Article on the opening of the Boonah Post office in 1899
Telegraph (Brisbane), Friday 7 July 1899, page 6
POST OFFICE WORK
Postmaster-General's Speech. New Post Office, Boonah.
The Postmaster- General (the Hon. W. H. Wilson, M.L.O.) journeyed by special train to Boonah yesterday, officially to open for the transaction of public business the new post and telegraph office which has been erected at that township. The Minister was accompanied by a party consisting of Messrs. R. T. Scott (acting Under Secretary and Superintendent of Telegraphs), J. G. Anderson (Under Secretary for Education), R. Robertson (Under Secretary for Works), A. B. Brady (Government architect), J. Hesketh (Government electrical engineer), J. B. Hall (curator in intestacy), J. W. Lawry (accountant und superintendent of money orders, Post and Telegraph Department), W. P. Wilson, T. Bunton, R. G. Scott, and G. A. Derbyshire. At Ipswich the Hon. George Thern (M.L.A. for Passifern), Mr. T. B. Cribb (junior M.L.A. for Ipswich), and Mr. H. S. Lyons (officer in charge of the post and telegraph office at Ipswich) were taken on board.
The special train left Brisbane at 8.30 a.m., and a quick run was made to Boonah, the ride being practically witheut incident. Viewed from the train, the country passed through presented for the most part a bleak appearance, and the withered herbage indicated heavy frosts. The travellers, however found something to admire towards the latter part of the journey. Between Munbilla and Boonah there is a stretch of splendid agricultural land, and the bright green crops of winter fodder on several of the holdings formed a delightful picture. A good deal of thick scrub land is also to be seen.
On arrival at Boonah, which was at a few minutes past 11 o'clook, the party was met and welcomed at the railway station by a number of residents of the township. Among these were Mesrs. J. Haygarth, A.Blumberg, F. A. Schwartz, Dr. Wilson, E. W. Bickerton, W. Farley, T. H. McGladrigan (State schoolmaster), and Mr. H. Nosworthy. The Minister and other visitors were invited to inspect the site of a proposed hospital, and climbed to the top of the hill directly overlooking the township. An excellent view of the surrounding district was obtained. It was apparent front a mere glance at what constitutes the township proper that progress of a steady kind is being made. Within the last three years a number of new business premises have been opened, and one or two others are now in the course of erection. The site selected as suitable for a hospital is an excellent one, but it has a drawback, inasmuch that it is not easily accessible. The visitors next paid a visit of inspection to the State school.
The new post and telegraph office is situated within a short distance of the railway station on a corner facing High street. Care had been taken in designing it that it should be well suited for requirements, and these who inspected it yesterday declared that there was little more that could be desired. It consists of a serviceable set of offices with house attached. The contractors were Messrs. McMahon and Green, and the contract price for the building was £532 15s., while the furniture and fittings cost £23. 11s. 6d., making a total of £576 6s. 6d. : Mrs. M. J. Connell has been unpointed postmistress.
At noon the opening- ceremony took place, when these present assembled within the newly-erected offices.
Hon. George Thorn (the member for the district) said the Hon. the Postmaster- General (Mr. Wilson) had promised to get them the post and telegraph office, and had done go. He regretted that if they were to have federation Mr. Wilson would no longer be Postmaster-General, or have the power to give them a post office or a receiving-office. They would have to go to Victoria for it. (Laughter.) Mr. Wilson had worked hard to obtain the post office for Boonah from the time of the inception of the matter. He (the speaker) had made some facetious remarks at the Boonah show, hut he knew that Mr. Wilson had done his best, and was deserving of their thanks. He had much pleasure in asking Mr. Wilson to declare the post office open.
Hon. W. H. Wilson, who was received with applause, said he stood there as one having fulfilled a promise. He had beard that Ministers did not always fulfil their promises. If they would carry their minds back over some twelve mouths, they would recollect that he had received from residents a petition asking for better postal facilities, He was then told that some years before a piece of land had been secured for a post office in the centre of the township. It .was pointed out to him that if this were sold, the money obtained would be sufficient to build the post office. He promised them that he would do his best, and the land had been sold and the post office built with the sum realised. Of course it had taken some time to bring the matter to a head, but that was through it having to go through a number of departments. He had now to congratulate the residents on having an excellent building. In getting the post office he might point out that Boonah was particularly favoured, There were a great many localities where a large postal business had to be conducted through the railway stations. The department would be only too pleased to give better facilities, but it was hampered to n large extent by want of funds. Boonah had been favoured in consequence of having the piece of land which had been sold, and the proceeds utilised in the construction of the building. At the same time, he quite recognised the importance of the district, that with its population of 4,000 or 5,000, and the progress made, that the postal business must he increasing. It was his desire to give to every district where circumstances were similar the best postal facilities that could be given. Having fulfilled his promise to them he felt a little proud, and he offered them his sincerest congratulations. (Applause.) Mr. Thorn had touched on a "thorny " subject. (Laughter.) He did not quite agree with Mr. Thorn's remarks as to federation. So far as to the particular circumstance of the wiping out of his office as Postmaster-General, he might regret it, but they must remember that Queensland could not always remain isolated. They must look forward to a union of States. That union might come sooner than some people expected, or sooner than they wished, but they felt that come it must.
Hon. George Thorn: But it should come in a different way.
