Friday, May 26, 2017

Dear readers

I am currently on vacation overseas.

"Your Brisbane: Past and Present" will return in due course.


Monday, May 1, 2017

Matthew Flinders missed the Brisbane River

A recent news article about the search in London for the remains of sailor, cartographer and explorer Matthew Flinders interested me on several levels.

Firstly, the existential ones: what do we leave behind when we die? If buried, how long do those remains last? How can we identify someone from remnants of their body in a disturbed graveyard hundreds of years after death? Is it even possible? Obviously modern science has techniques that are helpful in identification, but there is nothing foolproof yet. The archaeologist quoted in the news item admitted that an intact coffin with a legible name-plate is the best bet for accuracy, but time and previous activity at the burial ground often prevent these from being present. I hope that they are successful in this venture, but it seems like a major undertaking.

My next poser is one that I have articulated before on these pages, and that is: how brave were those explorers of yesteryear? They set off on unknown and therefore largely unplanned journeys of discovery not even sure of being able to return home. I suppose today's equivalent would be setting foot on the moon or the potential for space travel to other planets - a one-way journey in terms of today's science.

Matthew Flinders (pictured below) was born in Lincolnshire on 16 March 1774 and died in July 1814, just 40 years old. But his accomplishments in those years are simply amazing. He joined the English Navy at the age of 15 and, in 1795 after early journeys with Captain William Bligh and others, found himself on a ship bound for Port Jackson that was carrying the next governor of New South Wales, Captain John Hunter.
(Photo: SLNSW MIN 52)

Flinders must have been a curious and adventurous seaman. He and ship's surgeon George Bass explored Botany Bay and then Lake Illawarra in a couple of small vessels named Tom Thumb I and Tom Thumb II. Then Flinders, by then a lieutenant, was tasked to discover whether Van Diemen's Land was separated by a strait from the mainland. In 1798 Flinders, commanding the Norfolk, discovered Bass Strait (named after his fellow-adventurer) and circumnavigated the island we now call Tasmania, thus charting a quicker way to reach Sydney from England. After this voyage Flinders continued northwards and in July 1799 he spent a couple of weeks sailing around Moreton Bay - he was the first English explorer to enter the area. Although landing at a few points and even leaving his ship to climb Mt Beerburrum, Flinders did not find the river that Captain Cook had surmised would be thereabouts - it was left to John Oxley to discover the Brisbane River in 1823.

Flinders sailed home to England aboard Reliance in 1800, whilst there publishing his accounts of the discovery of Bass Strait, not to mention getting married to Ann Chappell in April 1801. He was ordered to command Investigator back to Australia to further explore its coastline and Flinders was to set off this voyage in July 1801. Here there was some controversy, as Flinders had wanted to take his wife with him on Investigator, even though this was not allowed by Admiralty. When these plans were uncovered poor Flinders was specifically warned against taking his wife on the journey, thus causing the two to be separated for nine years.

We now know that Flinders' major nautical achievement, the circumnavigation of Australia, took him from 6 December 1801 through to 9 June 1803, and was achieved despite a leaky ship that needed constant maintenance and repairs during the voyage and was actually deemed to be unseaworthy on its return to Sydney. 

Space does not allow me to present Flinders' subsequent adventures, but he was imprisoned by the French (who were at that time at war with England) on the isle of Mauritius from 17 December 1803 to 14 June 1810, then arrived back in England in October of that year when he was promoted to captain. Flinders wrote his superlative work "A Voyage to Terra Australis" that was published on 18 July 1824, the day before he   died. 

The Australian Dictionary of Biography says of Flinders' final resting spot: "He was buried at St James's, Hampstead Road, but later alterations to the churchyard have obliterated his grave, so he was 'pursued by disaster after death as in life'."

I very much doubt whether any identifiable remains of Matthew Flinders are likely to be unearthed in this huge project, but imagine the excitement if it happened.




