A Social History of Heroes Avenue.

A major work in progress, with images to also be added. [square brackets] indicate my additional notes in the text. (Round brackets) are brackets written in original quoted texts.


Book 2 [Not publicly available]

Part 1 - Transcriptions Relating to the Military, Heroes Avenue and WW1
Part 2 - Transcriptions Relating to Queen's Park and Public Trees


For a good many years, Roma's famous Heroes Avenue of bottle trees (and the subsequent town symbol - the bottle tree) have stood in place without a reasonable public knowledge of their reason for being. The use of bottle trees within the avenue and therefore the town in general, and even the existence of the avenue itself, is a testament to the 'unusual' way council projects have been done in Roma for the last 135 years.
Much of the information relating to the Avenue's origins has been hidden away for many years, the original motion in the council minutes has undoubtedly lain unread for some 80 years, especially as the text of the motion was not published verbatim in the Western Star newspaper of the time. It was certainly not known or understood when the cenotaph was built in 1937, and today knowledge has been based mostly on the short text published in "Champagne Country"
To understand the avenue within the complete picture of Roma, several aspects need to be understood, these being: The history and use of Queen's Park, the planting of trees by council throughout time, and the military association and patriotism of Roma. Together, these subjects give context to Heroes Avenue.
The time span for this document was set primarily around 1917-1920, which was the original focus for the formation of Heroes Avenue. However, to establish the context of the mood of the people and the tools they had to work with, the time span has pushed back to the formation of the council in 1867. It has also grown to include the modern day shenanigans of Bevan Stansbie in relation to the future of the Avenue. The subject has also grown sideways, with details given to such things as the formation of M Company, Qld Rifles, their drill hall and rifle ranges, and other little tidbits relating to connections between Roma, the Military, and WW1. Much of this is drearily uninteresting to the average reader, but it needs to be publicly available in some form for future reference.

Part 1 - Queen's park - The Technical Side

As with all aspects of Roma through time, names change. Queen's Park is no exception. When the town was first gazetted and subdivided, there were no public recreation reserves. Public entertainment, consisting of horse racing and the odd bout of boxing, took place along the creek line. This was shortly remedied with the next crop of subdivisions, and a recreation reserve and school reserve were set aside in Hawthorne St, between George & Bungil St. The horse track was officially set up south of town. The portion of Hawthorne Street butting onto Bungil St was filled by a set of yards which was to remain in place for a long time.
In today's terms, the recreation reserve is the western half of the Cultural Centre site, the school reserve was the eastern half. To differentiate it from the other recreation reserves also created, it was termed the central recreation reserve. From early on, it was the scene of the majority of the towns public entertainment. In 1893, the central recreation reserve and the school reserve were amalgamated, and Hawthorne St closed off. Further improvements were the bitumening of both the tennis courts and cricket pitch.
On it was built a grandstand, band stand, a large bicycle track, a cricket pitch and tennis and croquet courts and a ticket booth. The block was very well used, complaints being registered about the cyclists using it while church services were on, and it was consistently booked by community groups holding public gatherings, such as the Hibernian Societies foot races, Women's Auxiliary flower shows, and so on. The governor was also entertained here when he visited. Later on, the public baths were built on it, in the north east corner where the Guide Huts now stand. The pool still remains, filled in and buried.
No direct mention is made in council minutes of the central recreation reserve being renamed. From the change of reference in the council minutes, it appears to happen around the death of Queen Victoria.
Developments in recent times were the Roma Central Pre School [1970], the Council Cultural Centre [1984] including general site redevelopment. A football oval at the northern end, which was called Beetson oval, after the football player Arthur [Artie] Beetson, was removed, the tennis courts on the south west corner were removed while those on the eastern boundary remained, and gardens and paths were put in with a large set of netball courts on the north end of the Cultural Centre. The site was further redeveloped with the construction of the blue nurses and senior citizens centre [1985], and then the new tennis clubhouse [1996] and Council Youth and Recreation Centre [1995] with new carparking.
Today, the area has no particular combined name, each part is referred to on its own by its function. Additional portions of the park relating directly to this reports topic, such as memorials and trees, are discussed in detail in the following sections.

