GUARDIANS: Members of the Ipswich Historical Society stand beside the site of The Old Hummock next to Cunningham's Knoll.
GUARDIANS: Members of the Ipswich Historical Society stand beside the site of The Old Hummock next to Cunningham's Knoll. David Nielsen

Council blunder gave society a purpose more than 50 years ago

EARLY in the morning of December 1, 1966, 50 years ago, residents heard an Ipswich City Council bulldozer clank its way up towards the historic limestone mound near the well-known Cunningham's Knoll.

By midday locals were shocked to find that the historic mound had been all but levelled.

Frantic calls were made by many to the Queensland Times and to the president of the newly-formed Ipswich Historical Society, Mr L A Thomas, who immediately inspected the site before putting through an urgent phone call to the Mayor James Finimore.

The next morning the Queensland Times published details, and photos, of the desecration and Mr Thomas received a supportive response from the mayor.

Cr Finimore's support was not surprising because he had only months before called a meeting "for the purpose of forming a historical society for Ipswich."

Thus the first campaign pursued by the Ipswich Historical Society was the preservation of the Cunningham's Knoll Limestone Mound - extremely significant to the history of Ipswich as it was the last trace of the city's foundation as a convict work station quarrying and burning limestone.

Mr Thomas was quoted in the Queensland Times at the time: "In one of Cunningham's dispatches in 1828 he referred to the building of a kiln at Limestone and from 300 to 400 baskets of excellent lime are burned weekly at this station. This lime hill was a part of this early industry. It cannot be replaced.

"On behalf of the Ipswich Historical Society I register a very strong protest at its shameful destruction."

The mound was quickly restored and the society provided a commemorative plaque, still there today, which was unveiled in 1968 by Sir Raphael Cilento, then president of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland.

In August 1828, explorer and botanist Allan Cunningham stayed in Ipswich (first named Limestone) for five days to rest his bullock teams. He took compass bearings of the distant mountains before setting out to find a route to the gap in the ranges. Travelling from Ipswich he discovered Cunningham's Gap.

The Cunningham's Knoll memorial is a pyramidical structure nearly five metres high and built from rugged flint stone. On one side is a tablet, with the inscription: "To Perpetuate the Memory of Explorer Allan Cunningham, who camped under these fig trees in the year 1828."

Fifty years on, Ipswich Historical Society is celebrating its Golden Jubilee with a free all-day family festival at one of Ipswich's most historical buildings, the Cooneana Homestead.

Bush poetry, blacksmithing, history talks, historical costume parades, games for children and market stalls will be some of the many activities at the celebration on Saturday, October 8, at the Cooneana Heritage Centre, 1041 Redbank Plains St, New Chum.

The festival offers free entry with entertainment for young and old, brass bands, fashion parades, bush poetry, magicians, lantern-making, food stalls, turn-of-the-century mining equipment, a mine-rescue demonstration, beer and wine bar - all with a taste of what life was like in Ipswich down through to the early days of the city.

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