Thursday, May 31, 2012

Special Collections Fossickings 4: Writing the far north‘s stories

 Karen Ryle (Peter's daughter and JCU Library Officer) enjoying one of his many publications.

In recent years, Peter Ryle has become one of far north Queensland’s most prolific local historians. In 1996 he completed his honours degree on the Queerah meatworks near Edmonton, his “insider status” as a former employee doubtless enhancing his insights into the complexity of industrial relations and a transformative period in an important North Queensland industry. This was followed in 2000 by his PhD thesis on Cooktown’s decline and recovery over a 126-year period. Both degrees were undertaken at JCU’s Cairns campus.

Since then Peter has published 5 monographs all of which are held in the Cairns or Townsville Special Collections. His subjects have been as diverse as the birth and growth of the Cairns Port Authority (By air and sea), a history of volunteering (Enduring spirit and lasting legacy) and the story of Forsayth and district (Where the old Delaney flows). A booklet about the small sugar-transporting ships which plied the North Queensland coast (The sugar lighters of Cairns and district) was written to accompany a photographic exhibition at the Cairns museum in 2001. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, in 2009 Peter turned the spotlight on his fellow historians in Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, documenting 50 years of the Cairns Historical Society.

Material in the Queerah Meatworks archive is believed to be donated by former Union president, Frank Houlihan. The archive was very recently relocated to Special Collections in the JCU Cairns Library.

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