Part 2 - The Public Trees of Roma: In the Streets and in Queen's Park

Prior to the towns formation in 1863, the general area was lightly treed, scrubby, and swampy land with a sparse cluster of trees along the creek line. While it is known that bottle trees appeared in random locations throughout the future town, they were by no means common enough to be a dominant feature of the landscape.
As the town progressed, what good timber was left was cut for housing, with good hardwoods imported from places like Miles or Brisbane. This left the town for the most part fairly tree less, or with very scattered remnants of single untidy trees, which is a situation which seems to persist in the town proper up until the 1940's. Air photos up to then indicate a definite lack of greenery, the 1937 air photo showing the majority of town trees being either in Heroes Avenue or clustered along the creek and long drain. There was a handful of houses with treed yards, such as the old timber Catholic Church in Feather St, but for the most part house blocks were bare.
By the early 1950, trees in yards were becoming the norm, a marked improvement from the 1930's, and 50 years later in 2002, trees form a significant part of the view in every street of town, so much so that from the street or the air many houses are obscured by greenery. The increase of trees is also directly related to the increase in efficiency of the town water supply system and the general prosperity of the town. The water supply steadily improved in flow from the 1920's after the first working bores were in use, and the reticulation spread.
To overcome the lack of greenery, the council had spoken of planting trees probably as early as the 1870's. In 1886 council was discussing the street trees of the time, which were Australian White Cedar trees [Melia Azedarach - not to be confused with the American White Cedar, which is a type of conifer] and most likely planted some years before. These were very scrappy trees, inclined to drop limbs and leaves, and as they grew, formed splendid homes for termites. Some councilors were of the view that with suitable pruning the trees could be trained, but other councilors felt that a whole new species of tree was required. They appeared to run with the cedar trees though, for they were advertising in the paper of the time the fact that they were purchasers of yearly white cedar trees. It is also true a well tended cedar tree can be quite attractive, and bud fine white lacy flowers which are well perfumed.
Some planting of cedar trees appears to have been done, for photos upto 1920 show them planted throughout the business section of town, outside the drainage line of the street. Certainly in later discussions of planting other trees, the businessmen made it clear they did not like trees in the street, so they have already had unsatisfactory dealings with them. The trees appear to have run along McDowall St from at least Hawthorne to Charles St, and also into the aside streets, and possibly intro Bowen St, for a photo of the ambulance building on the SW corner of Charles and Bowen St in 1919 shows two cedar trees outside it.
In early 1900 the council was again investigating the planting of trees in the streets. Their proposal was to plant bottle trees in McDowall St as far west as the hospital gates, and in Bowen St from Charles St to Duke St, which was subsequently carried out, the trees supplied by Mr Searle. The trees appeared to be so agreeable that within a few months it was resolved to plant bottle trees in Bowen St from Charles St east to Tiffin St, and in Duke St between Bowen and McDowall St [ie across the front of the convent]. Council appears to also be trying to source trees from Tamworth Shire, though what type of trees is not made clear.
In July 1900 council was receiving correspondence from the Dept of Agriculture, which recommended certain local trees for planting in streets. It was resolved to let the mayor take the list and procure the necessary trees. In the same month there was a £100 grant from the Dept Agriculture, though whether the two items are connected is not clear.
In August 1900, a tree planting scheme was also conducted in Queen's Park [the current day Cultural Centre site] to beautify the area, as the bicycle track, tennis & croquet courts, and the recently constructed grand stand were developing the block into a feature. What was described as a 6 pointed star, consisting of 13 trees each, was planted. Three of these were done in the park, with plans to plant more. The idea was put forward by Ald Miscamble. It appears that these were pepperina trees for they are mentioned as withering in early 1902. To maintain the park, a groundsman was employed [in those days employees tendered for their jobs]. Again, this was the idea of Ald Miscamble. The successful tenderer was T Davis for a monthly wage of £3 0s 8d, or as he also quoted, 14s per week. Within a month he had quit, and it appears the job was not re filled immediately. He also took the job of lamplighter, and again quit soon after.
Someone apparently liked what the council was doing with its trees, for the council minutes of October 1900 reported that trees were being stolen, and that the police be requested to investigate the matter.
February 1901 council received a £50 subsidy from the Agricultural Dept for improvements to Queen's park. After the new elections in mid February, Mr Davis was again appointed the Queen's Park caretaker at a price of 17s 6d per week. At the end of 1901 the tennis courts were at last bitumened and the School of Arts shade awning in Queen's Park was handed over to council for the price of £8 10s 0d. In 1902 Mr Davis was re appointed Caretaker for 20s per week, with the added responsibility of looking after the trees in the streets.
With the prospect of Federation in 1901, council resolved to commemorate the event, calling a town meeting in November 1900 to decide what should be done. The meeting resolved to construct a drinking fountain in Queen's Park, to be erected by subscriptions from the public, which the council would match £ for £, upto a maximum of £50. In a special council meeting on the 28th December 1900, the design and location of the proposed fountain was fixed. Two options drawn by the Town Clerk [PH Johnson], both cast in concrete, were put forward. The cheapest, at £100 was chosen. Two sites were also proposed, one in McDowall St outside the council chambers [current Telstra office site] or in Queen's Park, which is where it went. Final plans for the fountain were laid out for inspection on the 1st of March 1901, tenders for its construction not being called until July. In July a single rail fence was constructed around the bicycle track by Mr G Lilley for a price of £38.10.0.
The tenders for the fountain were inspected at the August meeting. Only one tender was made, by Mr AJ Renwick for the price of £99. His work was completed by the 22nd November 1901, for the Council were to inspect his work before paying him for his work, as they appeared not to be wholly satisfied. They called in Mr PH Johnson [The Town Clerk] to the council meeting. He explained that he had drawn the plans under instruction from the former mayor, and that they had lain before the council for over 9 months. He had nothing to do with the acceptance of the tender for the work. Council therefore agreed to pay the contractor. The fountain was damaged in February 1902, a £10 reward offered for information leading to the culprit, and a 10 o'clock curfew placed on the park which the police were to enforce. Also in March 1902, the town reticulation was proposed to be extended to the fountain, which seems to indicate the water was taken from a well or bore on site, or a storage tank filled by water carriers. The water was also extended to troughs in the streets. The tender for laying the pipes in Queen's Park was accepted in April 1902, from Lister & Hibberd for the cost of £42 15s 0d.
Council's trees remained a hot collectable item in 1901, for Council was offering a reward of £10 for any information leading to the arrest of persons removing or destroying Council's trees. Council was also pruning the remaining trees they had for they had gotten into an over grown untidy state.
In October 1901 council were pruning the pepperina trees in McDowall St. Ald Tandevin did not think they were doing the right thing by cutting them, Ald Rogers agreeing with him, but Ald Conlan and Conroy thought the trees would turn into better from the pruning. Ald Murphy, acting as meeting chairman, said that he did not like the pruning of the trees, and that he hoped it would not happen again.
By 1910 the tree situation appears to gained notice. This may have come about through the Maranoa Development Association, which I know very little about. My best guess is they were the business development association of the day, and were trying to find ways to improve the attractiveness of Roma in general. By 1915 the discussion on trees seemed to be a common general topic of conversation on which no particular action was taken. The reason for this appears to be the problem of the maturing trees and their location. Pictures not long before 1915 show many of the trees in the main street completely lopped, with short branch stumps hanging off the main trunk. My guess is that the limbs are cut because of the danger of falling limbs to either the adjoining building, or to traffic. The mature trees shown in the same pictures are quite tall, about the height of the top of the rooves of the two storey hotels, with a height of about 3 metres below each tree clear of all branches, probably to keep them out of the way of wagons, horses and riders.
My assumption is that the trees were nearing the end of their practical life in this public location, and as time went by and more were cut, an alternative was talked about. No doubt the trees were also interfering with the power lines, a relatively new feature of the main street which went underground sometime between 1927 and 1962.
It is not exactly clear, but except for the main street, it appears that through time the old cedar trees were replaced by bottle trees upto the 1930's.

