The association of the Agnew family with Moreton Bay began with the appointment of Philip Palmer Agnew as a Government Clerk and Telegraph Officer at the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum (Old People’s Home) in 1894, a position he held until his retirement in 1917. Philip became involved in the presentation of musical productions at the newly opened Victoria Hall for the Residents of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum and the Lazaret (Leprosarium), which was to the south of Dunwich. The cast consisted of the members of his family, inmates, and community. He named the troop ‘The Koompie Minstrels’. The Agnew’s home was called ‘Bohemia’ a name well suited to the family’s artistic talents.
The Agnew’s world was rocked when their youngest son Noel, or ‘Laddie’ as he was affectionately known, contracted leprosy (Hansen’s Disease). This proved a catalyst for the sufferers on Stradbroke Island to be relocated to nearby Peel Island in 1907 for fear the disease would spread to the greater island population. Noel was to become one of the first and longest serving patients in the lazaret’s 52 year history. He used his time in forced isolation to record a highly detailed record of the bird life of Peel Island (76 species in total), which was published in the RAQU Journal The Emu in 1913. A further list was published in The Emu in 1921.
Between 1921 and 1923, a brief remission from the disease enabled Noel to return to his family in Dunwich. Unfortunately, the symptoms returned, and eventually the disease claimed his eyesight and the use of his hands and he was bedridden. Laddie died in 1937 and was buried in the Peel Island cemetery. Philip Palmer Agnew also died in 1937, three months after the death of his son, Noel.
The exhibition, which honours several generations of the pioneering, artistic and benevolent Agnew family, continues at the Redland Museum through until the end of February 2018.
Further to my blog of 24.07.2017, I was keen to learn more about Englishwoman Kate Marsden and her journey to Viluisk in Siberia to establish a hospital for lepers.
Naturally, I looked up Wikipedia first, and here is the introduction to what it had to say:
Kate Marsden (13 May 1859 – 26 May 1931) was a British missionary, explorer, writer and nursing heroine. Supported by Queen Victoria and Empress Maria Fedorovna she investigated the care of leprosy. She set out on a journey from Moscow to Siberia to find a cure, creating a leper treatment centre in Siberia. She returned to England and inspired Bexhill Museum, but she was obliged to retire as a trustee. Marsden was dogged after her journey by homophobia, her finances were questioned as were her motives for her journey. Her accusers almost succeeded in making her sexuality the basis for an “Oscar Wilde”-type trial. She was however elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. She has a large diamond named after her and is still remembered in Siberia, where a large memorial statue was erected at Sosnovka village in 2014.
However, google led me to another Kate Marsden, whose WordPress page revealed that KM The Younger has just completed a re-enactment of the original Kate Marsden’s journey and is now writing a book about the subject. You can find out a whole lot more about the two KMs by clicking on her webpage here:
The Friends of Peel Island Association Inc, PO Box 9019, Cleveland DC, Qld, 4163 Email: email@example.com
Come and Join The Friends of Peel Island
on SATURDAY, 9th SEPTEMBER, 2017
Fort Lytton National Park
South Street, Lytton
between 9:30am and 10:00am
followed at 10:30am by
A TALK BY PETER LUDLOW ON PEEL ISLAND
“The History Behind the Horseshoe”
Peter Ludlow, author historian, has been researching and writing about the unique history of Peel Island since 1977. With his PowerPoint presentation, Peter highlights Peel’s history including pre-European occupation, its use by Europeans and, in 2007, the Island being gazetted as a National Park and Conservation Park and the Lazaret Buildings being Heritage Listed.
The Friends of Peel Island Exhibition Room
will be Open for Inspection following Peter Ludlow’s Presentation
also included will be
A TWO COURSE CHICKEN, HAM AND SALAD LUNCHEON
and a LUCKY DOOR PRIZE
Entrance Ticket : $25.00 per person
(Note: Bookings and Payment to be received in Advance by not later than close of business on Friday, 1 September, 2017)
Cut along Line – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Telephone: ………………………… Mobile: ……………………………………..
Number of People: …………………………………………………………………..
Amount Paid: …………………………………………………………………………..
