The Maclagan butter and cheese factory, possibly in the 1910s … the caption with the photograph reads “Mrs Northcott at the Factory” (Photo: B2M Committee)
Ewen George Sinclair-Maclagan. INSET: Otto von Bismarck (Photo: AWM)

September 1, 2016

Strange things happened in Australia during World War I.

“German Shepherds” became “Alsatians”, many families anglicised their German-sounding surnames, and the tiny town of Mt Bismarck, south of the Bunya Mountains, became Maclagan.

On October 6, 1916, a small paragraph appeared on Page 6 of the Brisbane Courier newspaper notifying readers that the residents of Mt Bismarck “through strong feelings of loyalty” had successfully petitioned the Governor-in-Council to change the name of their district and its dairy co-operative.

But there was possibly also a far more practical reason for the name change …

According to a few local residents, the name change may have become necessary to keep their butter from being destroyed during a time when anti-German feelings ran hot.

“The story goes that the Mt Bismarck Co-operative Dairy Company had butter heading for England,” Margaret Kucks, from the Centenary steering committee, said.

“However the factory logo on the boxes incorporated both the town’s name and the image of the German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.

“The wharfies (either at the Brisbane docks or at London’s Tilbury docks) refused to load or unload the boxes of butter, and some say the boxes even ended up in the water!”

Whatever the reason, the push to change the name to the far more patriotic Maclagan – named in honour of Ewen George Sinclair-Maclagan (1868-1948) – was successful.

Maclagan was in command of the 3rd Brigade 1st Division AIF when it landed at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, and later fought in France at Pozières and Mouquet Farm.

On Saturday, September 10, the modern-day residents of Maclagan and surrounding areas will be celebrating the centenary of the name change with a “Bismarck To Maclagan” day.

Festivities will kick off at 9:00am with a street parade at 9:30am.

There’ll be cheese-making and cream separating exhibitions, wool spinning, rope-making, corn shelling and grain threshing, as well as photographic and historic displays.

The official opening by Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio, with Deputy Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington, will take place at 11:00am followed by a barbecue lunch and licensed bar from 12:30pm to 1:30pm.

Working displays and a tour of the town will be held after lunch.

“Bismarck sausages” have been especially crafted for the day by the local butcher, as well as Malling Red and Planet cheese.

Souvenir postcards and a souvenir book will also be available to buy.

In the evening, a bush dance will be held from 7:30pm with the Ridgee Didge Bush Band. Cost is $10 which includes supper.

For more information, phone Margaret Kucks (07) 4692-1339 or Sherryl Hansen (07) 4692-1265.

Footnote: Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was the first Chancellor of Germany.  The Prussian statesman is credited with unifying the many competing smaller German states into a new federated Germany.

Page 6 of the Brisbane Courier, October 4, 1916 (Source: Trove)
The Maclagan Memorial Hall post-World War I (Photo: B2M Committee)

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