Magnetic Island North Queensland
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June 6th 2013
Picnic Bay School Centenary - an entree

The first aircraft to land in Townsville This weekend, and into next week, a major celebration will occur on Magnetic Island when the Picnic Bay School celebrates its centenary. As an appetiser for this colourful and much-anticipated occasion, H.O. McColl, AKA Charlie McColl, has put together the following entree - a taste of those times - of which we can expect much more in the next few days.

In August 1913, this flimsy machine was the first ever aircraft to land at Townsville - putting down at the Cluden race course. That same year, the magnificent Great Northern Railway station opened on Flinders Street in Townsville and a wireless telegraph station was established in Victoria Park with a 50 metre high timber tower supporting the aerial.

Townsville was booming and all the accoutrements of a modern, transport-oriented, technically advanced city were being laid in to support the cane farming, gold mining and beef cattle industries that were powering the boom.

Magnetic Island was hardly lagging behind. The large Quarantine Station at West Point, by then more than 25 years old, anchored government attention on the Island as farmers in all the bays experimented with primary production that could find an outlet either in the holiday resort businesses at Picnic Bay or in the wider market over the water. A local writer, 'The Pakeha', captured the scene in a feature article:

Messrs Butler (Cockle Bay), Fraser (Picnic Bay), and Neilson (Horseshoe Bay), are making very large plantings of pineapple suckers, and the reputation of Magnetic Island on the score of this fruit is not likely to suffer. From all parts of the State there is strong demand for the smooth-leafed variety of apple sucker, so particular to the Island, as high as £1 a hundred being freely paid for the plants. A very strong effort is being made to complete the new jetty at Nellie Bay before Easter, and all going well this much needed work will then be out of hand.

Great interest is being taken in the arrival of Mr R Hayles’s new steamer, and it is hoped that with its advent something approaching a steamship service commensurate with the demands of the Island will take place. From what I can learn at present, it is intended to run an early service to all the bays each day, with an extra boat early on the Mondays. Mr J Murrie, the popular owner of the Townsville, also intends to have a new boat off the stocks during the next month.

Townsville Daily Bulletin, 24 February 1914.

The first school building at Picnic Bay

These developments had brought many new settlers and their children to the Island - children who needed housing, feeding and ultimately schooling. In 1913 the parents of Magnetic Island were so determined to educate their children that they built a school themselves. This humble shed, the original provisional school, served its purpose until 1921 when that same local determination finally delivered the first, proper State School to Magnetic Island and with it the beginnings of the skilled, motivated, outward-focused community that we have become today.

This weekend the Picnic Bay school celebrates 100 years of public education on Magnetic Island. The History and Craft Centre has organised a fantastic display at the school and invited hundreds of people to return to their alma mater for the occasion. Many, many locals are ex-pupils of Picnic Bay. Why not join them on Saturday afternoon and each day through to Wednesday 12 June - the exact date of the 100th birthday.

H. O. McColl

Photos: The first aircraft to land at Townsville. Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of CityLibraries Townsville, Local History Collection

First school building at Picnic Bay. Photographer unknown, image courtesy of Charlie Olsen.

Picnic Bay School Centenary - an entree
Pat Trewin
June 6th 2013
Nice one, Charlie - it certainly adds an extra dimension to this important event to have it placed in its local historical context.
June 6th 2013
Thanks for the éntree, Charlie - it is lovely to read about local history when succinct, and readable to the masses. What a great start....
Syl Hayes
June 6th 2013
Great work by all involved in the organising of this momentous celebration. Eagerly anticipating The Book! and lots more special unveilings.
June 7th 2013
Great article

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