One of Burpengary’s most prominent former residents and World War I veteran, Charles Munro, was recently honoured posthumously with a parkland naming ceremony in recognition of his achievements and popularity within the local community.
Attended by approximately 50 remaining descendants, members of the public, and Councillor Peter Flannery, the new Charles Munro Reserve sign was officially unveiled on Saturday, July 24, following the Burpengary Progress Association’s successful application to council last year. The site of the reserve, on the corner of Dale Street and Susan Court, Burpengary, is nearby to where Charles Munro and his family settled on a farm soon after arriving in Australia early last century.
Originating from Scotland, but moving to London when 19 years old and subsequently joining the police force, Charles rose from Sergeant to Inspector, becoming a formidable figure in the Criminal Courts of London. A self-taught scholar, he developed a love for the written word, pioneering two key changes within the policing system which are still used to this day. The developer of a unique, direct and informative style of writing suitable for the police force and court reporting, Charles also helped invent the fingerprinting system when he discovered that all the loops and whorls unique to each individual could be logged, tracked and later used as evidence in court.
But despite these notable achievements in London, Australia beckoned for this intelligent and insatiable book-learner. Four of his nine children, and his older brother, William, had previously visited Australia some years before, regaling him with tales of an expansive, beautiful country that was uncrowded and had good farming land. One by one during 1912 and 1913, Charles’ sons, William, James, Edward and Chris, arrived on Australian shores. A year later, and close to retirement, a 50-year-old Charles, his wife, Jane (also known as Jean), plus their remaining children, Robert, Mary, Charles Junior, and William’s wife, Clara, emigrated, arriving in Brisbane, eventually settling in Burpengary.
They bought a farm on what is now called Dunbeath Street, Burpengary, where they raised cattle, crops of Lucerne and five milking cows, utilising the Burpengary train station to transport and sell milk to Brisbane.
One of the park-unveiling attendees and grandson of Charles Munro, Donald Munro, has particularly fond memories of his time visiting his grandfather’s Burpengary farm when a young boy. “My memory of the whole area is one of complete affection. I remember wanting desperately to hold the reins of my grandfather’s horse and cart as we rode around, and my grandmother (Jane) made the most delicious scones and cream, the making of which I would watch and then sample from a tree I climbed outside her kitchen window. This farm was a place that I could get into all sorts of adventures.”
With the Munro family becoming firmly entrenched in the Australian way of life, even travelling around Narangba and Caboolture performing their musical instruments to locals, including the bagpipes to Burpengary State School students, Donald says, “My grandfather was highly regarded by many people in the district – as a leader of a large family who arrived out of the blue and made Burpengary their home.”
But with the advent of World War I, Charles’ sons James, followed by Edward and Chris, and then William, enlisted in the Australian Army. James went to Gallipoli, being involved at the first landing, Edward and Chris went to France, and William stayed in Australia serving as a Lieutenant training Enoggera recruits, later serving in the active garrison at Fort Lytton. Charles himself entered the war near its end in his early 50s with the Imperial Forces in Papua New Guinea, helping to take over from the previous German administration.
Donald says, “My grandfather Charles, my father, and my uncles were all very patriotic to their new home country. They loved Australia and wanted to enlist to contribute to their adoptive nation.”
But unfortunately tragedy struck when James died in a RAF training accident in Wiltshire, and Chris was killed in action in France. With Edward being a stretcher-bearer for a medical unit – one of the most notoriously dangerous field jobs during the war - his mother, Jane, wrote an impassioned letter in May 1918, pleading for her remaining son to come back to Australia, having already lost two and having no grown men left back in Burpengary on the farm to help her. Her wish was granted, and Edward returned two months before the end of the war, soon followed by Charles. Edward brought with him his diaries and notes from the battlefield, which was later collated and edited by his son, Donald, into the well-known history book, ‘Diaries of a Stretcher Bearer 1916-1918’.
With the remaining family rejoining on the Burpengary farm, it was later sold and Jane and Charles moved to Taringa in Brisbane. But this eminent family patriarch sadly suffered a fatal heart attack in 1947 at the age of 79 whilst holidaying on the Gold Coast.
Donald says, “The entire Munro family are very honoured by this unveiling – and for me, it was an exciting day. I’ve always been conscious of history, our history, and the preservation of it. My grandfather Charles was an unassuming, quiet man, but a memorable figure in the area nonetheless, and I’m terribly tickled about this memorial sign.”