Friday 28 February 2014

Tumoulin Racetrack Revisited

It had been raining off and on all week and a little 'cabin fever' was starting to set in.  A decision was made to head out towards the west to escape the damp weather and an old idea was brought up.  Why not go out to Tumoulin and find the remains of the old race course?  After the First World War, the local community at Tumoulin had pooled their resources and built a racecourse with a grandstand on a reserve behind the town.  During the Second World War, race meetings were attended by locals along with up to five thousand soldiers at a time who were stationed in the district.  But by the 1950's the town had declined and the race meetings were discontinued and the high grandstand was eaten out by white ants and dismantled.  As for the circular track, Google Earth images show that it remains to this day and it was hoped that something might remain of the old infrastructure.

The track through the trees
With a couple of metal-detectors and a file of old photographs in hand, the intrepid trio of Duncan, Robert and myself, along with our old friend John, was off on another Sunday excursion.  With so many soldiers attending the race days, we hoped that some interesting items might be turned up, as long as the grass was not too high and thick.  But no, we could not be that lucky.  On arrival, we found that the reserve was quite over-grown but the circular track was still very well defined and it would only take a few hours of work with a tractor and slasher to clear the grass to run horses on the course again.  We started to walk around the track in an effort to locate the general area of the grandstands and stalls but the first thing we found was a very large black snake that didn't like the look of us and disappeared into the long grass.  A rather ominous start to our quest.  The metal-detectors soon began to howl and several horse shoes were dug from the wet red dirt.  But what else would you expect to find on an old racecourse!  We then found a few rickety old wooden posts and after a walk right around the track, there was little else to discover.

The old posts
After studying the old photos, we determined that the stands and stalls were in the vicinity of the old posts and we returned to that site.  We came to the conclusion that the clusters of posts most probably marked the finish line and from that we were able to work out where the grandstand must have stood.  Soon we were detecting numerous old rusty nails, which no doubt came from the demolished building.  But no evidence could be found of the rails that once marked the side of the track as were shown in the old photos and nothing of the smaller stand built by the Army could be found.  The area behind the site of the grandstand, where the bar and food stalls would have been positioned, was so over-grown that we gave up any hope of been able to use the metal-detectors there.

With more rain threating to wash our expedition out and the wet red soil making things defficult for the metal-detectors, we decided to end our efforts for the day and head for home.  We resolved to wait until a bush fire passed through the reserve to clean in up before we made another attempt to explore this old site.  I was quite amazed at how quickly the landscape can alter back to a more natural state, leaving little trace behind of its former tenants.  On the way home, we called into the old Herberton racecourse site but could find no trace of that old historic track what-so-ever.  Maybe we were looking in the wrong place!  I will leave that for another trip.
Google Earth view                                                A race day at the old track

Thursday 27 February 2014

Two Amazing Doctors

A friend introduced me to a recently published book entitled 'Two Enquiring Minds', written by the retired ex-Mareeba dentist, Geoff Grundy.  It tells the remarkable story of two exceptional Queensland doctors who had a profound impact on the development of the Tablelands, Dr L J Jarvis Nye and Dr Patrick (Pat) Flecker.  The folk of Cairns may have built a monument to the memory of Dr Koch but Atherton should have built one to Dr Jarvis Nye so great is the debt the town owes this man.  I was astonished to learn that not only did he help to raise the funds to build at Atherton one of the most modern public hospitals in country Queensland with the only x-ray equipment and pathology laboratory north of Townsville and was giving blood transfusions before Brisbane was, but that he also built and run his own private maternity hospital in Atherton which had some of the most modern techniques in the country.  The book also tells of his amazing work within the community where he was patron of nearly every sporting body in town and was the man who started the Atherton sub-branch of the R.S.L. and the local dramatic arts society.  Why doesn't every citizen of Atherton know of this incredible doctor!  The other story told in this book concerns Dr Pat Flecker who was the son of the famous Cairns doctor, Hugo Flecker.  Pat became the Resident Medical Officer at Mareeba just after the Second World War and the conditions he encountered while working in this district during the 1950's is a story that people of today should know.  He too became deeply involved in the local community through the Rotary Club of Mareeba and by helping to start off the Tinaroo Sailing Club.  The story of these men's medical careers make a fascinating read and Geoff has produced a book that I am sure would find a place on every local history buff's book shelf.

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Tableland Heritage Network

Discussion on projects for the approaching centenary of the beginning of the First World War dominated the reports from the different member groups at the last meeting of the THeN organization.  These projects mostly concern research into the veterans who had enlisted from the local communities.  Thoughts on grants to raise funds for these ventures were discussed and then a few problems arising from the de-amalgamation of the shire councils were brought up.  The second part of the meeting was a workshop on planning for the involvement of young school children in the museum and a talk on ideas on how to make class visits to museums attractive to local school teachers.

Eacham Historical Society

It has been business as usual for the Eacham Historical Society with the museum at Millaa Millaa reporting a regular flow of a couple of hundred visitors per month for the past few months and work at the history centre in Malanda picking up with new inquiries from the public.  Some assistance was given to Mr Bob Prince who is writing up the Prince family history and to Mr Jim Curry of Lake Barrine who is writing a history of his family and their time at Lake Barrine.  Some thought has been given to ideas for a suitable project to mark the approaching centenary of the Anzac campaign but nothing has been decided upon yet.  It has also just been realized that the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Society's centre in Malanda is coming up in April and some kind of celebration will need to be considered.  Members were surprised at the last meeting when a fellow member presented a donation of $500 to the Society and then a paper was read at the meeting which gave a brief history of the early newspapers of the tablelands.  The Society will be hosting the next quarterly meeting of the Heritage North Association in early March at which it is hoped to get information for a badly needed upgrade for the photography database.

Cardwell Historical Society

Member of the Cardwell Historical Society were in fine form for the first events to celebrate the town's 150th birthday.  Some three hundred people gathered at the Bush Telegraph historic precinct for a traditional welcome with billy-tea and damper to mark the anniversary of the arrival of the Dalrymple expedition to start a new settlement in 1864 and to listen to a number of speakers looking back on the history of Cardwell.  Members of the Society wearing period costume then unveiled a large quilt commemorating this anniversary which was made by the Seaside Quilter Ladies.  The next big public event will be a tree-planting in which one hundred and fifty Flame trees will be planted along Bowen Street.  One to mark each of the years of settlement of the town.

Sunday 23 February 2014

Cairns Historical Society

After having the new Research Centre closed for several weeks to give the workers a well earned break after the big move, the volunteers at the Cairns Historical Society have sorted out their temporary premises at the old Grafton Street Post Office building and have settled in.  The research computers are now set up and the library is ready to go and the general work of the Society is getting back to normal.  With it been some twelve months since the group's general meetings were suspended for the relocation, the Management Committee has decided it is time to reinstate the monthly meetings with the general business been handled at a management meeting just prior to the general meeting.  The first meeting will be held on the second Thursday of March at the usual time with Jan Wegner presenting a research paper on the history of weeds in Cairns.  The Society is also calling now for nominations for this year's S E Stephen History Award which close at the end of March.

Douglas Shire Historical Society

The historians at the Douglas Society are back up and running with their first project for the new year being the scheduled annual maintenance on their museum at Port Douglas which has been closed for the whole month of February while the work was carried out.  The museum will be reopened to the public on the first Sunday of March.  Also at the beginning of March will be their next meeting to be held at the Mossman Community Centre with Ruth and Paul Grischy as guest speakers.  They will be remembering the life of long-time Port Douglas resident Mrs Jean Allen, who passed away recently at the ripe old age of 98 years.