Home - Chermside & District History

Chapter 4 – Federation – World War I – Pneumonic Flu 1901-1920


As the story moves into the 20th Century, few changes appear as the area is still one of small family farms of 4 to 12 hectares growing vegetables, corn, pineapples, sugar cane, bananas, dairy products including whole milk, fruit, pigs and cattle, mostly for the Brisbane market. Secondary industry was mainly processing local products in tanneries, slaughter yards, sawmills. Hutton's Small Goods at Zillmere was probably the largest factory in the district with smaller ones such as Gern's Small Goods and Butt’s Cannery, both at Geebung.

The village of Downfall Creek on Gympie Road had houses along the road with blacksmiths’ forges, Hamilton’s Motor Bodybuilding Works, a few general and produce stores, a school, a public hall, a church and lots of open spaces.

The new nation of Australia was emerging, although the settlement of Downfall Creek was very reluctant to be part of it and the colonies were engaged in their first real war. It was also to be the smallest of the three wars in the first half of the new century.

Along with the name change to Chermside, the early signs of civic infrastructure were appearing while existing ones were developing further but the settlement was to remain semi rural for a long time yet.

Population of Village

Census Years Population
1901 649
1911 811
1921 1,113

In 1911 the population of the 111km² Kedron Shire was 2,400 persons (1996 population was about 120,000 persons) with probably only a small proportion living in the village which melded into the farms. In the words of Stan Eddowes “Prior to 1920 Kedron consisted of cow paddocks and principal industry was tanning.” If that could be said about Kedron the same comment would apply even more to Chermside.

Just as World War I finished the pneumonic or Spanish flu pandemic came home with the troops and took a frightful toll of lives.


The continent of Australia was one land mass but had been settled by Europeans at different places and times giving rise to six colonies under the control of the Westminster government in London. Each colony developed in its own way with separate governments, rail systems, postal systems, customs posts at the borders, police services, education systems, road systems, legal codes and intercolonial rivalry. On the other hand they shared the same language, religions, customs, origins, most had a strong attachment to the mother country. They all wanted to tame the bush and turn it into productive farmlands and they all made the same mistakes therein.

Each colony competed for immigrants, overseas loans, investments and export markets. If the situation had continued there was a strong chance that the forces of fragmentation could have overcome those of integration and, over time, the continent may have seen the development of separate countries. On occasion ‘hot heads’ in some states still threaten to secede from the Commonwealth. Lincoln went to war to prevent that happening in the USA only forty years previously and less than ninety years after the USA was formed.

When the Federation Referendum was held there was great excitement evidenced by the crowds that gathered to watch the voting figures on the tally boards outside the offices of the Telegraph and Brisbane Courier newspapers as the information came in via the wires of the electric telegraph.

In October1899 71% of the electors of the six colonies voted to federate and become one people under one government. All the colonies voted in favour, Queensland being the least decisive with 55% of its electors in favour just behind New South Wales which had 56% in favour. Part of the reason for Queensland being so evenly divided was that the northern part of the state voted ‘Yes’ because it saw Federation as a means of entering the large markets of Sydney and Melbourne, especially for sugar sales. The manufacturing sections of the south east voted ‘No’ because they feared the competition of the bigger manufacturers from the southern states.

The Nundah Electorate, with a Roll of 1659, men only, voted Yes 286, No 651 and, of the 9 voting stations in the electorate, only Zillman’s Waterholes voted in favour Yes 54 and No 39 (No idea why they went against the local opinion.) Downfall Creek was very much in the local trend with a return of Yes 7 and No 92 . According to his wife, Thomas Hamilton was a supporter of Federation, and was probably numbered among the affirmative 7 even though he was a local manufacturer. As a carriage maker he would not have feared competition from outside but other business men may have been pressuring him to conform.

The fear of competition was especially strong in the tanning and boot manufacturing industries of Brisbane, of which there was a concentration of the former around the Chermside and district area. In 1911an article entitled “The Leather Trades Picnic” appeared in the Brisbane Courier which highlighted the problems faced by the small local footwear manufacturers who could not specialise as did the overseas, and one might add, the Sydney and Melbourne manufacturers but had to produce “every class of footwear, from the lady’s dancing pump to the heaviest navvy’s boot.” This meant they had to charge higher prices but while they were probably protected by tariffs from overseas competition they were not protected from the bigger Australian manufacturers in the southern colonies.

The Boer War

What Australians call the Boer War was the third AngloBoer war known in the British Empire as the South African War; the Boers called it the Second War of Independence. It lasted from October 1899 to May 1902 when a negotiated peace was concluded after both sides were exhausted.

The Boers, who were largely Dutch civilian farmers numbering somewhere between 65,000 and 85,000 irregulars, faced the might of the British Empire, the 19th Century super power, in the form of some 450,000 trained troops, including between 12,000 and 16,000 Australian colonials. Not all of these troops were in the field at once but included reinforcements and withdrawals while the Boers were probably in the field all the time.

The Boers were very mobile being well mounted, armed with rifles, able to live off the land and highly motivated as they were fighting for their families, homes and land. They fought a guerrilla war in which groups of Commandos ambushed the British and then disappeared quickly. They proved to be a formidable, but hard to find, foe and this was not the sort of enemy the British soldiers had been trained to fight.

Australian troops, who did not become involved until 1900, were valued for their ability to "shoot and ride", and they performed well in the open war on the veldt. They adapted quickly to the Boer tactics and formed mobile, long range attacking forces. In the process they lost 251 men in battle and 267 from disease, especially typhoid.

Australians at home generally supported the war, probably partly out of loyalty to Britain and partly as insurance that if we supported Britain then we could rely on Britain supporting us if we were threatened by a major power moving into the South Pacific. This is a theme that has been constant in Australian foreign policy from the Sudan engagement in 1885 up to until 1941 when we looked to the USA and still do so in 2008.

However, as the Boer War dragged on, the Australian public became disenchanted, especially as they became aware of its effects on Boer civilians of whom 20,000, women, children and old men died in British concentration camps. The conviction and execution of Lieutenants Morant and Hancock in 1902 also angered many Australians.

The Boer War Plaque on Marchant Park Memorial Gates lists the following names of local men from the Kedron Shire none of whom were killed:

Pte George Ridley No. 97 1st (Queensland Mounted Infantry) Contingent

Pte Hugh McNeven No 94 1st (Queensland Mounted Infantry) Contingent Invalided to Australia arriving 18 August 1900

Pte Harold A Reed No 71 1st (Queensland Mounted Infantry) Contingent

R. G. Bridges – of the 8 Bridges listed on the Nominal Roll at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra there is only one from Queensland and he is Pte Thomas George No.365

Pte Timothy Hennessy No.63 5th (Queensland Imperial Bushmen) Contingent.

Only the surnames and initials are listed on the Gates while the remainder of the above information came from the Boer War Nominal Roll on the Australian War Memorial website. Unfortunately we have no record of what happened to these men after they came home. Did they come home to a hero’s welcome such as those in the two great wars of the 20th Century or, if the public was disenchanted with the war, did they come home as did the veterans of the Vietnam War? Will we ever know?

Military Training

In 1911 the Commonwealth Government introduced compulsory military training for males. This built on the cadet training already in the schools, including the primary where, in many schools, it was compulsory.

The basic uniform was a standard khaki jacket and trousers, complete with long leggings and boots. The hat, of course, was the Digger’s “slouch hat”, with badge. Rifles were issued to the boys, although they were obliged to buy their uniforms at “15/9d complete”. From 1911, any three of five subjects – drill, rifle practice, first aid, physical education and swimming, were to be taught and female teachers were expected to give cadet training. After 1918, Cadets disappeared from the primary school curriculum.

Organised sport in primary school really dates from the changes that took place in the Junior Cadet Corps in 1911. From that year the emphasis in cadets moved from military exercises for the boys to physical fitness for the whole school. Swimming, first aid and physical education were taught in a systematic way, not so much for the enjoyment, but to build up the (male) child as a future soldier of the King. It was a serious business and teachers in small schools where full facilities were not available were expected to improvise.

