TRIBUTE: Wooroolin Bugle Band over the years

This Bugle was captured from the Japanese at the surrender ceremony at Morati on 9 September 1945. It was played there by the late Jim Houston of Wooroolin and donated to the Wondai Heritage Museum where it is today.

Mr. James Houston 

Born: 2 January, 1911 Glasgow, Lanarkshire Scotland

Migrated to Australia in 1928

Died: 23 December 1992 (81 Years)

Buried at Taabinga Cemetery, Kingaroy

Wooroolin was the home for James ‘Jim’ Houston.

In 1941 Jim married Jessie Campbell of Wooroolin and had one son. Their son Ian was born in 1945 and passed away 27 June, 2003, aged 58.

Jessie passed away in 1978, aged 67.

In 1941 Jim enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy.

On 9 September, 1945 he played a captured Japanese Bugle during the historic surrender of Japanese troops in the Netherlands East Indies at Morati.

He also served as a wireless operator on the Corvette H.M.A.S. Rockhampton. He was educated in Glasgow, Scotland. 

On arriving in Australia he first worked on a farm at Greenview, then for Wecker Brothers at Charleston.

He later acquired his own farm but subsequently sold his farm to work at Hams General store in Tingoora which still stands in the same place today.

After his naval career he returned to Tingoora in 1946 to again work at Hams store and in 1949 he purchased the Wooroolin cafe.

During the middle term of the year 1958 on a wintery late afternoon, the new headmaster Mr. Viv Jenkins and family arrived in Wooroolin.

Mr Jenkins stopped the car at the cafe, to pick up the keys for the school and the school house, and also advised Jim who he was. Jim was the proprietor of Wooroolin Cafe from 1949 to 1960.

On arriving at the school the next day, the Wooroolin school bus from West Wooroolin Circuit pulled in, and ‘who should be the driver… but Mr Houston’. He drove the school bus for approximately five years.

 Jim was connected with all things Wooroolin -R.S.L. Diggers Hall, Wooroolin Gift Foot Race, Bagpipes, Highland Sword Dancing, Band contests, Hot Shot Dance Band (trumpet player), school free milk scheme delivery, Wondai’s Full Brass Band, Anzac Day Services for Wooroolin and Wondai, Tingoora R.S.L, Buffalo Lodge, and also the Secretary of the Wooroolin School Committee.

During the rest of the year 1958 the school bus was very cramped, as there were 100 plus students at this small school.

One morning in October, Mr Jenkins engaged with the genial Jim under the ‘Camphor Laurel Tree’ during the little Lunch break at 11 o’clock when Jim delivered the day’s little bottles of free milk.

Mr Jenkins spoke up and said, “this school hasn’t got any spark, how about we make Wooroolin Proud?” “Form a band!” replied Jim.

“Bugles, drums, I have got a mate he will let us have them wholesale price!” Mr Jenkins replied.

“Might be just what this school needs, something different, do not go too big, the school committee has only 60 quid ($120) in the kitty.”

First up, Jim donated the first bugle to the band.

This bugle was used in the First World War, at the 1972 Ceremony of the Wooroolin School of Arts on 11 November, 1922 to sound the ‘Last Post’ and again at the 1972 ‘Back To Wooroolin’ to commemorate the Hall’s Golden Jubilee.

This bugle will again be used by the band at the Grand Parade at the Centenary of Settlement Celebrations on the 6 March, 1999.

After Jim donated the Bugle, he was excited to get started.

Three days later Jim turned up with three boxes which consisted of more brass bugles with plated cord holders, a couple of kettle drums and side drums… the fundraising had begun.

Stalls were set up outside Daltons store to raise funds for uniforms, drummer’s gauntlets, Boy’s Brigade caps, Batons for the drum major, White Bun Bags, felt drumsticks, Pom Poms etc. 

The big Bass drum with a ‘Kangaroo and Wondai Football club’ (painted on the side) for Heather Kilgour, Jeannie Jessen, with a triangle, and Miriam Moore with a pair of brass cymbals.

Jim had come into possession of a lot of mouth pieces for the boys to ‘get a lip’ -a hardening of the lip to allow them to blow a bugle.

