flights, was on display at the old wool stores in Flinders Street, for a fee of 1 shilling.

Special trains were laid on to transport curious onlookers to Cluden racecourse, where the exhibition took place.  The return fare, including entrance to the racecourse, was 3 shillings, or, if you had your own transport, the entry fee was reduced to 2 shillings.

Mr Jones had already made 150 successful flights in his Caudron, exhibiting at shows all around Australia.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported on “a most successful aviation display”, noting that more than 1500 people had travelled by the special excursion trains, and that the road to Cluden, “presented an endless trail of motor cars, vehicles and bicycles.”

“At six minutes past four the propeller was started, and after backfiring twice, the young aeronaut gave the signal to let go.”

“The machine glided forward about 20 yards, and amidst an outburst of cheering rose gracefully on her course towards the south-east at a gentle slope, going behind the grandstand and turning towards the north when past it.”

After only 3 and half minutes of flight, Mr Jones passed over the grandstand to the cheers of thousands of onlookers, where it became apparent that he was having difficulty with the wind.

According to the Bulletin, “The skill of the airman and the response of his machine was displayed in this work which was performed with the gracefulness of a bird.”

After a few more minutes, Jones had landed his plane, to the delight of the crowd.

“When a few feet off the ground Mr Jones glided his plane along and stopped immediately in front of the stand with remarkable ease.”

Piloting the aircraft was certainly not for the faint-hearted, as it had no throttle.  The engine was either on or it was off, and the only way to land the plane was to switch off the engine.

The Bulletin waxed lyrical, noting “It was a splendid afternoon’s entertainment and added still another historical event in the life of Townsville, in that the first successful aeroplane flight of North Queensland had eventuated in that city on its 50th birthday.”

In January 1914, Jones had a lucky escape during an exhibition in Adelaide, South Australia, when both he and his aircraft fell from the sky. 

According to the local press, Jones had been flying for about 16 minutes, when the engine seemed to stop suddenly, and plummet to earth.  Then a gust of wind struck the plane when it was about 70 feet in the air, causing it to nosedive into the ground, and flip over on impact.

Remarkably, Mr Jones received only minor cuts and bruising and muscle strains in the crash, and when asked what had happened, reportedly said that he had lost his way and run out of petrol.

“She simply dived to the ground,” Mr Jones remarked.

“A cup of petrol would have saved it all.”

Jones repaired his aircraft and was back on the circuit later that year, exhibiting in Cairns in July 1914.

Arthur W. Jones and his Caudron, at Cairns, 1914.
Photo:  State Library of Queensland.

Friday, 20 March 2015

West End Cemetery Pioneers - Rose Blaxland

As promised recently on NQHistory Facebook page, this is the first in a series of articles about our pioneers buried in the West End Cemetery.

Rose Isabell Blaxland (nee Pick) arrived in Australia on 4th May 1874 at the age of 22. A native of Kent, England, Rose arrived in Brisbane aboard the Royal Dane as a free passenger. 

According to her obituary (see below), Rose gained work as a nurse with one of the hospitals, and later became associated with the Lady Bowen Hospital.

Rose came to Townsville in 1884 where she practised midwifery for many, many years. Records show that in 1920 she was operating a maternity home/lying-in hospital in her own home, at 24 Flinders Street, where she had lived since 1900.  She was registered to have a maximum of three patients at any one time.

In 1899 she had married Colonel George Glendower Blaxland, in Cairns. Blaxland was the first paid Commandant of the Queensland Volunteer Forces.  Colonel Blaxland died soon after their marriage, and left Rose a widow for the remaining 42 years of her life.

Here is Rose's obituary from the Townsville Daily Bulletin, Friday 16 October 1942:
An old resident, Nurse Rose Isabell Blaxland, late of 24 Flinders Street West End, passed away at an early hour on Wednesday morning last, at the age of 88 years.  She was born in Kent, England, in 1854, and landed in Brisbane in 1874, where she joined the nursing staff of one of the hospitals, and later became associated with the Lady Bowen Hospital and obtained her certificate for midwifery.  Deceased came to Townsville in 1884 and for the last 40 years resided at 24 Flinders Street west.  During her life she practised her profession and often had to travel by stage coach to carry out her duties.  Many a mother can testify to her unswerving devotion to duty and her gentle and tender kindness.  She was a relict of the late Colonel G. G. Blaxland, who pre-deceased her 40 years ago.  The late colonel was one of the founders of the first Kennedy Regiment.  They are both at rest, together, in the Old Cemetery.

