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Howard, Mr Joseph Percy Harris

Joseph Percy Harris Howard, known as Percy, was born on 16 December 1887 in Altrincham, Cheshire, England to Mary Jane [nee Siddeley] (1857-1935) and Frederic Joseph Harris Howard. His father Frederic Howard (1860-1904) was a Solicitor's Clerk but he died at 44 of lymphosarcoma and left an estate of £448 10s 3d.

Percy Howard had three siblings: Jessie (1885-1970) who married in 1907 and remained in England; Henry Rudolph (1890-1970); and Fanny Clarissa [Fox] (1892-1975). When his father died the family stayed in Cheshire for another 8 years. In the 1911 English Census his mother was listed as working as a cashier at the Manchester Tramways Corporation and his brother was a clerk with the Manchester Gas Company. It is stated in a family document that Mary, Percy, Harry and Fanny came to Australia in 1912 (supposedly due to Harry's health) and settled in Mosman.

According to the NSW Public Service Lists, Joseph Percy Harris Howard's first appointment as a teacher was on 1 September 1913. He got married in 1915 in Mosman. His wife was Irene Bagaley (1891-1983). She obviously knew Percy in England as her P&O ship, the "Commonwealth" departed England in 18 March 1915 and they were married in May. Irene was born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire but was living in Manchester by 1911. Her father was a commercial dealer in Wines and Spirits.

Mr J.P.H Howard was then appointed to Edgerton Aboriginal Station and Mundoonan School. He replaced Herbert Hockey who was the founding manager-teacher from January, 1911. As another school was called Edgerton, the station's school was renamed Mundoonan Aboriginal School and formally opened on 21st April 1911. Percy Howard only held the position for a year, from June 1915, before Mundooran School closed in June 1916. By the end of that year, the station also closed and was sold by the Aboriginal Protection Board The main building was the old Edgerton homestead - first built in about 1860, which became the manager's residence.

The Howard's first child, Frederic Keith Davenport (Deric) was born on 30 March, 1916 in Yass. The family then moved to Ulgundahi Island, Maclean on the Clarence River where Percy Howard was the manager/teacher. Mr Howard was at Ulgundahi Island from June 1916 to February 1920. Two more children were born at Maclean, John Percy Siddeley on 10 June 1918 and Edward Bruce on January 1920. Unfortunately Edward died in Moree on November 1920 when they moved to Terry Hie Hie Aboriginal Mission, near Moree,

The Howards arrived by the SS Pulganbar on 8 June 1916 and were "tendered a welcome by the aboriginals (sic) who erected an arch on the landing stage, over which floated the Union Jack." [Grafton Argus, 9 June 1916]

While on Ulgundahi Island it was noted "that Mr Howard was 'experienced in medical attention with the approval of the Aboriginal Protection Board' as a doctor very rarely called at the Island. Mr Howard's experience was an asset. Mr Howard however was himself subject to bouts of malaria. Mr Howard's duties on the island were controlled by the Aboriginal Protection Board, so his duties were not only as a teacher, but also as escort for the aged for confinement in Sydney Hospital." [Marg Switzer, History of Education on the Lower Clarence-Past Schools, 2000]

Percy Howard quickly threw himself into Maclean community life as in November he performed at the Lower Clarence Hospital Benefit Concert. It was noted that "Mr J.P. Howard, manager of Ulgundahi Island was a surprise packet, and his recitals and musical sketches were far away above the average. In his character sketches his make-up was particularly good, and before the audience was satisfied he had to give five items...." [Grafton Argus, November 1916]

He was also a prolific letter writer to the local papers and his letters gave insights into his work as manager and the effect of WW1 on Ulgundahi Island. He noted in March 1918 that "I know more than one local farmer who would be hard pushed but for the assistance of the colored (sic) labourers, and many would be surprised at the number of applications of these men that I receive. In one week alone I have dealt with eight different inquiries, asking for twenty-seven men in all and offering up to 15/- a day for their services ....There have been four enlistments by men of this island; two have, returned unfit for service, and two are now in the fighting line.."

Percy Howard was a committeeman of the Lower Clarence Hospital until his resignation in October 1919. [Daily Examiner, March 1920] and in June 1918 informed a representative of The Daily Examiner. "..that, the matron is very anxious for farmers in the district round to send some vegetables to the institute. Shortage of funds does not allow of larger expenditure in this direction and donations will be welcomed. Also the hospital cow has gone dry, and supplies of milk daily, would be very gratefully received...."

