Cowra in Days Gone Bye by J C Ryall 11/ (Pages 135 to 149)


Published 28 September 1928


Wardsman and Matron Censured

Between 1886 and 1891, a period of five years, the internal affairs of the institution appeared to conducted satisfactorily. A little later, however, it became evident that the wardsman and matron were becoming slovenly and careless in the performance of their respective duties. The scrupulous cleanliness of the wards and yards which for years a feature of which the management was justly proud, gradually gave place to a state of affairs which frequently caused the House Committee to severely censure the wardsman and matron for breaches of trust in respect to their responsibilities. Vague hints were given that a fondness for alcoholic stimulants was the insidious instrument of evil which had beset the custodians of the Institution.


Many suspicious circumstances were brought under the notice of Dr. Bartlett by the House Committee, and this led to combined action being taken to catch the culprits red-handed, but the wariness of these people enabled them to escape detection, consequently, no charge of a direct breach of duty could be preferred against them. Whenever the members of the House Committee and Medical Superintendent came within view of the Hospital, a little girl, niece of wardsman and matron, was invariably on sentry duty during the afternoon, and able from her elevated position on the verandah to perceive any approaching visitors ,and give the erring officers timely warning. Thus when the House Committee entered the Institution the place was in fairly good order. However, in 1893, while I was in office as President, when making a scrutiny of the patients’ fees that, quite a number of the receipt forms were missing, and upon; demanding an explanation I was informed by the wardsman that throuqh makinq errors in the entries he had extracted the forms and destroyed them.


I insisted that it: future when wrong entries were made that the form must not be extracted from the book. Later upon discoveringthe extraction of another receipt from the book, I interrogated the patients, and ascertained that a receipt had been issued by the Wardsman to one of them for a sum under £5. The wardsman denied·point blank denied the receipt of the money and the issue of a form. The matter was then placed in the hands of the police. The Wardsman was arrested, and very conclusive evidence regarding his guilt having been forthcoming at his trial, he elected to be sum- marily dealt with, and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment.


The matron, who still continued in the Hospital and who positively refused to leave, had yet to be disposed of. Of course, retention of her services after the conviction of her husband of a crime to which she had been privy was out of the question.


An Unpleasant Duty

To eject the woman was a most painful and unpleasant duty, but I still felt that in the best interests of the institution the situation must be faced. Accordingly I had to look around for someone to . take temporary charge of the place, pending a fresh appointment. Fortunately, I was enabled to secure the services of Mrs Richard, a qualified nurse, for a month. As that lady,

however, positively refused to take charge until the former nurse had’ vacated the Hospital, I was reluctantly forced to insist on the removal of the trespasser from the premises. The task was both incongenial and disagreeable, indeed it is a memory which is in-effaceable, being of a harrowing and very touching nature. When Mrs Courtice took charge she found the place reeking in filth. The bed linen in the various wards was so discoloured as to be a positive menace to health and the walls and beds were infest- ed with vermin.


The dislodging of such an unfaithful and disgustingly filthy Wardsman and Matron had not been effected a minute too soon. It was later ascertained, that in addition’ to tampering with the funds of the institution, a widow with a family of several child- ren, relatives of the Wards man and Matron had been for a considerable time maintained at the expense of the Hospital. Being desirous of having the institution placed upon up to date lines as nearly as practicable, I visited Young with a view to ascertaining how the trained nursing system acted there. Upon visiting the Public Hospital in that town I was accorded by Matron Hoadley much very valuable information regarding the control and management of Hospitals, and was courteously privilegd by  that Lady to inspect the various wards, the cleanliness and neatness of which evidenced, that close attention to details, which was so conspicuous by its absence in Cowra Hospital, had been the order ,


Nurse Chave Engaged

In the course of conversation with Matron Hoadley, she maintained that with very few exceptions the Hospita1s of the State were being staffed with trained nurses, and that adherence to the old vardsman and matron system was regarded as both antiquated and inadvisable. Later the good lady informed me that Nurse Chave, a member of her staff, whom she could confidently recommend, was desirous of obtaining an appointment as matron of a country Hospital, and with the Committee of the Grenfell Hospital. She added that she belieeved Nurse Chave would prefer going to Cowra if an appointment there was available.


Being much impressed with Matron Hoadley’ s very pronounced good opinion of Nurse Chave’s competency, and believing I was well within my rights in endeavouring to conserve the interests of the institution I represented by so acting, I took it upon myself to enqage Nurse Chave for a period of three months on probation. At the meeting of the committee which immediately followed my return from Young, my action in engaging Nurse Chave was ratified, despite the opposition of some of the committeeman who maintained that the employment of trained nurses would entail an additional expense which the funds of the institution could not stand.


Empty Coffers

Mention of funds reminds me of an incident which threatened for a space to bring the very existence of the Institution to an abrupt close for an indefinite period at least. At the monthly meeting of the committee following the removal of the wardsman and matron, the accounts for supplies presented conclusively evidenced the .reckless extravagance of the late employees. In the aggregate the expenditure for the month ran into £70, and upcn the treasurer being asked to disclose the state of the exchequer, he reported that the coffers were empty and that there was no immediate prospect of their being replenished from any source. This undesirable and very lamentable state of affairs, caused those of the comrnitteeman, who considered they would be personally responsible for any debts contracted during their term of office, considerable alarm. Thus after some discussion, it was moved by Mr. C.J. Pengroove, and seconded by Mr. R. Stevenson, “That the officers of the Institution be dismissed forthwith, and that operations be suspended indefinitely.” Perceiving how detrimental it would be to the future of our struggling Institution to close its doors, even for a brief space, the mover and seconder of the motion, at my request, consented to allow the proposition to stand over for a week. The meeting then adjourned accordingly.


Having secured the very practical co-operation of such trusty and. indefatigable members of the committee as Messrs. J. Robertson, J.B. Fitzgerald and John Muir, a systematic house to house visitation of the town was made. Messrs. Fitzgerald and Muir were colleagues on the occasion, and I was joined by Mr. Robertson. The response to our appeal was practically unanimous, thr refusals being few and far between. The sum collected, with the Government subsidy, placed over £200 at the disposal of the committee.  When the: committee again met the very objectionable and humiliating resolution aiming at the indefinite closing of the doors of the Hospital was withdrawn. With the installation of Nurse Chave as Matron, a new era was entered upon, which makes 1893 the turning point in the history of an institution which has proved so potent a factor in the relief of sufferinq humanity, consequently I will reserve further comment for a future issue.


Touching Incident

Upon perusing the foregoing I find I have omitted mention of a very touching incident which occurred during our canvass of Mulyan. Upon calling at a house, a woman, whose very appearance bespoke poverty, came to the door , and upon being apprised of our mission, she promptly withdrew from a portion of her attire a piece of cloth, which, upon being unfolded, disclosed a solitary shilling. This, she declared, was all she had in the world, but she was prepared to give it with a heart and a half. Needless to add we were not sufficiently hard hearted to deprive such a generous donor of her little hoard. That poor woman’s action will ever be regarded by me as a veritable repetition of the case of the widow and her mite, of biblical notoriety,


Published 5 Oct. 1928


                                                                    The New Matron


Under the regime instituted by the new Matron, Nurse Chave, the internal arrangements of the institution underwent a marked improvemerrt involved the expenditure of a vast amount of tol1 and energ:y Nurse Chave was not long in charge when she demonstrated that she vas eminently qualified for the Matronship, seeing that she was practical, systematic, energetic, economical, exceedinglysympathetic, and took a keen interest in her duties. The frequent complaints the House Committee had to. investigate and deal with under the old order of affairs were happily merely a memory. Indeed, it was a matter of surprise that the management had tolerated for so many years the happy-go-lucky methods of an untrained and unreliable Wards man and Matron.


Wi th a competent Matron in control the institution won the confidence of the sick of the district, consequently the daily average of beds occupied daily materially increased, hence it became imperative to increase the strength of the nursing staff. This was accomplished on the most economical lines, by the ap- pointment of a couple of probationers at a nominal salary. Amongst the first appointees of this stamp were Misses K. Walsh and Nora Leary, both of whom under Matron Chave’s excellent instruction: in a very brief space of time became very excellent nurses: and quite capable of taking charge of the institution when the Matron was absent on holidays or indisposed. To Nurse Walsh’s consistent kindness over an extended period the management was enabled to overcome many difficulties. Whenever there was a large influx of patients through epidemic or other causes, or when a vacancy on the staff occurred, Nurse Walsh could always be relied upon to fill the breach. This is evidently a trait in this very estimable lady’s nature which she inherited from her much revered late mother. Before passing on, I deem it my bounden duty to aver that it was mainly through the generosity, kindness, and good offices of Mr. and Mrs. Thos . Walsh and the persistent efforts of their daughter, Nurse Walsh, that the Hospital was for very many years able to keep its doors open for the relief of suffering humanity.


Matron Chave, after faithfully and conscientiously discharging the onerous and very responsible duties of her office for many years , tendered her resignation, .having decided to take a momentous step, viz., to become the life partner of Mr. John Robertson, a very old member of the management of this Hospital, and one who has been ever been an intensely enthusiastic and indefatigable worker in its interests. Although out of office Mr. and Mrs. Robertson continue to take a very lively interest in the welfare of an institution which owes so much to their noble efforts.


Owing to a serious illness I ceased some years ago to continue an active member of the committee, but I nevertheless have been as faithful as ever in my allegiance to an old love, which owes its origin to my individual personal efforts. For many years it has been painfully evident that the resources of the institution have been frequently overtaxed, but shortage of funds always proved a stumbling block, when the necessity for proceeding with the erection of an entire new building, or making certain additions was mooted. The erection of nurses’ quarters, and the extension of one of the wards, followed by the erection of an operating theatre, relieved the stress temporarily.


At the request of the committee Mr. George McCreadie, Government Architect, was sent a few years back to Cowra to report on the matter of Hospital requirements. That gentleman condemned the present building, discountenanced the proposal to make additions to it, and expressed the opinion that the building was obsolete and wholly unsuited to present day needs.He further stated that the aspect did not accord with the requirements of medical scientists. He held that it would be necessary to dispose of the present site and buildings. This was Mr McCreadie’s latest association with the Cowra District Hospital, as a little later he met with a very sad end.


The commttee of the institution failed to see eye to eye with the much lamented Government official, hence his views were disregarded. Later an isolation ward in conformity with plans and specifications furnished by the Health Department was erected, and this must be regarded as a most essential adjunct, as the very primitive method adopted for the segregation of infectious cases was most unsatisfactory. Thenceforward the management pursued the even tenor of its way until funds to the extent of a couple of thousand sterling had accumulated, contributions from various unexpected sources having materially assisted to swell the coffers. Eventually it became apparent to the management that the resources of the institution were so severely taxed that some steps must be immediately taken to provide further housing accommodation for the reception and treatment of patients. The erection of a new Hospital was mooted, but as it was estimated that a building to be slightly in advance of requirements would cost from £20,000 to £25,000, it was considered that the raising of such a large sum rendered the adoption of such a proposal quite out of the question.


As, however, it was evident that immediate steps should be taken to provide further accommodation for patients, the management eventually decided to see what could be done in the way of remodelling and adding to the old building, and, with that end in view, the assistance of the Health Department was sought. This resulted in the preparation and submission of a plan which met with the approval of the committee. In due course the work was carried out, and it was then found that accommodation had been provided for upwards of a hundred patients. As the institution has now been made quite up to date, and, furthermore furnishes accommodation well in advance of requirements, it may be justly claimed that a progressive step has been taken ,which reflects infinite credit on the business capabilities of the committee of management.


Published 12 October 1928

                                                                     Retarded by Conservative Views

In the early days of our Hospital the progress of the institution was much retarded by the conservative views of the Medical Superintendent (Dr. F.P. Bartlett}, who sternly set his face against any project which had for its aim an increase of accommodation for the reception and treatment of patients. He argued if it were generally known that the reception of patients could at all times be relied upon, there would be an influx of patients from other districts, which meant a corresponding increase in upkeep expenses.


This contention in a measure was true, because it was well known that a class of nomadic malingers and hypochondriacs made it a practice to journey from Hospital to Hospital These people, being of the pauper order, obtained admission through orders obtained from the Police , who represented the Government in such instances. To close the doors of the Hospital to people armed with these orders was to risk the withdrawal of the Government subsidy, and such an alternative was a serious matter to an establishment which had a mere hand to hand existence.


In the event of an epidemic occurring, it was argued by some, that the consequences would be very serious indeed. Several times later the institution became so crowded that accommodation for patients who could not be denied treatment had to be obtained from outside sources. The majority of the committee sided with Dr. Bartlett in the adoption of a hand-to-mouth policy. At that time the Hospital experienced difficulty in keeping its head above water. The well-to-do class contributed no more towards its support than the people who found it difficult to make ends meet. Liberal benefactions and magnificent contributions towards the support of a place having for its objective the relief of poor suffering mortals were unheard of.


Even when the members of this affluent class passed away no mention was made of the Cowra Hospital in their wills. Had they done so, the institution would long ere this have been made worthy of such a prosperous district of ours. Getting down to the present day state of affairs, we candidly admit that when the management proposed to expend the accumulated funds in remodelling a building which we were aware had not been faithfully put together, we regarded the proposed expenditure an absolute waste of money. We were then of the opinion that it would have been more judicious to expend the money in “the erection of a portion of a permanent and more pretentious structure. We regarded any attempt to add to, or improve the old structure, as a continuance of the conservative policy which had for so many years kept the Hospital at a standstill, while neighbouring towns were erecting costly edifices equipped with all essential modern requirements.


Although well aware that the work of remodelling the old building was for some time in progress, I refrained from visiting the institution until a couple of days prior to the date appointed for the formal opening, because I felt that matters had advanced too far for a remonstrance to be effective. As I approached the structure I certainly was not favourably impressed with the external view. The front of the place is so plain as to be a close approach to positive ugliness. However, I later found that whatever the place may lack in ornamental embellishments is more than compensated for by the exquisite neatness of the wards, and the means provided for the comfort and treatment of patients of both sexes, and the addition of a children’s ward.


The Children’s ward.

The latter has been equipped in a most lavish manner by Mr. and Mrs. Bill, and a brass plate on the wall proclaims this has beendone in memory of the late Mr. Wm. Bi11, who dearly loved children.The cots are of the latest approved design, and the bedding, etc., is the best procurable. At one end of the room a cupboard has been placed, and this is stocked with crockery of fancy patterns . specially designed to attract and appeal to youthful patients. Toys and books are also provided to entertain the wee ones. No more fitting memorial to a man whose heart went out to children could have been conceived, and it furthermore is an affectionate and touching tribute on the part of a devoted wife and daughter to the memory of a dear one. It is indeed a magnificent contribution which will stand the test of time.


As a further evidence of the generosity of the two good ladies mentioned, they have endowed the cots in the memorial ward. As such instances of philanthropy are so very rare in connection with the Cowra Hospital they are, as a result, deserving of the intensest appreciation when they come to light. In all the wards visited there was was an air of newness and cleanliness which was quite refreshing. The walls were spotlessly white , the floor- coverings new, and the beds, bedding, and other appointments appeared as if they had come straight from the manufacturer.


The Operating Theatre,

Passing on, we came to the operating theatre, which has been proclaimed by surgical scientists one of the most perfect of its kind extant.. Even to the ordinary layman it has features which demonstrate its superiority over the theatres of most institutions, this is particularly noticeable in respect to the lighting of the apartment. The sterilising room, which adjoins the theatre, is quite in keeping with the degree of perfection observable in the theatre. The large array of nickel plated sterilising utensils and appliances is a feature which impresses on the ordinary layman the great strides which have been made in the surgical world in respect to anti-septic preparations. One of the most valuable and most important provisions made by the management for the treatment of patients is the widening of the verandah at the front and western sides of the building. This spacious ward is 1ined on the outer side with wire gauze screens, and over these screens blinds can be placed to protect patients from excessive light and untoward weather conditions.


The verandah beds are most certainly ideal for patients who prefer air and sunshine in an ordinary close ward. Along the two lengths of verandah quite a number of beds are in readiness for afflicted member’s of the human family. It is claimed that with the verandah and other additions now in evidence accommodation is available for the treatment of about 150 pat ients. The isolation ward, when not occupied by infectious cases, can also be used when necessity arises.Thecomfortable housing of the nursing staff has also very properly been given due consideration by the management. Sanitary conveniences are of the most modern type, and the same can be said of the kitchen and other essential outbuildings.


By means of the alterations and additions effected, the status of our hospital has been raised from one with something twenty to one approaching 150 beds. This is certainly a marvellous change. The managernent and district can now boast of possessing an institution quite- equal to the best of its kind in the province. The honorary medical staff, which comprises Drs. J.E. Foley, Hugh McLaren, L. W. Roberts, C. G. Adams, and Archibald, possess attainments and qualifications of the highest order, and as they have, one and all, been found unsparing in their ministrations and indefatigable in their efforts to combat the ills with which humanity is beset, patients can enter the institution with the full assurances that all that skill dictates will be exercised in their behalf.



Regarding the Matron and nursing staff I cannot speak too highly . Matron Harris has for some years proved herself a most excellent manager and organiser, a capable and tactful director, and one whose many excellent qualities have been the means of winninq for her the confidence and esteem of the management and medical staff, and the goodwill and affectionate regard of her staff of two sisters and five probationers. Regarding the latter qood, judging by reports, they are all that could be desired. They have taken up a noble work and by their fruits they are known.


Published 26 Oct. 1928




Before closing myreview of Hospital affairs I conceive it my duty to very warmly compliment the members of the committee who have been so largely instrumental in raising the status of the institution from one of comparative insignificance to one of a superior class. I wish to explain that when I stated last week that the remodelling of the old building and the additions thereto had been the means of increasing the carrying capacity of the place to 150 beds, I did not mean it to imply that that number of beds was available to the public , because as a matter of fact, I am aware that the total number does not exceed 60. What I meant was that without any further additions there was housing accommodation there for 150 patients. Thus, if the beds, bedding, and furniture were to hand, 150 patients could be housed should the demand arise.



The contention of Dr. F. P. Bartlett that if accommodation were provided for the reception of a large number of patients, the demand for beds would increase to a corresponding degree, has been verified recently, seeing that a record was reached, no less than 43 beds being occupied, the highest previous tally being something over 20. As it would thus appear that the resources of the institution were so largely trenched upon under normal conditions, it is very evident that the management must take immediate steps to provide for the reception and treatment of over 60 patients. While the works are in progress at the Wyangala Dam it may be

reasonably assumed that from 200 to 399 families, possibly from 800 to 1000 souls, will be added to our population, and this large addition will have demands which must necessarily be met. The growth of our population by ordinary means will also have to be provided for. This is a matter which we feel will engage the attention of the committee in due time.


That body has already evinced an aptitude for wrestling with difficulties and overcoming obstacles in a practical and business- like manner , and it may be assumed with every confidence that it will continue to do so and at the same time husband the financial resources of the institution judiciously and well. Further it may be safely anticipated that such an alert and progressive body will take measures to guard against any surprises in the way of an increased demand for the treatment of afflicted mankind. To make the Hospital as complete as possible in the way of surgical equipment an X-ray apparatus should be installed. This fact was apparent to the committee, hence enquiries were made as to the probable cost of the apparatus of sufficient power to be of practical benefit, and when it was ascertained that a plant to meet. requirements could not be obtained for less than £1500 to £2000, and that, in addition, a working staff of high salaried experts would have to be retained, the committee found that the installation of such an apparatus was at present quite out of the question.


New Era In Hospital Management.

As the remodelling of the Hospital, whereby its capacity for the treatment of patients has been practically quadrupled, marks a new era in connection with the management of that institution. I conceive it my duty to mention the names of those gentlemen who have been so  largely instrumental in achieving such splendid results. They are as follows:

 Messrs. A.B. Jones (President), J. Legh, Norman Ryall (Vice-Presidents), W.J Clarkson (Hon. Treasurer), H.J. Brien, J. Dean, P.H. Brien, W.G. Hutchison, A. Hutchison, ,J .•.•• H. Lewis, C.E. Newcombe , C.L. Peterson, G. Soden, C.E. Wodehouse:, and E.P Todhunter (Secretary). The: honorary Medical Staff includes: Drs . J.E. Foley (Government Medical Officer), H. McLaren, L.W. Roberts, G.C. Adams and Archbold (Woodstock). Nursing St.aff: Matron Harris , Sister Appleby (Head Nurse), Dresser, and Howarth; Probationary Nurses: Nurses Thompson, Hunt, McColl, White, Wilson and Watson. Number of equipped beds 50, isolation wards 10, total 60. Actual housing capacity from 120 to 150. Cost of remodellinq inclusive of equipment, £6000.


Regardinq Mr E.P. Todhunter, who has performed the secretarial duties for eight years, I will have something to say next week.


Published 5 November 1928


The Incorporation Of Our Town.

          In the early eighties the condition of our thoroughfares through. and about the town were deplorable; the only bushways which could be  said to be at all trafficable was Kendall town, part of Lachlan street and Bridge street, and that was due to those streets beinq a portion of the main road from Blayney to Grenfell. The minor roads, such as Cowra to Canowindra, Goolagong, Burrowa, Young, Reid’ s Flat, etc., owing to the paucity of the roads vote available, were simply patched up where some veritable quagmires existed, and as a result they were only passable while the weather conditions continued to be favourable. As to the remaining streets of the town they were a positive disgrace to any civilised community. When all doubt regarding the building of the Blayney-Harden railway line came to an end it became evident to me that some measures would have to be adopted to make our streets more presentable.


The necessity for immediate action became obvious, owing to an appreciable increase in the population of our town in anticipation of the completion of the railway. accordingly I, per medium of the “Free Press”, sought to arouse our townsfolk to a sense of their responsibilities in respect to making our town more up-to-date. And I incidentally descanted on the benefits that would accrue from incorporation . This was the thin edge of the wedge. Then, finding that the progressive section of the community was in concord with my views on the subject, some further strong articles appeared in the “Free Press”, and these were the means of preparing the readers of the paper for a decisive move in respect to incorporation.


After consulting our leading townsmen, the task of preparing the- customary petition to the Government in support of municipalisation was entrusted to me. Little time was lost in drafting the document, and in due course it was placed in the hands of Mr.Frank s. Flint for signature. Thus, the first definitive move towards the erection of our town into a municipality.was made in 1886. The petition, having been largly signed, was presented to the proper quarter in due course. Theold conservative element, which invariably opposed every proqressive movement, finding that there was a prospect of its being called upon to defray part of the cost of improving the town (I say part of the cost, because in those days municipalities were liberally subsidised), a counter movement headed by Mr. Geo. Campbell and Mr. Robt Stevenson made its appearance, and the opposing petition , which was also numerously signed, was also forwarded to the proper quarter.


I have omitted to mention that when forwarding the petition to the Government it was accompanied by a tracing defining the boundaries of the proposed borough. The area included within its limits, the cemetery, in consequence of its being the opinion of Mr Doinnelly and others that “God.’ s Acre” should be under the control of the Councillors, Jerula homestead, and a fair slice of the estate, also “Pack’s Grant/” then owned by Mr. Campbell. The Government of the day, being largely favourable to towns of any pretensions taking charge of their own affairs, favoured the granting of the petition. Mr. Campbell, in his capacity of Parliamentary representative of the district, was a power to be reckoned with. While in Sydney he had opportunities to make his objections to any movement heard at headquarters, and his action in that respect was responsible for voluminous correspondence between the Local Government Department and myself, and thus necessarily meant considerable delay.


Eventually I succeeded, through sheer pertinacity, in forcing the Department to take decisive action, Eventually Mr. Lewis, head of the Local Government Department, came to Cowra and was taken over the boundaries of the proposed borough by Mr. Campbell . Later, in conference with the municipalists, Mr. Lewis suggested that the proposed boundaries should be amended by the exclusion of Jerula and Pack’s Grant. This for some time was sternly opposed by the progressives, but when it was found that the- acceptance of the amended boundaries would facilitate the final settlement of the matter, the opposition gave way. The gazettal of the proclamation of the new borough was followed by a number of official routine proceedings, and these having been satisfactorily adjusted, matters were placed in train for the.initial election of nine aldermen.


Mr. Frank S. Flint filled the position of returning officer and conducted the election very creditably in addition to preparing a roll of electors. At that time those rated were qualified. to record from one to four votes on a property basis. Thus, while the roll contained something under 200 names, the voting power exceeded 400. About 14 candidates were nominated for aldermanic honours. The election took place in 1888, and was a very quiet affair, comparat.iveLy few manifesting the slightest interest in it, only about haIf of the qualified electors taking the trouble to record their votes


‘Whenthe numbers were posted. it was found that the chosen nine included: John Breathwaite Fitzgerald, Robert Daly , Thomas Walsh, Denis C. J. Donnelly , George Campbell, Henry Ford, Hugh McLeod,Ewen F McPherson, and Dr E. R. Smith. Ald Fittzgerald topped the poll, hence he should have been elected Cowra’s first Mayor, but, at the first meeting of the Council he set all doubts regarding pretensions to the honour at least by nominating AId. Campbell, the laird of the manor, who was elected. unopposed. Before the Council got into its stride properly a vast amount of preliminary work which included the framing of by-laws, correspondence with various Government departments, valuing rateable properties, collection of rates, appointment of committees and cfficers, and so on, had to encountered and disposed of. It was resolved to rent a shop, adjoining Mr. Ormiston’s pharmacy, in Murray’s buildings, to serve the purpose of Counci1 Chambers, and Mr. Flint was appointed Town Clerk at a very nominal salary, as it was evident that for some time the revenue at the disposal of the Council would necessitate careful husbanding.


The first work undertaken by the Council was the removal of stumps and fallen timber from the pr incipal streets. The formation of a footpath on either side of Kendall street and their kerbing with condemned railway sleepers followed.


When Mr. Campbell retired from the Mayoral Chair, Dr. Smith was appointed as his successor. The policy of the new incumbent of office seemed to be to make the available funds spread over as large an area as possible, consequently the work executed in most instances, was of the cheap and shoddy order. If the expenditure had been confined to narrower limits, work of a better and more durable nature would have been accomplished. The taking and adoption of street levels by the Council was a step in the right direction. This very important work was carried out by Mr. Bonnie, a Sydney surveyor. It was a most difficult undertaking, owing to the removal of the original survey pegs, combined with the very careless and slovenly manner in which the survey was conducted in the first place.



Published 30 November 1928


Kendall Street Frontages

Following the adoption of the plans of street alignment and levels prepared and submitted by Mr. Bonnie, to the municipality Council, a good deal of dissatisfaction was expressed by property owners, particularly by those who had frontages to Kendall street. Through the very crude and haphazard manner in which the surveyor entrusted with the task .of laying out and subdividing the town into allotment performed his work, it was ascertained by Mr. Bonnie that boundary fences between the several allotments were out of alignment to the extent of several feet in many instances and that a number of buildings encroached on the street in from two to six feet.


Regarding the levels too, it was found that in some instances the cutting down of the street would seriously effect premises on the northern side of Kendall street and that the formation of the- street would cause some premises on the northern side tc be below the prescribed level. As the qazettal of the alignment and levels was the means of qivinq the Municipal Council full power to insist on adherence to the plans in connection with street formation, that body very wisely decided not to rush matters, as such a course would in some instances be extremely oppressive to property owners. It was, however, also decided that all new buildings should be erected in conformity with the approved alignment and level plans.


The first work carried out by the Council in consonance with the new order of affairs was the removal of the terraced roadway, which included a retaining wall along the centre of Kendall street, from the front of the Club House Hotel to the intersection of Kendall and Macquarie streets. The stone in the wall was converted into metal for the streets and a good deal of the earth and gravel excavated from the upper level of the street was also turned to account in filing up some of the street inequalities. The removal of this glaring eyesore, for which Col. Wells was responsible, vastly improved the appearance of our principal thoroughfare.


The Council later decided that the footpaths on either side of Kendall street should be 16 ft. wide, 4 ft. of which was devoted to tree-planting , The. trees were later planted in due course, and just as they were growing apace and affording excellent shade, protests from the business people whose premises in Kendall street they fronted, led to their removal. Thus funds spent in planting, guards and lopping from time to time were absolutely wasted. This term may also be applied to the: expenditure incurred in connected with sleeper kerbing and cable stone drains, which in time were supplemented by the more slightly concrete material.


Sanitation and Water Supply.

The spreading of cinders from the railway works, over the footpaths was another abomination which helped to absorb the funds. when the question of sanitation engaged the attention of the Council an objectionable and obsolete cesspit system was in vogue i and the filthy and unsanitary method of collection by means of a cart during the “we small” hours of morning was in operation, several of the Alderman sternly opposed any departure from the existing order of affairs. They contended that the cesspit system was good enough for their fathers and qrandfathers, hence it should be good enough for them , Dr. Bartlett, Government Medical Officer, strongly condemned the system on the ground that it contributed very largely to the spreading of infectious diseases. As an alternative he recommended the adoption of the earth closet and sealed pan system in the interests of cleanliness and sanitation generally.


Such a complete revolution in respect to old methods met with vigorous opposition from the old fogey element, which had ever resented the introduction of innovations, and which ridiculed the notion that diseases were propagated by means of organisms. Bacteria and bacilli they regarded as simply terms used by medical scientists to mystify the ordinary layman. That organisms so minute could be harmful, was to these people too absurd to be regarded seriously. The “Free Press” vigorously supported Dr. Bartlett’s recommendations with respect to the pan method, and in a series of articles quoted the opinions and views of recognised authorities on sanitation.


Eventually a majority of the Council became converts to reformation and common-sense, hence the introduction and adoption of the pan system. The next step in respect to reform was water supply. Those who had been in the habit of storing the aqueous element, which came from roofs, in iron and underground tanks, repudiated with scorn the possibility of such supply being otherwise than pure. That the room of houses were collectors of dust and pathogenic microbes which multiplied at an alarming rate, they regarded as a sheer fallacy.


River Water Was Polluted

Then, they pointed out, when their stocks became depleted they could always rely upon drawing abundant pure supply from the river, a source which had stood the test of very many years, and upon which generations had thrived. It never occurred to these people that the river water was polluted by town drainage, and that disused cesspits, which had been covered over with a layer of earth, contained repulsive elements which were charged with virulent poisons, also contributed to the contamination of the stream. The poisonous filth referred to percolated through a loose drift to the river. It was argued by some of the conservative section, that any drainage which found its way through to the river from the objectionable sources was rendered innocuous through filtration. They would not believe that eminent bacteriologists maintained that water cannot be freed from disease by ordinary filtration, inasmuch as whatever water will penetrate it will carry with it these very minute disease organisms.


In any case, the very thought of drainage from such accumulations of filth, even in a clear liquid form must be abhorrent to everyone who regards purity in respect to the needs of life of any importance . The settlement of the water supply question was only partly effected, when the Council entered into an arrangement with the railway authorities to supply a given quantity per day. To meet the requirement of the Railway Department the river was drawn upon.  An  iron cylinder was sunk in the bed of the stream, in the vicinity of the present Cowra West railway siding, with a view to forming- a well, and at the same time protecting its contents from contact with the river flow. On the river bank overlooking the well the pumping station was erected, and from this point the water was pumped through a main to two huge e elevated iron tanks, which stood on the site now occupied by Gilsenan’s Buildings.


Thus, Cowra’s first Municipal water supply was pumped direct from the river. Later, when the Council decided upon having an independent supply, the Health authorities condemned the river water, hence it became necessary to sink wells on the western bank of the river, and from that source the town has been supplied for a number of years. However, during the past couple of summers, the source of supply has failed to meet demands, and this has led to the imposition of restrictions on users. As it was evident that some effort should be made to secure a supplemental supply, the Council sought the co-operation of the Water Conservation Department. This led to a staff of men being sent here with a boring plant, and we now understand the efforts put forth by those men, and that a sufficient flow has been obtained to tide us over the period of high temperature.


How long the supply from the old and new sources will continue remains to be proved. Many years have elapsed since I advocated damning the river and impoundinq a large body of the essential element, and. it was mainly through the persistency with which I kept to my guns on the subject per medium of the “Free Press”, that Mr. Frank Cotton was entrusted with the task of constructing a crib weir, just below the Rocky Waterhole, on the same lines as the weir at Forbes. I witnessed the excellent work performed by Mr. Cotton, and am satisfied that but for a stroke of ill-luck the weir would be in existence to-day.


The crib across the river had been completed and all that was needed to ensure its stability was an apron in front of the crib, which would cause an excessive flow to glide over the crib. Through the absence of the apron, the full force of a strong fresh in the river had to be borne by the crib, and this it was not equal to, hence it yielded to the strain. Mind you, when I say yielded to the strain I do not wish it to be inferred that the crib was completely wrecked, because as a matter of fact only a comparatively-small portion gave way.


Indeed so satisfied was Mr. Cotton that he could still make the weir a success that he offered to effect repairs to the crib and place an effective apron in front of it for £150, and had the offer been accepted I am pretty confident that the results would have justified the outlay. The amount expended on the work was £300. That sum did not, however, come out of the Council’s funds, as it was covered by a special grant from the Government. The Council’s outlay on the work was a mere trifle.


……to Part TWELVE