Launceston, a city of firsts
Launceston is a city of ‘firsts’ with numerous achievements of state, national and even international significance by residents and local organisations celebrated in the pages of The Examiner over the past 175 years.
The Launceston Municipal Council can claim two very important firsts.
The town’s underground sewers date from 1860 and are the oldest in Australia and the third oldest in the world.
The Examiner reported on July 21, 1863, that there had been no objections from Launceston residents to legislation compelling house owners to construct drains onto the sewer at their own expense!
The Duck Reach Power Station, which was commissioned on December 11, 1895, made Launceston the first city in Australia to be lit by a publicly-owned hydro electricity supply.
“At eight o'clock the city was illumined, the arc lamps in the centre of the streets throwing forth a splendid light,” The Examiner reported.
Some notable medical firsts have been undertaken in Launceston.
Using equipment he had designed from a magazine article, Dr William Pugh performed the first successful operations with the use of anaesthesia in Australia in June 1847 at his private hospital in Charles Street.
The Examiner provided a detailed description of the operations and reported the great satisfaction of the patients with their ‘painless’ procedures.
Margaret McIntyre, who won the seat of Cornwall (now Rosevears) in the Legislative Council in May 1948, was the first woman elected to the Tasmanian Parliament.
The Examiner noted that she had only attended nine sitting days in Parliament before being tragically killed in a plane crash on the way home from a National Council of Women conference in Brisbane.
And Launceston can claim a number of sporting firsts.
On February 11, 1851, Australia’s first inter-colonial cricket match was played at the Launceston Racecourse grounds (today’s NTCA Ground) between Victoria and Tasmania.
The Victorians scored a total of 139 runs in their two innings but despite a batting collapse in their second innings the Tasmania team managed at total of 141 runs to win the match.
“We think the history of cricket can furnish no parallel to the spirit displayed by the Victorians in leaving their homes and professions, and undertaking a sea voyage of some hundreds of miles (no light matter), for the purpose of playing a friendly game, and also, as we believe, promoting an increased love for cricket in this island,” The Examiner stated.
There are many more Launceston firsts and perhaps some that we have claimed over the years (not included here) that have turned out to be a little dubious!
Here is a selection from The Examiner archives:
1846 – Founding of Launceston Church Grammar School, the longest continuously running independent school in Australia.
1847 – Launceston doctor William Russ Pugh is the first medical practitioner in Australia to use an anaesthetic.
1849 – Founding of the Launceston Chamber of Commerce, the first city chamber of commerce organisation in Australia.
1851 – First inter-colonial cricket match in Australia (Tasmania v Victoria), played at the Launceston Racecourse (today’s NTCA Ground).
1851 – First flag to resemble the current Australian flag designed by Reverend John West.
1860 – Establishment of the Launceston Volunteer Artillery Corps (now 16 Battery) the longest continually serving Artillery unit in Australia.
1860 – Founding of the Tasmanian Turf Club at Mowbray, Australia’s oldest continuously running racing club.
1860 – Launceston Municipal Council builds the first underground sewage system in Australia and the third in the world.
1871 – First railway in Tasmania (Launceston to Deloraine).
1875 – Founding of the Launceston Football Club, the first football club in Tasmania.
1889 – Launceston becomes the first Tasmanian city created by the Tasmanian Parliament.
1891 – Founding of the Launceston Art Society, the first art society in Australia.
1895 – First city in Australia to be lit by a publicly-owned hydro-electricity supply (Duck Reach Power Station).
1895 – Founding of the Launceston Golf Club, Tasmania’s first golf club.
1896 – First X-ray photographs in Tasmania taken by Frank Styant Browne in Launceston.
1902 – Invention of the Silver City Writing Tablet, now known as the notepad, by J. A. Birchall of Birchalls stationary shop.
1905 – Founding of the Tasmanian Motorcycle Club in Launceston, the first motorcycle club in Australia and the second in the world.
1919 – First crossing of Bass Strait by air, Launceston to Melbourne, completed by Lieutenant Arthur Long in a Boulted Paul single engine biplane.
1921 – First cold laminated tennis racquet in the world made in Launceston by Alfred Alexander.
1944 – Australia’s first infant respirator, invented by Launceston doctor William McIntyre.
1948 – Margaret McIntyre, OBE, (wife of William McIntyre) becomes the first woman elected to the Tasmanian Parliament.
1949 – First use of two-way radios in a taxi by Launceston’s Plaza Taxi Company
1949 – Launceston Alderman Dorothy Edwards becomes one of Australia's first woman mayors.
1961 – First use of CCTV security in an Australian gallery - Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
1984 – Seasol, Australia’s first liquid organic seaweed fertilizer, commercialised in Launceston.
(First published in The Examiner's 175th Anniversary supplement in March 2017. Thanks to QVMAG History Curator Jon Addison for his assistance in compiling this list)