To secure your booking please either:
• Post the completed Booking Form to PO Box 9019, Cleveland DC 4163, together with your Cheque or Money Order made payable to “Friends of Peel Island Association”
• Email your details to “firstname.lastname@example.org” and make payment by way of direct deposit to our account at the Commonwealth Bank, BSB: 064-000 Account: 10649391
(If paying by direct deposit, please ensure your name is clearly indicated to identify your deposit)
Enquiries : Contact – Scott on 0407 934 147 or Email – email@example.com
At a recent meeting of the Friends of Peel Island Association Inc. a colleague showed me the following extract from ‘The Friendship Book’ that had been published in 1976:
‘Wednesday July 7
‘Very few people in this country (England) have heard of Kate Marsden, yet in parts of modern Russia she is famous. For in the 1890’s this trained nurse and dedicated Christian began to inquire into the lot of lepers in Russia. Armed with a letter of introduction from the Princess of Wales, she personally interviewed the Empress of all the Russias and learnt of the lepers of Viluisk, expelled from their homes to a living death in the frozen forests of Siberia.
‘Kate Marsden went to see for herself, enduring terrible hardships on the journey which were to leave her an invalid for thirty years. What she saw made her badger the Russian authorities until, six years later, a leper hospital was built.
‘That same hospital was closed down not so many years ago because, thanks to one determined woman, there are now no more lepers in Viluisk.’
Notwithstanding that the term ‘lepers’ was no longer in use in 1976 except in derogatory terms and jokes, the article surprised me because I had never considered Russia to have had such patients. However, as leprosy (or Hansen’s Disease, as it is now known) is thought to have originated in China, it would have been brought by traders along the Silk Road all those centuries ago and thence into what is now known as Russia.
World Health Organisation:
‘In 1937 Dapsone, the first of a new sub‑class of sulpha drugs called the Sulphones was produced. Dapsone was found to be thirty times more active but only fifteen times more toxic than Sulphanilamide and in the 1940s is tested as a possible cure for Tuberculosis. Regrettably it is not effective but tests against rat leprosy provide dramatic results. Soon it was tried on human volunteers and by the mid 1940s it was believed that the miracle cure for Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) has finally been found.’
Dr Eric Reye (Medical Officer, Peel Island Lazaret):
‘On the 23rd of January 1947, twenty of Peel’s most severe cases received their first doses. The philosophy behind its administration was to deliver the maximum amount of drug in the shortest time, and as such the Promin was delivered by intravenous administration each morning for six days each week. In all, by the end of April, my assistants and I have given 1,677 Promin injections, and the results were most encouraging!
(Promin is broken down in the body to dapsone, which is the therapeutic form.)
Thirtieth Session of the National Health and Medical Research Council:
‘The Commonwealth Government should pass a special Act granting to certain Lepers allowances along the lines of those available to sufferers of TB under the TB Act’.
However, the Commonwealth Government refused to accede to the recommendation.
Seventh International Congress of Leprology in Tokyo:
‘The Congress is unequivocally in favour of the abandonment of strict segregation and other restrictive practices as currently applied to Hansen’s patients.’
Following this Congress, a full report was made to the Queensland Parliament, which then implemented legislation for the transfer of the lazaret from Peel Island to Ward S12 at the South Brisbane (now Princess Alexandra) Hospital. Such recommendations were contained in the Health Acts Amendment Act of 1959 (Division VI ‑ Leprosy), which replaced the Leprosy Act of 1892.
‘If isolation is deemed to be necessary, then it must be done within the community, in special wards at community hospitals, where patients and their relatives can go without fear of community ostracism.
‘These are the lessons we can learn from Peel Island. Its past was grim, at one time hopeless, but it should never be forgotten that such events did occur right here at our doorstep, and in recent times. Let Peel Island always remain as a symbol of the individual’s determination to live on in the face of hopelessness, and of mankind’s ability to conquer such terrible afflictions as can beset our community at any time.’
A visitor (to the island in 1909):
‘The steamer stopped off Peel Island to let us down into a boat… We landed on the rocky beach (at the eastern end of) the island and were soon bumping over the stony road to the part fenced off for the lepers. This was reached after a disagreeable drive of twenty minutes. The first thing to attract our attention was a collection of graves. One was newly dug, ready to receive the corpse of a leper who was in the last stages…Passing on we sighted a large number of South Sea Islanders, all affected with leprosy. These kanakas waved us a hearty welcome.’ (1)
“Alex” (pseudonym) patient at Peel Island:
‘The patients were housed in four distinct compounds ‑ the white women to the west of the main quadrangle, the white men to the east, and the aborigines in two separate compounds (men and women) to the south. In the white compounds the patients were billeted one to a hut, but in the aboriginal compounds, there were two or more to a hut. The women’s huts were the most serviceable and consisted of a bedroom, verandah, and a small kitchen, which contained a wood burning stove for cooking purposes. Women were expected to cook for themselves where possible, but if they were feeling unwell, an attendant would bring them a meal from the main kitchen. The women always dined in their cabins.’ (2)
“Jim” (pseudonym) patient at Peel Island:
‘Before World War II patient management had been relatively simple. Basically it utilized the social stigma surrounding Hansen’s patients (or “Lepers” as they were then known). The term “Leper” immediately invokes Biblical connotations of a person who is unclean and a social outcast, and to contract “Leprosy” was a life sentence of social discrimination and segregation not only for the patient by also for the patient’s family. It was this very real fear of the community’s reprisals against their families that was used to keep unruly patients in check. For it was an easy matter for the Superintendent at Peel to threaten to send the police around to a trouble‑maker’s relatives. Neighbourhood gossips would then quickly broadcast the news of the visit.
