St George's Orphanage

CQ Family History Association Inc.

St George's, Parkhurst

In 1917 when St Mary's Home for unmarried mothers in Dawson Road, Rockhampton, closed its doors, the six babies who remained there were moved to a home in Berserker Street that was rented from a Mr Fred Ward.  these babies along with 15 other little ones were under the care of a Mrs Young from Longreach, who in turn was succeeded by Mrs Chisholm.  the call for accommodation for homeless children was so great that Canon A Lee Kenny, Vicar of St Barnabas Parish, North Rockhampton, was authorised to procure 174 acres at Parkhurst as the site for a new orphanage.  Parkhurst is approximately six miles north of Rockhampton.

The first home accommodating girls and small children was opened in November 1922 with Miss L.F. Holmes as Matron.  The second home accommodating boys was opened in June 1925 with Miss 'Tot' Davision as Matron.  the third home, known as the Mothers' memorial home, for little ones, was opened in 1929 with Mrs J. Lane as Matron.

With his great love for children, Canon Kenny was appointed full time Chaplain Superintendent and Organiser.  He worked extremely hard for the Homes and encouraged the children to do the same.  He retired in 1930 and Rev. Percy Demuth took over for six months until Canon Arthur Fellows was appointed to the Homes in March 1931.  At that time there were 68 boys and 42 girls in the orphanage.  As there was no residence at the orphanage for the Canon and his family he was forced to reside in Wandal and ride a push bile to and from Parkhurst,  sometimes three trips in one day.  After twelve months of this, a car was loaned to him which enabled him to drive to town every weekend for fresh vegetables and a visit to Mr Bertram, a local baker, who kindly gave all left over cakes, buns, tarts etc from his business.  It was the time of the great depression so this was a treat that the children really looked forward to.  the boys were taught all kinds of farming skills and were well known in the district as willing and capable workers.

During World War 11 the American Army occupied the Homes as an Officers' Club, forcing the Homes to find temporary residence for the children.  they were taken to St Faith's in Yeppoon but as the Government considered the entire east coast as unsafe, the children had to be relocated to the old school buildings in Barcaldine.  It was a big upheaval at the time but well worth it in the long run as the Americans had installed a septic system, showers and other plumbing as well as cementing in under the Boys home.

After Rev Fellowes retired Mr Horace Tarlington replaced him.  then in 1956 Mr C Simmonds took over for a short while, to be followed by Mr A.F. Jeffrey for three years,  then Rev John Holle arrived in 1960 and Mr Max Meaker in 1964.

When Miss Holmes retired in 1928, she was replaced by Mrs F Whyte.  Other Matrons who took on the challenge on the early days were, mrs V.B. Scott, Mrs M.B. Handley, Mrs G, Bussey, Matron Green, Miss Davison, Miss Cynthia Haylock, Miss M. Barker, Miss Gwen Richardson, Mrs A.E. Massey, Miss Ida Kent and Miss Amy Hinz.

Dr Paul Voss and Mr Herbert Church were doctor and dentist to the orphans for many years.  They both gave their services free of charge for the sake of the children.  Dr Voss would go out to the Home any time of the day or night if the child could not be taken into his surgery.  At his own expense, Mr Church set up a special dental room at the home and regularly attended to the children's teeth.

The orphan primary children whose school results deemed them worthy, went on to St Faith's in Yeppoon for the girls and All Souls in Charters Towers for the boys.  Most became worthy citizens, thanks to the loving care of the staff of St George's  Orphanage.


By Margaret Slatter Wooler

In September 1992 a reunion was held on the site of where the old orphanage once stood.  We greeted many long lost friends then ambled down to where the Girls Home used to be and proceeded to rebuild the place with our memories. Looking back at those years we decided they were OK, even if we didn't think so at the time.  We had a roof over our heads, wholesome food, education, clean clothes and we were taught that there were people much worse off than we were.

In 1951 I was just eight years old, when my mother was killed and the decision was made that my two brothers, Eddie aged seven, Desmond aged three and I were to be placed in an orphanage.