After primary school the Cadet training continued in secondary school and also for those who had left school. Notes in Alexander Hamilton’s 1912 Service Booklet stipulate that “you are required by the defence Act to undergo training:

In the Senior Cadets, from 14 to 18 years (of age) In the Citizen Forces from 18 to 26 years (Militia) The Annual Service consisted of statutory parades involving the following: 4 wholeday drills + 12 halfday drills + 24 night drills and a 3 week annual camp.”

Village of Downfall Creek

About 1900 the Polsloe and Fivemiletown Housing Estates were opened on either side of the present main shopping centre which was a sign of development in area. The local district was still mainly rural at this time and Downfall Creek was becoming the business centre which was probably why the Nundah Divisional Board sited its offices in the village.

The census of 1901 counts 649 persons in the 15.6km2 Downfall Creek Statistical Division but no count of the village itself. Stan Eddowes lists at 22 families in his 1902 map of the village which with the average family of six would total about 130 persons.

The villages of Bald Hills, Stafford, Zillmere and Aspley could have been of similar proportions.

The period from Federation till after the Second World War in the late 1940s and 1950s was one of steady population growth and steadily growing infrastructure. The area remained largely semirural with the same industries as in the 19th Century, and someone from the turn of the century would still have been familiar with the area 50 years later.


Downfall Creek – Chermside State School The actual number of children attending the school is difficult to determine precisely before 1934 when the annual inspection reports appear in the Queensland State Archives. Each year the Head Teacher had to submit a Statistical Return to the Department of Public Instruction which included the number of boys and girls enrolled at the school. However when other authorities, mainly Inspectors, counted the heads they inevitably tallied a smaller number of pupils.

Head Teacher’s Annual

Statistical ReturnsPupil Numbers According to other Sources.

Year Boys Girls Total

191110885193The annual inspection found an enrolment of 140 pupils and an average attendance of 120 with 4 teachers.

A difference of 53 pupils or 28%.

1928100124224Department of Public Instruction figures showed an enrolment of 179 pupils with an average attendance of 147. A difference of 45 pupils or 20%.

1930140119259Public Works Department found an enrolment of 220 pupils with an average attendance of 194 with 6 teachers. A difference of 39 pupils or 15%.

The problem of the Ghost Pupils first appeared when information on the above table came to light; the Head Teachers said the pupils were there but the Inspectors could never find them.

A small difference could occur if the Head Teacher did not deduct those pupils who enrolled but never came, and those who left before the Inspectors arrived during the year. These numbers would hardly amount to the above percentages except where there were a lot of transitional workers who were always on the move with their families.

Of course, it must be noted that, the more pupils on the roll the more resources, including teachers, the school could claim!

To overcome this problem with the pre 1934 enrolments, I resorted to deflating the Head Teacher’s return by a factor of 25%; after 1934 I used the Inspector’s tally. Thus for the period from 1900 to 1920 the number of pupils rose from 90 to 149 which shows a slow but steady growth reflecting the growth of the suburb.

New subjects such as Commercial Arithmetic, Bookkeeping and Shorthand were introduced into the primary schools in 1902. More choice was given in science subjects, including Domestic Science for girls in Grades 5 and 6. However the latter would not affect Chermside till there were children in those grades.

Special days celebrated included Empire day when the children were told they were citizens of the great British Empire and they must be loyal to the King; the pupils were taught a great deal about England as it was regarded as the motherland.

Another was Trafalgar day which commemorated the defeat of the French and Spanish fleets by Nelson in 1805; this was probably replaced by Anzac day after World War I.

There was a lot of trouble convincing some parents of the need to send their children to school regularly, at least for the 60 days per half year as set down in the 1875 Education Act; there were some 100 school days in each half year.

The school leaving age was raised from twelve to fourteen years in 1912 and many parents took a lot of convincing that schooling was important enough to warrant a further two years before a young person could get a job. This was especially the case with farming families where the children were needed to help run the farm. At the time, Grade 5 was Scholarship year and if a pupil passed s/he could leave even if they were under 14 years.

The enrolment was growing and by 1913 the Head Teacher reported that there were 225 pupils but the inspectors disagreed, and the number was more likely 150, with 60 of them being taught on the verandas. So the first additional room was built to house the roomless ones and a very little room added to the back veranda as a lavatory, i.e. wash room. The real lavatories (toilets) were well down the back fronting Henry Street where the smell from the open pans would be dissipated among the trees.

During World War I the pupils assisted the war effort by knitting socks, scarves, balaclavas, making crutches, splints, bandages and raising money for the Red Cross to buy comforts for the troops.

Epidemics of childhood ailments such as mumps, measles, influenza, chicken pox were regularly reported. Visits by doctors, dentists and nurses of the school Health Service came to instruct pupils, teachers and parents about such things as head lice, fleas, scabies, tooth disease, blight (eye disease), scarlet fever, diphtheria and polio; they spread the ‘gospel of Hygiene’. They inspected schools for poor ventilation, lighting and sanitation and their observations led to improvements in the design of schools and school furniture; they changed the attitudes of generations towards better hygiene.

In 1919 the school closed for 48 days owing to the pneumonic influenza pandemic that swept the planet infecting one fifth of the world’s population and killing between 20 and 30 million people in about a year; by contrast the war killed about 13 million people over four years.

Chermside School of Arts

The Downfall Creek Recreation Club was formed on Thursday 13 October 1898 in the Protestant Alliance Hall on the corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road.

The aims of the Association were stated in the minutes:

1st Mutual Improvement in Debate and Composition

2nd Diffusion of Knowledge by establishing a Library, Reading Room and, if practicable, by providing Lectures or Evening Classes

3rd The Cultivation of Sociability by affording opportunities and providing the necessary material for such games as Chess, Draughts or any other that may be approved of by a majority.

It is impossible to judge the success or otherwise of the Club as the only record we have is the minutes of the first couple of meetings. It is reasonable to assume that the School of Arts grew out of the earlier organisation because several of the Club founders went on to work in the School of Arts. It is also likely that the Aims of the School of Arts would be similar to those of the Club.


The foundation men of both organisations included T A Hamilton (Blacksmith and Carriage Builder), J King (Storekeeper), J Lemke (Butcher), R Summer, F Hackett (Storekeeper), F Walters (Tanner), T Powell (Sexton Lutwyche Cemetery) , A Smith (Tanner or Storekeeper), L Herman (Farmer), Alfred Cranston (Dealer), E Chesterfield (Butcher), W E Sammells (Storekeeper), H Ackinson, M J Gallagher (Tanner), J Slaney (Tanner) and G Rainey (Farmer).

These men, for it was men only in those days, who met in the Alliance Hall, owned by the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australia (PAFSOA) Perseverance Lodge (Chermside), on the night of 21st June 1909, were far sighted, community minded people who were concerned about the welfare of the small farming village of Chermside. They were people who did things for themselves and the community; they provided services that today are provided by the City but in 1909 transport limitations ensured that many things had to be done locally or not at all.

These men were generally well educated although probably most of them never went to a secondary school; they were self educated by reading and debating points of view; they were autodidacts.

Today we are likely to drive to the Convention Centre, the State Library at South Bank, one of the many large reception centres located around the city, the privately owned movie Megaplexes, the discos, the night clubs and numerous other venues. In 1909 and until the post World War II era the local Schools of Arts provided some, or all, of the services of these institutions; they were also the forerunners of the municipal Library system of modern Brisbane.

Social Centre

The School of Arts, the Churches and the State School were the main social centres of the local area. The School of Arts provided many services to the local community including a lending library, a meeting place for all the local organizations, a place of further education, a place of recreation, a place of emergency services during World War II and even, at times, a place for religious worship. In fact it could be described as ‘the village moot’ where the solutions to local, and sometimes state, problems were thrashed out in debate among the citizens of the little local antipodean democracy.

Many groups used the hall for dances, euchre parties, games, scouts, private parties, concerts, balls, political meetings, Progress Association, Perseverance Lodge Friendly Society, Masons, Order of the Eastern Star, Red Cross, church services, send offs and welcome homes to the troops, banking, picture shows, wedding receptions, travelling actors, dressmaking classes, bookkeeping classes and sporting clubs such as athletics, cricket and cycling.