Part 3 - Company M, 4th Regiment, Qld Rifles

1885 was a shaky year for Australia. New South Wales was hiding politically, afraid of a growing push for Federation, leaving Queensland and Victoria as political leaders for the time, plus the threat of war over the annexation of parts of New Guinea by Germany had the British military commander in Australia in a mood for the reinvigoration of the Defence Forces.
On the 4th March 1885, a new Queensland Volunteer Corp was raised, consisting of: mounted troops at Brisbane, Gympie, Townsville, Bundaberg and Hughendon; artillery at Cairns; rifle corps at Brisbane (consisting of the Scottish and the Brisbane or Moreton Bay rifle corps), Roma, Gladstone and Southport.
The rifle range for these men changed over the course of time. The first range appears to be out along Timbury Hills, possibly nearer the modern power station sites. The second was gazetted in 1893 (M51-261) and rescinded in 1903. It extended from Kieseker's crossing (from the end of McPhie St) east to Short St and was roughly some 1km east-west, 200m north-south. The third rifle range was gazetted in 1900 (M51-415) and still stands as the former rifle range running east west along the ridge line of Timbury Hills. Each rifle range appears to have fallen to that ever popular scourge of town planning, encroaching unrestrained residential development.
The Roma Rifle Corps home base was gazetted as a Defence Force Reserve in 1890, which was lot 9 on section 4, Charles St, which is where it had stood for many years. These days the land is now occupied by Roma Glass and Aluminium. Prior to the military use, it was the School of Arts block.
Up until the Drill Hall was constructed (refer section 4) the Company operated out of a rented hall, location unknown but possibly the then Masonic or Church halls in Bungil St, or even the council's Town Hall.

