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Big Day For An 85-Year-Old

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Brisbane heritage restoration expert Brian Maxwell has been working on restoring Kingaroy's 85-year-old Memorial Park Rotunda for the past three months

November 11, 2017

Brisbane heritage expert Brian Maxwell is breathing a big sigh of relief this Remembrance Day … and so is Kingaroy RSL.

On Friday afternoon, Brian and his crew completed the first phase of a $198,000 restoration project to return Kingaroy’s war memorial rotunda to robust health.

Over the decades the 85-year-old structure had been ravaged by water leaking into its roof and rotting its wooden floorboards.

Earlier this year, Kingaroy RSL obtained a grant to cover part of the costs of restoring it and the South Burnett Regional Council agreed to contribute the balance.

Brian, who trained as a plasterer and specialises in heritage plastering techniques, was awarded the tender to undertake the project and set to work on August 17.

He initially expected the first phase of the job would take about six weeks.

But as he stripped the building back to basics, he uncovered a series of problems that made the job stretch much longer than he expected.

One was that the rotunda had been painted – and repainted – many, many times in its long life.

This made the task stripping it back a time-consuming and tedious process.

Another was that the brickwork supporting the foundations was made of precast concrete, and parts of it had not survived the ravages of time and water particularly well.

And a third was that the rotunda’s roof and floorboards were decrepit and required replacement.

“It took us five weeks just to prepare it for repairs,” Brian said.

“Then it took another seven weeks to do them.”

“With Remembrance Day coming up, the pressure to get the job done was really starting to build.”

But on Saturday when Kingaroy holds its traditional Remembrance Day commemoration service in Memorial Park, the Rotunda will be ready for use, though it will look more threadbare than usual.

Brian said he will be returning to complete the remainder of the restoration in about a month after the building has dried properly.

Kingaroy’s Remembrance Day service will begin at 10:35am and will be addressed by two guest speakers this year – St Mary’s Catholic College’s incoming school captains Bridget McDonald and Harrison Lucas.

Other South Burnett towns that will also be holding their own Remembrance Day services include Blackbutt, Yarraman, Nanango, Wondai, Murgon, Cherbourg, Goomeri, Kilkivan and Boondooma, most between 10:45am and 11:15am.

The Rotunda has been under wraps for most of the past three months as the project has unfolded

FLASHBACK: How the Rotunda looked during 2016's Anzac Day commemorations

* * *

Major-General Sir William Glasgow inspects returned servicemen from World War I at the official opening of the Memorial Park Rotunda on June 29, 1932

The History Of Memorial Park’s Rotunda

The rotunda in Memorial Park was officially opened on June 29, 1932 by Major-General Sir William Glasgow, who travelled to Kingaroy especially for the occasion.

Newspapers of the day record that the official ceremony was held on a fine afternoon, beginning with a parade through the town headed by the Kingaroy Citizens Band and the Caledonian Pipe Band.

Kingaroy’s shops closed between 2:00pm and 4:00pm to mark the day, and after the ceremonies concluded Kingaroy Shire Councillors held a dinner for Sir William at the Club Hotel. Later in the evening, a Peace Ball was held at the Olympia Theatre, and was well attended.

The Soldiers Memorial Band Rotunda and the Stone Of Remembrance – now more commonly known as the Memorial Rotunda and catafalque – were built for a total cost of £595/15/- using money that had been raised from public donations as well as money provided by Kingaroy Shire Council.

However the origins of Kingaroy’s war memorial really stretch back to July 4, 1919, when the Warwick Daily News reported that Mr A. Youngman had donated land opposite Kingaroy State School to be used as a public park and war memorial site.

In 1921, Memorial Park park was laid out by the curator of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mr J.J. Leadbetter, who proposed putting up a cross on a granite base as a war memorial, as well as tennis and croquet courts.

But this idea wasn’t taken up and a flagstaff was erected in the park instead, with the first flags unfurled on Armistice Day (now known as Remembrance Day) the same year.

In 1922, a ceremony to mark the foundation of a memorial was suggested, and this occurred on Anzac Day in 1923.

Memorial Park was originally run by the Kingaroy Memorial Park committee who began collecting public donations for a war memorial in the early 1920s.

They also planted the palm trees that still surround the memorial area.

But in 1929, they decided to hand responsibility for the park over to Kingaroy Shire Council however they sought to retain the money they had collected so a memorial would eventually be built.

Council appears to have agreed to take over control of the park, but only after the completion of the memorial.

In December 1930, the Kingaroy-Memerambi-Kumbia RSSILA (now the Kingaroy-Memerambi RSLA) held a meeting at the Kingaroy Hotel where it was discussed that rather than build a memorial, the Council should build a Soldiers Memorial Hall “like Kumbia or Wooroolin” instead.

But Council resisted and went on to award a tender for the Bandstand Rotunda and Stone Of Remembrance at its February meeting in 1932.

The granite used in both structures is believed to be locally quarried; and the rotunda’s columns and brickwork were made from precast concrete.

The official opening occurred just a few months later.

Major-General Sir William Glasgow lays the first wreath on the Stone Of Remembrance in 1932

An early photograph of the completed Rotunda and Stone of Remembrance taken shortly before or after the 1932 opening


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One Response to Big Day For An 85-Year-Old

  1. Keith Campbell

    Excellent story southburnett.com.au of the history of Kingaroy’s War Memorial Rotunda. A big shout out to Brian Maxwell and his crew in completing this massive restoration project and having the Rotunda available for today’s Remembrance Day commemoration service in Memorial Park. The finished project looks amazing. May it serve generations of the future in the same way as generations of the past. Lest We Forget.

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