‘The other alternative available for patient control at the lazaret was by the use of sanctions ‑ specifically aimed at the issue of visitors’ passes. In the early 1940s each patient was allowed two visitors per month. In previous times it had been more often, but evidently someone had broken the rules and the number had been restricted. Before boarding the Government vessel, visitors were required to show a pass which had been previously applied for by the patient to the Superintendent at Peel. Naturally any misdemeanours on the part of the patient could be used against him when he came to request his visitors’ passes.’ (2)
Rosemary Opala (nee Fielding) (former nurse at Peel Island Lazaret):
‘When invited, we all shared the patients’ social activities such as tennis, concerts, and dances. Ingrained Hospital Protocol, not fear of contagion, was a factor in nurses not further “fraternising with the patients”. I’ve told elsewhere of how we had to hike across to the Horseshoe to swim, instead of using the patients’ jetty at high tide, because it “wasn’t professional” to be seen in our decorous bathers.’ (3)
- Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection
- Peel Island – Paradise or Prison
- Moreton Bay Letters
LEVITICUS (regarding a person with leprosy):
‘his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering on his upper lip and shall cry unclean, unclean. All the days wherein the plague shall be in him shall be defiled: he shall dwell alone; without the camp shall his habitation be.’
Luke 16:1: (In the parable of the rich man and the beggar, which begins…)
‘There was once a rich man who dressed in the most expensive clothes and lived in great luxury every day. There was also a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who used to be brought to the rich man’s door, hoping to eat the bits of food that fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores… ‘
C.R.Wiburd (a former Quarantine Officer at Brisbane):
‘Maritime Quarantine, as we know it, commenced in 1348 when the overseers of Public Health at Venice were authorised to spend public moneys for the purpose of isolating infected ships, persons, and goods, at an island of the lagoon. A medical man was stationed with the sick. As a result of these arrangements the first maritime quarantine station of which there is any record was established in 1403 at the island of Santa Maria di Nazareth at Venice.
‘The Venetian Authorities framed in 1348 a code of quarantine regulations which served as a model for all others to a very recent period. All merchants and persons coming from the Levant were compelled to remain in the House of St. Lazarus for a period of forty days before admission into the city. From this is derived the term “lazaret” which has persisted until now.’
The lazaret was established in the north-western corner of Peel Island in 1907.
Tom Welsby (early bay historian):
‘It (Peel) would have made an ideal township, or rather residential quarter, had mercantile buildings been erected at Cleveland and its surroundings. Had the surface of Peel been covered with well built villas and terraces a fifteen minute or less run would have taken the businessmen and others from Cleveland to a home where in summertime the weather is always delightful, and where north‑easters and south‑easters alike cool the day and evening and night with the charm of Southern Seas … but surely so large and conspicuous an island as Peel might have been left from the charge of having its soil so sadly contaminated (by the lazaret).’
June Berthelsen (a former patient at Peel Island lazaret, on her diagnosis with Hansen’s Disease/leprosy):
‘I felt dazed. I had Leprosy ‑ that dreadful disease mentioned in the Bible, where the Lepers were shunned by the people. Lepers ‑ with loathsome sores and disfigured limbs. Would I finish up like that? Would my family and friends disown me as something unclean and horrible? I remembered the fate of lepers in the Bible, how they wandered in the waste places of the desert, treated more like animals than human beings. Cast out forever by their own kind. Would it be like that for me?’
Lloyd Rees (artist, describing his mother’s incarceration on Peel):
‘leprosy was diagnosed. The world being what it was and what it still is, that, of all diseases, threw a stigma. With cancer there was a horror, but with leprosy ‑ a stigma… There was a nasty air of secrecy about it all. From Cleveland, down south of Brisbane…a mysterious launch left to take visitors to the island.’
