Emu Park – Birth of a Town – OOPAL
Emu Park was gazetted as a township on January 9th, 1869. It was not called Emu Park then, it was given the name Hewittville, after the man who battled so hard for its establishment. Mr Gregory, the Government Surveyor, objected to its being gazetted as he favoured the area now known as Yeppoon. As a result of his objection there was a hold up in the sale of land, but as the people of Rockhampton, and there were many of them who visited the area favoured it, Mr Gregory’s objection was overruled and the first land sale took place in Rockhampton on May 18th, 1870.
The first land put up for sale by the Crown comprised five sections. The upset price was 8 pound per acre.
It was not until 1871 that buildings started to go up. One of the first was built by Mr Rees R. Jones on the corner of Emu and Granville Street; other houses were built, but building was slow, owing to the difficulty of getting material to the Park. This had to be brought in by dray and bullock teams. Mr Charles Redman conducted this class of business and Mr Robert Hewitt started a mail and passenger service, which he continued for a considerable time. It was a once a week service, leaving Rockhampton on Saturday and returning on Monday morning; it took four hours to journey from Rockhampton, even with a good pair of horses.
Emu Park – The Singing Ship
During 1969, the attention of all Local Authorities was drawn to the Bi-Centenary of the discovery of Australia by Captain James Cook in 1770 and the desirability of having appropriate celebrations.
A meeting was convened of all interested parties and the Captain Cook Bi-Centenary Celebrations Committee was formed under the chairmanship of Mr J.B. Hinz, Chairman of the Livingstone Shire Council, with Tom Edminstone as Secretary and Frank Edwards as Treasurer.
A competition was held for a suitable expression of commemoration with a prize of $100.00. About twenty entries were received and the prize was awarded to a tie between Mrs C.M. Westmoreland for her drawing of the Singing Ship and the Lions Club of Yeppoon for their idea of a Youth Holiday Camp on one of the islands in Keppel Bay.
The Committee adopted the Singing Ship as its commemoration object in preference to the Holiday Camp idea as the latter appeared to be more of a long term project which could not be completed in time for the due date of May 30th the following year.
The Lions Club persevered with their idea later on and achieved their objective.
The Committee commenced fund raising with a target of $5,000.00 and the Lions Club generously donated their share of the prize to the project. Fund raising progressed slowly, no large donations being received except for $300.00 from Rockhampton City Council, Fitzroy Shire Council and Livingstone Shire Council. A collective donation from the Rockhampton and District Historical Society of $100.00 brought the fund up to its first $1,000.00.
After inspection of several sites along the Capricorn Coast, the present site, then known as Churchill’s Lookout near Fishermans Beach, was selected and submitted to the Livingstone Shire Council for approval, which was given. Tenure of the land was to be arranged with the Lands Department.
Mr S.W. Kele, a Rockhampton steel and concrete contractor had become interested in the project, and Mr D. Thomas and Mr G. Cain, lectures in Engineering and Physics respectively at the Capricornia Institute of Advanced Education, also became interested. The success of the project was the result of these people’s knowledge and work.
While George Cain experimented with piping and perforations on the roof of the Institute to find the correct sizes required for the sound effect, David Thomas prepared, from the artist’s drawing, section plans for the structure at various heights, and estimates of the steel and concrete required.
As Mr Thomas said, such an edifice would require to be moulded as it was being built, rather than being built to a set plan, owing to its form. Steve Kele was definitely the man for the job and with only five months to go before the due date of May 30th, work was commenced on the laying of the foundation slab which was necessary as there was only sand for many feet below the surface of the site.
This slab was thirty feet in diameter and two feet thick make of reinforced concrete. The ship itself was to be forty feet high with dimensions in proportion to the artist’s drawing. Mrs “Peggy” Westmorland made a model of the ship, which was of great assistance.
It was expected at the time, that “working bees” under the direction of Steve Kele would do the job, thus cutting down the expense, but this did not work out, except for a few individuals who gave time and effort when they could.
On looking back, the project was a formidable undertaking and the finished work is a credit to the builder’s skill and ingenuity.
As work progressed, Steve realised that he was being left to build the Ship more or less on his own resources, with family and hired labour and no contract. This led to some recriminations later on but they were finally ironed out.
At last, the Ship was finished and ready in time for the unveiling and it did sing in the wind as was the artist’s intention.
On a lovely day, May 30th, 1970, in the presence of a large crowd of interested people, the main plaque was unveiled by the Hon. Ian Sinclair, Minister for Shipping in the Federal Parliament, who was presented with a coloured photograph of the Singing Ship as a memento of the occasion. Two plaques had been cast by Burns and Twigg under the supervision of Committeeman Mr S.A. Robinson, a former foundry owner of Rockhampton. The main plaque was to the honour of Captain Cook and the second paid tribute to the Artist, the Engineer, the Accoustician and to the Builder.