Monday, April 24, 2017

Kalinga Park, Kalinga (formerly Anzac Memorial Park)

Brisbane (then known as Moreton Bay) was originally settled in 1824 by New South Wales's worst prisoners and the soldiers to guard them, all sent forth from Sydney in a bid to reduce that settlement's high crime rate.

It was not until 1838, some fourteen years later, that the first free settlers arrived in the form of about twenty German missionaries who were encouraged by Rev JD Lang to come to what must have been a very inhospitable setting.

These pioneers established their mission at a place they called Zion Hill on a grant of land furnished by the New South Wales government. It was situated between Brisbane Town and Eagle Farm, the area used to grow crops for the settlement. There was a stream that provided water for the settlers, and they named it Kedron Brook which, like Zion Hill, was a biblical reference. The place became known as German Station and is now the near-city suburb of Nundah.

Unfortunately for these hardy souls the settlement could not sustain itself and the missionary work was hardly successful. The settlement was terminated in 1843.

After that, the Zion Hill settlement was allowed to run down, although many of the pilgrims remained in the area on individual plots. Around them grew an industrial and then a farming area and a small portion was declared a water reserve to be known as Kalinga Park. In 1910 it became a sporting venue, and then, following the harrowing years of WWI, a set of memorial gates were erected at the entrance to the park in remembrance of local men who gave their lives in the war.

The gates were dedicated in October 1920, and here is a photograph of the guard of honour formed by the local Boy Scout troop at the ceremony. The impressive portal can be seen behind them. For a time the area became known as Anzac Memorial Park.   
 (Photo: wikipedia)

During WWII Kalinga Park was used as a staging camp and an aerial photograph can be seen below.
(Photo: SLQ5357)

The solid Helidon sandstone gate-posts are still standing as sentinels guarding the park and are themselves protected by being listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.  
(Photo: © 2017 the foto fanatic)

As we approach Anzac Day 2017 it seems that the world is moving closer to Armageddon by the minute. Not since the Bay of Pigs stand-off in the sixties can I recall such dire straits for the world. Unfortunately it seems that we have a number of belligerent leaders at the name-calling stage, and people of the world are holding their collective breath in the hope that the arguments don't turn more violent.

One has to wonder at the failure of the world in general to learn its lessons from the past. There always seems to be a problem over who owns what, who believes what and who does what. If it were kids in a sandpit having a blue about who owns the bucket, who believes that a god lives in the sandcastle and who kicks the next sandcastle over, you would send them all to bed without supper. Unfortunately the stakes in this scenario are much, much higher.

The humanitarian and ecological problems of the world will not be solved while territorial posturing continues and ever-increasing funds are being squandered on arms. Armed conflict seems to beset the world at various intervals, however given the quantity and the technology of current weapons the next major conflict could be terminal.


Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Wynnum School of Arts

Have you ever wondered about the term "School of Arts"? If so, you are not alone. As a kid I thought the Bulimba School of Arts was a place where one went to study painting. You probably could do that in some of them, but their original purpose was to be the focal point of the community - as a meeting place, as a library, as a learning centre. Mechanics' Institutes provided a similar purpose, and we have previously looked at the South Brisbane Mechanics' Institute that was to become the South Brisbane Library.

Australia's first Mechanics' Institute was formed in Hobart in 1827, right around the time Moreton Bay penal settlement, the forerunner of Brisbane, was being established. It was not until 1851 that Brisbane saw its own School of Arts established in a building on the corner of Queen and Creek Streets, and it moved subsequently to the well-known building in Ann St.

As new districts and suburbs emerged, many built their own School of Arts for the same reasons. Today we are looking at one of them - the Wynnum School of Arts which was built on Bay Terrace in 1913. Here is a photograph made just after its completion, and it includes the workmen from the project.    
(Photo: SLQ 72379)

And I'm pleased to say that the building remains and still performs some of its original functions.
(Photo: BCC)

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 13, 2017

Wynnum Post Office

This humble structure at Wynnnum South, photographed in 1912, was the area's post and telegraph office in the early 20th century. Its appearance suggests that it probably contained quarters for the postmaster in addition to its commercial role. I don't know whether it was purpose-built - it may well have been a house converted for that use.