Reference: Peter Ludlow ‘Exiles of Peel Island – Leprosy’
Since 2012, students from the Architecture Faculty at the University of Queensland (UQ) have been involved in digitising the former lazaret at Peel Island for the CyArk project. One of the pieces of equipment they have been using is the robot shown below. This proved invaluable in scanning the interior of the former doctor’s house at the institution, whose floors have been rendered unsafe for humans to tread due to whiteant infestation.
To explain how CyArk works, it is best to go to its website at cyark.org which explains to us initiated folk:
CyArk uses cutting edge technology to capture detailed 3D representations of world’s significant cultural heritage sites before they are lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time.
By bouncing laser light off the surfaces, 3D scanners measure millions of points a second, accurate to a few millimeters to create a 3D data set, or point cloud. Colours represent the intensity of reflection from the surface.
Individual data points are joined together via small triangles, connecting each of the dots and forming a wireframe. These triangles are used to form a solid surface from the points, which creates a solid 3D model.
The 3D model generated from the point cloud is then coloured using photographs taken of the surface of the structure. The result is a photo-real 3D model which can be used to further study the monument and used for conservation and education.
This week I attended a demonstration of the Peel Island project at UQ, along with other members of the Friends of Peel Island Association (http://www.fopia.org.au) and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. The work already done by the UQ students is impressive and it is hoped to have the project uploaded on the CyArk site in the not too distant future. When this happens you’ll be able to digitally explore the lazaret as it was back in 1955!
My only misgiving was the length of the project’s digital life on the web, given the rate at which the web’s technology is outdated. CyArk claims that it will keep up with all changes so that the project will last forever. Now ‘Forever’ is a rather a bold statement when it comes to the internet. I’ll be interested to see whether this claim holds true!
Last week, I related the story of Joyce Burgess (nee Kelly) in the blog ‘The Last Living Inmate of Peel Island Lazaret’. Today I follow up her story with that of her brother Emmett Kelly (nicknamed in my writings as ‘Ned’. To reiterate: Emmett, then aged 9 years, and a sister, Joyce, were admitted to the Peel Island lazaret in 1928, just a few weeks after their mother, Marion. His sister, Joyce, was paroled later that year after her disease went into remission, and his mother, Marion, died in 1930 and was buried at Peel in an unmarked grave. This left Emmett, then aged 11 years, without a family on Peel Island – a severe handicap to start out in life.
However he took his daily dose of Chaulmoogra oil, the only treatment then available, and eventually after two years of negative monthly blood tests, his Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) went into remission, and he was pronounced disease-free and allowed to leave Peel in 1931.
Because he was still a minor and an orphan, he was required to be cared for by the State, and should have been sent to a State Orphanage. However, being an ex-patient of Peel Island, and because it was known that children were particularly susceptible to Hansen’s Disease, young Emmett was sent to Westbrook Prison Farm instead. Here, the warder continued to administer his daily prophylactic dose of Chaulmoogra Oil and when Emmett reached the age of 17, he was released and returned to his home-town of Mackay. However, Emmett’s disease returned (as it often did). We can only imagine his feelings about returning to the Peel Island Lazaret for a second time in 1938.
This time, Emmett’s Hansen’s Disease was more severe. Already it had affected and softened his nasal bones resulting in the gradual collapse of his nose. The skin of his forehead had thickened, and his features were gradually assuming the ‘lion face’ of those suffering from the more advanced forms of the disease. Nevertheless, his fighting spirit remained undimmed, and his skill with words was to prove a great asset in securing a better deal for himself and his fellow patients on the island. He was also adept at repairing patients’ radios, and when the ‘official’ radio repair patient died, Emmett took over the job. He was also a keen fisherman and was later to purchase his own fishing boat that he named the ‘Cygnet’. His other Peel pastimes included SP bookmaking for other patients taking bets on mainland horse racing, and exchanging fish and mud crabs he had caught for illicit alcohol supplied by boaties.
When the Lazaret at Peel Island closed in 1959, Emmett and the remaining small number of patients were transferred to the South Brisbane Hospital (now called the Princess Alexandra Hospital). Emmett died there on August 24th, 1981 in ward G1. Like all institutions, his passing marked the end of an era. His absence was noted with sadness by many of the hospital’s staff. Most knew that he had been a patient at Peel Island, and that his mother had died there. Few could fully appreciate the courage and determination he had shown to live to the fullest his unique and almost totally institutionalised life. After his death, the hospital authorities converted his flat at ward S12 into a Staff Recreation Club. It sported a big bar, which was named ‘The Emmett Kelly Bar’ in his honour. Emmett would have been pleased at this gesture!
Reference: ‘Peel Island History – A Personal Quest’