In our archives: The Viva Cribb Collection

The Ipswich Historical Society holds an extensive archive of material relating to Ipswich and the local area. Some of our most valuable material comes from the personal collection of longtime member Viva Cribb (1920-2006). Viva was a true character, known for her encyclopaedic knowledge of Ipswich history and her bowerbird tendencies: she collected documents on every subject imaginable. As such, her collection is a vital resource to any researcher interested in the local area.

As a researcher in the history of education, I was very excited to find Viva’s collection of old school books. She kept her handwritten copybooks, her pastel drawings, and even copies of the school paper from the 1930s. Her materials provide a rare insight into life as a pupil during the first half of the twentieth century.

The Viva Cribb collection is available to researchers by appointment. Please get in touch with the society if you would like to access any of our documents.

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The Whitwood Colliery Payroll Hold-up

Roy McKelvie - Whitwood Truth 22.12.1935
Roy McKelvie

It was a Friday morning in November 1935 at the mine office of Whitwood Colliery at New Chum in Ipswich. Being payday, the company secretary, Roy McKelvie, was busy filling individual brown pay-envelopes with cash he had collected earlier from the bank in Ipswich. Beside him on the table was a loaded revolver.

He paused to answer the phone, but when he finished he sensed someone behind him. Turning, he was confronted with the strange figure of a man disguised with a blackened face, scarf and sunglasses, pointing a revolver at him.

Whitwood Mine Office Truth 22.12.1935
Whitwood Mine Office

Told to fill a sugar bag with the pay envelopes, McKelvie complied and the thief rapidly fled the building and headed for the surrounding bush. The secretary grabbed his own revolver and emptied all six chambers at the thief but none of the shots found their target.

The police were called and made a search of the bush until finally a man named Hugh Tite was detained in a row boat on the Brisbane River.

Questioned by detectives at Ipswich Police Station, Tite made no admissions and instead boasted that no local jury would convict him.

The trial took place in March 1936 and despite some very strong circumstantial evidence against Tite, the jury, as he had predicted, returned a verdict of not guilty. His supporters in the packed courtroom erupted in cheers and applause.

The full story is available at Trove Online Newspapers:

K.C. Sbeghen

The Bricks that Built Ipswich


One of Dave Horrigan’s most prized possessions is a brick he found in a dump.

It dates back to Queensland’s early convict years and it is just one of the 150 historical bricks he has in his personal collection.

Dave has no personal involvement in the brick making industry, but a chance experience over a decade ago sparked what would become a lifelong passion.

“I helped my father-in-law a couple of times with installing combustion heaters into open fire places. We usually needed to knock out the smoke shelf in the chimney to fit the new heater and I started noticing all these different types of bricks and thought they’d look good in the garden. So every time he installed a new heater he’d give me a few new bricks.”

What started as a passing interest quickly turned into a fascination, one that has now spilled outside his home and into a new display at the Ipswich Historical Society.

It’s a fascination he’s keen to share. Dave believes that many residents of Ipswich would be surprised to learn of the region’s extensive history with brick making, which he believes dates back to its early days as a penal colony.

“There’s a fair bit of evidence to suggest that the first bricks ever made in Ipswich were made by five convicts and an overseer set out to set up an out-station. One of the first structures made was a brick building. Unless they carried the bricks all the way from Moreton Bay, they had to have made them here.”

Dave is always on the lookout for new bricks to add to his collection.

“There is a brick made by brick maker Alfred Donnelly in c1870’s marked Ipswich on one side and Donnelly on the other. [I’m also looking for] a brick made by brick maker R.H. Rogers marked R.H Rogers Ipswich. I’d also love to get some bricks from the Goodna area, in particular a ‘Wolston’ brick.”

A National School for Ipswich

National School Ipswich,_ca._1890
Ipswich National School ca. 1890. All images copyright Ipswich Historical Society.

Interest in establishing a National School in Ipswich was shown as early as 1850. At this time, the Ipswich Council voted on and passed the proposal for a National School (Ipswich Libraries 2014). It was not, however, until 1861, that the project finally came to fruition. At a time when the city’s population was growing rapidly, this was a significant delay (Davis 1974: 36). Even after the establishment of National Schools at Ipswich and Little Ipswich in 1861 and 1862 respectively, it took another year for buildings to be obtained (Davis 1974: 89). Despite this delay, the Ipswich National School became known as an excellent institution, facilitating the decline of many of the private schools in the region (Davis 1974: 89).

The motivation of the people of Ipswich in establishing a National school was described in an 1861 newspaper article describing a public meeting held on the subject. The article, describing the discussion held on that occasion, stated that:

“What was wanted for the education of the colony was free schools – free, in fact, if not nominally so — where the parent who could not afford to pay a shilling per week for the instruction of each of his children might get them education for sixpence, or if he could not afford sixpence, need only pay threepence; or if he could not afford to pay even threepence for each of them might get them educated for nothing” (Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser March 29, 1861: 3).

The National School, then, is a sign of an initial movement toward a right we take for granted today: the right to a free public education for all children.

The building itself is long gone. Its photograph remains in our collection as a tangible memory of our city’s early drive to achieve equitable and inclusive education.


Davis, B. L. (1974). The Influence of Ipswich in Early Queensland (Master (Qualifying) of Arts). University of Queensland, Brisbane.

Ipswich Libraries. (2014, January 29). The Ipswich National School [Library Website]. Retrieved from

Ipswich National Primary School. (1861, March 29). Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser, p. 3. Ipswich, Queensland.

Good Manners in the Classroom

Good Manners.JPGDuring the early years of Queensland education manners were everything. For people living in colonial Australia, ‘savagery’ was understood to be the natural state of humanity: part of the purpose of education was to civilise children so that they could take their place as useful, active members of polite society.

The manners of children in colonial society were a reflection upon their parents, most particularly their mothers. Children were a constant matter of concern. Those children who grew up in isolated regions in the bush, who mixed little with the more respectable portions of colonial society, and who had few opportunities to engage in formal schooling were held open to censure. So too were city children a source of concern. The former lived a life which was, depending on the discursive formation in use at any particular time, simple and natural or wild, untamed, and neglected. The latter were either exposed to the benefits of urban society or lived a life marked by moral hazard and affectation (Russell 2010: 197). There was little agreement, then, as to how or where children ought to be brought up in order to obtain results which could be viewed as civilised. There was nonetheless a general belief that many of the problems facing adults could be avoided if children were raised to be well-mannered and gentle (Russell 2010: 214).

JS Anderson, the under-secretary to the Department of Public Instruction in Queensland, stated in an 1897 address that female teachers were effectively missionaries whose duty it was to refine the manners of their pupils, not only to educate their intellects. Male teachers, too, had an important duty, and were to model proper manliness and to teach truthfulness and polite manners (Russell 2010: 223).

The ‘Good Manners’ chart, first issued by the Department of Public Instruction in 1898, reflects these concerns. It also offers a valuable insight into the behaviours viewed as desirable for children. The chart, which was used in Queensland classrooms until the 1960s, exhorted children to, among other traits, be truthful, to keep themselves clean and neat, and to avoid rudeness in all situations.

The chart holds a prominent place in the model classroom in the Ipswich Historical Society’s museum at Cooneana Heritage Centre.


Queensland Government Department of Education and Training. (2013, February 21). Good Manners chart. Retrieved from

Russell, P. (2010). Savage or Civilised? Manners in Colonial Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press Ltd.