Percy Howard, and his family, moved to Terry Hie Hie Station in 1920 and he stayed there until 1924. In the NSW Public Service Lists of 1920 and 1921, it notes that Joseph PH Howard is teaching at Terry Hie Hie Aboriginal School and his salary was £201 (with a living allowance of £20) and £254 17s 4d (with a living allowance of £25 9s 0d) respectively. As stated previously, the Howards did lose Edward in 1920 but two more children were born while they were at Terry Hie Hie and these were Ileen Margaret on 1 June 1921 and Joseph Winston Harris (Win) on 21 July 1923. Ileen is an unusual name but apparently it was popular in the 1920s and means strength or little bird.

Percy had a brief mention in the Moree and Gwydir Examiner in 5 Jan 1922 when he appeared at the Police Court to testify against Andrew Richards (16) who "was charged with that he did at Terry Hie Hie on December 21, steal one saddle, one bridle, one breastplate, and two Aborigines Protection Board blankets, of the value of £6, the property of the Aborigines Protection Board. After hearing the evidence of Sergt. McDonald and Joseph Percy Howard, manager of the Terry Hie Hie Mission Station the defendant was convicted and fined £6, in default two months. The property was ordered to be returned to Howard".

In 1925 the Howards moved to Bassendeen/Bassendean Station (although the NSW Public Service List spells it as Bassenden), and stayed there until 1929. Bassenden Station, is 12 miles outside Tingha and it was established as a provisional school in early 1923. Mr Broun (pronounced Broon), the Scottish owner of Bassendean Station had previously built cottages for the Aboriginal people on the station. The school was opened by November 1923 with Mr Wood as the teacher. "Mr J Howard then transferred in May 1925 from Terry Hie Hie with his wife and five children to teach at the school. His wife taught sewing at the school as well."

The fifth child was Irene Audrey Louise (Audrey) who was born at Inverell on 5 April, 1925.

Mario Hardie (Mickie) [1920-2011], who was third daughter of William 'Jim' and Maria Broun in an interview in November 2003 talked about her 'idyllic childhood' at Bassendeen Station. She notes there were 160 Aborigines on the property because there was an Aboriginal reserve of 320 acres in the middle of the property. James Broun built eight huts as they worked as stockmen and domestic servants. She notes that her parents were married 14 December 1914 and that the homestead was built in 1903 and had 22 rooms. "...there was another cottage built to house a teacher from the Aborigines Protection Board. My father had also built a little school on the property, so the Aboriginal protection Board sent this teacher/manager of the Aboriginals. And they went to this school that was built on the flat, down below the homestead. The Aboriginal children went to this school; and the first teacher (according to Mickie) was a man named Mr Howard. For a little while we, the Broun children, went down there and had a little bit of education with the Aboriginals, but it didn't work ... so my mother and father brought in tutors and governesses." []

According to the NSW Public Service Lists for 1925 and 1927, Percy Howard was not paid a living allowance, as he lived on the station and thus his family's accommodation was provided, and his salary was £278 5s 2d and £310 15s and 2d. Their next move was Runnymede, (Stoney Gully) Aboriginal Station, near Kyogle from 1929 until 1939. He is on the Electoral Rolls for this time and his address is listed as Aboriginal Station, Runnymede, manager; his wife has the same address but her occupation is listed as matron. Interestingly, their son, Frederic Keith Davenport Howard is listed as Aboriginal Station, Kyogle, and occupation as assistant manager.

Shauna Bostock-Smith notes that this area was originally called 'Runnymede' after an early pastoral's station's name, Stoney Gully Reserve, ..... later became known as 'Kyogle Aborigines Reserve, In the white-Australian historic record, it is usually called 'Runnymede' or 'Kyogle Aborigines Reserve' but my mother, Aunts and other older Aboriginal people always called it Stoney Gully."

Although the different names do make it confusing it should be noted that except for the Electoral Rolls, the newspaper of the day usually called it 'Stony Gully' but with the absence of an 'e'. Thus the Kyogle Examiner states that in June 1929 four couples were joined together in matrimony, "according to white man's law" at the Stony Gully Aboriginal Station. However, it was noted that the manager Mr J.P.Howard who acted as 'best man' for all parties, had to collect the ring from the first couple and dodge round to the next in turn with it, as this token happened to be one loaned for the occasion. It was also noted that "the fourth and youngest bride. Alice Green, was in a frock of pink mereerised net, made by the Matron, Mrs. Howard and the manager had helped to decorate the school, where the ceremonies took place, with paper bells and wattle blossom... (although).....the proceedings concluded by the happy couples each coming forward to express to the manager their appreciation of what had been done for them."

