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The Isis District War Memorial and Shire Council Chambers (Childers, Queensland's Bundaberg Region)

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posted by Buddy Patrick alias Buddy Patrick on Saturday 2nd of July 2016 09:49:30 AM

The Isis District War Memorial and Shire Council Chambers was constructed in 1926 and is the second administration building for the Isis Shire Council located in the town of Childers. In the 1870s timber cutters were the first European settlers to come to the area surrounding Childers, attracted by large quantities of hoop pine, red cedar, and other timbers. The town was established during the 1880s after the land in the nearby area was surveyed into 50 acre farm blocks in 1882. There was no official town survey and Childers developed following the private subdivision of portions 870 and 871, at the railhead of the 1887 extension line from Isis Junction. Childers and other towns in the present Isis Shire were originally part of the Burrum Divisional Board which was based in Maryborough. There was considerable discontent during the 1880s amongst the ratepayers of the fledgling town who felt disadvantaged and neglected. The Burrum Divisional Board covered a very extensive area and the 36 mile journey to Maryborough coupled with the poor condition of the roads meant that representatives from the Isis district often failed to attend meetings. The Isis ratepayers and Isis Progress Association presented a petition for separation to the then Governor-in-Chief, Sir Anthony Musgrave and the members of the Executive Council of Queensland. They requested that Sub-division 3 be severed from the Division of Burrum and be constituted as a separate division, the Division of Isis. The Governor and Executive Council agreed to the petitioners' request and on the 31st of December 1886 the Isis Divisional Board was proclaimed. Meetings and elections were held in Howard at the Court House and board members from Childers rode on horseback to attend meetings once a month. The location of the Board's office was an issue of contention for a number of years and various propositions were presented for re-locating to Childers, Isistown, or to a new building in Howard. In 1891, an offer of land in Childers was made to the Board and they subsequently made an application to the government for a loan of £250 to erect a new building. From 1891, the Isis Divisional Board met in the Land's Office, two rooms adjoining the Post and Telegraph Office in Childers. In 1903, the Isis Divisional Board was abolished by the Governor-in-Council and the Isis Shire Council was created. That same year, the Council moved to the Isis Shire Council Hall, a low-set timber building which had been constructed in Churchill Street on the site of the present swimming pool. World War One (WWI) had a profound impact on the small town. Large numbers of young men from the district enlisted and the town experienced a loss of 60 from a population of 1500. A deputation of men and women from the Isis District War Memorial Committee approached the Isis Shire Council at its General Meeting on the 20th of October 1924 to discuss the possibility of jointly constructing the "Isis District War Memorial Shire Council Chambers". The proposed building would house a Soldiers' Memorial and a room for returned soldiers as well as new Council Chambers. A joint committee was formed. A driving force behind the war memorial project was the then Shire Clerk, Mr Herbert Epps. Epps was a former councillor who had relinquished his position on Council to take up the job of Shire Clerk, a responsibility he maintained until his death in 1932. One of his three sons was killed in action in France in 1917 and he was passionate in his determination to have the War Memorial Council Chambers erected. The Joint Committee had decided to invite competitive designs for the building and received entries in early February 1925. The submissions were judged without knowledge of the authors and "design number two" was chosen. The winner was Brisbane architect Francis Jones. Jones had undertaken his architectural education in England and was the first Queensland-born architect to achieve the distinction of being admitted as an Associate of the RIBA. He was an architect for both Queensland Railways and the Department of Public Works and lectured at the Brisbane Central Technical College and the University of Queensland. Jones was also a returned soldier having fought in both the Boer War and World War One. He received £26/5/- as prize money for his winning entry of a masonry building in the shape of a cross in plan, that was uncluttered and formal in appearance. Tenders were considered at a special meeting of Council in August 1925 and Mr R.V Brady's tender of £3449/19/-, which included furnishings, was accepted. The Council borrowed £2000 from the AMP Society to pay for their share of the construction costs. The building is said to have been constructed of hand-formed blocks and it is believed that Thomas Pye was the architect who supervised the construction, however, the nature of the relationship between Pye and Jones' design is not clear. Pye was in private practice at this time having left the Department of Public Works. Pye had experienced a tumultuous working life in the Department despite his significant contribution to the design of many of Queensland's most important public buildings. Pye was a keen rifleman and also served with the army, rising to the rank of colonel, and it may have been through these connections that Pye became involved with the Isis project. Construction was completed and the building opened on Anzac Day (April the 25th), 1926. The official opening and dedication of the Isis War Memorial was a significant event in the life of the Childers community. The Maryborough Chronicle reported that "the memorial was planned, supervised and built by returned soldiers and it is understood it is the first of its kind in the Commonwealth." The ceremony included an Anzac Day service, conducted by local priests, one of whom was also a returned soldier. The opening ceremony was performed by Mr W.A. Brand, MLA for Burrum, the memorial was opened by Miss Adie, daughter of long-term Isis councillor and chairman of the Directors of the Isis Central Sugar Mill Company, Alex Adie, and the soldier's room was opened by Mrs H Epps, wife of the Shire Clerk and mother of James Epps who features in the memorial. The Childers Town Band provided extensive musical accompaniment and the Union Jack was unfurled at the top of the building. A visitor to the memorial in 1927 provides an evocative description in the Queensland Digger, capturing the powerful emotional impact of the War Memorial room: "Many and varied are the types of memorial to be seen throughout this vast land of ours... but of the many which I have seen I was never more impressed than with the abovenamed memorial, which is situated in the little township of Childers; one of Queensland's sugar producing districts. ...in keeping with the sacrifice of which it reminds us, it takes the form of a Maltese Cross (sic.), which is decidedly emblematical... The centre of the building is occupied by the Local Authorities and takes the form of offices, strong room and board meeting room. The right portion is a recreation room for the use of returned soldiers, while the left hand side of the building presents a picture which I shall never forget; for this is the sanctuary where relatives of the fallen temporarily shut themselves in with the memory of their dear ones. The beautiful honour board extends nearly around the four walls. Mounted upon this board are many individual bronzed metal frames appropriate in design and where it has been possible to secure same, the photograph of the dead soldier appears. The effect is splendid and to complete the unique work a shelf has been arranged so that there is ample room for the relatives to place flowers in remembrance. What impressed me mostly was the fact that a number of the vases contained fresh flowers: showing that someone had gratefully made use of the facilities provided by this wonderful memorial."





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  • Published 09.30.22
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