THE WHEELS ARE IN MOTION

Many expressions we use today date back to the era of ‘horse and cart’ transport. Cars feature 21st century technology like sat-nav systems, but they also have reminders of travel in the 1800s. The dashboard was originally a timber or leather panel in front of a buggy which stopped mud from the ‘dashing’ horse flicking onto passengers. On rainy days buggy owners also rode with the hood up like modern convertibles.

Buggy drivers wore gloves when handling the leather reins to keep off leather oil and dust. These were stored in the glove box. What is too big for the glove box goes in the boot. The boot box on a coach was under the driver’s seat, behind his boots. The boot is still for luggage, but is now at the back. The driver on a coach was in control, sitting up on the box seat. People still use the term to describe a position of power.

Horses and carriages were dark colours. Accidents occurred in towns at night if buggies did not have headlights and taillights. A bit of red glass in the back of coach lamps showed which way a vehicle was going, that is which way the horses head and tail were pointing. If an accident was likely the driver hoped the brake shoes stopped the wheels. Brake shoes were made from old shoes nailed to the brake block. The leather gripped the iron tyre.

And we still refer to the horsepower.  And even the term car can be traced back to cart, carriage and the Roman words carrum or carrus, and the even earlier Celtic word karros, meaning cart or wagon.

Travel is central to our way of seeing the world. Consider the following expressions.

From the horse era we have…

  • In ‘the box seat’ driving the project
  • ‘Reining in’ the troublemakers
  • Like the horse team we need to ‘pull our weight’ or we will be ‘dragging the chain’
  • We won’t ‘put the cart before the horse’
  • We hope with a favoured project the ‘wheels don’t come off’
  • You can ‘jump on the bandwagon’ like everyone else
  • And after partying hard we might ‘go on the wagon’, but then hopefully not ‘fall off the wagon’.
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Bogged down in a sticky situation. A Cobb & Co coach on the banks of Mary Ann Creek, Yuleba – Surat road, 1011.

We don’t want to be…

  • Bogged down
  • Caught in a rut
  • Pushing it up hill
  • Going downhill
  • Getting off track
  • Letting the grass grow under our feet
  • Facing a hard road ahead
  • Going nowhere
  • Going round in circles

We do want to be…

  • Going forward not backward
  • On the straight and narrow
  • Chasing the light on the hill
  • Taking the road less travelled
  • Achieving the milestones
  • Moving on
  • Facing new horizons
  • Moving up in the organisation
  • Climbing the corporate ladder
  • Have a career (but not downhill or into a truck!)
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It’s all gone wheels up. A capsized loaded wool wagon near Blackall. Image courtesy State Library of Queensland.

We say…

  • Life we say is a journey.
  • ‘You can’t stop progress!’

We think in spatial and often linear metaphors, even if we are not physically moving anywhere. Western thought has been dominated by ideologies of ‘progress’ for centuries. There may be ‘no going back now’, ‘the wheels are already in motion’.

Jeff Powell, Curator, Cobb+Co Museum

On this day: Queensland Prisoners secret radio revealed

On the 12 November 1945, the day after Remembrance Day, an article appeared in the Telegraph highlighting a fine example of Australian ingenuity.

Remembrance Day is celebrated on the day World War I ended but commemorates all those who died in war. An estimated four million people died during the World War II Japanese occupation of Indonesia, including 30,000 European civilians.

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The secret radio

Two Queensland brothers, Ernest and Charles Hildebrandt, built a secret wireless radio receiver which they operated in the camp near Bandoeng in Java which was overran by Japanese soldiers in 1942.

Constructed of parts scrounged from the internment camp where they were held prisoner in Java during the war, the transmitter was built into a Dutch gas-mask container and hidden under a square of concrete measuring 12 by 7 inches.

For the last sixteen months of the war, they secretly shared news from the Australian Broadcasting Service, the British Broadcasting Service, United States and many other stations.

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Seventy-four years after her uncles, Ernest and Charles, donated this radio transmitter to Queensland Museum, Pamela Robinson visited the Museum to see the set and to fill in some missing details for our records.

