Lady Florence Pearl Logan, who died in Toowoomba last week aged 93, is credited with establishing Queensland’s first School of the Air and setting up the medical school at James Cook University.
And, according to her Federal MP Bob Katter, she was also responsible for saving the wool industry.
A champion of rural health and education, ‘Lady Pearl’ as she came to be known, was awarded an MBE in 1975, and received an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from James Cook University in 2001.
“The wonderful thing about Pearl Logan was that she was an ordinary person,” Mr Katter said at her funeral on Wednesday.
“If you met her at the CWA, she’d be behind the counter making sandwiches without the slightest consciousness of being the most important lady in 20th century Australia.”
Lady Pearl was born in 1922 and raised in Malanda in far north Queensland.
She started working as a teacher the year after she finished year 12 due to a teacher’s shortage in the war years.
After World War II, she moved to Richmond Downs in the state’s north west, where she ran cattle with her husband Sir Douglas Logan for 40 years.
Raising a family in remote Queensland, Lady Pearl learned first-hand the challenges and struggles rural families faced.
“She taught me correspondence before I went to boarding school,” her son Kelly Logan recalled.
“School of the air came on after that, and my sister was able to do that.”
Lobbied politicians on behalf of the bush
The School of the Air in Cloncurry was established in 1960 and used the same radio frequency as the Flying Doctor, and operated for one hour a day.
Mr Logan said it was his mother’s involvement with the School of the Air and the Country Women’s Association (CWA) that led her to lobby politicians for services for the bush.
“I remember there was no high school in our town, nor was there any high school in many other towns the size of Cloncurry,” Mr Katter said.
“Only six out of 70 kids went away to boarding school when I was in school.
“Rural kids had no hope of getting an education unless their parents were very rich; the person who changed that was Pearl Logan.”
Lady Pearl also championed a remote area allowance for students.
“Cabinet rejected the proposal, but she, through the CWA, organised 5,000 telegrams that arrived at the premier’s office,” Mr Katter recalled.
“They had a special Cabinet meeting at the end of that week, and that got the foot in the door.
“By the time I left the Queensland cabinet for federal politics, the entire cost of going away to a regional boarding school was met by the government so we could get quality education.”
She epitomised everything good about Australia: Katter
Lady Pearl was also instrumental in the establishment of James Cook University and its medical school.
“She epitomised everything good about this country,” Mr Katter said.
“I made a study to try and find out what in her background made her the person she was.
“Her very deep Presbyterian faith ensured she would never rest until people were given a fair go.”
Lady Pearl was equally at home in both the dusty paddocks of Queensland and the corridors of Parliament.
During the 1956 shearer’s strike, Lady Pearl learned to class wool and said it many cases it was the women who stepped in to keep farms going while husbands were off shearing.
Mr Katter remembered her tenacity in fighting for the rights of sheep farmers.
“The wool industry was closing down, and there was a fierce meeting at Julia Creek where her husband led the charge,” he said.
“She got up, and boy, oh boy; if it was possible to be more aggressive than her husband — a fighter pilot from the Second World War — she was.
“But those people secured the wool scheme which gave prosperity to rural Australia for 25 years.
“It makes me so proud to be an Australian.”
‘Cool’ grandma knew how to fight
“Gran was many things to many people,” grandson Toby Winten said of her.
“To me, she was cool; she taught me to crack a whip and shoot and ride a horse.
“I got to see her fight with Bob Katter, and that was some fighting.
“And she could make a mutton sandwich taste amazing, and you’ve got to be gifted to do that.”
Topics: people, history, university-and-further-education, access-to-education, rural, death, toowoomba-4350, cloncurry-4824, james-cook-university-townsville-4811
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