Part 4 - The Drill Hall

Company M originally operated out of a rented hall. The reason for the Defence Dept to decide to build their own hall is unclear, but most likely a financial and traditional one. Tenders for the construction of the Drill Hall were advertised in the Government Gazette on the 6th September 1888, the plans being supplied by the Colonial Architect George Connolly and a budget of £515 being set aside for the project.
Nine tenders were submitted for the construction, ranging in value from £373 to £609.10. The winner was one of the local builders, Thomas Shanahan, for the sum of £373 for a building of cypress timber construction, or £450 for hardwood construction, all work to be finished in four months. The Colonial Architect passed his judgement on the tenders on the 12th October 1888, with building works expected to commence in the next year. The contract for construction was signed between Shanahan and the Hon. John Murtagh Macrossan, Secretary for Mines and Works on the 27th of October. Even at this stage the site for the construction was not finalised.
Shanahan wanted to commence work in November, for he telegrammed the Under Secretary for Mines and Works as to which block he could deliver the timber to so that he could commence work. The question was relayed by the Colonial Architect to Colonel French, whose Brigade Major responded that Mr Shanahan could deliver his timber to the School Of Arts site, the Reserve having been applied for by the Government. The gazettal of such not being done until 1890. Shanahan then queried the location on the block, and gave the opinion of the local officers on where they would like to situate the hall, which was at the rear of the block.
During construction, Shanahan queried the use of cypress for the flooring, he being of the opinion that the method chosen to construct the floor was not conducive to cypress pine, and that it would twist and was too knotty and provide an unsuitable finish. There was some dispute between the Colonial Architect and the builder over the final result, the Architect not being happy with the finish. The delay concerned the local commander, Capt John Fowles, who had a ball organised for the opening of the shed on the 11th April 1889, and who also apparently did not want to spend another months rent waiting in their current hall before they could move in. Shanahan was also in a hurry to move onto other work already waiting for him. The local Foreman of Works for the Government, George Corney, inspected the site while going out to the rifle range, and sent his assessment down to the Under Secretary. Shanahan completed these final works, but Corney was still not satisfied on his next inspection on the 5th of April. The local officer was apparently still anxious for his ball to proceed, and Shanahan was also anxious to move to his next job. Corney telegrammed the Works Office saying he was still not satisfied, and that if the ball was to proceed, Shanahan would have to indemnify them against any damages that would occur. This he did, and the ball was held.
In 1894, the Council voted to repair the fences to the drill hall.
On the 23rd of November 1898 a major wind storm struck Roma, damaging many buildings, including the drill hall. The caretaker, A Flack, wrote to the Defence Forces staff engineer, informing them that the hall had been seriously damaged, the north wall almost collapsing, and two boundary fences were blown over. He had rectified the problem as best as practical, but feared any further inclement weather would cause the whole structure to collapse. A note signed by Capt FO Lewin was also attached. It is unclear if he was a local, or the Staff Engineer.
The Caretaker in April 1899, Colour Sargeant William Bruce wrote to the OIC of the M Company that some improvements were necessary, being a water closet and a paling fence and gate to stop the general public from "making a nuisance of themselves on the Government Reserve during the night." The existing fence on the north and south boundaries was a paling fence, but the east and west boundaries were simply wire (most likely plain wire) in bad need of attention. The council was so concerned that they passed a motion to construct a water closet and fence and gates for the shed, due to health concerns, if the Defence Forces failed to do it promptly. No doubt the Council intended to pass the cost on. The caretaker estimated the cost to be £30. A tender for the work was submitted by William Edwards for £28.10.0 and by GP Williams for £25.
The fence was constructed in September 1899, but the OIC M Company, Capt FWE Faithful, wrote to his superiors that the paling fence as constructed was wholly unsuited for their needs, it being so low that "people can now vault the fence with the greatest ease and I should suggest that a barbed wire be placed at any rate on the eastern and western portions of the present fence." He also suggested that they consider fitting a rainwater tank, as there was none at present, there was a definite need for water, and they were currently paying the price of one shilling per barrel for their needs.
In March 1902, Capt Faithful requested that the drill hall be extended with two new rooms, the store and orderly room to be ceiled, gas be connected for lighting, and general maintenance and painting to the existing structure. He was allotted £50 for the task, but the district architect noted that gas could not be laid to the building, and that he did not believe the hall was in urgent need of paint. It is not clear that two new rooms were added either.
Further works were proposed in January 1905, which included a rough sketch plan of the drill hall as it stood. These new works were landscaping to raise the ground level in a bid to keep water away from under the hall and allow access to the hall in the wet, a hitching post for horses, a new coat of paint and some repairs to the south wall to strengthen it to resist winds. It also included the ceiling of the orderly room, which was presumably not carried out in 1902. The cost of works - £40 by the successful tenderer GP Williams.
The drill shed site was proposed for further enhancements with a miniature cartridge range in May 1907. The details are not entirely clear, but there may have also been a proposal then to replace the drill hall itself. The estimated cost for the range was £45. The tendered costs were from £45 to £84, Mr W Gilbert of Toowoomba winning the contract on price by the large margin of £21, and probably also because he was in the process of constructing the exact same thing in Toowoomba. Some modifications were made to the plans, and a further £16 authorised to be spent on the works.
The hall was again recommended to be painted in July 1908, the Inspector of Works stating "the paint is powdering off and should have 2 coats, finishing coat to be in white zinc," for a cost of £17. The Inspector wrote a fuller report the following month, including tarring of the stumps and other works to a value of £58.15.00. The tender was gazetted 23rd October 1908
The Drill Hall and water closet was replaced in 1913, the new building being some 60' x 42', consisting of a main drill hall with 5 offices being roughly 12' square. This building lasted long into recent history, being also a scout hall. It was burnt down, and the site is now occupied by Roma Glass and Aluminium.