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12 November 1945

Explore the Anzac Legacy Gallery

Are you interested in seeing war artefacts that tell the fascinating story of the First World War in Queensland? Visit the Anzac Legacy Gallery on Level 1 of the Museum.

Foundations of Remembrance in Ipswich

In 1920, General Sir William Birdwood, warmly known as the ‘Soul of Anzac’ or the ‘Digger-in-Chief’, toured Australia to meet and present medals to soldiers who had served in World War I. An Englishmen who could relate to and appreciate the Australian character, Birdwood was greatly admired by the Diggers he commanded in Gallipoli and on the Western Front.

Birdwood arrived in Ipswich on Tuesday, May 4th to much fanfare. A procession was formed from East Ipswich Station where he was met by soldiers on parade and then taken by motor car to Queens Park to present medals. Such was the importance of the visit to returned soldiers that the President of the Ipswich Branch of the Returned Sailors’ & Soldiers’ Imperial League Australia asked employers to grant their soldier employees leave to attend all the various functions.

Before leaving for Brisbane, General Birdwood was given the great honour of laying the foundation stone for the Ipswich Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, which would be built in the central gardens (also known as the Pump Yard). This photograph, by Bert Roberts of AE Roberts Carriage Works, was taken from inside the Technical College and gives an impression of how significant and well attended Birdwood’s visit was to the city.

Photo: General Sir William Birdwood laying the foundation stone of the Ipswich Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, 1920. Queensland Museum Network Collection.

Rob Shiels
Collection Manager
The Workshops Rail Museum

Cowboys in the Museum

This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories.

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Like most Queenslanders, I grew up knowing that Rugby League was a central part of life. I remember sitting with my dad watching the Friday Night Footy, the entire family wearing jerseys or team colours as good luck charms.

North Queenslanders – dare I say it – might even be some of the most passionate out of all rugby supporters. You can’t walk down Townsville’s main street without noticing the Cowboys Leagues Club situated right in the centre of town, and on a game day it’s completely normal that 80% of people hanging around town are wearing some sort of Cowboys merchandise.

While the Cowboys didn’t quite make it into the NRL Grand Final this year, the rugby league spirit was still alive in Townsville in the lead up to the match last week. In tune with recent finals season, have a look at something we have tucked away in our collections – a very different kind of museum object.

WHEN ART AND RUGBY COLLIDE

Around the same time that the Museum of Tropical Queensland was being developed, North Queensland formed its first every official rugby league team: the North Queensland Toyota Cowboys.

These two icons – the Museum and the Cowboys team – have a longstanding relationship aimed at assisting the local community, and advocating for education, accessibility and innovation.

As such, in 2006, a project between the two was developed: the Sports Star Art Torso Casting Project. Sports Star Art was a world-first, contemporary concept in sporting memorabilia. Six local Cowboys players had their torso’s cast in plaster, to raise funds for the development of the ‘Archie’s Shipwreck Adventure’ children’s exhibition at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

Matt Bowen – affectionately called Matty by his fans – a former Cowboy and one of the teams most valued and popular players, was one of the six immortalised in plaster.

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The plaster casts were made at the Museum in March 2006. The players were positioned in a hospital bed, their arms and torso’s coated in dental alginate, for 45 minutes while the casts set.

That was the easy part – the casts then had to be removed from the players’ bodies, slowly so that (hopefully) only a minimal amount of body hair would be removed with the plaster.

Matt Bowen commented that the removal, “pulled every bit of hair I had on my chest – and it hurt”.

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Once the cast was removed, the museum displays preparator dried the cast, and applied both fibreglass and resin. Once set, the plaster was broken away from the outside, the cast was sanded, and then airbrushed to match the Cowboys uniform.

The final contribution for this item was Matty Bowen’s signature. Bowen’s torso then became a permanent part of the museum’s collections, and the five remaining casts were auctioned off at the Museums fundraising event for the new exhibition.

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People often assume they’ve seen it all when it comes to museum collections. But I guarantee they’ve never seen Matty Bowen’s torso at another museum.

 Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

The worst Rugby League team ever?

September means football finals. Expectations are high for teams that have been up the top all year and fans of these teams are cautiously optimistic. But for everyone else, it’s just another wasted year and the fresh promise of next season cannot come soon enough.

In the 1940s a Rugby League side from the Ipswich Railway Workshops experienced the highs and lows that are all too familiar to football fans at this time of year.

In 1944 the Moulders’ Shop fielded a side in the Ipswich Rugby League (IRL) Juniors competition. Success was instant. They dominated the competition and achieved back-to-back wins in both the 1944 and 1945 Grand Finals. The team’s performance was so impressive that for the 1946 season, the Moulders’ applied to the IRL to play in the Seniors. Oh, how the mighty would fall.

Accepted into the Seniors and facing teams such as Tivoli, Swifts, West End, CYMS (Catholic Young Men’s Society) and Laidley, Moulders’ suddenly found themselves uncompetitive, taking out the 1946 wooden spoon without a win or even a draw all season. The Moulders’ again played in the Seniors for the 1947 season and hopes were high when they beat the reigning Premiers, West End, with a score of 14-11 in a trial match under lights at the North Ipswich Reserve.

But for all the pre-season optimism, the Moulders’ (also known as the Maroons) started 1947 much like they’d ended the previous season – anchored to the bottom. Halfway through 1947, the team got their first-ever premiership points in an 11-all draw against West End. Ultimately, however, it would be another winless season.

I’ve always subscribed to the belief that there’s a certain romance supporting a rubbish football team – it’s good character building. But in 1948 the IRL top brass, who were obviously not romantics, kicked the Moulders’ out of the Seniors. Their only crime? Being one of the worst sides to have ever played in the history of the IRL competitions.

So, take heart my fellow football fanatics; even if you support the worst team in the league, there’s a good chance they’ll at least be there to let you down again in the future. Remember, there’s always next year… unless you’re a Moulders’ supporter, that is.

Photo: The 1946 Moulders’ Senior Rugby League side from the Ipswich Railway Workshops. (Photographer: Whitehead Studios. Queensland Museum Collection)

Rob Shiels
Brisbane Lions tragic/Collection Manager,
The Workshops Rail Museum

Railway Carriage Secrets

Here at The Workshops Rail Museum, we’ve been working hard to clear the backlog of little jobs necessary to keep our locomotives and rolling stock looking clean and well maintained. Whilst polishing brass on a steam locomotive is something even a curator can do, many of these jobs require outside knowledge and expertise.

This was the case with one of our passenger carriages – BV 269. This timber coach, built-in Maryborough in 1882, is the oldest one in our collection. It spent much of its working life on the line west of Townsville, and before being retired to the museum was used regularly on the Kuranda tourist service. In the last 18 months, we have opened it up to visitors for the first time since the museum opened. Unfortunately, a number of rips had developed in the seats. We decided we couldn’t have our visitors sitting on torn vinyl, so we removed them and took them to Brian at B&B Trimmers and Upholstery for restoration.

When we returned to collect them there was a surprise waiting for us. Not only were there a set of beautifully reupholstered seats, but Brian had also set aside a stained and tatty looking piece of canvas uncovered during the process. On it was scrawled the names of two employees of the Townsville Railway Workshops and the date 14/11/1949. These men, B. G. Delowery and H. W. Hoit, had signed their work! Giving us an insight not only into the last time the seats had significant work done to them, but the pride that these men had taken in their jobs a few months shy of 70 years ago.

Many of our trains hold secrets like this, but rarely do we get to encounter them. Who knows what other messages are hiding in amongst our locomotives and rolling stock…?

By David Hampton

Re-imagining Pandora

This blog post is part of an ongoing series titled Connecting with Collections. The series offers readers a peek inside collections at the Museum of Tropical Queensland, highlighting objects and their stories.

