The year 1890 was a relatively quiet one in history: Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty premiered in St Petersburg, Wyoming became the 44th State of the Union and Vincent Van Gogh died.

Closer to home, Queensland’s first Arbor Day saw the planting of a fig tree at the heart of West End State School. The tree’s significance is recognised by its inclusion in the school’s logo.

WSS - After the storm 1

Sadly, on Thursday 27th November 2014, the tree was dealt a fatal blow in that night’s ferocious super storm. School Principal Judy Thompson said, “It was central to our school and is in the hearts and soul of generations of students and families. Its loss has been felt very deeply. We had tears from many people.

WSS - Before the storm 2

Though the tree may no longer stand, the school is determined to ensure that it lives on. Students at the school have begun collecting some of the tree’s sprigs and smaller branches, and have written heartwarming stories, and drawn striking pictures about its connection with them and their learning.  In her impassioned graduation speech, School Captain Alex Farago wrote – The roots of the fig tree ran deep into the welcoming soil of our school, reminding us of the care and nourishment which the teachers have provided. The fig tree stretched out to the sky. The passing of the fig tree tells us that nothing is forever. The school changes, we change too, there is a new beginning for us. But we will cling onto our friends in this new beginning and conquer high school together, as past West End State School students.

WSS - Before the storm - Celebrating tree's 108th birthday

The next stage is to work out what can be done with the larger branches that remain. Some parents have asked to take them home as mementos, but the school is looking for something more permanent to forever remind the students of its significance and importance to the West End community. Judy added, “We have saved the wonderful huge branches, especially those that the students climbed up – when they thought no one was looking – and await ideas on how we can utilise them. We are organising a consultation process to look for options as to what could go in the space and would love to involve architects and landscapers, who could come up with something creative and truly ‘West End’.”

WESS - Fig Tree before storm

To that end, the school is seeking ideas from the local community and businesses about how they can be used and, most importantly, remain part of the school as a permanent and creative record of the tree’s legacy. “We are also seeking photos, memories and general sentiments regarding this historic fig tree,” Judy added.

To help you get involved and share your memories, the school has set up a Facebook page, which can be found at, or alternatively you can contact them at: West End State School, 24 Vulture Street, West End 4101 or


Words by Colin Bushell | Images Colin Bushell and West End State School