Part 5 - Roma and WW1

The dealings of the war, enlistment and patriotic committees and councils dealings with the defence dept.

Part 6 - Heroes Avenue

The issue of trees and bottle trees came to the fore in 1917, the year of Roma Town Council's 50th anniversary. Even in those days the "Roma Coma" was a force to be reckoned with: the official function to mark the event was attended by only 25 people, 2 of whom had come from Brisbane, these being were the state member for the district, former Roma Town Councilor JM Hunter and his wife.
Throughout the evening a number of speeches were made by various dignitaries to the assemblage, recounting various tales of Roma's early days. In Hunter's speech, reference was made to the war raging at the time, and what should be done to commemorate the brave soldiers who would not return. The mayor [Ald. Miscamble] also made a speech, stating that he had been thinking along the lines of Mr Hunter, and felt some trees should be planted in memory of the soldiers, and not only to the fallen soldiers, but to all those who had enlisted. His speech closed with a minutes silence in memory of the 19 Roma soldiers who had died so far in the Great War.
At the next council meeting, the matter was further discussed, and a resolution passed. "Moved by His Worship the Mayor [Miscamble], sec by Ald Wright:
That this council take into consideration and make arrangements for holding an Arbour Day in July next for the purpose of planting a tree to commemorate the life of each Roma boy who has fallen in the present war, after that each lad who went to the front from Roma, commencing with Roma natives. Carried"