At the heart of the School of Arts was the Library which would have automatically been taken over from of the Downfall Creek Recreation Club. There is no record of how many books and papers there were but the new School of Arts expanded the Library with continuous purchases of books, newspapers and periodicals.

The Library also acted as a Reading Room with a supply of local papers and periodicals such as The Sydney Bulletin, Life Referee, London Graphic, Scientific American, the Grazier and local papers. A dictionary was available at a time when most people had never seen one. For a time Hansard was available and during the Depression the monthly journal of the Douglass Social Credit Association was available. These were left “on the table” for a set time and then disposed of by selling the periodicals to local people, and the papers would probably be sold to the local butchers.

The first mention of the Library in the minutes was on the 27 August 1909 when it was recorded that: Sect. was instructed to write to Mr Sumner & ask him if he would kindly forward his promised donation (To buy books for the Library) also to Brisbane School of Arts & ask them if they could assist our Library with a donation of their spare books.

A letter, dated 1923, from the Isis Downs, Blackall School of Arts – Lakes Creek, gives some indication of the reading material in a country School of Arts. It lists the periodicals as Sphere, Australasian Geographic, American Life, Pastoral Review, Courier, Boy’s Own Paper and Girl’s Own Paper. Categories of books are listed as fiction, essays and prose, poetical, biographical, historical, scientific and botanical, miscellaneous, topographical and travel.

In the same year George Lemke, the Secretary at Chermside, informed the Department of Public Instruction that they had five periodicals, 400 books of fiction and 185 of general literature.

The Kedron Continuation Classes

The name Kedron may have had something to do with the Kedron Shire which had its headquarters at Chermside and the classes were held in the hall supervised by the School of Arts Committee. They were for people who had left school but wanted, or needed, to acquire further skills. How many subjects were taught is unknown as the only records that survive are for Dressmaking and Bookkeeping classes . It is not known for how long these classes continued as the records only cover the period from March 1909 to June 1911 . This indicates that the classes operated under the School of Arts and possibly, the earlier Recreation Club.

The students seem to be mainly unmarried women but some men appear in the bookkeeping classes. The teachers were paid a salary, partly from the Government Endowment or subsidy and partly from the student fees. The account books were audited by the Government Auditor, A. H. Smith. He wrote all comments in green ink and actually wrote out a couple of sample pages to show the bookkeeper how to set out the accounts; this, no doubt, improved the recording of the finances.

Penny Savings Bank

Delys Jeppesen mentions that these local banks were established in Mackay, Bowen and Proserpine around about 1908 while David Teague dates the Chermside one as 1905 . It seems that they were started by local people organising them and drawing up the rules to suit the local area. Jeppesen says that the Proserpine bank was organised by the local school headmaster but there is no record of who started the Chermside bank.

The School of Arts took over the existing Penny Savings Bank in 1909 and a Committee to supervise it was elected at the August meeting. At the September meeting a letter was received from the Treasury advising that the Chermside Penny Savings Bank had been accepted and interest would be paid on the full amount of deposits.

In October the Committee withdrew ₤110 ($11,160 in 2004 values) from Penny Savings Bank to pay for the purchase of the Hall and although this sounds a little like ‘charging Peter to pay Paul’ it must have been a recognised business technique as the books would have been audited by the Government Auditor.

At the Annual Meeting 27th July 1912 the Statement of the Penny Savings Bank showed a turnover of some ₤750 ($65,000 in 2004 values) for the year, which indicated that it had the support of many local clients.

In 1913 a branch of the Queensland Government Savings Bank was opened in Chermside and it was decided by the Committee of the School of Arts to close the Penny Savings Bank and pay out all depositors. Unfortunately this did not proceed as smoothly as hoped and, in May 1914, after the allocated money had been refunded, another depositor presented a withdrawal request for ₤7/16/10 ($666 in 2004 values).

The controversy over who was responsible for paying the sum became known as the Penny Bank Case and it dragged on for another two and a half years. Failure of the parties to reach agreement led to court proceedings in March 1915 and the decision was in favour of the Committee. The other party had to pay the amount owing to the depositor along with costs at the rate of 10/ a month, which they did, and the minutes record that the matter was finalised in December 1916. Even then it is not clear from the minutes who paid the final pound or so, the defendant or the Committee.

There was no mention of any dishonesty so it seems that this was a case of mismanagement by a person, who was not trained in banking, being appointed to do a job that required specific skills. The pity of the whole incident was that the person responsible for the mistake was a very hard working supporter of the School of Arts.

Downfall Creek Musical Society 3September 1901 – 21 May 1906

This group evolved from the Downfall Creek Methodist Choir, which was probably formed in about 1873. They took their music seriously and printed a rule book, elected a group of officers and paid fees of a penny per week (One cent) with honorary members at 2/6 (25 cents – the price of a three course meal for two) per year.

The Sandgate & Nundah Dispatch reported on their annual social held in 1902 and noted that the Society was formed to raise funds for the Indian famine Relief which realised a sum of ₤8. They continued fund raising for the Indian famine appeal and by 1905 a ₤100 ($10,000 in 2004 values) had been raised.

They went on to work on other charitable fund raising activities with specific mention of the local churches, the Brisbane Hospital and the Ambulance Service. As well as fund raising they provided much appreciated entertainment for local people in the days before wireless, film and TV.

After five years the membership was declining and it was decided to close the Society, sell the assets and finish up with its purpose achieved. The Methodist Church and the Choir are still operating in the Uniting Church today after 134 years probably making it the oldest continually operating group in Chermside.

Naming of Chermside in 1903

A report from the Queensland Parliamentary Library 15 January 2004, noted that the name change from Downfall Creek is generally accepted as having taken place in 1903 but then went on to state: “Unfortunately, there does not appear to have been an official notification or regulation to mark the name change.” It then adds that the name and boundaries were approved by the Queensland Place Names Board 11 August 1975 ; this must be a candidate for the Guinness Book of Records.

However the following series of letters from the Queensland State Archives clarifies the time when the name change was made:

On the 10 March 1903 James Youatt Head Teacher wrote to the Under Secretary Department of Public Instruction (USDPI) advising that the name Downfall Creek had been “changed to Chermside by the Lands, Post and Telegraph Departs.” The original letter was received and a clerk wrote in red ink on the letter a note acknowledging its receipt and commenting that “we have no knowledge otherwise.” D.C. 12 March 1903. Presumably the Department had not been advised of the name change.

On the 4 April 1903 the School Committee wrote to the USDPI asking that the school name to be changed to Chermside State School.

On the 1 May 1903 the Deputy Postmaster General wrote to the USDPI approving the School name change from Downfall Creek School No.929 to Chermside State School No.929

The following excerpt from a letter written by James Youatt, retired Head Teacher, dated 1st December 1925, gives the background as to why and how the name change was made.

“I remember how I liked the School but not its name; and how I looked out for an opportunity to get it changed. At last on the appointment of a new Queensland Governor – Governor Chermside I thought if we could adopt his name it would be an improvement on ‘Downfall Creek’ a name which simply perpetuated the fact that in the early days an unfortunate man fell off his horse, and the fall resulted in his permanent injury.”

“I took my suggestion to that wise and good man, the late James Hamilton, and after discussing it, it was passed on to Mr Thomas Bridges, then our MLA and he succeeded in getting the name changed to Chermside.”

The school and suburb were named after MajorGeneral Sir Herbert Charles Chermside (18501929) who was Governor of Queensland from 24 March 1902 to 10 October 1904, a short term of only 2.7 years. Sir Herbert had a military background and served in many countries including Egypt, Kurdistan, Sudan and Crete. There seems to be a strong belief that he was not happy with Australians for various reasons, largely undocumented, and finally resigned his post, returning to England.

The Police

Before the establishment of the first Police Station in Chermside the area was supervised by the police from Lutwyche which had one Acting Sergeant and three Constables, or Nundah with only one Acting Sergeant while Zillmere was covered by Sandgate which had a Sergeant and a Constable.

