Collective Memory and Memorial in an Urban Public Space: Queens Park and Cunningham’s Knoll, Ipswich. A Field Report.
Roger Ford , Ph D candidate, Griffith University 2021

The statement that a historian needs a strong set of walking boots is generally attributed to the British economic historian R.H. Tawney. Ironically, Tawney is alleged to have followed his own advice only on rare occasions. Despite this, Tawney’s statement on the fundamental value of historical fieldwork is championed by many leading figures in the discipline including Manning Clarke and the military historians Peter Stanley and John Keegan. [1] Although the benefits of visiting a location are perhaps not as immediately tangible as the discovery of a key written source in a library or archive, from personal experience I believe the act of witnessing and physically experiencing the geography of where past events occurred, facilitates both the process of research and the writing of history.

Finding the echoes of the colonial past in the urbanised environment of southeast Queensland however can be challenging. Our immediate landscape lacks epic battlefields such as the Somme or Kokoda or the extensive heritage listed Georgian era houses and farms and prison buildings of the Tasmanian convict experience. The subtropical environment and a progressivist culture which all too frequently prioritises commercial development over other considerations, has done much to obliterate the material legacy of 19th century Queensland. Walker’s Way in Nundah for example, ostensibly appears to be nothing more than a typical North Brisbane suburban street. There is little to reveal to a casual observer that it was once the site of the State’s first missionary settlement, Zion Hill. But to a researcher familiar with the written sources and mission histories, a stroll down Walker’s Way and surrounding streets becomes a rewarding and illuminating experience. One can see firsthand significant elements in the landscape such as the close proximity of the water way Kedron Brook to the settlement. Abundant vegetable gardens and rusting stockyard fencing behind an old Queenslander, bear witness to the agricultural legacy of the area. Public memorials to the German missionaries and their families at the nearby Nundah Cemetery, stand as evidence to the local community’s discourse and engagement with its own colonial past. British social historian Jonathan Healey argues that walking through a landscape is ‘like wandering over the greatest historical document we have.’ Ordinary features including ditches, fields, buildings and roads, combine to produce a ‘great treasury of the past’ which lies within the land itself. [2]

For this reason during the course of researching and writing my thesis, I intend to visit and take a walk through a number of localities and heritage sites relevant to convict Moreton Bay and the commandant Patrick Logan.

1, Clark, Manning 1976, A Discovery of Australia, 1976 Boyer Lecture, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Sydney, p.41; Stanley, Peter 2008, A Stout Pair of Boots, A guide to exploring Australia’s battlefields, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, p.2 ; Keegan, John 1976, The Face of Battle, J. Cape, London, p.33.

2. Healey, Jonathan, ‘A tale of two ditches’, The Social Historian, blog posted 3 July 2013.