The trees were to be planted the following year, the first twenty seven planted outside the state school, commemorating the boys and teacher who went to war and didn't return. Mr Mayfield, the head teacher, had a gallery of all the boys photos which he called the "Heroes Gallery." There were some 200 photos in it, and he was very proud to display them.
What is not so certain is the choice for bottle trees. There was quite considerable discussion at the time about exactly what type of trees were to be planted, the council going so far as to write to the State Member to get the Botanical Gardens in Brisbane to offer suggestions. Suggestions from various quarters were for apple trees, pepeprinas, moreton bay figs and other species. What was clear at the meetings was that they would not choose bottle trees, they were simply too messy.
However, the final choice was left to the mayor, Ald Miscamble, and the next evidence is a note that he had ordered some nice bottle and kurrajong trees to be planted in the avenue. Why Miscamble chose bottle trees, if his explicit orders were not to, is not clear until you consider two points which have come from further research.
Mayors of this time period had almost unrestrained power over the day to day operations of the council. In effect they were similar to current town clerks, organising almost everything that had to be done, and making the majority of decisions on how projects were conducted. The council did have a town clerk and foreman of works for this period, but we must understand that the mayor was very often telling these men how to do their job, or setting the goals these men were to achieve. Councils of the time were often telling their employees explicitly how to do their job.
The other point to remember is that bottle trees had been planted before - in 1900. The same time that Miscamble was Mayor in this period.
It is a very tempting to imagine Miscamble imposed his will on his preference for bottle trees, and so that was what happened. An Avenue of Bottle Trees. There is no other evidence either way to point to other reasons for the selection, so the definitive truth will most likely never been known.
The second portion of the planting, to take the number of trees to 75, was conducted in 1919, with a further 20 planted in 1920. Also in 1920, as part of the war trophy dispersement, Roma received a cannon as its due: "Notice from War Trophy Committee, advising that one field gun, No 29, a war trophy. Captured by the 5th Light horse Regiment, has been forwarded to Roma. After some discussion it was decided to place the gun in the recreation reserve, as being the best place for the trophy to be seen by the public."
Later in the year the Repatriation Committee was writing to council to ask when a monument and Roll Of Honor might be erected to the memories of the soldiers. The council discussed the matter, and as Ald Crawford had volunteered to pay for the Roll of Honor, the matter was left in his hands. He expressed his confusion on how the names for the Roll were to be got, for no one knew how to obtain them. Reference was made to Mr Mayne, chairman of the Repatriation Committee, with a suggestion that the list may be in part obtained from him, for he had much more research to do on the list he had already made.
The Roll of Honor was not presented for a number of years, at least not until 1922. A proper monument was not constructed until 1937, even though council were arguing over it as early as 1920. It is assumed that up until 1937, the Federation Monument in Queen's Park was used as the destination for the Anzac marches, where supposedly the German gun was also displayed. Some years after 1937, the Federation Monument was pushed into the ground and buried, only to be rediscovered in 1984 with the construction of the new Cultural Centre. The large concrete base is now displayed with a reworked top and marker.
For a good many years, the German gun disappeared, only to be rescued from disposal and in private hands for many years. Today, its remnants are displayed outside the Army Reserve barracks, where there are also two trench mortars who's history is unknown. It is not clear at this point whether the cannon had been stripped of it's pieces and wheels long before the 1950's.
The Avenue too lingered for many years in a constant state of neglect, until interest was renewed with the research of Peter Keegan into the soldiers it memorialises.
Today the avenue is well thought of for the sentiment it represents, and for many years the soldiers have again been in people's minds. Perhaps the final word on the avenue should go to W Miscamble, Mayor in 1918: "On this, the third anniversary of the landing of the Australasian troops on Galipolli, this meeting of citizens of Roma and District emphasises the unswerving loyalty of the people of the State to the Throne and Empire of His Gracious Majesty the King, and pledges their determination to maintain the partnership of national sacrifice which has been sealed already by the blood of Australia's bravest sons. This meeting expresses admiration of the magnificent heroism, self-sacrifice, and endurance of the sailors and soldiers of Australia and New Zealand, who, on the First Anzac Day and throughout the Great War, for the maintenance of justice, liberty, and freedom, have shed immortal lustre on the name of their country, and voices heartfelt sympathy with those whose love ones laid down their lives for the Empire, assures the bereaved, and the sailors and soldiers who have suffered, the undying gratitude of the people who through that sacrifice retain the blessing of liberty, enhanced by a fuller sense of nationhood and closer and stronger union with the other portions of the British Dominions, also urges upon all who are eligible the imperative duty of following the example of those heroes whose names will lie honored so long as history endures."

