Cultural Atlas of North Queensland—Writing

Hector Holthouse Contributor: Stephen Torre




Born in southern Queensland, Hector Holthouse spent a number of years as a sugar chemist in the sugarcane-growing areas of North Queensland and developed an interest in the history of the area. He has also worked as a journalist and, for a time, lectured in journalism at the University of Queensland. He has written a number of books on Queensland’s history. River of Gold: The Story of the Palmer River Gold Rush (1967) is a dramatized history of the 1870s gold rushes at the Palmer River in the hinterland of Cooktown. River of Gold is the story of the gold rush to the Palmer River. The field was discovered by James Venture Mulligan in 1873, and the ports of Cooktown and Cairns came into being as outlets for the gold.

In Cannibal Cargoes, Holthouse gives an account of ‘blackbirding’, the kidnapping of south Sea Islanders to work first on the cotton and then on the sugarcane plantations of North Queensland. The trade began in 1873 and continued for forty years, it being considered that white men could not survive heavy manual work in the tropics. Cyclone is an account of the devastating cyclones which have lashed the Queensland coast and of the courage and endurance of the people who have experienced them.

First published in 1970, North Queensland in Colour is a photographic record of the area stretching north of Gladstone when, as Holthouse realised, North Queensland was "awakening . . . to the development potential of another great asset . . . tourism."

At twenty-one, Evelyn Evans set out from London as a companion to a wealthy woman on a two-year world cruise. In sydney she met Charles Maunsell, down briefly from North Queensland, fell in love and married and went with him to remote Mulgrave Station. Their son was to become Senator Ron Maunsell. S’pose I Die is Evelyn’s story, based on her written recollections and conversations with Hector Holthouse.

In Looking Back: The First 150 Years of Queensland Schools, Holthouse provides an illustrated record of the way in which education was brought to Queensland children. There are accounts of itinerant teachers who travelled with a tent which served as both accommodation and schoolroom; photographs of experimental buildings, which, in order to cope with the Queensland heat, had canvas blinds in lieu of walls so that they could be lowered or raised; stories of mission schools in remote areas such as the Torres Strait; and the tale of the now-famous School of the Air.

Holthouse notes that, "In the two hundred years since 1770 when explorer James Cook’s ship, Endeavour, first ran on the coral, more than five hundred large ships and many more smaller craft have perished on the Great Barrier Reef". Ships in the Coral is an account of trade and shipping in these beautiful but dangerous waters.

Holthouse, Hector. River of Gold. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1967.
- - - . Cannibal Cargoes. Adelaide: Rigby, 1969.
- - - . North Queensland in Colour. Adelaide: Rigby, 1970.
- - - . Cyclone. Adelaide: Rigby, 1971.
- - - . S’pose I Die: the Story of Evelyn Maunsell. Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1973.
- - - . Looking Back: The First 150 Years of Queensland Schools. Brisbane: Dept of Education,
- - - . Ships in the Coral. Melbourne: Macmillan, 1976.