Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What is Remembrance Day?

Originally called Armistice Day, the date of November 11 is now known as Remembrance Day, a day when we stop at 11am and observe a minutes’ silence, to remember those who gave their lives in the service of Australia.

A procession in Flinders Street East, Townsville, to commemorate Armistice Day, November 1918.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries. 
The signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allies on November 11, 1918, brought the First World War (then known as the Great War) to an end. In 1919, on the first anniversary of the armistice, at the request of King George V, two minutes’ silence was observed for the first time, at 11am. This was the hour that hostilities had ceased the previous year.

In the decade that followed the Great War Australians dutifully observed two minutes’ silence on Armistice Day. Whilst on the surface it was a day to remember those who had been lost, the commemoration of Armistice Day also carried the hope that the conflict had been a “war to end all war”.
Procession in Flinders Street, Townsville, to commemorate the Armistice that ended World War I,  November 1918.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
In 1939 Australia was at war again, and commemorating Armistice Day while the Second World War raged on, seemed incongruous to many people, marking as it did the cessation of fighting in one war, even though we were once again embroiled in another. So the RSL began calling for the day to be more appropriately named Remembrance Day.

After the end of the Second World War, Armistice Day was changed to Remembrance Sunday, at the behest of the British monarch, King George V. In 1946, newspapers throughout Australia reported that:

“In accordance with the wishes of his Majesty the King, Armistice Day will in future be observed on the Sunday nearest November 11. This day will be known as Remembrance Sunday.”

Not everyone was pleased with the change, which first took effect in November 1947. An editorial in the Townsville Daily Bulletin in November 1948 noted the “pathetic passing of a once-honoured day”, remarking that the idea behind the Armistice Day anniversary was “both dramatic and beautiful” and that the people who remembered the first Armistice Day would “never forget it”.

“This year's Armistice, or Remembrance Day, was celebrated last Sunday, and so little of its former glory remains that practically no notice was taken of its observance throughout Australia,” the Bulletin wrote.

The change to Remembrance Sunday seems to have led to some confusion, and according to the Bulletin:

“Although church congregations in Townsville were larger for the Remembrance Day services on Sunday, only a small official body was in attendance at the Cenotaph at 12 noon for the laying of wreaths.”

In Brisbane, where only 175 people gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance in Anzac Square, the State President of the RSL, Mr R.D. Huish, felt that the crowd was small because people were still confused over the replacing of Armistice Day with Remembrance Sunday.

In 1949, the RSL sought to have the commemoration reverted to November 11 each year. Mr Huish said that the league believed the change had “brought about a loss of significance to the Armistice commemoration.”

By November 11, 1950, the Federal Government had bowed to pressure from nearly all the State Governments, the RSL and Church authorities, to revert to November 11 as the day of commemoration, which has since that date been referred to as Remembrance Day.

Mr Townsville's Municipal Library

In July 1938, Townsville Mayor, JS. Gill, the man who went on to become one of the city’s longest-serving public officials, ushered in a new era in the history of Queensland by placing the first free municipal library in the State under the control of a Local Government Authority.
Townsville Municipal Library, 1950. By this date, the library was located on the second floor of the City Buildings in Flinders Street. Pictured are library staff Meryl Gorman (left) and Mabel C. Classen (right).
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
At this time, the School of Arts library in Walker Street, which operated through public subscription and meagre state government subsidies, was in financial decline. The council agreed to take over the existing liabilities of the institution, which amounted to £1,200, and acquire the assets - which included the library and land and buildings, valued at £16,500 - for the sum of £1,000.

At a small ceremony to take possession of the title deeds to the School of Arts, Alderman Gill remarked hopefully:

“On behalf of the Townsville City Council and the citizens of Townsville, I now enter into possession of the School of Arts, and I hope that it will always be an institution of help and education to the younger people of this city.”

The council also took on the staff of the School of Arts, including Secretary-Librarian, Mrs Mabel C. Classen, who had served in her position for 17 years, from 1921 to 1938. After the council took over Mrs Classen held the position of Librarian in Charge at the new Townsville Municipal Library for the next 26 years.

Although it was considered to be a “free” library, borrowers were required to pay a security deposit of five shillings per book, to encourage their return. This doesn’t seem to have deterred borrowers though, and membership of the library more than doubled in the first year. In late 1964, security deposits were waived, which finally made it a truly free service.

