Night watchmen of Nambour

Early residents of the Nambour area may still remember the “night watchmen” who watched over their town

Night watchmen of Nambour

Early residents of the Nambour area may still remember the “night watchmen” who watched over their town when the business centre closed and also on weekends after the shops and hotels had shut their doors.

The position of night watchman was founded in Nambour post-World War I to provide a cost effective after hours security patrol service on the streets of the business area.

Many WWI ex-servicemen were night watchmen and Nambour, as well as other regional locations, employed them to keep the business precinct safe at night.

They were also expected to record in an official diary any suspicious or untoward activity observed.

Duties included checking doors, fastening gates, keeping an eye out for fires left unattended and for undesirable activities, including possible burglary.

The night watchmen worked very closely with the local police and were instrumental as a deterrent against crime and to assist the police wherever possible.

It was in 1905 the Moreton Sugar Mill first installed electricity for lighting with a belt driven steam engine using steam from the mill’s boilers to power 90 lamps at the mill.

A second and third circuit provided lighting for the other areas of the mill, including the rail yard, administrative offices, workers accommodation quarters, as well as the manager’s and engineer’s residences.

As the population of the region increased, Nambour became a busy place with a thriving main shopping area, including several banks.

There was no flick of a switch to flood rooms with light and many homes and early business relied on the glow from the wood fire in the kitchen stove or open fire place.

Some used candles or even a kerosene or hurricane lamp.

Larger businesses in the town relied on acetylene lamps. The town wanted electricity to brighten the business region of Nambour just like the mill.

In the early 1920s, prior to the town’s own electricity plant, the first Nambour night watchman, Mr I (Ion) Edge-Williams, was employed.

A diligent Mr Edge-Williams had the right to challenge any suspicious person on the streets during the night and use the full powers of the law.

One evening, Mr Edge-Williams challenged a loiterer, with a chaff bag of beef, near the cane tram shed.

The night watchman called on him to stop, but the thief took off with the bag of beef, but tripped and fell near Mr Donald’s Blacksmith shop.

The contents of the chaff bag were left on the ground for the night watchmen to find.

The local policeman Sgt Parker became involved the next day, due to the details provided by Mr Edge-Williams.

The delinquent was apprehended and given his marching orders to remove his unwelcome presence from the town of Nambour.

Mr Edge-Williams left the region in 1927, moving to live in Gladstone.

At public meetings held in Nambour, residents regularly expressed the desire to have an electricity plant installed.

Eventually, the Shire applied for a power scheme loan from the Queensland Government and this was successful.

The much awaited “switch-on” ceremony took place on September 12, 1927.

Nambour business owner William Whalley spoke enthusiastically about the advantage of electricity to Nambour, noting that it would brighten up the town making it more secure after dark.

A public dinner was held to celebrate the occasion.

The next person for the job of night watchman was J Walker who took over the town’s security beat after dark.

The salary for the position was paid for by town business subscription, but there was some mention in the Nambour Chronicle that though all the township benefited, there were names missing from the subscription list who did not contribute to the coffers to pay for the careful scrutiny of the watchmen.

It was not long after, in late 1928, that the Nambour Chronicle reported that Nambour was without a night watchmen and due to attempted burglaries reported, a new appointment was certainly needed.

At a meeting soon after, Mr H W Tucker, a highly esteemed local resident of more than 20 years, was appointed.

After a year of “night after night: duties Mr Tucker was taking a well-earned spell, reported The Chronicle.

He had been ever vigilant, overseeing that no evils occurred “while Nambour slept”.

Mr D Murtagh accepted the position and it was reported he was “now on the beat” nightly walking the streets of the town taking notes when required.

During his nightly watch he was particular in looking out for unlocked windows and doors just in case a burglar was around.

The Nambour electricity generating plant was claimed to be one of the most modern for the time.

Such was the demand there were 240 consumers connected and at times black outs occurred.

Perhaps it was during a blackout that Whalleys Store in Nambour was robbed and ransacked in 1931.

An additional plant was installed, but some problems still occurred due to overheating and this was met with complaints from the town’s business owners and residents.

Due to demand Maroochy Shire Council applied for another loan and replacement engines became operational in 1932.

The Nambour Powerhouse only generated electricity for Nambour township which caused concerns to the smaller towns in the shire.

A rise in demand for electricity eventually saw changes occurring and the responsibility for maintaining electricity from the Nambour Powerhouse was taken over by the Queensland Government’s Consumer’s Engineers Department with a changeover from DC to AC current by 1943.

Construction gangs worked flat out and the luxury of electricity for homes and farms was very well received.

The dairy farmers were then able to switch from hand milking to milking machines which must have been a tremendous asset for them from the labour intensive days.

During the 1940s, Nambour had a series of night watchmen.

There was a higher presence of military in the town and this perhaps assisted with security.

Certainly the MPs knew how to keep the soldiers on the “straight and narrow”.

World War I veteran Mr C Mounsey was unanimously selected in 1945 for the night watchman role.

It is quite possible that many of the veterans chosen had health issues due to their war service.

In 1947, Mr H Gillespie was selected from five applicants to take over the role.

One of the longest serving night watchmen was Vainna Tamppinen, the son of an emigrant family who arrived in Nambour from Finland in 1900.

Mr Tamppinen enlisted in World War I and was a soldier in the 31st Battalion.

A community minded man, he became a secretary of the Nambour RSL as well as running a general store in Coronation Avenue.

Mr Tamppinen was Nambour’s night watchmen for nine-and-a-half years, starting in about 1958 and retiring due to his age in 1967.

Born in 1899, he would have been around 68 years old when he left the duties of patrolling the business centre.

Following on from Mr Tamppinen was A J Bush of Lamington Terrace, a resident of Nambour for many years who had previously worked in Nambour’s Post Office.

Arthur Bush retired in 1973 and a new form of security was employed.

In 1973, things changed.

A private security company under the direction of Ron Chappell established a security business and the onus for security was on each company who required security to pay the company directly.

Mr Chappell’s business employed security guards in highly visible uniforms to patrol and maintain order in the area once patrolled by the town night watchmen.