Part 7 - The Cenotaph Story

The early marches for the Anzac Celebrations appear to have had a number of destinations in their time. The early marches upto the early 1920's are thought to have stopped at the market reserve, just east of the Court House, corner of McDowall and Queen Sts. The only other viable alternatives to this theory is the Drill Hall in Charles St or the Federation (and also Boer War) Monument in Queen's Park. Evidence is scant, and only vague references lead us to believe it was the Market Reserve. Following the construction of the Honor Roll, and the donation of it to the Council, marches and Armistice Day celebrations culminated where the Roll was hung, in the Council Chambers. This process was to continue upto 1938, when the Cenotaph was finally built. It then became the destination and centre of all military remembrance ceremonies.
The original concept of constructing some memorial to the fallen soldiers of WW1 goes back to at least the 1st Anniversary Celebrations for Gallipoli. The committee for the days events wrote to council in March 1916, asking Council to consider constructing a marker and Honor Roll for the men who fell at Gallipoli. One councillor moved that it should be constructed in Wyndham St, just off the kerb line. The most likely location intended being just outside the post office. The Anzac Committee again wrote in 1917 asking for the monument to be constructed, the location proposed to be the small triangle of land known as the market reserve, just east of the Court House, on the corner of Queen and McDowall St. The idea of a monument was again entertained at the 50th Anniversary Celebrations for Roma in late 1917. The Council's intention at the time was to devise a living memorial of trees - the subsequent Heroes Avenue - but a parallel project to build a stone cairn was also re entertained shortly afterward. Stone cairns are more traditional, and most likely the construction of a stone monument with a single listing of all the men was almost expected from the populace, even though the avenue was in place doing the same function.
The next mention of a memorial being proposed was in November 1920, when Chairman of the local Repatriation Committee, Mr WG Mayne, wrote to council drawing their attention to the fact that neither a monument nor Roll of Honor had been constructed yet. Council were again reminded in April 1921, when the Brisbane Committee who were seeking funds to build the memorial in Anzac Square, Brisbane, wrote asking for support. Council admitted their tardiness in building a local one, and wished to keep the funds for such a project locally than to sponsor a Brisbane monument when there still wasn't one in Roma.
Nothing came of the prompts, and no doubt the omission was a talking point among ex soldiers at the various meetings of their different organisations. Considering the spitefulness of some ex soldiers, particularly the hierarchy of the RSSILA (especially in the 1930's), there must have been some very colourful language in relation to the council's slowness on this project.
However, council had quite a number of problems through this period in relation to both continual staff turn over and almost going broke several times which was taking up a lot of their time. Several mayors faced almost open revolt from councillors and the public, and the great depression and increasing union militancy did nothing to leave spare money for projects. Many schemes throughout this time were fully government funded.
The first genuine attempt to finally build the monument was put forward by the Roma and District Returned Soldiers Association (R&DRSA) in 1933. It appears it was their project, with funding and direction via the Repatriation Committee that finally got the project rolling. The Repatriation Committee appears to have some over arching power over the R&DRSA on this project which is not yet clear, possibly due to their financial involvement and the fact the Repatriation Committee was a federal government body. The Repatriation Committee also over saw the Soldier's Race Committee, which was a major fund raising organisation for soldier related projects in town. In the late 1930's this organisation was very fractured owing to the developing split between the RSSILA and the R&DRSA, the RSSILA being almost half the committee.
There was no involvement of any other organisation in the cenotaph process, especially the RSSILA (modern RSL). These men were quite adamant that they would in no way share any involvement with any other oganisation on any subject, and rebuffed the R&DRSA, only feigning to consider the idea so that it could be roundly defeated 39 votes to 1 so that no further discussion on the topic would be necessary. At the meeting to discuss it, Canon Eva (the Predisent RSSILA) said that even the motion to consider dealing with the R&DRSA was out of order (deeply offending Mr GG Ferrier, the mover, in the process), and read the rules of the RSSILA which said they could not co operate in any way with any soldier's organisation outside the League except the Limbless Soldier's and Father's Associations. They could be no clearer. The militancy of the RSSILA of this period is well known anecdotally from many family histories, including my own. They were good enough, however, to encourage all returned soldiers to attend the event, a hollow gesture as most soldiers were almost guaranteed to show up for such an event. Their stance on this may well have been directly related to Canon Eva's personality and the way the RSSILA formed after a major internal split of the R&DRSA in 1937.
The RSSILA then embarked on their own project to build their own hall, shifting the redundant infants hall from the State School to the current RSL location. Their project was not completed until after the Cenotaph was built, and served to create another stir among soldiers - they were adamant there was to be no bar, (also a council condition) no doubt a concession to the religious influences of the committee. They also only got it funded by manipulating the Repatriation Committee, but that's another story.
