A VITAL SERVICE
INGHAM’S POST & TELEGRAPH OFFICE
From 1871 onwards, the Post and Telegraph services to the Lower Herbert valley have provided a vital communication link between Ingham and the rest of the world. In 1874, the first Telegraph line was erected by Henry Simmonds between Waterview and the Lower Herbert (later Ingham), at a cost of £900 (approx. $105,039.50).
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A small wooden building was erected to receive the line and a year later it was opened.
From then on electronic communication via Morse code was available to the district to enable news, commerce and banking to occur for the emerging settlement. However, while the commercial sector relied on the telegraph for communication, ordinary settlers looked to the postal service to bring news of friends and loved ones into their homes.
Letters and news arrived to Ingham via the weekly coastal steamer, which landed its cargo at Dungeness.
Mail was delivered to the Lower Herbert Post Office via a tender (boat) along the Herbert River. An additional mail service also overlanded on horseback from Townsville. In 1882, the Lower Herbert Post Office was renamed the Ingham Post Office.
However, by 1923, substantial renovations to the Post office were required to cope with mail associated with growth in the region. The sorting room, exchange and battery room were doubled in size and a new bank of private postal boxes were installed along the entrance veranda.
A Savings Bank was added to the business and a small timber building was provided for the linesman with a stable and the toilet nearby.
In 1900, a purpose built Post and Telegraph office replaced the original small building. Constructed by E. Corbett of Ingham, for £1,175 and 15 shillings, (approx. $137,222.44), it was a solid timber and tin building in an L -shaped design. The Post and Telegraph office consisted of a foyer and counter area with a mail sorting room behind with five private boxes installed with public access. A small battery room was located at the end of the veranda for the telegraph service. Accommodation was provided for the single male clerks. The house contained three bedrooms, a sitting room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom and storeroom with a veranda wrapping around two sides for the men to catch the breeze of an afternoon.
It was not until 1935, that a woman’s toilet was included for female employees as part of major additions undertaken by the Commonwealth Department of the Interior when they constructed a masonry building in a design made typical of many Queensland interwar Post Offices. This is the building you see today. Telecommunication with the rest of Australia emerged as an essential service during the Second World War with Ingham’s Post and Telegraph Office providing an important national role. In a move to secure telecommunication, new cable lines and well-equipped poles were installed by United States Army Servicemen to keep communication lines open between north Queensland and the rest of Australia.
After the war the early 1950s, telephones made a popular entrance to the community with an electric automated exchange installed alongside the Post Office. This was “manned” by female switchboard operators or “Telephonists”. They assisted callers to speak to their friends and family. A ring from a caller was registered at the exchange switchboard, which signalled to the operator to transfer the call to the receiving number. The whole community was connected!
From its humble beginnings as a telegraph and letter receiving facility, Ingham’s Post and Telegraph Office kept pace with telecommunication changes to enable communication to continue between people both near and far.
Images provided by the Ingham Family History Photographic Collection.