The first Police Station in the local area was on the corner of Kuran Street and Gympie Road, now occupied by the Bristol Paint shop. T A Hamilton built a four room cottage on a two acre block which he let at 10 shillings ($1 or $ 56 in 2004 values) a week on a three year lease and the station opened on 3December 1904 with Constable John Francis Tracey as the first Officer in Charge. Constable Tracey remained at Chermside till 1907 when he was transferred to Eulo where he died in Police Service on 4 June 1908 .

The following article published in a Brisbane Newspaper of 1904 in the possession of Joan Hamilton, gives some idea of the impact of the new police presence in Chermside:

Considerable satisfaction is being expressed along Gympie road at the establishment of a police station at Chermside. It will be remembered that acting upon the recommendation of a report made by the Kedron Shire Clerk, Mr C Willis, a deputation of Councillors quite recently interviewed the Commissioner, and pointed out the necessity of a better supervision of traffic on Gympie Road. The Commissioner with commendable promptness had a report made and on a visit being paid a spot close to the bridge over “Dead Man’s Gully” was selected as most suitable, and here, last week Mr T Hamilton undertook to erect suitable premises. The work is being rapidly pushed forward, and in the course of a fortnight or three weeks time comfortable accommodation for stray drunks and disorderlies will be at hand. It is said that a petition is being prepared to shift those quarters along the road towards Aspley, with what motive it would be perhaps impossible or inadvisable to suggest. (The nearest hotel to the north was at Aspley)

The need for ‘better supervision of traffic on Gympie Road’ indicates that the volume was growing even at that early time when the road was still a dirt track with grass growing in the middle. At that time the first motor cars were making their appearance and the bulk of transport was horse or bullock powered while cattle were being driven, on the hoof, to the sale yards at Newmarket.

The first car in Chermside, owned by W G Early, whose shop was near the corner of Banfield (Church) Street and Gympie Road did not appear till 1909 at the earliest as it was a 1909 Belsize Tourer, Registered No. A125. The car has since been restored and is in running order at Crow’s Nest where the author and other members of the Society had a ride in 2002.

By January1914 the Kedron Shire Council was complaining to the police about speeding on the local roads and was advised by letter that the police were taking action to ascertain the number of cars exceeding the speed limit . Just what was the speed limit is unknown but it would not have to be very high to outdistance the horse transport of the time.

So the new motor cars and the old horse transport had to adjust to new speed limits and there would probably have been plenty of acrimony between the respective drivers. On the other hand, the car did have one great advantage over the horse, it did not leave any manure or urine on the streets and so it smelt better; at that time the gaseous emissions of cars would not have had much effect.

In February 1914 the Kedron Shire Clerk, Charles Willis, wrote to the Commissioner of Police to ask for an extra constable at Chermside if the station was expected to supervise Bald Hills and Zillmere. It appears that there had been a bashing of a ‘new chum’ from Germany by local undesirables. Willis alleged that such acts of “larrikinism ……….are of Common occurrence in Zillmere and it is alleged a Constable Cannot (sic) be obtained from Sandgate ……… unless a fee of Five Shillings is paid.”

Much correspondence ensued and the Sandgate police told their side of the story which, in summary, was that very few complaints have been reported to the police from Zillmere and the Sandgate station could cover the area adequately.

It would appear that someone in the Kedron Shire Council had exaggerated the incident and Willis had to have the matter investigated; the culprits were apprehended and fined in Court. The final act in the little saga was when Inspector Geraghty wrote to Mr Willis on 23 March 1914 saying:

I have the honour to inform you that I have instructed the Sandgate Police to visit Zillmere when public entertainments are being held there and that no charge is in future to be made. I was not aware until receipt of the correspondence that any such charge had been made.

Generally Chermside and surrounds seems to have been a fairly peaceful place most of the time with the local constable spending most of his time on routine matters such as patrolling the area, issuing summonses, licences and investigating petty offences. A report noted that in 1916 there had been very little crime in the Chermside area with only six arrests, two for obscene language, two for drink offences and two for stealing.

Even the presence of the army camp at Chermside was not considered important enough to keep the police station open. They probably had their own military police and also some of the men there were recuperating from war wounds and were unlikely to cause trouble.

In fact it was so quiet, or perhaps there was the perennial shortage of manpower, that on 28 February 1917 the station closed down and the area came under the supervision of nearby stations.

Post Office

Prior to Federation the Queensland government operated the postal and telegraphic and telephone services in the state but after 1901 the Commonwealth government took control of these services in all states and territories under the Postmaster General’s Department.

In 1901 the village of Downfall Creek was too small to have an official Post Office so it continued to operate as an Agency in various stores until the first official or specialist Post Office opened in 1962. The Agency conducted most, if not all, of the functions of a Post Office but on a smaller scale and as a part time function of the selected store usually with the owner as the Post Master.

In 1901 the main, and indeed in many places, the only form of communication, was by letter via the Royal Mail. This was an efficient, safe and cheap way to send messages and nothing short of a major disaster could stop the mail from being delivered safely. At the time it went by the most modern and rapid form of transport available, the railway, with the mail being picked up at, and delivered to, all stations along the line. At the end of the line the coach took over and beyond that, the saddle bags or cart of a bush postman. Downfall Creek at the turn of the century was in the small league. In the bigger centres the electric telegraph had arrived, especially along the railway lines and Downfall Creek was soon to be one of them.

Mrs Eva Langdon (nee Bunkum), a life long resident remembers the mail delivery at Aspley in pre World War I times; the same comment would apply to Chermside: The mail was delivered to the Post Office by the horse driven Aspley Bus which picked it up at Wooloowin Station. Local people came to the Post Office to collect their own mail. The bus service was run by Little & Boyce who used to take it through to Bald Hills. Dave Little was the driver and the fare from Aspley to Brisbane was 7 pence ($3.50 in 2004 values).

The bus fare today 2008 is $3.60 adult single.

The cost of postage on a letter, weighing no more than half an ounce, within Queensland was one penny, hence the term “Penny Postage” which was inherited from England. If the same weight letter was to go to the UK then the cost rose dramatically to two pence halfpenny, as did the time of delivery which was by ship taking about six weeks via Suez. In the early 20th Century a penny would buy a meat pie.

In 1898 William Sammells opened the Downfall Creek Furniture Bazaar, a general store on the corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road and according to his obituary notice the Post Office agency was in his shop for 12 years when he sold the business in 1918. This means that the agency was in the shop from about 1906 and Mrs Mary Sammells is listed as Post Mistress in the 1917/18 Post Office Directory.

The electric telegraph arrived in William Sammells shop on 4 September 1908 and so began the next phase in rapid communication for Chermside. Just who was the first telegraphist is not recorded but this was a job that required a high level of skill, so training was necessary, the operator probably trained in Brisbane and may have been part time. This was the era of the Morse code and it became a golden opportunity for the smart boys and young men to learn to send the ‘mystic dots and dashes’ as opportunities were opening up in the ‘high tech’ of the time. Typewriting and shorthand were also becoming essential in many places.

The Morse code, first used in the mid 19th Century, was the main method of transmitting text until the fax and, much later, email appeared in the 20th Century. A skilled operator could send between 40 and 60 words a minute while documented evidence exists of rare operators who could reach 100 words per minute. Probably the best known Morse signal was the Universal Distress Call, the SOS which was not an acronym but rather a simple text that anybody could transmit in situations of emergency – dit, dit, dit – dar, dar, dar – dit, dit, dit – three dots, three dashes, three dots.

The Post Office Revenue statement for 1909 show that during the year 52 telegrams were lodged at a cost of ₤260 ($216 in 2004 values) which is an average cost of 10.5 pence each and 82 were received. The usual method of costing a telegram was so much per word and in the 1940s it was a penny per word. This ensured that they were short; hence the term ‘telegraphic’ was used to describe a short message.