However, 1932 was not a good year for the Howards, following the birth of their seventh child, Barbara Mary on 5 January 1932, at Casino. Apparently she died in Queensland on 15 July 1932 but is buried at Kyogle/Casino. Also, in November 1932, it was reported in the Kyogle Examiner that Irene Howard's only brother, Edward Bagaley died "in a motor accident at Buenos Ayres, Argentine".

Percy Howard, himself, was often in poor health and it may have been recurring bouts of malaria mentioned previously. In December 1935, it was noted that "Owing to a relapse in the condition of the manager, Mr. J. P. Howard, who has been in indifferent health for some time, and is again confined to his bed, the Christmas tree and sports programme previously arranged for the aborigines a Stony Gully settlement had to be considerably modified". However, the matron, Mrs Howard prepared a tea party and "After the feast each child was presented with a gift from the Aborigines Protection, and every girl with a fancy hair clip, elder girls also with a new dress, handbag and belt, all of which were generously donated by Mr. Harry Wade. The children also took home articles made by the sewing class comprising a present for each mother, a handkerchief for father and useful garments for themselves. Each family also receives from the A. P. Board a roast beef and a large Christmas pudding for Christmas day". [Kyogle Examiner, December 1935]

There seems to have been a resident woman missionary at Terry Hie Hie (Miss Ada Moss) and Stoney Gully (Runnymede)(Mrs Docherty) when Percy Howard was the manager/teacher at both stations and his wife, Irene was the matron. This is very different to the Camerons at Ulgundahi Island as they were the teacher/matron/manager and missionaries. However, Mrs Docherty would also come from Baryulgil to be in charge of Stony Gully when the Howard family went away during the school vacation. (Kyogle Examiner. January 1935). In 1934, Mr and Mrs Buckley, "Missionaries recently appointed to this district, (helped out at the 1934 Christmas Party) and led the children in several hymns and action songs." (Northern Star, 2 January 1935)

Mrs Howard, who was the matron, also helped with catering by supervising the "senior girls" in "cooking all kinds of cakes, etc. for the feast" (Kyogle Examiner January 1935 ) and also visited the older Aborigines on the station. In December 1935, when an "Aboriginal Centenarian" passed away at the Stony Gully Aboriginal Station, it was noted that her "two chief pleasures in life were her pipe and the periodical visits of the matron, Mrs. J. P. Howard, who always had some dainties in her basket for the old lady" (Kyogle Examiner 2 December 1935)

It was noted in the Kyogle Examiner in March 1940 that at "present the station is controlled by a manager responsible to the Aborigines Welfare Department for the general care of the station and the welfare of the Aborigines. His duties include the education of the children and are discharged under the Department of Education. The present manager is to be removed and replaced by a teacher under the Education Department who will not be required and is unlikely to live on the station." Thus, Percy Howard was employed by the Aborigines Protection Board/Aborigines Welfare Board [The Aborigines Welfare Board was created in 1940, under the Aborigines Protection (Amendment) Act 1940 and replaced the Aborigines Protection Board] as a manager/teacher but under the auspices of the Department of Education. At Stoney Gully Reserve this changed in March 1940 when the reserve was closed and thus the Howards moved to Cabbage Tree Island Station.

Indeed, the Aborigines from Stoney Gulley were sent to Muli Muli at Woodenbong by the Australian Protection Board. According to Alex Vesper it was the fault of A.P.Elkin and other Welfare Board members who sent the Stoney Gulley people of which he was one, to Muli Muli and sold the land to local farmers. (Quoted in – "A letter from Jack Horner".
An interesting sideline is the fact that originally Allan Cameron and his wife were to be transferred from Ulgundahi Island in March, 1940 (Percy Howard had been Manager there, in their absence from 1916-1920) and a school teacher appointed in their place. The Maclean Chamber of Commerce lodged a complaint with the Chief Secretary and the Department of the Education. In the end, Allan Cameron stayed as manager/teacher at Ulgundahi Island until 1957 and Joseph Howard went the "bigger charge" of Cabbage Tree Island on the Richmond River." Richmond River Examiner, March 1940.

