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Founders Day

Founders Day

Speech presented by Mr Chris Wilson, TGS Archivist:  Founders Day - 16 April 2024

"The development of a School Museum for Townsville Grammar School is long overdue. It has been discussed for years and the concept has always had broad support.

Thank you, Mr Kelly for your commitment to bringing this this project of gathering, preserving, and exhibiting the history of our school, to fruition. The museum will be a place where we will be able to share information about ‘Our Place, Our People and Our Stories'.

Quite rightly, space in the redeveloped School House has been allocated for the museum, and in the very near future we will start populating the cabinets with memorabilia.

It is really special for me to be able to share a few images and stories with you today. I hope that each one of you, students, and staff, becomes a little more curious about Our Place, Our People and Our Stories.

I know that you will recognise many of the names I mention, and I really hope you will find some of the stories I share as interesting and perhaps as surprising as I have.

Our Year 11 and 12 students may remember Emily Price, School Captain in 2020. What you may not know is that Emily’s great grandfather, Spenser Hopkins, was one of the 14 boys who walked into TGS, through the Burke Street gate, on this day 136 years ago, as the youngest student in that first cohort. He was just nine years old.

Hodges House was named after our first Headmaster, CH Hodges, serving from 1888 to 1900. Did you know that he had a pet Cassowary, known as the Black Prince, who walked around the grounds with him, with its head tucked between his arm and his coat.

When I say School grounds, the only buildings at that time were School House and the Headmaster’s House which stood approximately where the Performing Arts facility is now.

It was during Hodges’ tenure that the first two girls, Mary Foley and Letitia Crowder enrolled in Terms 2 and 3 of 1893, making our school the oldest co-educational secondary school on mainland Australia.

TGS was a boys school and were no plans to admit girls. Legend has it that Mary’s parents enrolled her using her initials - not her first names - so Headmaster Hodges did not know that he was enrolling a girl.

Letitia Crowder followed in Term 3 of the same year.

Miller House is named for our 2nd Headmaster.

I bet you didn’t know Mr FT Miller a fine sportsman, he was a noted cricketer and played off a scratch handicap as a golfer.

It was during his time that the most devastating event in our School’s history occurred.

Over two hours, after lunch time on Monday, 9 March 1903, School House was destroyed by Cyclone Leonta.

The girls we kept safe in the Headmaster’s House whilst the boys sought shelter in School House -  until it started to fall apart. They then relocated to the creek.

Seven days later, the school reopened in the Town Hall in Flinders Street East and later moved to the museum on Stanton Hill.

In 1903 there were about 60 students, of which 15 were boarders.

The boarders (all boys) were hosted in the homes of a neighbour until they moved into the Headmaster’s House. They worked hard clearing the grounds and replanting trees after school hours and over weekends.

Rowland House was named after Percy Fitz Rowland, the third, and arguably our most iconic Headmaster.

Mr Rowland, like his two predecessors, came to Australia from England and like them, he was an Oxbridge student. They had all also taught at some of the all-boys, elite British Public Schools (Private schools in England are called Public schools).

Boss Rowland, as he was affectionately known, was a man of languages and literature, teaching French, Greek, Latin & English. He wrote 100s of essays across a range of subjects that were published in the local newspaper. He authored a number of books (some of which will on display in the Museum). Mr Rowland also wrote the poem which is engraved on the memorial in ANZAC Park.

The world 120 years ago was a different world to the world we live in, and like Headmasters Hodges and Miller before him, Boss Rowland was not keen on having girls in the School. In fact he is quoted as saying “… we discourage the attendance of girls who are not prepared to work .. he said .. discipline is easier … it is not easy (for a boy) to be in love with a girl who is beating him in the class places every fortnight”.

It was a very different world - please don’t judge Mr Rowland.

During these early years, the boys entered the School grounds through the Burke Street gate, not too far from the current entrance between the Rheuben Science Block and the Alan Morwood Library. The Memorial Gates were moved from Burke Street in 2014 and now stand next to the gully.

The girls entered the School through a gate behind the current Middle School.

The girls had a dedicated ‘rec room’ or sanctuary, the Dovecot, adjacent to the Headmasters House. They retreated to the Dovecot when not in class.

There were different bell times for the boys and girls with girls entering the classrooms five minutes before the boys and leaving class 5 minutes early to head to their Dovecot.

Things changed dramatically for PF Rowland and girls at Townsville Grammar School in 1905 when Effie Hartley was named as the first female Dux of the School - in fact she was Dux for two consecutive years in 1904 and 1905.

Mr Rowland approached the Board of Trustees requesting that girl enrolments be increased to at least 20 per year.

Also of historical interest is that both of our Rhodes Scholars, George Hall and Chester Parker were enrolled during the Rowlands era and were no doubt mentored by him.

If I were to name my super-hero of our school it would be Tommy Whight, the man who gave his name to Whight House.

Thomas Burnside Whight was our fourth Headmaster and our first Australian-born headmaster.

But he was more than just that, Tommy attended TGS as a student. His Headmaster, Boss Rowlands, described him as, “a boy not only of books, but a boy talented at games”.

He then taught at TGS before going on to appointed as Headmaster in 1939.

TB Whight ran our school during the period of the 2nd World War, a very difficult time.

In December 1941, Japan entered the war, consequently the Queensland Government closed all schools on the eastern seaboard.

Initially, a number of TGS students along with their desks, chairs and books, were relocated by train to schools in Charters Towers.

In March of 1942, the schools closure order was rescinded. However, the North Ward campus had already been taken over by the RAAF and the ovals covered in tents.

TB Whight would not accept closure of his school and sort alternate premises. He found the McInness Home in Rosslea, and later an additional nearby home (for the 17 boarders).

It seems likely that without the determination of TB Whight, Townsville Grammar may have closed its doors permanently in the 1940s and you would not be sitting here today.

Townsville Grammar School has a great deal to be thankful for and these four men were, all in their own ways, instrumental in moulding our School into what it is today.

Thank you all for your attention and your patience and I hope that you have found a gem of interest in these stories about Our People and Our Place. I hope you have learnt something new about our school and become a little more curious about our history.

Thank you."

Bonus Intra Melior Exi
North Ward Campus

45 Paxton Street
North Ward Qld 4810

4722 4900

(Years 7-12 Day & Boarding)

Annandale Campus

1 Brazier Drive
Annandale Qld 4814

4412 4800

(Pre-Prep to Year 6)

North Shore Campus

North Shore Boulevard
Burdell Qld 4818

4412 6600

(Pre-Prep to Year 6)