Queensland Family History Society Inc


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QFHS Calendar Event

Members Lounge - Presenting … Captives of The Spanish Lady.

Members Lounge - Presenting … Captives of The Spanish Lady.
Starts: 17 Apr 2024 at 1:00 PM
Ends: 17 Apr 2024 at 2:30 PM

GUEST SPEAKER: Duncan Richardson

Duncan migrated to Australia in 1970, taught in Botswana from 1987 to 1988, and returned to work in Australia as a part-time teacher. His fiction has been published in various anthologies such as Obliquity, Futurevisions, Subtropical Suspense, Lighthouses and Within/Without Walls. In 2008, his verse play The Grammar of Deception was produced and broadcast by ABC Radio National.

He has published several children's books, including readers for Macmillan, Wennabees and Yum-Worms(2005), Revenge (2005), Jason Chen and the Time Banana (2008) and Dinomania (2014). He was a part time English as a Second Language teacher and regularly runs writing workshops for adults and kids. His first history book, “Year of Disaster: Brisbane 1864” was released in 2017 followed two years later by “Captives of the Spanish Lady” about the flu quarantine in 1919, and “Civilising Brisbane” in 2021, about three colonial women who changed the face of the town. (Spoke to QFHS in Feb 2022 about “Beyond Distinguished Gentlemen”, early Brisbane).

The disease known as the Spanish Flu, was sometimes called ‘The Spanish Lady’. The lack of press censorship during the First World War in neutral Spain meant that reports of the disease emerged from that country early in the outbreak.

Despite the 100th anniversary of the flu epidemic coming around in 2019, the realities of the event are still little known, by comparison with the war that preceded it or the economic depression that followed.

I first learned of the border closures from a display in the Tenterfield Railway Museum around 2005. A photo shows the tents erected to house hundreds of Queenslanders who arrived at the station on the train from Sydney, to be told they were now quarantined for seven days. Having expected a day’s rail journey, the passengers were faced with at least a week of waiting and anxiety.

As I read the reports in The Tenterfield Star, the warmth and humour of the reluctant participants became evident. The people of Tenterfield too, were taken by surprise. 700 extra mouths to feed and billet. Masks appeared. A few opportunists tried to take advantage of the fear in town by selling quack preventive ‘medicines’. They were all told it would be just a week. A week that grew. Ten days… Fourteen…

The trains kept coming. But who was going to pay for the food and other supplies needed to keep these visitors?

The Queensland and New South Wales governments squabbled. The Federal Government refused to get involved. Warwick and Toowoomba councils sent tents and finally a quarantine camp was set up. Some locals complained that the visitors might pollute the creek running through town. Injections and zinc inhalations were compulsory for inmates but luckily there were games and music too. And opportunities for young lovers to break the rules.

As the end of the week drew near, the Queensland government suggested an extension. The anger of the Tenterfield council exploded. The date for their agricultural show was looming. That could not be delayed. Some men even offered to go to Wallangara and build a new camp. The internees and the locals held their breath.

Who would blink first?

Duncan will bring some books for sale at the meeting.

Presenting... times vary between 1pm and 7.30pm Please check the calendar carefully. You are welcome to attend as a visitor.

Note: This event is held in QLD time, AEST: no daylight saving. (GMT+10)

Please register your planned attendance whether you are attending in person or online.

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