Mayor Ron Bellingham and councillors cut the 150th cake.
Mayor Ron Bellingham and councillors cut the 150th cake. Emma Channon

Aldermen take over town hall

MODERN-DAY councillors embodied their historic counterparts at a re-creation of the first Warwick meeting yesterday, followed by the present-day general meeting where the issues weren't all that different from 150 years ago.

As part of Warwick's official 150th birthday, the nine councillors, CEO Rod Ferguson and director of community services Tony Minuti staged the re-enactment.

Between swigs out of a suspicious-looking flask, Cr Vic Pennisi occasionally rapped the table with his walking stick to earn attention.

Cr Mally McMurtrie, barely recognisable in a thick black beard and male clothing, kept turning the focus of the meeting to the fictional Albion St shop of her character.

The most ingenious with her historic outfit, Cr Denise Ingram employed a silk sheet as her skirt, shoelaces stitched on as detail to her vest and wore a segment of a brassiere as the foundation for her feathered hat.

Mayor Ron Bellingham informed councillors of the naming of the CBD streets and told them Palmerin St would be saved for commercial and residential use.

“We will never build a school and we will never build, dare I say it, a swimming pool there,” he quipped.

Councillors – or aldermen – vented frustration over an escaped grey mare on Palmerin St, with Cr Pennisi urging its immediate transferral to Goondiwindi on the next bullock train.

“It is inappropriate to have this mare treading on Mrs Brown's garden,” Cr Bellingham agreed.

The prospect of building a bridge across the Condamine River was also discussed, with Cr Bellingham pointing out it “obviously” had to be of the height that would “never be flooded”.

Cr Ingram urged the fixing of the water drainage issue along Albion St, saying her “frock got very wet” while walking along.

“With all due respect, I don't know what ladies with dresses are doing at this table (anyway),” Cr Bellingham joked.

After singing the national anthem God Save The Queen, the councillors ended the meeting and audience members were invited to share the 150th birthday cake.

Great great-grand-daughter of William Craig, one of the first councillors, Dorothy Jeffrey said she greatly enjoyed the production.

“I thought it was absolutely fabulous. I could just imagine what the first meeting would have been like,” she said.

Following the morning tea, councillors met for their monthly general meeting where some topics of discussion were similar to 150 years ago.

After lodging a request to beautify Albion and Wood Sts by planting trees, council received a letter of correspondence from State Minister for Main Roads Craig Wallace.

In his letter, Mr Wallace advised tree planting on state-controlled roads was assessed on a “case-by-case basis”.

Tenders for the construction of a new Warwick dog and cat pound were also collated and councillors moved to accept the lowest tender from MBC Constructions.

Cr Bellingham's 1861 remarks to build Madsen Bridge high enough so it would “never be flooded” were contradicted when the 2011 council had to push on with renovations to the flooded Fitzroy St units.

The first meeting of the council was held on July 15, 1861. It apparently was merely a formal affair, for the minutes cover but a little over a page.

The only business transacted was the appointment of Mr. E. Jones as Town Clerk, with the meeting adjourned until July 29 at 2pm.

It is an interesting fact that the first by-laws of the young corporation, which were printed in 1866, contained the fundamentals, which now govern rules of debate and procedure.

In the pioneering days of the municipality there was no local newspaper, hence we find that a motion was carried at a public meeting in August 1862: “That it is expedient and advisable that the inhabitants of the town should be put in possession of information relative to the financial department of their municipality, seeing that no such information has been laid before them since the town became incorporated”.

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