It is not clear when the telephone arrived but, according to the revenue statement for 1909, it was in use then and the local calls cost a total of ₤4125 ($435 in 2004 values). This means that some people had the phone at their home or business and David Teague writes that the first public telephone was installed outside Sammells’ store in 1914.

All the calls would go through the Albion exchange and the Trunk, or Long Distance Calls, which totalled a mere 44, had to be booked in advance to give the operators time to contact all the exchanges along the route so that the call could travel through them. So if a person wanted to talk to someone in Sydney then the Albion operator would contact Brisbane and the operator there would contact the next exchange, and so on, till all the exchanges were on the one line and then the caller could speak to the person at the other end, provided they were there to receive the call. It would be a long time before long distance calls would replace a letter.

There were probably private telephones in the Kedron Shire and perhaps some public ones as well. On 2March 1915 the Post Master General (PMG) requested permission of the local Council to erect a public telephone and posting box at Barron's Corner at the intersection of Stafford and Gympie Roads and Kedron Shire Council agreed. The instant permission given by the Council indicates that the facility was needed. At the time, the PMG controlled the postal service, the telephone system and the telegraphic system in all states.

On the 1st May 1918 James C Argo purchased Sammells’ store and his daughter Christine was appointed Postmistress at the agency. One month later the State Government commenced issuing duty stamps through the Post Offices which made them tax collectors. The duty stamps had to be affixed to receipts and were in proportion to the amount being receipted; the larger the amount the higher the value of the stamps to be stuck on the receipt.

The post office agency also acted as an agency for the Commonwealth Bank and was empowered to issue Old Age and other pensions, so as time passed the Post Office was becoming more important in the life of the village and suburb of Chermside.

Infrastructure Growth

The Shire Council and the State Government cooperated in gradually improving the services of water supply, road building, house blocks of land, transport, communications, and public health to the people of Chermside and surrounds

Water Supply

Teague notes that by 1910 the six inch (150mm) water main had been laid along Gympie Road as far as Vellnagel’s forge at the intersection with Murphy Road and by 1913 the water was connected to the Chermside State School on the corner of Rode Road. This was an enormous improvement in that it gave a secure, reliable and clean supply of water instead of having to rely on tanks and the creeks which were being polluted by the local tanneries and slaughter yards as well as by effluent from the settlement.

The school benefited greatly as its only supply of water was from two large galvanised iron tanks which had to meet the needs of approximately 200 pupils and teachers. The nearby creek, which was used as a swimming hole till the health inspectors put a stop to the practice, was already polluted by cattle grazing and defecating in the surrounding paddocks and in the creek.

The horses were another beneficiary as horse troughs were installed and became a common sight up till the mid 20th Century. Although as horsepower waned and motor transport waxed, the need of a 'drink for Dobbin' remained. The trough was constructed of steel or cast iron, somewhat smaller than a bath tub, set on a couple of stone blocks so that it was high enough for the horse to drink with ease. At one end a float and stopcock mechanism controlled the flow of water from the council main into the trough. This section was covered up and secured while the drinking part was open and free. At the Kedron Council meeting of the 4 June 1907 G. Hay sought permission to build a water trough on the upper side of Edinburgh Castle Hotel and approval was granted.

Standpipes, which consist of a vertical pipe and valve attached to the water main with a tap on the top for turning the flow of water on and off, could now be used and people applied to the Shire Council to have them installed. The procedure in these cases was not quite as simple as with troughs which only required a simple connection to the main. The standpipe connection to the main had to be approved by the Board of Water Works as well as the Kedron Shire Council.

At the Council meeting on the 1 October 1907 a petition, signed by about 16 residents of Chermside asking for a standpipe and water trough at Chermside was received and an application was made to the Board of Water Works. The Board replied on the 5 November 1907 that no connection at the main was allowed but the reason was not recorded.


Up until the time of World War I there was little, if any, street lighting in the Shire as there was no supply of gas which was the fuel used in the lamps. A lamplighter had to travel from lamp to lamp with his ladder, lighting and extinguishing the light.

The first mention of street lighting is in the Shire Council minutes for 1916 when the Chairman reported that the Kitson Light Co. would erect a lamp at Barron's Corner (Stafford and Gympie Roads) and maintain it, for ₤15/0/0 ($1,090 in 2004 values) per year, or erect a lamp for the Council for ₤18/0/0, to be the Council's property, and the Council to maintain it. This would cost about another ₤15/0/0 per year. Mr Gallagher moved that the offer to maintain a light at Barron's Corner for 12 months be accepted, seconded by the chairman and carried.

The Kitson light was an independently standing, pressure lamp fuelled from a built in tank in the days before electric street lighting became common. The lamp, like the gas lamps, had to be lit and extinguished by a lamplighter who would also keep the fuel tank full and generally maintain the light.

The Kitson light seems to have been a success and Council installed another six or eight of them. However they were only used for a short time and were replaced by the electric light in the 1920s.


Motor transport was and is the life blood of Chermside without Gympie Road it would never have developed. This is not a fashionable area, there are no heights on which to build great mansions, no wide waterway to attract the eye. I was working class and lower middle class area with houses to match. It was a busy centre of activity since the earliest times when it was the blacksmithing, carriage building, slaughter yard and tannery centre of the district and these industries clustered around, or on, Gympie Road.

In 1912 when the Brisbane horse bus firms amalgamated to form the Brisbane Motor Bus Company, Chermside was left without public transport. The response was typical of the people, they clubbed their cash and formed their own Kedron Omnibus Company to carry people to Wooloowin station and to Aspley. This was a short term measure as the firm was sold in 1915 but the horse bus continued to be used in the area into the 1920s .

After 1914 the buses could also take passengers to Kedron Brook where they had to cross a foot bridge and catch the tram which, by that time was terminating there. When motor buses replaced the horses they took people to the same places but it is not known if they competed with the trams into the city.

World War I – The Great War

There had been talk of war for years before 1914 and many regarded it as just talk, but there had been an arms race between the major European powers with Germany building a High Seas Fleet and Britain building more Dreadnaughts (Battleships).

For most people in Chermside it was all a long way off and the Boer War, which was a localised war, was long settled, the British Empire had won it, we had supported Britain and the British navy would protect Australia. There was nothing to really worry about.

There was great excitement at the announcement of war on the 3rd August, probably because people thought we would win and it would soon be over, maybe by Christmas. The public had been educated to think in terms of glorious deeds and the overcoming of dastardly enemies by the might of the British Empire.

Hon W M Kelly (Minister in the Federal Cabinet), addressing a public meeting in the Albert Hall in Brisbane city at the start of the Great War:

"We are bone of Britain's Bone and Blood of Britain's Blood. And in view of the great disturbances across the seas, let us sweep aside all petty differences and party bitterness, and stand shoulder to shoulder in our determination to consider the welfare of Australians and the great British Empire". (Cheers) The public meeting was to be held in Brisbane Town Hall but it proved too small to hold the crowd so they adjourned to Market Square which could hold the 4,000 5,000 people. The meeting was very patriotic and very enthusiastic, flags waved while the National Anthem, God Save the King, was sung and cheered. The crowd was exhorted to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Mother Country.

The Mayor of North Brisbane exhorted the gathering: “Be calm, you came from the calm British stock and I am quite satisfied that you will conduct yourselves in a manner befitting the race, the nationality and the stock from which you have sprung.”

However, some people had been taking the arms race and the possibility of war much more seriously as shown by the report of a talk by Herr August Bebel, a prominent German socialist, speaking in Brisbane on the possibility of war, who painted a terrifying picture of modern war. He extrapolated from his experience in the FrancoPrussian war of 1870 and saw a new war as being much worse “Our history books tell us not a word about the misery, the want, and the lack of work during the terrible winter of 187071. Yet what we should have to face in a new war would be infinitely greater and incomparably more terrible than the experience of 1870.” He was proven stunningly correct.

Diggers Profile

The following information about 33 local Diggers who came from the Kedron Shire area and served overseas in World War I, came from their descendants who shared the information from their family archives. I was able to supplement their material with data, via the internet, from the Nominal and Embarkation Rolls held by the Australian War Museum, Canberra. The Nominal Roll lists some 330,000 men who had served overseas and had to be accounted for; the living to be shipped home, the dead remembered. The information is summarised in a table at the end of the chapter.