In 1790, HMS Pandora sailed out of England with a clear mission: to find the HMS Bounty and its 25 mutineers. Pandora reached Tahiti in March 1791, and captured 14 of the mutineers, restraining them in the makeshift prison cell on the stern deck, ‘Pandora’s Box’. Leaving Tahiti in May 1791, Pandora spent the next several months searching for the remaining mutineers on other islands in the South-West Pacific, including Samoa, Tonga, Rotuma and Tokelau. On the eventual journey home to the United Kingdom in August, after failing to track down the nine other mutineers, Pandora ran aground and sank whilst attempting to traverse the Torres Strait.

The wreck remained undisturbed until 1977. Upon discovery of the shipwreck site, the Queensland Museum conducted several archaeological expeditions between 1979 and 1999. The extensive excavations unearthed a significant amount of the buried ship’s hull, as well as the well-preserved collection of artefacts now held by the Museum of Tropical Queensland in Townsville.

When Pandora sank, so did almost everything on board the vessel. The Queensland Museum team uncovered a large assemblage of artefacts that shed light on the everyday lifestyle on board the ship during its eventful journey, as well as a range of Polynesian artefacts that the crew had collected whilst on the islands.

Among these Polynesian objects were a collection of fishhooks and shanks made from mother of pearl shell. Research on the collection deduced that the shell shanks, in particular, were parts of fishing lures used for trolling bonito fish. When suspended in water during use, the lures resemble small fish moving in the water, and attract the predatory bonito. After over 180 years underwater, the other distinguishing features of the lures – the hook and plant fibres – disintegrated prior to discovery of the wreck. The shanks, therefore, cannot be linked to one particular area, as this kind of lure was not only common in French Polynesia, but in a variety of regions across Oceania. They came in a variety of forms, colours and sizes, depending where they were manufactured.

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MA7901 Fishing/trolling lure component. Discovered at the Pandora shipwreck in the 1980s-1990s.
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MA8098 Fishing/trolling lure component. Discovered at the Pandora shipwreck in the 1980s-1990s
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MA8023.1 Fishing/trolling lure component. Discovered at the Pandora shipwreck in the 1980s-1990s.

Currently on display at the Museum of Tropical Queensland is the display, ‘Making Connections: French Polynesia and the HMS Pandora collection’. As part of the display, artist and anthropologist Tokainiua Devatine created an art installation inspired by the many pearl shell shanks from the Pandora wreck. In his artwork, Tokainiua aimed to represent the variation in the pearl shanks, displaying different sizes, colours and forms of the shell pieces in his interpretive artwork.

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Art installation created by artist Tokainiua Devatine, currently on display at the Museum of Tropical Queensland.
People in French Polynesia still use bonito lures made from mother of pearl shells to catch bonito fish. Although, today metal hooks and synthetic fibres are used on the lures, instead of the natural fibres and shell or bone hooks used when the Pandora’s crew acquired the lures.

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E40896 Bonito lure. PhD student and curator Jasmin Guenther purchased this lure in French Polynesia in 2018.

Alongside the pearl shanks found on the Pandora wreck site were several pearl fishhooks. Fishhooks used in French Polynesia at the time of Pandora’s journey through Oceania also came in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on their intended use and associated region. Locals would frequently include the hooks in trade and exchange practices, and European visitors to the islands avidly collected them in the 1700s.

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MA8006 Fish hook fragment. Discovered at the Pandora shipwreck in the 1980s-1990s.

Unlike the lures, pearl fishhooks are no longer used for recreational or commercial fishing today.

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E40888, E40889. Tahitian artist Hiro Ou Wen created these fishhooks in 2018 as reproductions of the traditional pearl fishhooks discovered at the Pandora shipwreck.

To learn more about the material culture of French Polynesia, and the connection between Pandora artefacts and contemporary art in Oceania today, visit the Museum of Tropical Queensland and experience the current display, ‘Making Connections: French Polynesia and the HMS Pandora collection’.

Sophie Price, Assistant Curator Anthropology, Museum of Tropical Queensland

We are custodian of Queensland's natural and cultural heritage, caring for more than a million items and specimens in collections that tell the changing story of Queensland.