Joseph Howard was appointed there in March 1940 but only spent two months there before going on leave, in May, and being relieved by Mr. and Mrs. R. Roscoe, as manager and matron. He took three months leave and it was noted "Lance Corporal John Howard, of Grovely Camp, Queensland, is spending a week's sick leave with his parents at Wardell. Mr. Winston Howard, youngest son of Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Howard, Wardell, has been transferred from the Bank of N.S.W., Bellingen, to the Bangalow branch". [Northern Star September 1940]

The 1943 Electoral Roll shows that Joseph and Irene's address was Aboriginal Station, Cabbage Tree Island and that their occupations are listed as manager and matron respectively and it should be noted, as explained in Status Quo MCMLIX (Publication of the Ballina School Inspectorate, Education Week, 1959), "first established as a mission school about 1900, it has had many ups and downs, including long periods of closure, during which the children of the Islanders received little or no education at all. From the early thirties, the education of aboriginal children was the responsibility of the Aborigines' Protection Board....Teaching duties were performed by station managers until 1948 when the first full time Departmental teacher was appointed. kathy_pearson/transcripts/cabbagetreeisland.html

1943 Electoral Roll

The role of a manager was a varied one, but he did have total control, and if the inhabitants didn't do as the manager wanted or directed, they were taken to a police court where charges were laid by the manager. Thus in August 1939, at the Kyogle Police Court a person "was proceeded against by the manager of Stony Gully Aboriginal Station for having used obscene language on the station" and another person was fined for disorderly conduct after "Joseph Percy Harris Howard, manager of the station" testified that "he was called to one of the aborigines' dwellings were a fight was in progress." Kyogle Examiner August 1939

Actually there were quite a few cases, on the different stations where Percy Howard took police action including at Broadwater Court, in December 1944, when "Joseph Percy H Howard, manager of Cabbage Tree Island Settlement, proceeded against" one man "for indecent language and also for behaving in a threatening manner"... Howard also proceeded against ... another man who was charged "that having been ordered from the Aborigine Reserve he entered the reserve" and lastly a man was "charged with being under the influence of liquor on the reserve." [Northern Star 13 December 1944]

However, there were positive actions as well such as, in 1940, an "Aborigine Ladies' Guild was formed, under the leadership of the Matron, Mrs. J. P. Howard. An energetic Younger Set supports the senior body, and war work has been the main objective ...... The children have collected large quantities of waste material, and the guild members have knitted scarves, socks, mittens, etc. Comforts parcels have been sent to aborigine soldiers at home and abroad...... Distribution of gifts was followed by a programme of songs, duets, and recitations by the school pupils, trained by Miss I. Howard, and several items from the seniors, including steel guitar and mouth organ selections.... The manager (Mr. J. P. Howard) expressed thanks to all who had generously donated supplies for the function". [Northern Star, January 1941]

The Howards became heavily involved in the war effort and in 1941, they welcomed back a soldier who had been invalided from Egypt at Broadwater. "Mr Howard, manager of Cabbage Tree Island Aborigines' Station, said it was an honour to be allowed to share in such a unique gathering ....... It was said men enlisted to share in the fun, but there was a deeper feeling than that. In camp a man got to know a man as a man and to know and understand the psychology of man, and a soldier's experience gave him a better understanding of his fellow men. He appreciated the feelings towards the aborigines from people in the district.... He had 30 years' experience among them [Aboriginal people], at seven or eight different stations, and had tried to make their lives better through being associated with him. This district was the finest of all towards them." [Northern Star May 1941]

At the end of 1941 a Christmas carnival was held in aid of the Wardell branch of the War Service and Comforts Fund .... Among the stalls was the Cabbage Tree Island gift stall, conducted by the manager of the settlement, Mr. Howard, assisted by Mrs. Howard. This contained vegetables, useful and art gifts made and given by the Islanders, to whom the committee extend their grateful thanks. A carved boomerang won by Mr. Goddard is unclaimed and can be obtained from Mr. Howard". [Northern Star December 1941]

There was another presentation at the end of 1942, at Wardell, when there "was a large gathering of Cabbage Tree Islanders, also visitors from the Coraki Aboriginal Settlement, in the Richmond Hall....Mr. J. P. Howard, manager of the Cabbage Tree Island Settlement, who is also a member of the committee of the Wardell branch of the Tintenbar Shire War Service Fund, presented the guest with a toilet set in a leather case, on behalf of the fund, and in his remarks referred to the excellent character of the guest. He believed Pte. Ferguson was one of the youngest men to join the A.I.F., and he also had volunteered to join the Commandos, which showed his fine spirit". [Northern Star August 1942]