One thing was overlooked at the time, but this was remedied by the Rockhampton and District Historical Society. It had been intended to place a Time Capsule in a space left for that purpose in the base of the concrete block supporting the main plaque. The Capsule was place five years late almost to the day and is to be opened on the 300th anniversary of Captain Cook’s discovery.
There remained the payment of the Builder’s account which had been rendered in detail to the Committee for a total of about $5,500.00 of which $3,000.00 had been paid. Many things like travelling time, crane hire, incidental living away from home expenses and general business overhead expenses had not been charged. Had these been included, and the value of all material and labour donated, the total cost would have been in the vicinity of $30,000.00.
Mr Kele and his family generously wrote off $1,000.00 and in recognition of the value of the Singing Ship to the community, the three Councils donated another $800.00. Finally to the rescue came the Emu Park Progress Association and the Rockhampton Rodeo Picnic Club with the balance owing.
In appreciation of the tourist potential of the Singing Ship, the Livingstone Shire Council, now with a change of members, has constructed a sealed road and car park at the site.
The many visitors leave favourable comments in the Visitor’s Book, and the popularity and the more than Australia-wide renown, of the Memorial is a tribute to those who were inspired to erect it.
It should be recorded that Steve Kele’s interest in the project did not cease with the finished job. Grass was planted and tended; stepping stones, seats and a refuse bin were provided; and a Wishing Well with direction pointers and Visitor’s Book were set up, while Steve and his family acted as trustees and caretakers.
Emu Park – Into the Tropics – Captain Cook Voyage
Extract from the journal of Captain James Cook compiled during the voyage of the Endeavour up the eastern coast of Australia in 1770.
Friday May 25th
(Days were apparently from Noon til Noon, Ed.) In the PM had it calm until 5 o’clock when a light breeze sprung up at SE and we steer’d NW as the land lay until 10 o’clock, then brought too having had along 14 and 15 fathom water. At 5 in the AM we made sail, at day light the northernmost point of the main bore N70° West and soon after we saw more land making like islands bearing NWBN. At 9 o’clock we were abreast of the point distant from it 1 Mile, depth of water 14 fathom. I found this point to lay directly under the Tropick of Capricorn and for that reason call’d it by that Name. Longde 209°O’ West.
It is of moderate height and looks white and barren and may be known by some Islands which layes to the NW of it and some small rocks one League SE from it. On the west side of the Cape there appear’d to be a Lagoon of the two spits which form’d the entrance where a great number of Pelicans at least I so call them. The most northernmost land we could see bore from C. Capricorn N24° West and appear’d to an Island, but the Main land trended WBN1/2N which Course we steer’d having from 15 to 6 fathom and from 6 to 9 a hard sandy bottom. At noon our Latitude by observation was 23°24’S. C. Capricorn bore S60° east distant 2 Leagues, a small Island NBE 2 Miles. In this situation had 9 fm water at the distance of 4 Miles from the Main land, which is here low and Sandy next the Sea, except the points which are moderately high and rocky; in land the Country is hilly and affords but a very indifferent prospect.
Saturday May 26th
In the PM had a light breeze at ESE with which we stood to the NW until 4 oclock when it fell Cam and soon after we Anchor’d in 12 fathom water, Cape Capricorn bearing S54° East distant 4 Leagues, having the Main land and Islands in a manner all around us.
In the night we found the tide to rise and fall near 7 feet and the flood to set to the westward and Ebb to the Eastward, which is the very reverse to what we found when at Anchor to the Eastward of Bustard Bay. At 6 in the AM we weigh’d with the wind at South a gentle breeze and stood away to the NW between the outermost raing(e) of Islands and the Main land, leaving several small Island(s) between us and the latter, which we passed close by. Our soundings was a little erregular from 12 to 4 fathom which caused me to send a boat a head to sound. At noon we were about 3 Miles from the Main about the same distance from the Islands without us, out Latitude by obsn was 23°7’S and Longitude made from Cape Capricorn 18 miles west. The Main land in this Latitude is tolerable high and Mountainous and the Island which lay off it are the most of them pretty high and of a small circuit and have more the appearance of barrenness than fertility.
We saw smooks a good way inland which makes me think that there must be a River Lagoon or Inlet into the Country and we pass’d two places that had the appearance of such this morning, but our depth of water at that time was too little to haul in for them where I might expect to meet with less.