The preparations for the monument took a number of years to organise, the final years of the project being conducted by the R&DRSA president AJ Campbell. The final stages relating to the unveiling of the monument were passed over to the Repatriation Committee for organising by Mr Mayne, not doubt to their stature as a federal department who were partly funding the construction. Both Campbell and Canon Eva were also members of this committee
The first work on the monument took place in October 1937, the base being poured by Mr W Anderson (the Undertaker) and the granite blocks being erected under the supervision of Mr AL Petrie (Brisbane Monumental Mason). The inscribed plates on the monument were covered over, to be kept hidden from the public until the Memorial was opened on the following Anzac Day, 1938.
Unfortunately, the preview of the monument by the R&DRSA revealed that one name was missing (Gavin). The monument inscription also says it is erected to the memory of the 93 men from the district, when in fact there were 94 listed in the Avenue. This was pointed out to Mayne, but never corrected. Modern investigation of the monument also reveals several misspelled names, such as Kupper (Kupfer), and names out of alphabetical order.
Considering Mr WG Mayne was putting together a complete plan of the Avenue, it is quite curious he (or Petrie if it was a transcription fault, though this is unlikely) made the mistakes on the monument. It certainly does not support any theory Mayne was the absolute authority on the men of the Avenue. Consider also that there was no proposal to memorialise any other soldiers from further research. The full list of 94 men was already known by mid 1920, when the last trees in the avenue were proposed to be planted, and prior to Mr Mayne asking Council to get a wriggle on and finish the Honor Roll. They were of course to turn to him for aid in the Roll of Honour shortly after, so in theory he did research all soldier's from Roma & District. However, as the Roll of Honour was probably handed over by Alderman Crawford in the early 1920's (probably 1922 or 1923), all research had most likely been concluded by then. One must assume Mayne conducted no research post the 1920 planting of trees, or he made no issue of his research with additional names. That he wouldn't mention additional soldiers to be included on the cenotaph is highly unlikely, and we are left with the conclusion he conducted no great research at all past the planting of trees in 1920.
We know that the AIF records were extremely poor, and for a great period of time very difficult to sort. It has not been until the digital age that records have been easy to search and therefore easy to locate soldiers. Perhaps Mayne did the best with what he had in the early 1920's, which was not much, and conducted no further research.
To return to the cenotaph, organisation for the unveiling proceeded under Mr Mayne's direction, with suggestions from the R&DRSA. The Governor, Sir Leslie Wilson, had declined to open it due to other commitments, and WM Hughes had also declined due to commitments in Sydney for Anzac Day. Billy Hughes had associations with Roma, working at Basset's Winery and other places in the district before moving to the big smoke and a political career. Eventually Lt Col Sir Donald Cameron, KCMG, DSO, VD, accepted the invitation to unveil the memorial.
In the meantime, the R&DRSA completed the works around the cenotaph, being the paths, edging and garden works. All up the project to build the cenotaph had cost £400. The council chipped in by gravelling the footpath in front of it, which was probably also necessary to get to the Federation Monument/fountain.
In preparation for the unveiling, a program for the day was published in the paper.
The days events abandoned the usual practice of laying wreaths at the Roll of Honor in the council chambers in McDowall St. Wreaths were laid instead in the cemetery at 9AM on the headstones of dead soldiers, the headstones being recently installed by the R&DRSA in another project.
Religious services were then conducted during the morning, a speech being given by Sir Donald Cameron on the example of the soldier and the donkey at Gallipoli. This speech is to be found in the appendix.
The unveiling at 3:30PM was preceded by a march of 120 soldiers plus band which progressed directly to the new cenotaph where WG Mayne welcomed them.
Rousing speeches for the day were delivered by Mayne and the visiting dignitary - Sir Donald Cameron. Following the speeches the memorial was unveiled and the ceremony was over. Both these speeches are to be found in the appendix.
Mayne's speech is notable for mentioning the support of the RSSILA, who never positively discussed the project in any of their meetings for which there are records, and who vehemently refused to deal with the main instigator, the R&DRSA. However, some of the RSSILA members also made up Mayne's committee (including Canon Eva who was also present at the unveiling - added religious pressure?), so perhaps he was being over generous. Mayne had many very strange recollections that day totally unrelated to actual history. Politically he must have walked a very fine tight rope.
The days events were closed by a dinner in the Hibernian Hall.
There was much debate nationally at the time of the 1937/38 Anzac Days being conducted with religious services within the Anzac Ceremonies, particularly with the Melbourne service. Eventually the soldiers won out and the churches had to content themselves with holding their own services in their churches later in the morning with their congregation, rather than having the whole Anzac Day ceremony as their audience. Many soldiers felt it unnecessary to mix religious and war time services, and were particularly wary of getting involved in a Catholic/Presbyterian argument on who should officiate. They were quite adamant though that the churches should conduct their own service in their church, and not abandon any idea of remembering soldiers on Anzac Day.

Part 8 - Patriotism


Part 9 - Lest We Forget

The story of Bevan Stansbie and the evolution of Heroes Avenue