In 1878, Cometville was the end of the railway line to the west, reaching here officially on 1st March of that year. Three bridges had to be built over the Comet River and its two anabranches, ensuring the town would be here for some time.
COURT OF PETTY SESSIONS HELD IN LOCAL HOTEL
The town had a growing population of 1500 people with all Court of Petty Session appearances at that time held in Huston’s Royal Mail Hotel.
The committee of the Comet Progress Association asked for a suitable building in the township to hold court sittings.
NEW COURTHOUSE CONSTRUCTED
The Court of Petty Sessions Comet was proclaimed by the Governor in Council on the 26th April 1878. Tenders were called and Mr Henry Remilton of Cairns, constructed the building which had a shingle roof and verandahs on each side.
A NEW POLICE STATION
In Mr Trevor Kemp’s book Comet State School Centenary 1878/79, he states that the railway engineer Robert Ballard drew up the plans for this building. Prior to this, Sergeant Carey conducted all police business in a tent and prisoners awaiting trial were chained to a log nearby. The sergeant’s accommodation was also a tent.
HOTELS TRADING SEVEN DAYS A WEEK
The hotels traded seven days a week and most cases dealt with by the police were for drunk and disorderly behaviour. However, reported in the Capricornian of 24th October 1878, one “Jimmy” a Celestial was charged with assaulting Constable E Hays in the execution of his duty. He was represented by Mr King Yeen, of Rockhampton, who defended the prisoner. The bench, after hearing evidence, considered the case fully proved and sentenced the prisoner to a fine of £3,0,0 ($6.00) or one month’s imprisonment – the former alternative was accepted.
The bridges completed; the railway moved on to Emerald along with most of the population. Those people requested to attend court had to travel back to Comet 40kms away. This caused great inconvenience and in most cases the clients would lose a day’s wages.
THE RAILWAY MOVES ON – COURT ABOLISHED
The Court of Petty Sessions remained in use until it was abolished by a gazettal proclamation on the 2nd July 1881. By this time most of the townspeople had moved on with the railway to Emerald.
The police and police residence were removed to Emerald in 1892. The cell block remained and was used as a school residence for some years until it was relocated to Emerald, with a portion of the building moved to “Hobb’s” block which is now part of “Olive Vale”.
COMETVILLE’S FIRST SCHOOL
The school children were educated in a movable building which had come up the line from Dingo with the railway camp in 1877. This school was situated in Shakespeare Street and bounded on its eastern side by Cable Street. Mr Alan McLeod said it was known locally as The Orchard.
SCHOOL CHILDREN MOVED INTO COURTHOUSE BUILDING
When the courthouse was built in Emerald, the Cometville building was no longer in use. The school children were moved into the vacant courthouse building after it had been remodelled by Mr Lambert for the sum of £226.0,0 ($452.00). It stayed in use as a school until 1936.
COURTHOUSE BUILDING SOLD FOR REMOVAL
The old courthouse building had come up for auction and was purchased by the Gindie branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association in 1936 for £175.0,0 ($350.00). It was removed to its present location at Gindie.
The QCWA branch closed and the building was to be sold. It would have been a very great shame if this piece of Queensland’s history and heritage was lost.
The Central Highlands Has Talent Inc. musicians took over the building on 15th August 2014, securing the future of the old Comet courthouse.
This building has a place in the history of the Central Highlands and should be preserved for future generations.
– Compiled by Rosemary McLeod, 2016.
– Acknowledgements: Trevor Kemp “Comet School Centenary 1877/8 – 1977/8”.
– Photos: National Library of Australia; State Library of Queensland; Rosemary McLeod collection; Trevor Kemp collection.
– Video: Robyn Morawitz.
– Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org