Thursday, 19 June 2008

Queensland rising

Queensland has an interesting reputation in Australia. If I could draw parallels with the United States, it is seen as a cross between Florida and Arkansas. It has a fabulous climate and wonderful beaches, but is kinda backward: a place in which to holiday and not to live. Southerners head up here for holidays and retirement, but seldom venture far from the golden coastline of high-rises, high fashion and cutting-edge food. Poor people move here because the booming suburbs of Brisbane have cheap housing. Migrants and visitors don’t venture too far from the coast. The hinter and further lands are the territory of feared rednecks and the oft-cited, but rarely sighted banana benders.

It’s been interesting to see how Queensland has slowly moved more to the centre with our local-boys-made-good now prime minister and treasurer of the country (oddly enough they even attended the same high school although not at the same time). The media are treating the change cautiously. On one hand, these people are savvy enough to have resoundingly won an election, on the other, they are Queenslanders and capable of sudden strange behaviour. And then Kevin Rudd appointed that woman with the funny man’s name, Quentin Bryce, as Governor-General. I wonder what school she went to? Are the Queenslanders taking over the country?

My musings on the idea of Queensland have been prompted by thoughts about some of its more colourful characters. Whatever you may have thought of them, people like Joh Bjelke-Petersen, Pauline Hanson, J.C. Heussler and others, were bigger than life characters. Marburg had its own “big character” in the person of Euchariste Sirois. For some people he is just a funny name that they can’t pronounce on a bridge over Black Snake Creek. Others remember the hospital he built from scratch and the many family members he delivered into the world. Others recall him marrying his matron. Still others remember his battle to have the name of Marburg restored after World War One and his constant letters to the editor on behalf on local issues.

Sirois’ letters to the editor are pompous and long-winded, but rewarding to the patient reader. Taking my turn at the historical society’s open afternoon, I crocheted several long rows (trying to project olde-worldy charm rather than simple exhaustion and relief at being away from renovations) while being read one of his letters by another member. One of Sirois’ pet issues was the need for improvement of the main road through town and on to Toowoomba in one direction and Brisbane in the other. As part of his campaign he wrote letters to the local newspaper in the persona of Carl the Ignorant German Immigrant. Feeling the need for more coverage of the issue, “Carl” was ceremoniously buried and his grave crowned with a large stone bemoaning his death at the hands of local council inactivity on the matter of the road.

A few weeks ago the Historical Society was offered this very headstone that has been on someone’s property since the 1920s. Sadly, Sirois could not foresee this far into the future and was going for maximum exposure by writing the epitaph on a one metre high stone. We had hoped for a long, low stone that could easily be installed. The plan is to erect it in front of the building, unless of course the council follows historical precedence.

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