"Orphanage" - we didn't even know what the word meant, let alone how our lives were about to change.  We were taken first to "The Depot" now known as Biralee, while we waited to be sent to St George's homes at Parkhurst just outside Rockhampton.  The sight of those four houses on the hill, filled is with sorrow and tears but Mr Patterson, who was the Head of the State Children's Department here in Rockhampton, was a very nice grandfatherly type and calmed us down a lot.

The first home was the Girls Home, second was the Boys Home, the third was vacant and the fourth was the home of the Superintendent.  The school we attended was the Parkhurst State School.

We had to adjust to a whole new world.  Our bedtime was between 7 and 7.30 and we greeted the new day every morning at 6am Summer and Winter.  We all had jobs allotted to us such as scrubbing and polishing floors.  Bathroom duties (including bathing the younger kids) and Kitchen duties.  the pine floors in the dormitories were so clean you could eat off them and the polished floor in the dining room shone like glass. We all worked hard but in good company.  Our mattresses were of fibre and when they went flat it was the job of the older girls to "tease" them back up again.

when it was your turn to get a newly "teased" mattress you thought you were "King Pin" being so high up above the rest of the girls.  We also had our own version of today's Doona but we called them woggas.  They were made by the older girls who sewed together old army coats and other heavy material that had been donated to the Home.  We turned out some strange looking, but very warm, bed covers.

Our meals consisted if Breakfast - bran, Pollard and Salt ( we called it Chook food); School Lunch - 4 slabs (slices) of Bread, usually jam, Beetroot, Vegemite or Fat; Tea - Meat, Veges and a pudding of Sago, Tapioca or bread and butter.  I can remember friends of our Matron, Mr & Mrs Heaslip, sometimes brought us peanuts and pineapples.  Then the big day came, excitement rung throughout the halls - "Sugar coated cornflakes for breakfast", we had never tasted anything so scrumptious.  Over the years things changed, the Girls kitchen closed down and we had our meals in the Boys home.  We had our milk ration increased, butter on our bread instead of fat and toast instead of bread for breakfast.

On weekends we had to have an afternoon nap and when we were out and about, the front and boys side of the Girls Home was out of bounds.  this rule was dropped when Rotary presented us with Playground Equipment, although the boys and girls didn't use the equipment together except for one day a week.  We girls made ourselves up a Basket Ball Court using hoes and lime for the lines.

School was pretty good.  Tuesdays we went into Rocky to the Swimming Baths, where Scotia Place is now, and our Head Teacher, Mr Roy Childs, taught us to swim.  On Fridays the Grade 8 boys and girls attended the Technical College in Bolsover Street where the boys learned woodwork and the girls did domestic Science.  Failure to pass your Scholarship in grade 8 meant the boys were put out to work on  farms and the girls placed with families as domestics.  After Scholarship at age 14, I got a job in the Laundry of the Home.  It took two of us to run the laundry and I will never forget the thrill of my first pay-packet, I had never had money of my very own before.

Church was held every Thursday morning at the Chapel in the Boys Home with a minister from St Barnabus Church, North Rocky conducting the service.  We were all confirmed as soon as we were of a certain age.  A church was later built in the grounds but by that time I had left.

I must admit the girls had it a lot easier than the boys did.  Our Matron, Miss Elfreda Cooke saw to it that we were never bored.  she let us 'get away' with a fair bit - within reason of course and she would change our duties every week so we all learned to do different types of work.  One of the relief Matrons taught us to knit, something that came in handy when I had my own children.

 We had special days through the year when we would attend the Inter-school Sports Day, the lakes Creek Picnic, Military Picnic, Masonic Hall Xmas Party and an occasional trip to the Picture Theatre.  and of course we had our own Xmas Play at the orphanage and received a few little Xmas presents.  Once a year St George's Homes celebrated a "Birthday Tea" when relatives and friends would visit the orphanage.  there was much excitement and we all delighted in showing how neat and clean we kept our lockers and our dormitories.

Forty years later standing there my childhood friends, the emotions were running deep.  Our lives had brought good times as well as bad and we all agreed that things could have been a lot tougher on us if  we hadn't had St George's Homes to turn to.

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