They held a Band fund and Mrs Fay Logan was right behind them, she did what she could to help out as she was in the C.W.A, Heart foundation, Shire Counsel, ect.

The first committee consisted of band members Ken Cole (President), Aileen Feidler (Secretary) and Heather Kilgour (Treasurer). 

The school Band Committee and children set about the task of raising 350 pounds needed to outfit the band as Bugles cost 10 pound ($20) each.

Jim was in ‘seventh heaven’. Jim loved music, he loved bands, ceremonial displays and loved kids.

At the beginning of the year 1959, the entire 100 plus pupils of the school moved down to the Diggers Recreation Hall at the Wooroolin Sports and Showgrounds, while renovations and extensions were carried out.

This venue inspired the children to make the most of their temporary surroundings.

Mr Jenkins and Mr Houston were anxious to get started, put us all in our places and began training in earnest and ‘The Wooroolin Bugle band’ was formed.

Anzac Day 25 April, 1959 was our first public appearance, we assembled on the northern end of the main street of Wooroolin. Mr Houston hummed a short-hand tune instruction, Dell gave the order – at the double roll of the drum- by the centre-quick march.

“Heather beat the time on the big bass drum, the side drummers beat with sticks and felts, the Buglers belted out the tune on their brass bugles and Jimmy played his beloved trumpet.”

The same day, Jim arranged for himself to play ‘The Last Post’.

The band soon became a feature at all the local shows, Wooroolin sports days and Anzac Days were special.

Jim would always march in the Wondai Dawn and Anzac Services and played ‘The Last Post’.

By May 1959, the renovations and extensions were finished at the school and at about the same time Jim and Jessie moved to the Post Office, after 17 years retired in Wooroolin. They later moved to Kingaroy.

Jim was the instigator of the Highland Gathering and Sports days which were held annually at Wooroolin for 26 years, sponsored by the R.S.L Sub-branch.

One of the many highlights during the late 1950s and through to the 1970s was the annual Highland Gathering at the Sportsgrounds beside the Swamp and associated Wetlands, would come alive each year with up to 14 bag-pipe bands and drummers, across this productive town.

The gathering also features up to 200 juvenile Scottish Dancers being local and coastal for Highland, Irish and Sword Dancing.

In 1973, the Highland Gathering Show and sportsground were discontinued, financial risk was considered too great and sponsorship was unavailable.

Over the years the band went to many events and played on many occasions, including Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers in September 1971 and was invited to play at the Brisbane Exhibition.

So hyped up was the band on the night’s performance, Mr Houston commented that the Bugle leader Rodney Ballard blew his bugle all the way around the arena without a break. It was like playing on a world stage.

Around 1979 Jim was awarded an M.B.E (Member of the British Empire) 

The Wooroolin State School Bugle Band’s 21st anniversary was from 1959-1980 was recognised on Saturday, 6 March 1980.

Wooroolin township celebrated its 100 years of settlement, and in conjunction with this celebration the Wooroolin State School Bugle Band would also celebrate its 40th anniversary, which was recognised in February 1999 at the sportsground when all the members returned to reminisce.  

 Jim was an accomplished trumpet player and leading star of the ‘Hot Shots Dance Band’ also played at Cloudland Ballroom in Brisbane.

Jim was a special man who earned an ‘Order of the British Empire O.B.E.’ for his services to the Wooroolin School second highest order.

After 50 years membership of Masonic Lodge, he received his 50th year jewel in 1992

He taught the Bugle Band for almost 35 years, the uniforms of the band had changed very little since the original design and are based upon the Scottish Boys Brigade Uniform.

Many of the band’s songs had the Scottish connection as well.

The 50th Golden Anniversary Celebrations of the Bugle Band was 25 April, 2009 celebrated at the Wooroolin State School.

The ‘Camphor Laurel tree’ still growing in the school yard today was planted on the first Arbour day, opening of the school in 1912 which would be 109 years old (2021). Jim was the band master until shortly before his death in 1992.

Jim will always be remembered for what he did for the community of Wooroolin.

This historical piece was written by Dell Shailer (Eckart) and typed by Mia Shailer (Eckart/ Howlett). All photos were contributed.