(Photo: SLQ 77567)

A new post office was erected in Bay Terrace in 1923-24. This building looks a lot more business-like, doesn't it? The district's telephone exchange is also housed in the building, pictured below in 1925. The telephone exchange operated here until 1955, while post office business was wound up in 1995.
(Photo: SLQ 80383)

After Australia Post quit the premises in 1995, the building became available for commercial use. The current occupants are a dental clinic and medical suites.
(Photo: BCC)

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Junction Park State School, Annerley

Today we are looking at a grand old school building at Annerley - Junction Park State School, pictured here in 2015.
(Photo: Heritage Branch Staff; EHP)

As mentioned previously in these pages, this was my first primary school. I was a pupil there for about five years in the mid-1950s. Yes, the middle of last century! I can't quite believe it myself!

My memories of the school are fairly minimal now, but the main recollection is that it was very imposing. I suppose that is only natural to a five year-old leaving the security of home for a six or seven hour day in an environment of strangers.

At the time I was there, there was an infants' school that catered for years 1 and 2, and the rest of the grades through to year 8 were housed in the main school. The infants' school had its own head, and in my years there that was a Miss Flannery. Memories of those first years include writing on slates with slate pencils that were sharpened by rubbing them on concrete; "tidy boxes" which held the items cleared from each student's desk at the end of the school day; reciting the alphabet (A like an apple on a twig, A says "a"); parades where we were lined up in order of descending height.

Graduating from the infants' school to the "big school" was a rite of passage that was greatly anticipated. The head of that school in my time there was Mr Irish, a huge man with a loud voice and a reputation for fearsome corporal punishment. I'll never forget the day that he addressed the morning parade and ordered anyone wearing denim pants to go straight to his office after parade. It appeared that I was the only one! "You're gonna get the cuts!" whispered the kid next to me, helpfully. I was nearly throwing-up by the time that I arrived at Mr Irish's office. But the reality didn't match the reputation. He was kind and considerate, but told me that I mustn't wear jeans to school. When I reported this at home my mother said "We'll see about that!" Next day she was up at the school telling Mr Irish that I would be wearing jeans to school, as the alternative would be for me to continue my education in my underwear. That was the end of the matter!

But that's enough of my history - let's look at the school's history.

The school originated as a provisional school with a dozen or so students in 1888 in a different site near Stones Corner. As the attendance increased it was necessary to have permanent facility. With the help of William Stephens MLA some land near Ipswich Rd was obtained in 1890 and a school building and a teacher's residence were erected shortly after. The school opened on 31 March 1891 in the expectation of attracting up to 280 pupils - 425 turned up! In 1892 the name of the school was changed from Thompson Estate State School to Junction Park State School. As befits one of Brisbane's oldest schools, there were some significant changes over the ensuing years. In 1910 it became the first state school to have its own swimming pool and in fact it opened a second larger pool in 1929, which meant that the earlier pool could be used to teach infants to swim. I had my first swimming lessons in that pool, not without some difficulties at times.

In 1936 a new brick school building was completed for a reported £28,000, designed by the State Public Works office and constructed under the Forgan Smith government's program to provide jobs during the depression. The classic design and masonry construction have ensured that the school has stood the test of time. Here's a photo from 1936, around the time of the opening of the school's new building.
(Photo: BCC-B120-81041)

During the post-war baby boom enrolments of around 1500 positioned Junction Park as the largest school in Brisbane, requiring the construction of new buildings and amenities.

Further extensive details of the school can be found on this page of the State Government's Heritage Register, and also on the school's own web pages.

It appears that being heritage-listed doesn't come without disadvantages however. Recent reports indicate that repairs to another school of this era have risen from stratospheric to other-worldly as a result of the heritage factor.

And in the midst of the current hot spell in Queensland, it was also claimed by the news bulletin that school pupils were treated badly by comparison to prisoners, because jails have air-conditioning while many schools do not.

Click here for a Google Map.

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