The 33 local men were mostly young, 24 of them between the ages of 18 and 25 while the two oldest were 43 and 44. Five were married, one was a widower and the rest were single; eight did not return home. Nurse Cock, the only woman, died a few years later, partly as a result of the Pneumonic Flu which she contracted in France while on active service.

Education: All would have attended primary school, but few would have gone to secondary school. The Carseldine family was typical of the time with the parents, Joseph and Sarah, farming 8 hectares of vegetables and, later, dairying in the Bald Hills area. Their 10 children all went to Bald Hills State School but only one, the eldest boy, went on to secondary at Brisbane Grammar on a scholarship.

The War

This was a completely new kind of war, total war, the product of modernity. It saw the introduction of all kinds of new technology for killing – machine guns, modern artillery, gas, submarines, tanks, planes and barbed wire. It democratised warfare by mobilising entire populations and millions young men were slaughtered. It not only made widows but many young women never married because there were not enough young men left.

Unlike the cattle in the local slaughter yards which were killed quickly, the young men were often butchered alive by the shells; bodies were hung on the barbed wire, shattered bodies in shell holes slowly dying as rescue was sometimes impossible. Men were dying in agony, praying for an end to their misery, many drowning in the mud of Flanders. Others in the trenches, with their minds being bent and twisted by the all engulfing nightmare raging around them, were adjusting to the maelstrom by coming to regard it as normal. Private Frederick Lewis, Royal Warwickshire Regiment comments:

In my travels as a runner (messenger) I've seen hundreds of soldiers get it. I don't know why, but you didn't used to worry about it. You'd look at them lying there all gashed legs off, arms off and stomach all ripped open. You'd think "Poor bugger!" and that was it. It was a matter of being used to it.

They were changed and when it ended they had to adjust to the new normalcy of peace and the miracle was that so many succeeded.

As the casualty figures began to appear in the newspapers at home, in Brisbane, the people were horrified but they, like the soldiers, began to regard them as normal, even as necessary if they were going to win the war. The war was changing the civilian outlook.

The Great War prepared the way for the Russian Revolution, the collapse of the German, the AustroHungarian and the Turkish empires, the Great Depression and a century of war and revolution ranging from World War II, the Cold War, the Terrorism, Vietnam, the two Iraqi wars, the endless war in Afghanistan and a hundred other smaller wars, the Chinese revolution and the independence of a host of former colonies. The world was slowly reorganising itself as it emerged from the old Eurocentric outlook. This process was going to take a century or two to sort itself out.

All of these changes impacted in various ways on the people of Chermside starting with the volunteers who ‘took the king’s shilling’ and ‘joined up’ with absolutely no idea what they were heading into.

The Kedron Shire population of 2,500 is based on the population in the census of 1911 which was 2,400. The 284 volunteers comprised most of the young adult males in the Shire. Consider the effects on population growth, to say nothing of the emotional effects, of losing 53 or 18% of the eligible husbands of that generation. There were widows and there were spinsters forever after Armistice Day1918.

AntiGerman Feeling

Jack Ford writes that while there was some acrimony it was mainly verbal with some vandalism but on the whole it was muted. He does recount one vicious act of vandalism that occurred on Armistice Day 1918 when a group of young men went and wrecked Saint John’s Lutheran Church at Church Road Zillmere. The decent citizens reacted in horror because the German settlers were among the men at the front. August Vellnagel possibly suffered some discrimination as shown by the following minute of the Chermside Shire Council in 1916:

Councillor Burgess asked why Vellnagel is not getting a share of our blacksmith work.

Shire Clerk replied that little blacksmith work was done outside our own forge; if anything else is required it is easily executed by British workmen, thus carrying out Council's instructions to employ British workmen only.

Councillor Burgess failed to get a seconder for more work for Vellnagel.

August Vellnagel had been living in Queensland since about 1891, most of the time in Chermside. How long does it take for some earlier immigrants to accept other immigrants as Australian?

Chermside State School

In 1914 the local school children were raising money by holding dances and concerts to help the Belgians who suffered invasion and the troops who were fighting in France. They also worked for the Red Cross making crutches, splints, socks, face cloths, scarves, eye bandages and nightingales. The latter was a flannel wrap used to cover the shoulders and arms of a patient while confined to bed, sometimes called a ‘hugmetight’.

By 1915 knitting classes had started and every child, including boys, above Grade 2 had learned to knit, Grade 8 girls were given book prizes by the Red Cross for their knitting, especially socks. These were particularly valuable for the soldiers in the trenches where they suffered from ‘trench feet’ which was caused by being perpetually wet. They used to rub their feet with whale oil and then put on dry socks, hence the need for an endless supply of woollen socks.

At the end of 1914 the Head Teacher reported that the war and drought were forcing many families to move, looking for work. On the other hand the tanneries would have been increasing employment as the Army’s demand for leather increased and the establishment of the Army camp at Marchant Park would have boosted local employment generally.

1919 – The troops were coming home

There are few, if any, records surviving other than that of Thomas Hamilton. Perhaps the people of Kedron Shire never recorded their anguish or the relief they felt when the troops came home. Thus the account that follows will have to suffice for all of them.

Thomas Hamilton mentions the names of several local men who returned, and in particular that of his son, Eddie. On the 28 February 1919 Thomas wrote “We got letter from Base Records stating Eddie had embarked in the ‘Lanceshire’ (sic) Feb 7 for Australia, expected to arrive at Melbourne 21st inst.” (March)

The entry for Saturday 29 March reads “I worked about house all day, dressed & put (illegible) brackets on back verandah (sic) & painted them. The transport boat “Lancashire” that Eddie is on arrived in Moreton Bay today.” Very simple, no hint of any excitement, but there was plenty to come.

In the same matter of fact style Thomas writes on Monday 31 March, “I banked money, got 6 (pence) worth cabbage plants. Charlotte brought us word that Eddie rang up from Lytton this afternoon & would ring again about 5 p.m. M J (His wife Mary Jane) & I had communication with him on Phone arranged to drive down and see him next Wednesday afternoon. He is well. M J first time at a telephone.” The entry for the day ends “I attended Lodge meeting.”

The bare text gives the impression that nothing interrupted the ordered flow of life; everything had its place and time. However, the remark about M J and the phone reveals that her longing for Eddie overcame her distain of the ‘telephone’. Private telephones were first installed in Chermside from about 1909 and the Hamiltons would have been among the first to install one.

Then came Wednesday 2 and Thomas commented “I worked half day painting our own dwelling. M. J., Fanny & her two boys, Clara, Alex, Hector & I drove to Lytton by Motor this afternoon to see Eddie who is quarantined with all the other soldiers off the “Lancashire”. We saw him at a long distance. We all had tea at Percy’s & Fanny’s place when we came back.” “I attended choir practice.” All very calm, but a squeeze with eight in the car.

Thursday 3 – after commenting that they had a “blow out (tyre) on the road”, Thomas goes on “I (sic) doing some painting at our house after we came home. M. J. & I rung up Eddie about 5.40 p. m. & had a good chat to him, they are to get up to Kangaroo Point Hospital about 3 p. m. tomorrow.” Looks like M. J. is doing well on the phone!

On Friday, Thomas painted the veranda posts, bracket, and “M. J., Clara, Alex & I drove to Kangaroo Point Hospital Wharf by Motor to meet Eddie coming home from the War. We got home about 5.30 p.m. Eddie is in first class health & looks real well. James, Charlotte, Jamie Wayper, Percy, Fanny, Hughie, May, all our family & grandchildren had tea & spent the evening with us.” All very sedate, but then he expresses his own feelings in writing for the first time, “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow.” That’s it, but it says everything.

The Last Hours of World War I

The Armistice was signed at 5.10am on the 11th November 1918 to take effect at 11am but that didn’t stop the fighting in many sectors. A minority of commanders instituted an immediate cease fire but others kept on firing and assaulting and killing and being killed till 11am. Neil Hanson, author of The Unknown Soldier, estimates that in the six hours leading up to 11am there were some 11,000 casualties.

