Backward Glance – 130 years of memories, fellowship and joy at Peachester Hall
  • Wednesday 16 October 2019

On Saturday 26 October, Peachester locals will welcome the community to join them in celebrating their district’s history with the 130th Anniversary of the Peachester Community Hall and the opening of the Peachester Heritage Centre.

Mr W P H Harden’s story helps us to understand the toilsome journey pioneers endured to start a new life. It was read by Inigo Jones at a meeting of the Historical Society of Queensland on 28 November 1939.

“On the night of Sunday 4 November 1888, my mother, my eldest brother Ernest and myself walked from Clay Street, New Farm to board Messrs James Campbell and Sons’ steamer “Mavis”. The “Mavis” steamed through the Bribie Passage arriving at the Coochin Creek wharf at noon, the journey taking about nine hours. My mother and myself stayed at Campbellville for two days loading up the furniture and belongings on to a bullock team finally arriving at what was then known as the Peach Trees.”

There are differing stories about how Peach Trees was named. One story says it was the general camping ground of the timbers getters, one of whom had travelled from Toowoomba. Toowoomba at that time was famous for its peaches and the timber getter brought some with him and the discarded stones germinated and the trees grew in the camping ground.

With the isolation of the early pioneers came the desire to have a central place for gatherings and it is said that the idea of a School of Arts Hall at Peachester originated when Mr John Grigor made the suggestion to a group of men bathing in the Stanley River at Peach Trees.

A committee was formed and a dance held at the residence of Mr D K Cahill. Eventually after many fundraising activities, the School of Arts hall was built. When the hall, built with pit sawn timber with a shingle roof, was completed the district had been renamed Peachester. 

The hall was first used as a provisional school with Mr H Hume appointed the teacher, however the school soon closed owing to lack of pupils. As more land was opened up for selection, it was reopened with Miss Grace Houghton appointed as teacher. It remained in this location until Mr Norman Law was appointed. Mr Law trained a team of entertainers and travelled widely performing in a series of entertainments raising funds to establish a State School.

The hall was the heart of the community for all occasions. On 18 September 1903 the Nambour Chronicle and North Coast Advertiser reported that the school concert and dance held on 11 September will linger in the memories of scholars as well as the audience, which graced the building, for a long time to come. The attendance was at least 200 and financially the function exceeded the most sanguine expectations of the committee. A duet “Zachariah and Sophia” by Misses May Fraser and Ellen Dwyer brought down the house. Lovers of the light fantastic kept the music going until well into the morning light when one and all departed for their homes having thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The funds raised were devoted to getting new desks and other school requisites.

Another memorable social occasion was in October of the same year when a reporter from the Nambour Chronicle attended a dance at the hall. It was his first attendance at these frequent and jolly occasions and he reported that on approaching the hall he almost lost all interest in the proceedings by the growls and defiant attitude of what appeared to be all the spare canines in the locality. After a number of clever dodges, he arrived at the door of the hall and after ensuring that the hall was free of dogs, he entered. He mused that the animals evidently had a taste and an ear for music for as the music ceased, the hall filled with the sounds of yelping and barking obviously expressing their gratification at the performance just concluded.

Many functions followed with a plain and fancy-dress ball being held in June 1906 raising funds for a fence to be erected around the building. Improvements to the hall continued and on 13 September 1935 the Nambour Chronicle reported on the reopening of the Peachester Hall after the recently completed improvements. It was expected that Mr John Grigor would perform the opening but owing to his ill health, Mr J Collins, one of the first committee members, was given the honour.

Towards the end of WWII the need to improve the condition and facilities of the hall was identified. The hall had been used as an Army depot during the war years and this, added to years of neglect, had resulted in its disrepair.

A pubic meeting was called in May 1945 and a decision was made to change the hall from a School of Arts to a Public Hall. Trustees were appointed and Duncan Macdonald Jnr was elected Chairman and George Loveday Secretary. The trustees were able to borrow 400 pounds and with the many donations of money, timber and aid, the resurrection of the Peachester Hall began.

The old hall was demolished and using all the original pit sawn joists, plates of resized red stringy bark and a Crow’s Ash log which was blown down in a storm, a new hall arose. Due to the vigorous nature of the dances of the time, it was agreed to build a platform around the edge of the dancefloor to protect the toes of those not dancing. A stage and a small supper room were added and a ceiling was added as funds became available.

On 14 November 1947 the Nambour Chronicle reported on the Official Opening of the new hall. Mr Duncan Macdonald, in his opening speech, said 58 years ago the reserve was put in the hands of five trustees and descendants of those men were still carrying on the good work and he suggested a tablet bearing the names of the original trustees be erected.

Another momentous occasion was on 8 February 1952 when the electric light was installed with the expected dance held afterwards. In 1954, Mr Bob Grigor, President of the hall committee and Mr C Loveday, Secretary, decided to hold indoor bowls get-togethers for men players only with a special tutor being engaged for the first few occasions. Later play will be open for ladies and when the art of indoor bowls has been mastered, table tennis and other indoor games would feature as part of the regular games’ night programme.

The years have passed but the Peachester Hall still remains the heart of the community. Congratulations to the members of the Peachester Community Hall Inc. and Peachester History Committee for their dedication and hard work over many years – wishing you a very successful day for the 130th anniversary and opening of the Peachester Heritage Centre on 26 October, 2019.

Thanks to Sunshine Coast Council’s Heritage Library Officers for the words and Picture Sunshine Coast for the photos.