Hon. W. H. Wilson said he was not going to enter upon a discussion. A share of the credit for the post and telegraph building belonged to the Works Department, which was represented there by Mr. R. Robertson (Under Secretary) and Mr. A. B. Brady (colonial architect). These gentlemen both carried out their work well. When he visited Boonah some twelve months before he was accompanied by Mr. Scott, who was then superintendent of mails. Mr. Scott was now acting Under Secretory and superintendent of telegraphs. (Hon. G. Thorn: "I hope you see he gets more screw." Laughter;) He (the speaker) always received Mr. Thorn's suggestions with the greatest favour but he did not find them easy to carry out. Mr. Lawry had also assisted in the carrying out of the general arrangements for the new building. He congratulated. Mr. Scott on the promotion gained. When Mr. McDonnell (the Under Secretary) finally retired from the service, Mr. Scott would succeed to that position. Mr. McDonnell had served the country for many years, and was now retiring from the Service. In the meantime, however, he took up some duties on the Public Service Board, and afterwards intended going away on holiday leave. His (Mr. Wilson's) experience of Mr. Scott was 'that he would fill the position of Under Secretary with credit, and give general satisfaction. He had much pleasure in declaring the post office open.
Three cheers were then given for Mr. Wilson. Meanwhile Mr. Hesketh had got the telegraph instrument in working order, and the first message despatched, after the opening, was to the Premier (the Hon. J. R. Dickson), as follows: "Have just opened the new post and telegraph office here to the great satisfaction of the residents now assembled, and congratulate you that it has been done during your period of office. I send you this first telegram sent from this new office. (Signed) W.H.Wilson."
After the opening, the visitors wore entertained at luncheon at the Australian Hotel. Mr. J. Haygarth occupied the chair and a few toasts were drunk. The loyal toast "The Queen" was first honoured. The Chairman proposed "The Ministry of Queensland," coupled with the name of Mr. Wilson. He said the Postmaster- General was really the Boonah Minister and the "fairest and squarest" man he had ever met. (Laughter.) The toast was drunk with musical honours. Hon. W. H. Wilson, in replying, said he had to sincerely thank them. - That was the third occasion - on which he had visited Boonah and he had no reason to regret that he had made their acquaintance; on the contrary- he felt that he was no longer a stranger among them, but a friend of them all. (Hear, hear.) He would take that opportunity of saying something about the progress of the department which was under his control. With the exception of a few short intervals he had been Postmaster-General since 1887, and he had, therefore, a large experience in the postal department. He had always taken a great interest in it, and he liked to see it progressing in Queensland. He had had the opportunity of visiting nearly every post office in England, others in different parts of Europe and the United States, and what he had learned there he had endeavoured to use to the best advantage in Queensland. It was frequently remarked by politicians that the Post and Telegraph Department was a costly department, hut he would show them that it was not so, hut a progressive one. In 1870 the revenue of the department was £32,334, and the expenditure £66,678, or more than double the revenue; in 1887 the revenue was £200,977 and the expenditure £324,700; in 1898 the revenue was £270,933; and the expenditure £318,770, of which sum £40,000 was paid to the Railway Commissioner for services rendered. If they deducted that it would be seen that the revenue and expenditure nearly balanced. Then there was also the free business performed for the country in the telegraph branch, amounting to £51,450, and which, if added to the revenue, would assist in making a credit balance; there were also amounts for free telephone business and free postage on savings bank deposits. These figures would show that the department was not an incubus on the country, but that it was progressive, and that if it had not to do business for other departments it would make a profit. They were now drifting into a new state of things and that was in having surpluses instead of deficits with regard to the Treasury balance. He would like to say that if the post office account were properly taken the department would show a surplus. If he was allowed to run it on the same lines as Great Britain ran the post office he would be able to show a large surplus every year. They must remember how the revenue was collected; the department began with a halfpenny — (laughter) — by selling a stamp for that amount. It was a department that was constantly making revenue whereas other departments were simply spending departments. The object of the department was to give the best postal facilities possible, and very often he was asked for a post office building. He would be glad to grant all the requests if the Treasurer would, to use an expression quoted elsewhere, say "Take a million." If he got that he would make things "gee." (Laughter.) He had always endeavoured to advance the post office, and for anyone to any that it was not progressive was not in accordance with fact. The Queensland post office was the first in the colonics to adopt the system of locked fronts for private letter boxes, the postal note system, and the telegraph money order. The department had now undertaken the issue of pictorial postcards, and that had been carried out in a liberal way. These cards admirably served to convey to people in other part of the world an idea of the different phases of Australian life. The posting of correspondence by the letter carriers which had been introduced had also proved a success. It would thus be soon that everything was being done to give an accelerated mail service, and to have everything up to date. (Applause.) He might mention that, Mr. Hesketh, who had completed his term of office as Government electrical engineer, had been re-engaged for another three years. With regard to the Pacific cable, he was glad to see that it was nearer accomplishment than ever before.' (Hear, hear.) The deputation which waited on Sir Michael Hicks- Beach and Mr. Chamberlain had been received in a manner that commended itself to every Australian. These two gentlemen could see very plainly that Australia had a claim on the British Empire for co-operation in cable matters. At present we were subjected to the monopoly of the Eastern Extension Company, who pretended that they had not been making anything out of it. The fact was that they were heaping up reserves to such an extent that they were one of the most powerful organisations in the world. They had tried to get Queensland within that organisation but the colony had refused persistently, and he believed the wisdom of that course would now be seen. The matter was one he had taken a deep interest in and he hoped to be able to congratulate the people on having a Pacific cable between Great Britain and Australia, taking in Canada. He thanked them for the kindness shown him that day. (Applause.) Mr. Blumberg proposed "The Parliament of Queensland." This was responded to by Messrs. Thorn and Cribb. A few minutes after 2 o'clock the special train left on his homeward journey, cheers being given for Mr. Wilson as it steamed out of the station. Brisbane was reached about 5 p.m.