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50 Treasures: James Cook University Development: Pimlico to the First Chancellor [archival footage, 1960-1970]

Our sixteenth treasure is a rare glimpse of James Cook University's early years. From the hidden depths of the Library Archives comes James Cook University Development: Pimlico to the first Chancellor [archival footage, 1960-1970].

Chancellor Bill Tweddell answers the question "why is this significant?"

Chancellor Bill Tweddell with his then fiancée, Chris Austin at his BA graduation in 1972
Much history and personal memories are wrapped up in the twelve minutes of this video. Like many students in the late 60s, I initially had to commute between the Douglas and Pimlico campuses for lectures, and have fond memories of both. Later, when I began work in the Library, I spent time in the libraries on both campuses. How libraries have changed since!

University Hall, featured in this footage, holds fond memories, particularly for my wife Chris, who worked there during University holidays.

Two students enjoy the sunshine, the University Halls are shown in the background. Source: JCU Library Special Collections, James Birrell Archive, item BIR/6/61.
The footage also reminds me how much graduation ceremonies have changed. In the early 70s, there was one ceremony for all graduates in all disciplines in the city of our sole campus: Townsville. Nowadays we have a dozen ceremonies a year across all disciplines, in Townsville, Cairns, Singapore and Brisbane.

My installation as Chancellor in 2016 was also significantly less grand than Sir George Fisher's, captured in the video.

There are so many familiar faces in this footage: former Warden and Vice Chancellor Ken Back, professors, former students—many of whom went on to impressive careers—and former mayors Angus Smith and 'Lucky' Harold Phillips.

Students in academic dress outside of the University Library. Source: JCU Library Special Collections, James Birrell Archive, item BIR/6/57.
 For Chris and me, the events of 1970 have significant personal aspects. Chris was only weeks into her tertiary studies when she was chosen among students to meet the Royal Party in the Library. Chris recalls, 'I was nervous and excited but was put at ease by the Queen's relaxed and open manner. Abiding memories are of Princess Anne's "peaches and cream" complexion compared with our own bronzed faces and how I was meeting a monarch born the same year as both my parents, 1926!'.

Still image taken from James Cook University Development: Pimlico to the first Chancellor.
I was a third-year student in my first year of full-time employment in the Library, scoring therefore the more modest role of ushering guests!

My best friend, Garth Bode, remembers cutting short a game of Five Hundred in the Refectory to join the gathering throng and, by sheer luck, ending up chatting with all three Royals.

Mates and I fancied ourselves as so witty, taking bets on whether the official photographer Mick Lamont would be overcome by the occasion and leave his lens cap on!
Original 16mm film reel containing James Cook University Development: Pimlico to the first Chancellor. JCU Library Special Collections, James Cook University Commemorations Archive, item JCUC/17.
From humble beginnings, JCU has grown to be a world leader in education and research in the tropics. We have become a vibrant, multi-campus university—a long way from the institution at which I commenced studies in 1968.

Over the course of 2020, JCU Library's Special Collections will be unveiling 50 Treasures from the collections to celebrate 50 years of James Cook University.

Author Biography
Bill Tweddell began as Chancellor in March 2016, the first JCU alumnus elected to the role. He was recently re-elected to a second term which will end in March 2023.

Immediately before becoming Chancellor, he was Australia's Ambassador to the Philippines from January 2012 to January 2016. Other career highlights included postings as Ambassador to Vietnam, Deputy High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Deputy High Commissioner to India, Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau, and High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. He also served as Chief of Staff to former Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

 In 2010, Mr Tweddell was recognised as one of JCU's Outstanding Alumni.


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