Townsville Cameraman Paul Lyons Receives Awards For Rescuing Historical Films

Companies like Waster Opportunities know that, sometimes, people throw away things that they later regret, which is why things like heirlooms and old films show up in the trash.

Paul Lyons, a cameraman in Townsville, Queensland, was aware of this fact, and has been working to keep decades of North Queensland media history from the trash, even employing spies to do so. In recognition of his efforts, the State Library of Queensland has awarded him with the John Oxley Library Award.

Lyons was working as a videotape operator for the QTV television station in 1992 when he ran into the station’s archives of film and tape. His appreciation for the old content started there, where he’d watch the history on them after his work.

As the station and its management changed, the archives were no longer valued, with old footage either being overwritten or outright disposed of. In response, Lyons would hide whatever tapes he could in the quiet corners of the building in an effort to preserve them, even going after skip bins and companies like Waster Opportunities to salvage archives, or even fooling the station with empty boxes, just to preserve media history.

Said archive had more than 5,000 video tapes, amounting to at least 250,000 ft (76,000m) of 16mm, containing thousands of hours of historical footage, including the city’s first television broadcast back in 1962, Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1970, and even the damage done by Cyclone Althea back in 1971.

Mr. Lyons was once threatened with trespassing, but assistance from Jack Gleeson, considered the father of North Queensland TV, secured the archive, as well as giving Lyons a space to store them for 15 years, at the Queen’s Hotel building.

Mr. Lyons then got in touch with Annette Burns from the Townsville City Libraries, which resulted in the archive being signed over to the library’s Local History Collection, where it will be digitised and the material will be publicized via a special portal.

In recognition of his service, Mr. Lyons was awarded the John Oxley Library Award, presented by the State Library of Queensland, which is given to people who have provided excellent service to the state’s history or heritage.

The library’s Gavin Bannerman stated that Mr. Lyons stood out due to his perseverance, and advocacy regarding the historical importance of the archive.


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