Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Fiery letters

Letters to the editor of the Townsville Bulletin can occasionally start a fire, literally lighting a fuse for social, environmental or legislative change. The library recently received an interlibrary loan request from a company in the U.S., wanting a copy of the article "Wax matches and bush fires" which was a letter to the editor of the Townsville Daily Bulletin in November 5, 1887. This letter was in response to an earlier letter in the Port Denison Times, based in Bowen, and generated further commentary. The author, Robert Gray, an early settler of Hughenden, supported the introduction of legislation to ban wax matches, claiming dropped matches would be chewed by rats and set off bushfires in dry north-western Queensland.

Gray was a former cavalry soldier in the Indian Rebellion, before travelling to Australia, and establishing Hughenden Station with his brother. He became well-known in the North and eventually returned to Britain where he went on to publish his Reminiscences of India and North Queensland, 1857 - 1912, held in the library.

The article itself appears to be only available in microfilm format as we could not locate any libraries holding a print copy of that issue. An extract is reproduced below.

The library currently holds incomplete issues of the Townsville Daily Bulletin on microform from 1887 to 1984, after which the newspaper became the Townsville Bulletin. There are holdings of the Port Denison Times from 1864 to 1900, and of other North Queensland newspapers in microform.  To search for a specific subject in early Australian newspapers, and begin your own blazing trail, start with Austlit, an information resource for Australian literary, print, and narrative culture. Then use the newspaper guides Special Collections have prepared at North Queensland regional newspapers. 

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