Tara House (Queensland Irish Association) – History in Pictures

In 1919, businessman, architect and politician James Cowlishaw financed the Queensland Irish Association’s (QIA) purchase of a building (later known as Tara House) on Elizabeth Street in Brisbane’s CBD by a mortgage of £8,000 (purchase price was £11,000 – $815,000 today). Sadly the QIA fell upon hard times and in October 2015 went into liquidation. Subsequently Tara House was sold in November to a private investor for $8.1 million.

Queensland Irish Association building in Elizabeth Street, Brisbane 1937. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36107

Queensland Irish Association building in Elizabeth Street, Brisbane 1937. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36107

Designed by noted Brisbane architect Richard Gailey, Tara House was constructed for James Hunter between 1877 and 1879. Before Cowlishaw obtained the premise in 1919, it was occupied by Messrs Unmack & Heussler (1879-84) and later owned by merchant Alexander McArthur (1884-99). According to the Queensland Heritage Register the building underwent extensive renovations in 1927-28 – “[Renovations] saw the demolition of the original back wall and the addition of a reinforced concrete and steel extension. At the same time the interior of the first floor was remodelled. A panelled, arched ceiling to the rear half of this floor is decorated in modelled fibrous plaster with angels, harps and Australian floral motifs in gold relief. The walls are panelled in silky oak; the floor is hardwood. Lead light panels in the ceiling and one end wall depict the four counties of Ireland and the Queensland coat of arms, while other leadlight windows are located in the north-east side wall”. The building was named Tara House in an official ceremony on 28 June 1948.

Queensland Irish Association building Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, ca. 1928. Later named Tara House. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36123

Queensland Irish Association building Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, ca. 1928. Later named Tara House. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36123

Tara House was placed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1992 due to the original facade (still intact today), the workmanship of the internal renovations, and its historical significance for its association with the Irish community in Brisbane and the Queensland Irish Association.

Below is a selection of images of Tara House from our collections.

Early view of Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, 1884. The building later known as Tara House can be seen with the sign 'Unimack Produce Merchant'. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image API-004-0001-0015

Early view of Elizabeth Street, Brisbane, 1884. The building later known as Tara House is believed to be the one with the sign ‘Unmack Produce Merchant’. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image API-004-0001-0015

Panelled ceiling of the Queensland Irish Associations clubroom, Brisbane 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36137

Panelled ceiling of the Queensland Irish Association’s clubroom, Brisbane 1928. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36137

Clubroom of the Queensland Irish Association Brisbane ca 1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36148

Clubroom of the Queensland Irish Association Brisbane ca 1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36148

Library and reading room in the Queensland Irish Associations premises, Brisbane ca 1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36129

Library and reading room in the Queensland Irish Association premises, Brisbane ca 1929. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36129

Horace Lindrum and Sam Ryan at the Queensland Irish Association club rooms Brisbane 1933. Lindrum and Sam Ryan at the Queensland Irish Association club rooms, Brisbane 1933.Watching the billiard game were, left to right: Major A. V. Starke, A. D. C., Sir Leslie Wilson, Mr D. J. C. McGrath (President of Q. I. A.) . John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36133

Horace Lindrum and Sam Ryan at the Queensland Irish Association club rooms Brisbane 1933. Watching the billiard game were, left to right: Major A. V. Starke, A. D. C., Sir Leslie Wilson, Mr D. J. C. McGrath (President of Q. I. A.). John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36133

Interior of the Queensland Irish Association Rooms, June 1934. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36116

Interior of the Queensland Irish Association Rooms, June 1934. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36116

Bar at the premises of the Queensland Irish Association Tara House, Brisbane ca 1937. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36103

Bar at the premises of the Queensland Irish Association, Tara House, Brisbane ca 1937. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36103

St. Patricks Day float in front of the Queensland Irish Association building in Brisbane 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36099

St. Patricks Day float in front of the Queensland Irish Association building in Brisbane 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36099

Queensland Irish Association, 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36104

Queensland Irish Association, 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36104

Queensland Irish Association, ca.1945. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36102

Queensland Irish Association, ca.1945. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36102

Reception for Eamon de Valera (seated second from left against the window), Irish Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs, at the Queensland Irish Association Clubrooms in Brisbane. The visit to Australia was part of a world tour as a guest of Irish Societies, 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36097

Reception for Eamon de Valera (seated second from left against the window), Irish Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs, at the Queensland Irish Association Clubrooms in Brisbane. The visit to Australia was part of a world tour as a guest of Irish Societies, 1948. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 36097

Bob Katter at The Irish Club celebrating Saint Patricks Day during the 2012 Queensland election campaign. (In copyright). Dean Saffron photographer. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 28430-0001-0037

Bob Katter at The Irish Club celebrating Saint Patricks Day during the 2012 Queensland election campaign. (In copyright). Dean Saffron photographer. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image 28430-0001-0037

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland