New accessions: Richard Roe Correspondence (1936-1940)

This interesting new accession comprises letters sent by various Queensland businesses to Mr Richard Roe, a CSIR staff member working at the Gatton Agricultural College in the late 1930s. The accession includes a typed article titled, Richard Roe's Recollections.

Richard Roe was born in Geraldton in 1913 and spent his childhood in Perth. He attended the Subiaco Primary School, the Narrogin School of Agriculture and Muresk Agricultural College in Western Australia.

After completing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, Roe was appointed to the Weeds Section of CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, later CSIRO) and worked on the control of nut grass and on galvanised burr. Here is an interesting excerpt from the Recollections about life at Gatton Agricultural College in the late 1930s:

'My work on nut grass control at Gatton mostly involved work with herbicides and the effect of cultivation. With continued and frequent cultivation you could control the weed but it left the soil in a pretty bad state. Galvanised burr studies at St George were done on Warrie Station.  It was a grazing trial, the burr was a native and had become a weed following the development of the country and stocking.  The rationale in this grazing trial we ran was that if grazing had been responsible for a build up of the burr, by proper grazing management of the country maybe the favourable species could be brought back and so the burr would be controlled.  We set up a grazing trial but just when it was about to start there was a very severe flood in the Balonne River at St George.  All the surrounding countryside was under water for weeks and it washed away the fences on our trial so we had to start again.

Getting out to Warrie was a trial.  There were no vehicles available to research stations in those days.  I generally went out on a Sunday night and by arrangement with the railways department we could stop the train at Lawes Siding, which was at the college.  I used to clamber aboard with various items of gear to be used in the work I was to be engaged in for the following week, plus my personal effects.  Then this train took me to Toowoomba, where I changed into another train and had a sleeper for the trip to Goondiwindi.  At Goondiwindi I changed again to a railcar which took me to Thallon.  At Thallon I boarded the mail coach which took me to St George where I was picked up by the station people.  Or sometimes I stopped off at Nindigully--that was half way between Thallon and St George.  There was very little in those days at Nindigully except a hotel and store.  Both were run by the one individual and he also had a contract for road work that was going on between Nindigully and Thallon.  He had a nice arrangement in that he paid the workers on Friday and they spent their wages either on drink or the stores they needed to keep them going.  So the publican was on a very good thing there.' (p.21)

In his job as a CSIR scientist Roe travelled a lot, often by car. In the 'Recollections' he describes a trip from Gilruth Plains (about 700 km west of Brisbane) to Brisbane:

'On another trip the other way, that is from Gilruth Plains to Armidale, a Dr Pierce, a visitor to Armidale from the Division of Animal Nutrition in Adelaide joined me.  Dr Pierce was concerned with surveying the extent of trouble caused by a high level of fluorine in the drinking waters.  In those areas where the level was high the sheep developed trouble with their jaws, their teeth were misshapen and so forth. He wasn’t travelling by road, he had flown into Cunnamulla, but as I was going back towards Brisbane in which direction he was heading, I’d agreed to take him.

Well, we set out.  It was a very hot day with a strong westerly wind.  The vehicle we had started to boil and we were having real trouble.  We finally stopped at one of the stock watering places where water was available.  We drained the radiator and took out the gadget that regulates the flow of water through the engine.  We hoped we would be able to proceed with less trouble from the boiling water.  It didn’t help very much but we got to Dirranbandi just on sundown and decided we needed a meal.  As I pulled in front of a café I ran over a dog and killed the poor thing.  Well, there were a couple of fellows outside the café and one of them, presumably the dog's owner, said: “Oh, it was a mongrel of a thing anyhow, wasn’t worth much!”  We went inside and in those days in the cafés in the bush there was a limited menu.  It was always: ham and eggs, sausage and eggs, or bacon and eggs.  I’ve forgotten what we ordered, but while we were waiting for it to be produced the bit of butter the fellow had brought out had melted in the dish--melted until it was just oil by the time we got our meal. We finally ate this and came outside and at this stage the owner of the dog had changed his mind about the dog, he was talking to his cobber and said “Oh the best sheep dog I ever had!”  So I said to Dr Pierce: “Let’s go!” and picked up the dog and threw it in the back of the utility and off we went.' (p. 26)

The letters in this collection relate to Richard Roe's dealings with various businesses, most of them based in Queensland: The Canberra (a hotel on the corner of Edward and Ann Streets, Brisbane); Stuart Suit Specialist (Ruthven Street, Toowoomba); Georg Gough & Son Pty. Ltd (240 Albert Street, Brisbane); Rothwells Outfitting Ltd. (237-241 Edward Street, Brisbane); P. Victorsen Photographic Service (Edward Street, Brisbane); Longwear Industries Pty. Ltd. (Elizabeth Street, Sydney); State Government Insurance Office, Queensland (Adelaide and Edward Streets, Brisbane).

It is interesting to examine the different designs of letterheads in this accession. While some merchants use plain print or even just a stamp on their correspondence, others take advantage of the letterhead feature to advertise their business. Here are some examples of both:



Veronika Farley - Librarian/Archivist, State Library of Queensland


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