Treasure in the eyes of children

portrait of school children from the bowen bridge road state school windsor brisbane c1910 - john oxley library state library of queensland 145930Look deep into the faces of these children. They’re all gone now, the photo having been taken over a century ago. However, some enthralling stories of what these little eyes saw are now breathing the fresh air again after I walked around their old playground.

Bowen Bridge Road State School was built in 1865 and was gone by about 1917. Strolling around what is now a park on the northside of Brisbane, my detectorist buddy George and I found some relics (pictured below) that recall the school’s fascinating past.

relicsWe discovered old coins including an 1888 English halfpenny, probably lost by one of the early school children who may have gone without lunch as a result. There was also a Holloway trade token from 1857, which was a penny token used back when small currency was scarce across the British colonies. On one side is a portrait of Thomas ‘Professor’ Holloway who was a colourful advertising genius and purveyor of pills and ointments. He became one of the richest men in Britain. His Georgian house in Berkshire was later the home of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and Ringo Starr after that. The token was probably lost as the children compared collections in the far back corner of the school where it was found.

There was also a button from the uniform jacket of the Queensland Post and Telegraph Department back in colonial times. This button was worn in 1894-1901 before the federation of Australia. The unknown wearer, proud in his uniform in front of the children, may well have been the man who cleared the “pillar letter-receiver” that was installed on nearby Lisson Grove in 1899.

old bowen bridge road state school in brisbane c1910 - john oxley library state library of queensland 10145We found a handful of copper rivets that held the slate tiles on the roof of the old school. You can see the school’s slate roof in the background of this photo taken circa 1910. This was around the same time that the image of the children above was captured, and about when Cadet H. Griffiths delighted the school with six bull’s eyes and an inner, to carry off a first prize at the annual rifle meeting of the Commonwealth Military Cadet Corps.  This cadet may have been Henry Griffiths who was later twice wounded in the First World War.

vivian thomas maynard 1881-1955 - john oxley library state library of queensland the queenslander pictorial 1 february 1919 p28 (2)Henry’s lieutenant in the school’s cadet corps was teacher Vivian Maynard (pictured right). Vivian’s father John Maynard was the first head teacher at the first school in Townsville, and for 38 years the head teacher at Bowen Bridge Road. During the war, Vivian served with the Australian Field Ambulance at Gallipoli and France. In 1918 he earned a Military Medal for bravery when he defied a shell exploding amongst him and his fellow stretcher bearers, to immediately adjust the respirators of the five survivors, dress their wounds, and carry them to safety. All that despite a continuing heavy barrage. Perhaps it was Vivian’s war souvenir Lee-Enfield rifle bullet projectile and fired shell that we found at the school where he parading his boys.

We also found horse tack, a horse shoe, and a harmonica reed, among other things. These are all essential items for school children back in the 19th century. I’m sure the eyes of the children above had seen them all.

Photo credits:
School children from the Bowen Bridge Road State School c1910 – John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 145930
Relics – my own
Bowen Bridge Road State School c1910 – John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, 10145
Vivian Thomas Maynard 1881-1955 – John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland The Queenslander Pictorial, 1 February 1919, p28

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  1. Hi, Harold, as an old Valleyite, where exactly was the Bowen Bridge Road School? In my working career, I used those copper sprigs to anchor roof slates. When we repaired Toorak House, we needed new slates which were in short supply. We were contacted by a Victorian diver who offered as many as we needed from a sunken shipwreck off the Victorian coast.:-)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ross, the school was on Windsor Park just down from the old Windsor Council Chambers. That’s a great story about your work on historic Toorak House. Did you end up using the ship wreck slate tiles? Toorak House a place I reckon that could tell a few good stories, and was built in exactly the same period as the school!


    • Morning, Harold. Yes, we used the shipwreck slates extensively on Toorak House. Diver wouldn`t tell us which ship they came from, possibly because other hungry divers might raid it. I used to be a keen skin-diver and had quite a library of shipwrecks in Oz, but I never traced the name of the ship. I contribute stories on Facebook`s Fortitude Valley Revisited website, but not many areas are metal detectable. Parks are a no-no under the BCC`s rules and few buildings get demolished. And when they do, they keep us out. Keep up the good work, both with your research of history and the detecting. Ross

      Liked by 1 person

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