It’s cold in Queensland this week and in Ipswich west of Brisbane it’s forecast to get as low as one degree Celcius. It might even snow on the nearby Granite Belt. It actually snowed in Ipswich eighty-seven years ago and this is the fascinating tale of the horticulturalist who reported the unique event – and his famous bougainvilleas. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.
It happened on the afternoon of Saturday the 1st of September 1934 when the temperature got down to twelve degrees. Queensland is called the Sunshine State with half the place in the tropics. That’s why this occurrence in the first half of the twentieth century is so unusual. It remains to this day the only record of snow in Ipswich where it can hit forty degrees.
There were unusually heavy storm clouds in the west but the sun was shining, and shortly after 5pm, Mr and Mrs Turley at Queen’s Park were amazed to see snow begin to fall.
The snow continued to fall for a full two minutes, it was quite thick with the flakes as big as sixpences, and melted before reaching the ground. Immediately afterwards a hailstorm hit.
Finding out about the snow is interesting, but the fascination of history comes from the people who make it. The Mr Turley who reported the snow is one of the most amazing but forgotten residents of Ipswich.
His full name is Frederick William Turley who was the curator of parks in Ipswich for twenty-six years from 1909 to 1935 having learned his craft at Kew Gardens in London. He and his wife Jessie lived in the curator’s house in Ipswich’s Queen’s Park. That’s where they both received the frightening news of their soldier son Edward being wounded at Gallipoli in 1915.
Turley was the man responsible for the beautification of the city’s Limestone Hill. Most of the work was carried out as part of a Relief Work Scheme during the Depression in the 1930s including the terraced pyramid, limestone gardens and walls.
I’ve had a look in the park and found pennies from the 1930s which are historic reminders from back when the work was done.
When important people visited Ipswich, a civic reception was often held in Queen’s Park. Because of that, Frederick Turley was there with a front row seat for the visits of uniquely the oldest three sons of King George V. That was the future King Edward VIII in 1920, the future King George VI in 1927, and Prince Henry in 1934.
Turley was Queensland’s greatest horticulturalist. He was known throughout Australia for his propagation of bougainvillea, and he named more than thirty different varieties. His own name is perpetuated by a beautiful red variety called ‘Turley’s Special.’
The last bougainvillea he raised was planted at Government House in Brisbane and was named ‘Lady Wilson’ after the wife of the then governor Sir Leslie Wilson, and apparently it’s still there today.
Turley popularised bougainvilleas to such an extent that in 1930 it was voted as Ipswich’s official floral emblem. Today the city’s emblem is a native plant called the Plunkett Mallee, but Turley’s bougainvilleas helped put Ipswich on the map.
So when it gets cold this week, remember Mr and Mrs Turley who saw the snow at Ipswich eighty-seven years ago, and especially think of their bougainvilleas that are still among the best known in Australia.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THE STORY TOLD ON WEST BREMER RADIO.
Snow in Queensland 2015 – Pininterest, Drews Sign It Pry Ltd
Snow in Ipswich 1934 headlines – Queensland Times, Ipswich, Monday 3rd September 1934, page 6
Mr F.W. Turley – Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 4th August 1925, page 28