The council’s decision to take over the School of Arts in 1938 was an unprecedented move, never having occurred before in the history of Queensland. It was, in many ways, a testament to the leadership of the city’s Mayor, Alderman JS. Gill.
John Stewart Mitchell Gill, no date.
Photo: Townsville City Libraries.
After arriving in Townsville in 1885 from Devon, England, John Stewart Mitchell Gill worked for the firm Burns Philp & Co. as a clerk, and later shipping manager, for close to 25 years until 1909.

Long, loyal stints must have been in Gill’s nature, because in 1910 he became the Clerk of the Thuringowa Shire Council, where he remained for the next 23 years. He only resigned from that position because he wanted to run for Mayor of Townsville, and the Local Government Act prevented him from holding this position at the same time.

After a decisive victory, Alderman Gill, aged 66, was sworn in as Mayor of Townsville in 1933, a seat which he went on to occupy for the next 19 years.

In 1952 he retired from the Mayoralty at age 85, after having successfully contested six local government elections. He continued to serve the council as an Alderman for another six years, by which time he was 91 years old.

Because of his long record of civic service in Townsville, in a 1951 news report about a luncheon held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Australia’s Federation, the Townsville Daily Bulletin, in noting his presence at the function, dubbed him: “Mr Townsville”.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Centenary Community Fair - 1964

Townsville’s centenary celebrations in 1964 opened with vice-regal patronage at the Centenary Community Fair conducted by the National Council of Women. Lady May Abel-Smith, wife of the Queensland Governor Sir Henry Abel-Smith, officially opened the fair after making her way through a guard of honour formed by several female youth organisations.

Lady May Abel-Smith, wife of the Governor of Queensland, Col. Sir Henry Abel-Smith, officially opening the Centenary Community Fair, watched by the Lady Mayoress, Mrs. AJ. Smith and Mrs. KJC. Back, with Lady in Waiting to Lady May, the Hon. Kythe Weld-Forester.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by Townsville City Libraries.

The Townsville Daily Bulletin reported that the fair provided an auspicious start to the centenary celebrations, and that people “thronged Hanran Park” for the fair, held on Saturday, 31 October.

In a speech welcoming the Governor’s wife, Mrs KJC. Back, who was president of the National Council of Women, said that the organisation had decided to hold the fair as a contribution by the women of Townsville to the city’s centenary celebrations.

Lady May, for her part, said it seemed most fitting at this time of the city’s centenary celebrations to have such a gathering of worthwhile and important women’s organisations, as they were so much a part of the modern way of life.

“They are so necessary to the community itself, catering as they do for so many needs, covering a very wide field of women’s activities,” Lady May said.

Lady May reflected that there must have been very few women’s organisations in the city’s pioneering days, noting:

“We are so used to them now, depending upon them and calling on them to help us in times of need.”

A highlight of the community fair was a fashion parade depicting fashions “through the ages”. Styles ranged from “the cave girl to the space woman; from the Elizabethan court lady to the women of Colonial America, the Charleston era and the modern nurse”.

As well as displays and stalls, entertainment was provided by the Highland Dancers, the Junior Fife Band, the Highland Band, marching girls and the Christian Brothers’ Band. Children enjoyed puppet shows, pony rides, trampolines, miniature trains, a merry-go-round and lucky dips.
Centenary Fair, conducted by the National Council of Women, Hanran Park, Townsville, Saturday, 31 October 1964.
Photo: Alex Trotter, held by Townsville City Libraries.

The Jaycettes - the female auxiliary of the Jaycees service club - hosted a miniature sand garden competition, which was judged by Mrs Joan Innes Reid, social worker at the Townsville General Hospital, who became Townsville’s first female city councillor in 1967.

Other major events staged in the city to celebrate the centenary included a Pioneers Dinner, held at Jezzine Barracks - where 311 of the city’s over-70s dined with the Governor and his wife and other distinguished guests. An elaborate “Pageant of Progress” was held at the Sports Reserve where more than 100 costumed performers highlighted “spectacular developments” in the city’s first 100 years.

Civic pride in the city’s progress since its foundation was running high, and the Bulletin noted that despite lacking in such natural advantages as a plentiful supply of water or a ready-made deep-water port, Townsville had “nevertheless overcome these disabilities” through the “sheer determination of its earlier pioneers”.

The Bulletin proudly reported that the port of Townsville was now the busiest port in Queensland, outside of Brisbane. The port posted a record year for the year to 30 June 1964, handling a total of 925,677 tons of cargo, which was an increase on the previous year of approximately 23 per cent.

At this time, sugar was the largest export commodity, amounting to 46 per cent of all exports, while combined mineral exports amounted to 34 per cent.