A testament to how much Rose was loved and admired, can be seen in the following In Memoriam notices, printed in the Townsville Daily Bulletin the following year, on the anniversary of Rose's death.

In Memoriam

BLAXLAND – In loving memory of our
dear friend (Nurse) Rose Isabell Blaxland,
who departed this life 14th October 1942.

Gone is the face we loved so dear
      Silent is the voice we love to hear,
Deep in our hearts a memory is kept,
      We who loved her will never forget.
Times have changed in many ways
      But one thing changes never,
The memory of those happy days,
      When we were all together.

(Inserted by her loving friends, Mr and Mrs W. Kellar and John, Len, Arthur and George)

BLAXLAND – In loving memory of our
true and sincere friend (Granny) Rose
Isabel Blaxland, who departed this life
on the 14th day of October, 1942.
Always remembered.
(Inserted by Mr and Mrs J. J. Petersen and family)

If you have any information about Rose Blaxland and her time as a private midwife, or, if you'd like to know more about the sources used for the above information, please contact me at the email address listed on the Contacts page of this blog.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Townsville's First Maternity Ward

Townsville’s first dedicated Maternity Ward was opened by then Premier, the Hon. William McCormack, on 4th November 1928.  Part of the Townsville General Hospital, the building was constructed by the State Government at a cost of £30,000 and was part of an ambitious building program that saw 57 hospitals built within three years.
The Maternity Ward, Townsville General Hospital, 1930
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection

Queensland’s 1922 Maternity Act provided for the establishment and maintenance of maternity hospitals that were built and fully equipped at government expense and would ultimately cater for both public and private patients.  Once operational, the local Hospital Board assumed responsibility for the ongoing running costs and staffing expenses. Women who were unable to pay were to be provided with free maternity services.

Before dedicated maternity wards, attending a public hospital was the least attractive option for women giving birth. Most women preferred to use the services of a private midwife or booked into a lying-in hospital for their confinement.

The options for women who gave birth in rural or remote areas were more limited. Some rural women chose to travel to the nearest town to attend a lying-in hospital for their confinement, but many would have relied on family or a “handywoman” to help with their delivery.

The building program for the maternity hospitals occurred in three phases, with rural women the first beneficiaries of the scheme. Remote Queensland towns such as Boulia, Emerald and Winton received five-bed hospitals attached to their existing hospital facilities, and at Millaa Millaa and Mount Mulligan maternity cottages were built that could accommodate two patients each.

In the second phase, five-bed or nine-bed hospitals were built at Innisfail, Cloncurry and Ayr, while the final phase provided for much larger hospitals in Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Mackay.

The official opening of a new maternity hospital was always an elaborate affair, with many dignitaries present and often several hundred residents in attendance. It was meant to be an advertisement for the “humanitarian legislation of the Queensland government” and in an attempt to symbolise a significant achievement, a special presentation was always made to celebrate the first baby born at each new hospital.

At the opening of Townsville’s Maternity Hospital, the Member for Townsville, Mr M.P. Hynes - who was acting on behalf of the Home Secretary, James Stopford -presented a silver porridge bowl, cup and spoon to the hospital, to be given to the first baby born at the new facility.

“Within the walls of this institution, will be born citizens who will take a prominent part in the advancement of the State of Queensland and the building up of this great Australian nation beneath the Southern Cross,” Mr Hynes said.

A few weeks later, when the first baby (a boy) was born there, the local press were denied another exciting ceremonial presentation, because the baby’s mother was from out of town and did not wish to have her, or the child’s name published.

The building of these hospitals and maternity wards dramatically changed the birthing experiences of Queensland women. In 1928, only 16 per cent of all births had been in government-funded beds, and by 1930 this figure had risen to 28 per cent.  By 1947, a staggering 67 per cent of Queensland women were choosing to give birth in a public maternity hospital.