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Thursday Island School of Arts: A History - Philip C Candy


The story of the Torres Strait Islands of course begins with the local indigenous population, and the author wishes to acknowledge and pay respects to the traditional owners of this area, and of Thursday Island in particular.


Following European settlement the Torres Strait became perhaps the most romantic and swashbuckling in all of Australia’s long and improbable history of white settlement, yet it is also among the least well known.


It is a tale full of wild seafarers from the four corners of the globe, of shipwrecks and of pirates, of sailing ships and trading houses, of fisherman from the Philippines and of pearl divers from Japan. There was also a bureaucratic presence that ruled over this strategic Empire outpost.


This book concerns a significant part of the history of white settlement of the small island that was then known only on maps as Thursday Island, but today is universally known as TI, an island of around three square kilometres, and located thirty-five kilometres north-west from Cape York.


Its capital and only town, Port Kennedy, rapidly evolved into a regional administrative and commercial hub with accompanying amenities. One of these concerns the Thursday Island School of Arts, which existed in embryo from almost the first settlement of Thursday Island in 1876, and was to become Australia’s most northerly Mechanics’ Institute.


Initially the Institute operated as a Reading Room within the Court House, but in 1886 built its own Hall which hosted community meetings, grand balls, vice-regal visits, theatrical events, and a library and museum. The Hall also provided a ‘quiet place away from public houses’ for islanders waiting for returning ships or ships’ crews waiting for the connecting mail steamers.


The Hall was shifted to Douglas Street in 1895 and in 1903 it was remodelled, enlarged and rebadged as the Victoria Memorial Institute. It remained in continued  public and library use until it was demolished in 1993.


2020. Paperback. 208 pages, illustrated with black and white plates, plans and maps, index. 150x210mm. 9780646846453 $37.50


Copies are available for purchase! Contact the MIV Secretary



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