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Cardwell Honour Roll - Lest We Forget

The Cardwell Honour Roll has been described as ‘a tribute not only to those who served, but also to those members of a very small community who raised the finance for the memorial’.

This quotation, from the late Mrs Mona Gillon, in a letter to the Herbert River Express in July 1992, reveals how even the establishment of such memorials of momentus times in Cardwell’s history were a powerful expression of community unity, solace and strength. Mrs Gillon was a direct descendant of Cardwell district pioneers, James and Annie Henry, so her testimony reflects not only her memories from the early 20th century but also those stories and their local sentiment handed down first-hand through her family and those of other pioneers. It underlines the profound and enduring symbolic significance that attaches to this memorial.

The Cardwell Honour Roll was unveiled in 1922 by Queensland Premier ‘Red Ted’ Theodore who, before WW1, had co-founded the Amalgamated Workers’ Association, the forerunner to the Australian Workers’ Union. Theodore was 37 years old and represented the state parliamentary seat based on Chillagoe. He would later become Australia’s Federal Treasurer two days before the 1929 Wall Street stock market crash in New York that triggered the Great Depression.

Yet the Cardwell Honour Roll was not the first of the town’s public war memorials. The terrible slaughter and devastating emotional toll of WW1 created a yearning within society to acknowledge and publicly remember those who served in the conflict. Throughout Australia few people were left untouched either by their family ties or social interaction with men who had served, and especially because those who had died would never be buried in their home country. On top of that, those who did return were forever changed by the horrors of the war they had been through.

In September 1920 Ernest Cook and other returned soldiers wrote to Cardwell Shire Council asking for permission to erect a memorial to fallen soldiers, on the foreshore near the jetty across Victoria Street from the Pershouse Store. Council agreed unanimously.

Mr Cook wrote to the Officer in Charge of Military Records in Melbourne requesting rank, service number and other details of H. R. Butler and A. Bryant. The officer was unable to release this information, but it was ultimately obtained and Butler and Bryant were honoured on the stately memorial that was erected and still stands today.

On 22 July 1921, the Governor of Queensland, Sir Mathew Nathan, GCMG, arrived in Cardwell from the north by motor launch at 3.00pm. There was a dinner at the hotel and a dance afterwards at the Shire Hall (now the J. C. Hubinger Museum). The next day the Soldiers Monument on the foreshore was unveiled by the Governor. Many attended, including Mrs May Butler, mother of Hugh Ramsay Butler. The Governor then continued his tour, leaving by road for Ingham.

The following year, in April 1922 the Honorary Secretary of the Honour Board Committee in Cardwell wrote to Council asking for permission to have an Honour Roll, in the form of a marble slab, erected either at the Shire Hall or on its verandah. Cr Blackman moved: ‘That permission be granted to place the slab on the wall at the back of the stage and alongside the machine gun’; the motion was seconded by Cr Wild and carried. The marble memorial was then erected on the stage of the hall by brothers John and Joe Hubinger. Special foundations were made beneath the stage and the marble was firmly embedded.

The following month Premier Ted Theodore attended a public reception in the evening at Cardwell where he was feted and entertained, and officially unveiled the marble tablet in the Shire Hall. The reception and dance held on 11 May 1922 were attended by many members of the community from Cardwell, Murray Upper and as far north as Innisfail. It was too wet the next day for the official party to travel to Ingham by motor vehicle as planned, so the Premier and his party departed Cardwell by steamer.

Three years later in October 1925, the Queensland Governor Sir Mathew Nathan again visited Cardwell during his farewell tour of the state as Governor. He arrived on Friday 9th, visited local schools and among other duties inspected the beachfront Monument to the Fallen of WW1 which he had unveiled four years previously. A public welcoming function for Governor Nathan was presided over by Deputy Shire Chairman Patrick Creagh and attended by many locals on the Saturday evening. On Monday the Governor inspected the new sugar mill at Tully and then left by train for the north.

A second marble plaque was added to Cardwell’s Stone of Remembrance near the jetty after the Second World War, in memory of men from Cardwell who were killed in action or died on active service during 1939-1945. On Anzac Day 1988 an additional bronze plaque honouring all who had served in the two World Wars and the Korean and Vietnam Wars was unveiled at the Remembrance Stone by the Deputy Commissioner of the Queensland Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr G. Stonehouse.

It was fitting that so soon after the Great War, an honour roll was commissioned by the community and installed in the Shire Hall in Cardwell, at the seat of local government. This memorial remains where it was then placed although the use of the building has changed.