Even in the First World War’s four years of remorseless attrition, never, had there been such needless slaughter. The terms of the Armistice required Germany to cede all occupied territory, and every inch of ground gained at such human cost that morning would have been handed over anyway within two weeks. Who could possibly have explained to that day’s fresh crop of grieving mothers, widows and fatherless children why their men’s lives had been sacrificed? It was a day that reflected in perfect microcosm the whole weary pointlessness of the ‘war to end all wars’.

The last man to fall was George L Price, 28th North West Battalion, 2nd Canadian Brigade who was shot at 2 minutes to 11am.

Dulce et Decorum est pro patria mori
(What a sweet and noble thing it is to die for one's country)
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knockkneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, bloodshod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped FiveNines that dropped behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt the blood
Come gargling from the frothcorrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.
Wilfred Owen 1893-1918

At the age of 25 Wilfred Owen was killed in action on the 4 November 1918 while encouraging his men to attempt the crossing of the Sambre Canal near the village of Ors. His parents were listening to the church bells peal out the ceasefire at home in Shrewsbury near the Welsh border when the telegram arrived on the 11 November.

That one so young and talented could be swept into eternity by the obscenity of war shows the waste of the whole dismal enterprise.

The returned men

They did not talk about their experiences of the war, it was too horrible, but the families saw the results of war in the ones who were slowly dying, sometimes for years, after. Patsy AdamSmith in her classic book “The Anzacs” tells of her childhood ‘horror’ memories of the ‘returned men’ – this was the sequel to the Anzac legend. She writes of the armless, the legless, the blind, the disfigured, the gassed coughing up their lungs, the smell of suppurating sores, the spectres of once strong, healthy, young men stumbling towards an early grave; for them and their families the war did not end with the armistice.

AdamSmith records the survivors’ memories when they began to speak in the 1970s, two generations later. To understand the Great War it is necessary to see it from the view of the men in the trenches and that is not easy, for many it is incomprehensible. It is understandable that the ‘returned men’ tried to forget, even to deny it all happened.

The old lie, Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori, died in the grey carnage of the Great War.

Health Services

Patent Medicines

The newspapers of the time carried many advertisements for patent medicines usually available at the local chemist, if there was one nearby, or by mail. As befits advertising the notices were all upbeat and some made wild promises. They also seem to depend on selfdiagnosis. This was in the days when you only went to the doctor if you were near death’s door or you had a broken limb and no bonesetter was available or there was no hospital handy.

The Brisbane Courier in 6 January 1913 (Cost 1 penny) carried advertisements for the following goods and services:

De Witt's Kidney and Bladder Pills;

Gremault's Indian Cigarettes for an Asthma cure. And we are still looking for the cure;

Rowland's Macassar Oil for your hair. People put antimacassars on the back of the lounge chairs to protect them from the oily hair.

Owbridge's Lung Tonic for Coughs and Colds a good perennial cure along with many others including Bonnington's Irish Moss We are still looking for that cure;

Beecham's Pills for that run down feeling Valium and speed are used today;

Denyer Brothers ask the question "Are you ruptured?" and offer surgical trusses;

Dr. Rentel's Vitality Pills are the perfected formula, which will infallibly effect a certain, and permanent cure, no matter how chronic your case may be. A course of the pills for One Pound will put you on the high road to a good abundant supply of this vital force that will enable you to be a real man. Make up your mind to be a power among the men you mix with. One wonders if there was a course for women. A Melbourne address was given for those who wanted the course.

Dr Morse's Indian Root Pills for the liver;

Murphy's Pile Pills;

The Opium Traffic The French Government were protesting to the British government against their restrictions on opium which the French were exporting from their colony of Indo China (Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia). The French were losing customs duties.

Many advertisements would carry letters from grateful users. A person who was given a free sample or some sort of inducement probably wrote these letters. Arnott's biscuits used a similar ploy by publishing the photo of a child raised on the Milk Arrowroot biscuits along with a letter of appreciation from the parent.


The Mater Hospital was advertising "A healthy 12 month old boy to be adopted, good references given and required.” This must have been before the government enacted legislation to control adoption and the advertising of same.


A 1913 modern dentist offered painless extractions for 2/6 ($15 in 2004 values) each for adults; another dentist charged 5/ ($30 in 2004 values) for painless fillings; a set of false teeth cost from ₤2/2/0 ($210 in 2004 values). This might look rather tacky but there would have been many people living then who had teeth extracted without any anaesthetic and would welcome this technique as a big step forward. For many young men the first time they ever saw a dentist was when they joined the Army in the Great War.


If one wanted to contact the dead or have their future told, four practitioners, all women, were listed with one doing Phrenology (Reading the bumps on a person's head) as well. This latter activity was taken very seriously at the time and some Phrenologists used to travel around the State visiting the schools to read the pupils’ heads and issue certificates listing the pupil’s abilities, characteristics and the job which best suited the person. They even invented a machine which had a helmet to put on the client’s head to make the reading ‘more scientific’.

Pneumonic Flu Pandemic

In 1919 just as the troops were coming home from the War to End All Wars, the global pandemic of Pneumonic Flu or Spanish Flu or Pneumonic Influenza struck Australia. It is strongly suspected that the returning Diggers brought it with them as possibly the first case in New South Wales was a soldier, newly arrived home in Sydney. Many soldiers were consequently marched from their troop ships to places such as the Sydney Cricket Ground and into quarantine.

The pandemic took more lives in one year than the war did in four years with estimates varying between 20 and 30 million lives worldwide. As many as 20 million may have died in a year; in contrast, the modern pandemic of HIV/AIDS killed 20 million but it has taken about 25 years. Most of the deaths were of people between the ages of 18 and 40, people who are usually the fittest in the community. In Sydney about 36% of the population was infected with about 3,500 deaths .

While New South Wales and Victoria were declared “infected States” in January 1919, Queensland attempted to maintain stronger quarantine methods but became an “infected State” in May 1919. Isolation buildings were opened in the Exhibition Grounds and they rapidly filled with 300 cases and the Brisbane Hospital had another 150; between June and October 31,131 cases were reported in Queensland. The death rate in Sydney was reported as about 13.5% and if that rate was applied to Queensland then about 4,200 people may have died. 500 of the 1,800 employees at the Ipswich Railway yards were off sick and so many employees of the Brisbane Gas Company were sick that gas had to be rationed.

By the end of the year the flu was just about over with only 152 cases being reported for Queensland in the NovemberDecember period; the disease struck suddenly, killed quickly and was swiftly gone.

A flyer issued by Department of Public Health, Hope Street South Brisbane issued a series of directions:

If symptoms appear contact a medical practitioner, or Town Clerk/Shire Clerk or Officer of Police at once.

Transmission may be by speaking, coughing and sneezing. Masks with four layers of surgical gauze should be worn and must be boiled daily.

Be temperate in eating and avoid alcohol; wash hands and face immediately on reaching home. Change clothes before mingling with family, exercise, short of fatigue should be taken regularly, keep mouth and teeth clean.

Curative Measures: Isolate the patient with only one person to attend patient, go to bed in a wellventilated room and have no visitors. Cough and sneeze into gauze or rag, which must be burnt immediately and the person handling the rag must wash hands immediately.

Alice Mabel Cock, whose name appears on the Marchant Park Memorial Gates, served as a Nurse in France during the Great War and contracted the Spanish Flu in France but recovered, came home and married. She was born and raised in Chermside attending the local school and, having survived the war, could confidently look forward to a reasonably long life. On the 30 December 1923 Alice died from the effects of the flu, at the age of only 33, probably one of many such victims who had their lives cut short.

Thomas Hamilton records in his diary the family experience of the flu in May and June 1919:

Tuesday 20 – I brought Beckie home sick with a cold from Franny’s this morning; I did not get a start at work till near 10 am.

Thursday 22 – Beckie is a little better.

Friday 23 – I posted a letter to Mrs Andersen letting her know I would not call for a while as we had the “Flue”.