It should be noted that two of the Howards' sons enlisted in WW2.
John Percy Siddeley Howard.
John Howard enlisted in 1940 and was sent first to Malaysia and then to Singapore. He was captured during the fall of Singapore and remained a POW at Changi Prison until September 1945. His brother Joseph Winston Harris Howard enlisted in July 1942 and was sent to Milne Bay, Papua New Guinea in October 1943. He caught malaria and was returned to Australia, where he spent time at Ballina Hospital. (Northern Star August 1944) However, he then went back Rabaul and didn't leave until July 1946.

It must have been worrying for the family but in 1943 Percy Howard found time, as an official of the Cabbage Tree Island Football Club to lodge a protest to the Lismore Rugby League Executive alleging incompetence of the referee when their team played the Air Force (Evans Head) team. "The Manager of the Cabbage Tree Island Aboriginal Station (Mr. Howard) accompanied by officials and members of the Island team, attended last night's executive meeting....Mr. Howard stated the Cabbage Tree club would be prepared to abide by the decision of the executive and that his club would continue to participate in the competition. After some discussion, the meeting decided to take no action against the Cabbage Tree players who were sent off the field during last Saturday's game". Northern Star June1943

There were also floods during the Howard's tenure at Cabbage Tree Island, as described in a Letter to the Editor, J.P.Howard, "On behalf of the Aborigines Welfare Board" expressed his "sincere appreciation to the Ladies' Benevolent Society for the assistance given to the aborigines in Lismore during the recent flood". Although he writes that some cartons are missing (and which were later found) "Sincere thanks is also extended to the C.W.A for two consignments of very good clothing which have been sent to Cabbage Tree Island since I last wrote you on this matter. These are ample for the people's needs, and they are very grateful. Not only the associations which distributed these gifts, but particularly the original donors of this valuable clothing are worthy of the highest commendation, especially so when the coupon value, to them, as well as the monetarv worth, is remembered. [Northern Star, July 1945].

After the end of WW2 there were still events as in May 1946 it was noted that the "Cabbage Tree Island Women's Guild held its second series of welcome homes and presentations to aboriginal servicemen, in the Richmond Hall, Wardell ...There was a large gathering present, including members of the aboriginal community from Casino, Coraki and Lismore. There were seven returned servicemen as guests.... The manager of Cabbage Tree Island settlement (Mr. J. P. Howard) was chairman, introduced the guests... and said... some of the guests had seen service in Greece, Crete, and the Middle East, one had been a prisoner of war in Germany and another had served in both wars...The supper arrangements were carried out by the members of the Guild, assisted by Mrs. J. P. Howard". [Northern Star, May 1946]

Percy Howard was no longer manager by March 1948, which is when the position of manager was abolished at Cabbage Tree Island Aboriginal Settlement. Irene and Percy Howard had moved to Warrawong, Wollongong, with their son Joseph Winston Howard, and on the 1949 Electoral Roll Percy's occupation is listed as housing officer. Irene and Percy Howard held their 40th wedding anniversary in 1955.

Joseph Percy Harris Howard died on 25 March 1957 and his occupation was listed as "buyer." The amount noted at Probate was £2040. He was buried at Woronora Memorial Park, Sutherland, Sydney.


Biography prepared by Patricia (Trish) Bowes, 2023. Sources consulted include NSW Electoral Rolls, National Australian Archives, NSW Public Service Lists 1858-1960, NSW Teacher Applications and School Records 1850-1960, historic newspapers (Trove), NSW births, deaths and marriages index, Ancestry and Marg Switzer, History of Education on the Lower Clarence-Past Schools, 2000.

This lengthy article on teacher Percy Howard, together with the photos of him and his family on the entry for Mundoonan school, was kindly contributed by Patricia Bowes. The article is slightly edited for consistency with the database. The complete article, including photos, can be found here. While he was teacher at Mundoonan Aboriginal School for only a short time, Percy Howard subsequently spent 30 years at 'seven or eight ' Aboriginal Station / Schools. The article is therefore a valuable contribution to the history of Aboriginal education in NSW (Curator)


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