It was weather recorder and historian, Mal Somerville who first alerted me to Inigo Jones. When I saw that Peachester Hall was showcasing their famous local’s amazing body of work, I knew that Dale Jacobsen, HT’s resident history and science buff, would love to attend and tell us all about it…
by Dale Jacobsen
As with so many of my generation who grew up in Queensland, Inigo Jones was a household name. My father, from a farming background, was very familiar with the weatherman’s long-range predictions. But while the agricultural sector and the Queensland Government acknowledged the weather guru’s contributions, the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology fobbed off any approach made by Jones.
In 1928, the Queensland Government appointed him as director of the Bureau of Seasonal Forecasting of the Council of Agriculture, and the Inigo Jones Seasonal Weather Forecasting Trust was formed with government and industry contributions. The Lord Mayor of Brisbane was appointed chairman.
Jones lobbied the Met Bureau to take his work seriously, but for many years was treated with disdain, which troubled the Commonwealth Government whose agricultural sector championed his cause.
Commonwealth reviews held in the 1940s concluded that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence in his method or accuracy in his forecasts for the government to back him. Meanwhile, Australian farmers continued to use his predictions along with local knowledge.
In answer to his critics, Jones said it would take another 300 years of data to prove his theory. Such is the timeline of his long-range weather forecasting, that takes into account cycles linking sunspot activity with planetary movements.
The Peachester Hall Committee chose the life and work of this man as their contribution to the Festival of Community Halls Program, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the naming of the Sunshine Coast.
As their guest, I attended a screening of Deluge (a docu-drama about the 1893 flood) supported by an impressive display of Inigo Jones’ memorabilia, most of which has been donated to the Peachester History Committee by the Jones family.
Inigo was, of course, a local boy. His father took up land at Peachester in 1892, naming the property Crohamhurst – a name that is now famous for the observatory, officially opened on August 13, 1935, that became the centre of Inigo’s lifetime of research.
His fascination with meteorology had led him to seek a cadetship with the Queensland Meteorological Bureau under his mentor, Clement Wragge – an advocate of long-range forecasting.
On February 2, 1893, a year after the Jones family moved to Peachester, Inigo recorded a whopping 907 mm of rain in 24 hours. The record stands today.
In its heyday, the Crohamhurst Observatory, set on 200 acres, contained a large computing room and laboratory, deep-earth temperature pits taking readings to a depth of over 10 metres, a Stevenson screen housing instruments and three telescopes for solar observations.
During his later years, Inigo thought seriously about the future of the property and his life’s work. In the mid 1940s he offered the land, excluding the portion containing the observatory, to the Department of Forestry to expand his experimental hoop pine plot, then leased their property back from the department.
This land is now Crohamhurst Forest. He then placed an advertisement in the paper for an assistant; and so Lennox Walker came to Crohamhurst, continuing Inigo’s work after his death in 1954.
Inigo would have felt vindicated when, in 2008, his observatory was listed in the State Heritage Register as an “education, research, and scientific facility … demonstrating the importance of long-range weather forecasting to the rural communities of Australia”.
These days, Lennox’s son, Hayden Walker, continues the work that began with Clement Wragge in the 19th century from Walkers Weather in Bundaberg.
Inigo Jones wasn’t only a weather forecaster, he also had a passion for art, and over the years faithfully reproduced five Constable oil paintings.
During demolition of the farmhouse and library building, four disappeared, but the remaining one has been hanging over the doorway of the Peachester Hall since the 1950s.
With assistance from the Regional Collection Care Program (funded by the Cultural Heritage Levy) the painting was restored by Mapleton’s Richard McDonald of RSM Art Conservation. Councillor Rick Baberowski attended the celebrations to launch its re-hanging in the hall.
Two of Inigo’s grandchildren also attended celebrations at the Peachester Hall. Naomi Love added an original large brown teapot to the Jones’ collection and her brother, Dmitri Koroloff, related anecdotes demonstrating Inigo’s sense of humour.
“He was a bit of a wag,” explained Dmitri. “One time, during a very dry winter, he predicted it would rain in August. People were sceptical, finally asking him to name the day. He did, and it rained.
“As he walked along Queen Street with his umbrella unopened, someone from the Telegraph asked why he didn’t open it to keep rain off. He replied, ‘It’s my rain and I’ll walk in it’.”
For further information on Inigo Jones and Crohamhurst Observatory, visit:
National Archives of Australia article: Inigo Jones: The weather prophet
Author: Tim Sherratt
Walkers Weather http://www.worldweather.com.au