Saturday 24 – We had a welcome picnic in our paddock to Harold Hack it was the Church & Sunday school people but the Flue kept a lot of people from attending. I had to come home early & go to bed, Clara also. M J (Mary Jane, his wife) pretty bad but trying to keep up.

Sunday 25 – Only Eddie, Alex & Hector able to attend Church

Monday 26 – I lay about all day not fit for work. Beckie out awhile, Clara out a little while but could not stay out. M J still battling away but should not be up. Alex gone down to it this afternoon.

Tuesday 27 – We are all still about the same not much improvement.

Wednesday 28 – All except Alex rather better today.

Thursday 29 – I am very much better today. Alex not so well others mending. Hughie feeling bad.

Friday 30 – I stayed at home all day we are all getting a bit better & I think will soon be fit for work again. Alex is the worst. Hughie went down to it last night his head is very bad today.

Saturday 31 – Stayed about house, rather better today.

Sunday 1 June – Stayed at home all day, not too well.

Monday 2 – He worked all day on a cottage they were building but concluded “I did not feel so well this evening.”

Wednesday 4 – Continued working and concluded “I feel much better this evening.”

Sunday 8 – I attended morning service.

Thus over a little under three weeks the whole family of nine, except for Eddie, seemed to contract the Flu but all survived. Thomas missed services on two Sundays which indicated that he must have felt really bad. All the children were in the most vulnerable group, the young adults, while Thomas and M J would have been about sixty. There was no mention of medication or visits to the doctor; it seems that if one did not go to hospital then the treatment was much the same as for a ‘normal’ dose of the flu; go to bed till nature effected the cure.

Alonzo Sparkes Butcher and Grazier – the slaughtering industry

Sparkes (18481923) was the last private owner of the remaining 162 hectares of Murphy’s Paddock which he bought for £2150 in July 1909 , ($218,200 in 2004 values) transfer 485219. The total investment in 1922 was estimated at ₤8,200 ($477,000 in 2004 values). He used the area as a spelling paddock for his stocks of sheep and cattle which were to be slaughtered for his six butcher shops in North Brisbane.

The animals were brought from Manumbar, his 64,000 acre grazing property, which he bought in 1887 in partnership with another butcher, Peter McKinnon. Manumbar was near Gympie and the cattle were driven south via a couple of other staging properties to Downfall Creek

His firm, Alonzo Sparkes Ltd., had the largest area of yard in Chermside and although he died in 1923 the firm carried on until all slaughter yards were closed by the State Government. Lindsay Staib, long time resident, remembers the actual slaughter yard as being near the present Corrie Street in Sparkes’ Paddock.

Sparkes’ was one of a number of slaughter houses that flourished in the local area until the State Government closed them all in 1931 and concentrated slaughtering at the State Abattoirs, Cannon Hill. This was to improve public health by ensuring that meat was of good quality, slaughtered under hygienic conditions and was a result of the Inquires into the Cattle Industry in 1912 and 1928.

William Edney Sammells – Shopkeeper

Sammells (18671930) was a representative businessman of the early 20th Century and, like the Hamilton family, was deeply involved in the history of the local area.

Like many of the 19th Century inhabitants of Downfall Creek, William Sammells came to Queensland as a child with his mother and family, his father having died in England. They arrived in Brisbane on 14/4/1874 aboard the ship, Alexandra, four months out from London when he was about 7 years old. At some time he trained as a cabinetmaker and in 1889 married Mary Williams probably in the Nundah Baptist church; they had four children, John 1890, Ethel 1893, Henry 1897 and Charles 1902.

There is no record of when he opened his Downfall Creek Furniture Bazaar on the corner of Hall Street and Gympie Road but it must have been about the turn of the century. He appears in the Hamilton Diaries for 1898 as buying land from, and having a house and shop built by, the Hamiltons so he must have been a man of means, possibly working as a cabinetmaker.

It is not clear just how much furniture he sold but the family consensus is that he ran a general store dealing in groceries, hardware, produce and furniture. The Post Office agency was transferred to the store in 1906 or 1908 and Mrs Sammells became the Post Mistress at an unknown date.

William was prominent in the public life of Chermside being an original member of Chermside State School Committee and served on it for 27 years, a foundation member the School of Arts on which he continued to serve till his later years and a foundation member of the Protestant Alliance Friendly Society of Australia (PAFSOA) Perseverance Lodge (Chermside).

In 1912 all the Brisbane horse bus firms amalgamated to form the Brisbane Motor Bus Company and, in the reorganisation that followed, Chermside was left without any public transport. The Kedron Omnibus Company was quickly formed by a group of Chermside businessmen with William Sammells as the secretary of the company.

At age of 18 years Henry Sammells enlisted in the 25th Battalion and died of wounds on 10 September 1918 only two months before the Armistice and just after his 20th birthday; he was buried in France.

In May 1918 the business was sold to

James C Argo and his daughter Christine, was appointed Postmistress of the agency.

William died in 1930 aged 64 and

Mary in 1932 aged 57 and both are buried in Lutwyche cemetery.

New Arrivals

Chermside and surrounding areas were continually receiving new settlers from within Australia and from overseas. Mostly the new arrivals settled into the area wherever a suitable house or block was available but, two small national groups localised in the area. It is not clear whether this was because of wanting to be near their nationals or just by chance, probably partly both. In any case the groupings where ephemeral and disappeared within a generation or two. Both settlements were on the western edge of Chermside in what is today West Chermside.

In the 19th Century, several German families had settled in the area around the Hamilton and Webster Roads intersection which came to be called the German quarter. In the early 20th Century a group of British migrants, the Chummies, lived in nearby ‘Chummytown.’ David Teague in his History of Chermside (p.1620) deals comprehensively with these two groups as well as the broader German and British settlement in Downfall Creek/Chermside.

Wally Basnett whose family lived and was influential in this area from about 1930 onward comments on Chummytown which appeared just before the advent of World War I:

Around this (western) end of Hamilton Road near the bridge (present roundabout), was the Packer and Knox wool scour, (on Downfall Creek) and some residences. The family names were Victor, Anderson, and Evans and there were half a dozen houses around the corner in Maundrell Terrace. The family names there were Mills, two Woolies, two Watts’ and just over the first hill towards Aspley there were the Laurences and Stylers. They were all related. We called it Chummy Town, because they were all ‘Poms’; to go to work, some of them used to walk about two miles to the tram terminus at Lutwyche Cemetery.

Social Changes

The opening of the Chermside State School in 1900 was a major step forward in opening up opportunities for the young people as society was demanding that workers have literacy and numeracy skills better than those of their parents; times were changing and society was growing more complex, so the better a person’s skills the better the jobs they could hold. And while there was probably more emphasis on boy’s education the role of women was gradually, slowly changing.

A major step in this direction was taken after the Federation of the colonies when, in 1902, the Commonwealth Government gave women not only the right to vote but also the right to sit in Federal Parliament. Queensland followed with female voting in 1905 and the right to sit in parliament in 1915; male suffrage in Queensland had come with responsible government in 1859.

This was way ahead of the mother country where the suffragette movement was still fighting for women’s right to vote which didn’t eventuate till 1918, but only for those 30 years of age; not until 1928 did the British women have the vote at 21 years, the same as men. On the other hand New Zealand women of all races had the right to vote in 1893.

The Commonwealth government introduced Maternity Allowances in 1908, Age Pensions in 1909 and Invalid Pensions in 1910. These were especially important for people in Australia where so many lived in the small nuclear families rather then the extended family, which traditionally cared for the very young, the elderly and the infirm.When the Great War broke out in 1914, the Commonwealth Government saw the need to care for the families of the soldiers who would be killed or wounded so the War Pensions were introduced; there does not seem to be any such measure for the Boer War veterans. Then, in 1918 the War Service Homes scheme was introduced to assist exservice men to buy homes.

With so many men in the armed forces, more women moved into office work and teaching but they were expected to resign when they married. On the other hand, nursing had always been a woman’s job while men were the doctors, but that also changed, slowly.