Scuttlebutt - Gossip from the water barrel

Gladys in Quarantine

The Torrens Island Quarantine Station (TIQS) story continues to unfold with the discovery of the diary of Gladys Ward at the State Library of South Australia. Gladys was a passenger on Strathaird in August 1938. She  was quarantined at TIQS after another passenger died of smallpox onboard.

Strathaird steamed into Outer Harbour flying the yellow flag on 28 March 1938. Twelve passengers were taken off the ship and installed at the station, where they were vaccinated against the disease by Chief Quarantine Officer Doctor F.W.A. Ponsford.

A lifelong diarist, Gladys recorded her time at the station on the back of ship’s stationery. She recalls that newspaper reporters and press photographers travelled alongside them, taking photos and collecting stories as they were taken to the quarantine station. Gladys' recollections are invaluable to historians as they allow us to experience the quarantine process through her eyes.

Transcription from the diary of Gladys Ward, March 1938, Courtesy State Library of South Australia:

Sunday Morning

Breakfast 8:30

My Coat; community dressing gown

Telephone call to Mum. Bruce also.

10:30 Bath preparations

12 Baths in Bathing Block

3 divisions           1. Strip, leave clothing; pass into next cubicle

                            2. Bath in yellow mixture—pass on

                           3. Dress

Medical Inspection—vaccination particulars.

Hair drying in sun:

Lunch

Visited Baggage room, collected ‘Blue Bag’

Arrival of launch with mails and Doctor

Went for Med Inspection.

Gladys’ stay was short—only 10 days. Her time at the station seemed pleasant. She writes that they had a hot three course meal for dinner and were able to make phone calls to loved ones. The TIQS breakfast menu from 2 April 1938 is held by the SA Maritime Museum (HT93.868). Although listed choices are not to most modern tastes, it looks both filling and nutritious.

The other included images are Gladys Ward’s diary from her arrival at Torrens Island and an archival photograph of passengers outside the fumigation store in 1937 (B61388). Both images are courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.

Stay tuned for more stories of Torrens Island Quarantine Station as we continue to uncover the island’s histories and mysteries. 

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