Sunday May 27th
We had not stood in to the northward quite an hour before we fell into 3 fathom water, upon which I Anchor’d and sent away the master with two boats to sound the Channell which lay to the leeward of us between the Northermost Island and the Main land, which appear’d to me to be pretty broad; but I suspected that it was shoal and so it was found, for the Master reported to me upon his return that he found in many places only 21/2 fathoms, and where we lay at Anchor we had only 16 feet which was not 2 feet more than the Ship draw’d. In the evening the wind Veer’d to ENE which gave us an opportunity to stretch 3 or 4 Miles back the way we came before the wind shifted to South and oblige’d us again to anchor in 6 fathom. At 5 o’clock in the AM I sent away the Master with two boats to search for a passage out between the Islands while we got the Ship under sail. As soon as it was light the Signal was made by the boats of their having found a passage upon which we follow’d with the Ship. After we got out and into deep water we hoisted in the boats and made Sail to the Northward as the land lay, soundings from 9 to 15 fathom, having still some small Islands without us. At Noon we were about 2 Leagues from the Main land and by observation in the latitude of 22°53’S, Longitude made from Cape Capricorn 20 miles west. At this the northernmost point of land we had in sight bore NNW distant 10 Miles, this point I name C. Manyfold from the number of high hills over it. Latitude 22°43’S, It lies N26° West distant 17 1/3 Leagues from C. Capricorn, between them the shore forms a large bay which I call’d Keppel Bay and the Islands which lay in and off it are known by the same name. In this Bay is good anchorage where there is a sufficient depth of water. What refreshments it may afford for shipping I know not, we caught no fish here not withstanding we were at anchor. It can hardly be doubted but what it affords fresh water in several place(s) as both main land and Islands are inhabited; we saw smooks by day and fires in the night upon the Main and people upon one of the Islands.
Emu Park – King O’Malley
Here is the story of a man who came to Emu Park suffering from tuberculosis, but he came prepared to die, for he brought his coffin with him. He was an American, named King O’Malley.
King O’Malley, a Californian who was suffering from tuberculosis, was told by a sailor that if he went to Australia, to a place called Rockhampton, he would be cured of his complaint. So he induced a captain of a ship leaving for Australia and the port of Rockhampton to take him on board. O’Malley was so sick he did not think he would live to reach Australia, so he had a lead coffin made so that if he died on the voyage, he could be buried at sea, without having to be sewn up in canvas, thus saving the captain and sailors a lot of bother.
He survived the voyage to Port Alma where he and his coffin were put ashore. Two fishermen on the wharf asked where he was heading for; O’Malley said he wanted to find a place where he could live in the sun as he was very sick. They told him they were going fishing, but they would drop him off at Emu Park, as it was deemed a health resort. They told him there were fine beaches and he could find a place to stay. He felt so sick and could hardly stand, so he accepted their offer, said goodbye to his coffin and departed with the fishermen.
They put him ashore on a small beach between Rocky Point and Zilzie. O’Malley saw a cave there and stooped to get into it, he lay down where the sun would shine on him and closed his eyes, too ill to care what happened to him.
A tall aborigine named Coowonga carried him some distance and put his down gently in a rough shelter built of logs and bark. It overlooked a lovely stretch of beach and ocean. Coowonga left O’Malley and went back to the cave to get his belongings. When he returned, he pointed to the cave and O’Malley realised that if Coowonga had not found him and carried him from the cave he would have been drowned by the incoming tide.
He had to rely on Coowonga for a great deal of help and care, but the aborigine seemed pleased to be of service. At last, after nearly two years, O’Malley felt he was growing strong again, and it was wonderful to be able to breathe freely again and be free of the racking cough.
One morning Coowonga came to O’Malley and said, “We all go walkabout, too many white men come. Kangaroo and Emu he go, we go too, you no want me now.” But O’Malley decided to go too; so he packed his few belongings and made ready to leave Emu Park.
While in Rockhampton he offered Coowonga a sum of money in appreciation of all the services he had rendered him, but Coowonga refused the money and picking up O’Malley’s swag headed off in a southerly direction. He went a few miles along with King, then suddenly he handed King’s swag back and disappeared into the bush. O’Malley never heard of, or ever saw him again.
O’Malley travelled on foot all the way to Brisbane, meeting a few people on the way. This man was destined to become one of Australia’s great men. He came to Emu Park in the early part of Emu Park’s history prepared to die, but God provided him with a “Man Friday” who saved his file and nursed him back to health, to become the founder of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and to conceive the building of the Transcontinental Railway. He was Minister for Home Affairs from 1910 to 1913 and 1915 to 1916, King O’Malley died on December 20th, 1953, at the age of 99 years and 6 months.
Was it the climate of Emu Park, the good nursing by an Aborigine, or the Burdekin plums that prolonged the life of this great man. O’Malley always maintained that Emu Park was the finest health resort in the world. Emu Park lost a great attraction when the cave that sheltered this great and wonderful man, collapsed into the sea during the heavy rains, high winds and rough seas, experienced in February and March 1890.