War and History Non-Fiction posted July 13, 2011


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Mary Poppins Festival

by Aussie

There is no doubt about it - when it comes to dressing up for a party, Maryborough leaves the rest of the country for dead.

Just weeks ago thousands trundled through the streets dressed in period costume for the Annual Mary Poppins Festival in the beautiful Queens Park beside the Mary River. The spirit of Mary Poppins was on show everywhere in the city centre as a crowd estimated at 10,000 rolled into town for yet another fun day.

Despite a spit of rain and threatening dark skies, the event went on as scheduled, thrilling young and old alike.

The food stalls were well attended as the crowd sauntered their way around the festival. The competition for best Town Crier was well received as the men shouted and rang their big brass bells. The 'nanny race' was a hoot; men and women dressed in nanny uniforms pushed old prams, washing baskets on wheels, wooden look-a-likes complete with dolls of all sizes toward the finish line. Some nannies lost their babies, some lost wheels and in general, laughter made the 'medicine go down' as Julie Andrews would have sung.

The competition for best chimney sweep was such a giggle - fake chimneys had been erected and the competitors climbed in to clean - first to clean the chimney won a broom!

Mary Poppins: Maryborough has a unique connection to the world's most famous nanny that no other place can claim.
Mary poppins'author PL Travers was born in Maryborough in 1899. Pamela travers was born Helen Lyndon Goff in the residence above the former Australian joint Stock Bank on the corner of Richmond and Kent Street, where her father was the bank manager. Her family left Maryborough when she was a teenager.

Pamela was a dancer and an actress appearing mainly in Shakespearean plays in Australia and New Zealand. In 1924 the first 'Mary Poppins' series went on to be translated into many languages. It was also the basis for the Oscar winning Disney film, starring Julie Andrews.

The author died in 1996 aged 96.

Maryborough owes much of its character and history to the Mary River. It was the year 1842 that the Mary River first drew European settlers to the area with the allure of rich alluvial soil and a deep, natural harbour.
Maryborough quickly became a thriving, bustling river port for the export of wool, cotton, timber, sugar - and then gold.

In the lead up to the Federation of the states, it was the second largest immigration port after Sydney - with up to 22,000 free settlers landing in Maryborough seeking fame and fortune in the new colony.

In the 1800s, ships from Plymouth and Liverpool were docking almost every two weeks bringing immigrants from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia.
With the discovery of gold at nearby Gympie in 1867, the importance of the Port of Maryborough increased dramatically, and the city became a thriving hub of commerce and at one stage was the rival for Brisbane as the new Queensland capital.
The many grand old heritage listed buildings and hotels in the portside area were built to service the Port of Maryborough's thriving merchant businesses.

The river has been known by many names, with the Aborigines calling the river Booie, Moonaboola, Numbulla, or Mooraboocoola. Many tribes lived on the banks of the river before colonization.
It was named the Wide Bay River until 1848, when the Governor Fitzroy renamed the river in honour of his wife, Lady Mary Fitzroy. The river is unusual in that it flows south to north, with its headwaters in the sunshine coast hinterland.
A popular boating and fishing spot during the warmer months where large barramundi are caught. The river runs past Queens Park, the most popular park in Maryborough. Covering two acres, the park has wonderful Moreton Bay fig trees up to 100yrs old. Shady paths wind their way throughout the parkland's. Last Christmas, Maryborough experienced its worst floods in 100yrs - the river rose to cover a great deal of the park. A rail line can be seen running around the foreshore for the use of tourists. The last Sunday of the month the miniature steam engines pull around ten passengers on a tiny track within the park.
Maryborough is a heritage listed city where the original facades are kept in sparkling condition. One can imagine the folks in 1800 strolling around the streets in frockcoats and long dresses and bonnets. They must have suffered in the heat. We do have high humidity in summer. Maryborough is the gateway to the Fraser Coast, beginning of the Great Barrier Reef and now, July is whale watching season. I wonder what Pamela Travers would have thought about the changes since she lived in my home city.


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Photograph: I took this from Queens Park and you can see the rail line near the river, all this went under water in the Christmas floods.
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