In 1929 the Council moved its administration from Cardwell to Tully but in an historically affectionate twist the Honour Roll firmly links the 1892 Cardwell Shire Hall with the town of Tully that was settled only after 1924, when a new sugar mill was built on Banyan Creek.

The Council, still operating from Cardwell at that time, resolved to name the streets of the new Tully township after those who’d given war service in 1914-18 as listed on the Cardwell Honour Roll, believing this would be a good way to show public appreciation for the patriotism of local service men and women. A continuation of this Council policy meant that the much older town of Cardwell settled 50 years before WW1, acquired its war-related street names from those residents who served in WW2 and later wars.

Although the Council administration vacated the Cardwell Shire Hall in its move to Tully in 1929, the old hall remained at the centre of Cardwell’s public life for the next 50 years under the community-minded management of the local branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association (from 1929 to 1945) and then the Cardwell RSL Sub-branch (from January 1 1945).

1n 1988/89 the old hall was refurbished and re-opened as the Council Library, incorporating a museum facility. Twenty years later the library shifted to its current location in a new building on the other side of Balliol Street. This occurred immediately before the Cardwell Shire was amalgamated with the Johnstone Shire, inaugurating the Cassowary Coast Regional Council. The seat of local government had moved even further away from Cardwell, to Innisfail, and at virtually the same time the old Shire Hall became simply a museum, the J. C. Hubinger Memorial Museum.

A major threat to the survival of the old hall came during a controversial insurance repair job after major structural damage to the museum in cyclone Yasi in February 2011. The Roll of Honour was temporarily removed for its protection during the repairs, although the rear stage section of the old hall in which the Honour Roll stands, was fully retained.

More than 25 years earlier, at a public meeting in 1984 the chairman of Cardwell Shire Council, Tip Byrne, had given an undertaking that the Honour Roll would be placed in a prominent position in any future hall in Cardwell. The memorial was considered to be of great value not only to the members of the Cardwell Veterans community, but to the people of the Shire, and every effort should be made to protect it, according to Cardwell RSL secretary Cliff Muncey, and president Bob Russell who wrote to Council in 1984. The then new Community Hall on the corner of Brasenose and Gregory Streets, was expected to be the home of the Cardwell RSL sub-branch and it was proposed that the Honour Roll should be incorporated in a prominent place in the new building’s foyer.

However in June 1988 Council resolved that the Honour Roll would remain in its location in the old Shire Hall. Briefly in 1992, there were attempts by some residents to have it moved to the Community Hall, the Coral Sea Park or the Cardwell RSL rooms but this was resisted, especially by those with a family link to names on the tablet. The Director of the National Trust wrote to Council and to the Tully Times newspaper expressing concern that moving the memorial would be detrimental to its cultural value: by nature memorials are intended to evoke continuity and remembrance for all time and should remain where first erected. And so this historic Cardwell memorial has remained precisely where a grieving and gracious community placed it after the tumult of the Great War.

In the year leading up to the centenary of the start of WW1, on 21 March 2013, the J. C. Hubinger Museum and the Cardwell Honour Roll were officially listed as state heritage assets under permanent protection orders. These historic symbols of the unity and strength exhibited by the Cardwell community in difficult days early last century are re-energised and reinforced: cemented into our history as those who erected them had envisaged.

*Information on the servicemen and servicewomen whose names are inscribed on the Cardwell Honour Roll, and whose stories are attached here, was provided by Helen Pedley. Helen carried out extensive research on these early residents of Cardwell and its surrounding rural areas for her book ‘Tully Street Names: signs of history” published in 2010.

Built for Cardwell Historical Society by Seamus Campbell www.boldacious.com.au

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Cardwell Shire Hall, 1910

Cardwell’s Police Magistrate’s Courthouse in about 1900

Victoria Street, Cardwell in 1923

Butler street, Tully in 1925

Intersection of Bryant Street and Watkins Street, Tully, in 1925

Brosnan: Postcard sent home by Ted Brosnan from Egypt in 1916

Miss Elizabeth Henry, 1914, at the family home, Bellenden, shortly before she volunteered.

Commonwealth: The Commonwealth was taken over and served as a troopship during WW1. Edward and John McQuillan both left Brisbane on this ship in 1916.

Encounter: The Australian Light Cruiser HMAS Encounter on which Henry Richardson served during WW1