Guest blogger – Julie Hornibrook, 2015 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow
In exploring the resources of the State Library of Queensland (SLQ) I have come across a wealth of information in relation to my grandfather Sir Manuel Hornibrook – generally known as ‘MR’. The library has photos, newspaper clippings, design plans, albums and business records.
In being awarded the Fellowship of the Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame I am able to develop a whole picture of MR and his legacy by mixing the value of resources at the library with family memories and other mementos I have in my treasure trove of family history – a hobby I have explored for some years, tracing family dates, stories and events.
Through finding some papers donated to SLQ by my great Aunt Pearl I was able to trace my grandfather’s history back two more generations to his Irish grandmother, Frances Ross. As a widow Frances Ross migrated with her six children over five years on four different ships to make a new life in Queensland in the 1880’s. I knew that MR’s father, John, died at age 37 leaving his wife a widow with seven young children to raise and this was an early incentive for him to leave school early, become apprenticed to a carpenter at age 13 and then start his own business by age 19. His qualities of initiative, enterprise and supporting family were wired in to his formative years and influential words from his first boss Mr Fooks who said to him “it depends entirely on you if you make good”. (W. Browne, A Man of Achievement, 1974)
The research project will result in online publication of “Issues” that focus on the building of three big bridges in Brisbane and their impact: the William Jolly Bridge, Hornibrook Highway and the Story Bridge. The first Issue is on the Story Bridge as it celebrated its 75th anniversary on 6 July this year and the next one will be on the Hornibrook Highway , which has an 80th anniversary from opening on the 4th October.
I am finding a legacy in Brisbane of not only the large infrastructure projects that have become iconic over time but memories that are still alive from that era and the way they live on in the minds of local people. For example, although the Hornibrook Highway was closed to traffic in 1979, many Queenslanders, at the mention of the bridge, immediately reflect on their fond childhood memories of driving over the ‘Humpity Bump’ bridge of the bridge (mostly pre seat belt days!).
In looking around Brisbane I also find various mementos that recall the contribution of MR to local life.
This picture is in a children’s playground in Kelvin Grove, a Brisbane suburb. At the same playground there’s also a photo of William Jolly, enabling ready ways for parents to talk with children about historical events in Brisbane.
The old Hornibrook Bulimba Works Yards by the river are now a residential development, but in the planning a ‘Hornibrook Plan’ was part of the design approach and the archway of the entry gates is now mounted into the surrounds of a local park which was the site of the Works. (http://www.residentialdeveloper.com.au/Article/NewsDetail.aspx?p=129&id=252)
Opposite the old Bulimba Works at the Ferry there’s a marker for the Sir Manuel Hornibrook Park and then along the path is an intimate Park with an engraved timber sign under the shade of a tree, by the river, acknowledging the Park.
The Brisbane City Council refurbished the Plaque to honour builders of the Story Bridge, (placed near the walkway at northern end) to celebrate the 75th anniversary of it’s opening in July.
The Royal Queensland Golf Club has a Golf Trophy named after MR, who was on Committees for more than 10 years. He was also a driving force behind the establishment of the Peninsula Golf Club at Redcliffe, serving as their President for 10 years.
Redcliffe Harness Racing & Sporting Club named a Handicap race after MR; Redcliffe has a Hornibrook Esplanade. The Master Builders Association holds an annual MR Hornibrook Golfing Tournament, held in a different state each year and this year in Victoria for the 57th tournament. The records show that in that first year MR presented the Cup and was introduced as “MR, whose name has become synonymous with building in Australia”. He valued what he described as the “friendly rivalry of sport” and said that it would build enduring friendships that would be good for the industry in Australia. (http://www.mbagolf.org/about-mba-golf.html)
This book (digitised by the Newcastle MBA Golf Club) also featured the ad below. I found it so enjoyable to see the bold confidence of the company, but understanding the background and standing within the industry Australia wide I can see why they clearly state their minimum standard is excellence as that was their signature for success.
In the foreword to the book by Waveney Browne (A Man of Achievement, 1974), Gordon Gilmour President Civil Engineering Contractors Queensland, described MR as “a kindly humble man, possessed of great foresight and indefatigable energy”. He recognizes the great works accomplished , often working in “insuperable and primitive conditions” and adds “no man will ever again, with his own initiative and perseverance rise to the exalted position which he enjoyed in the construction industry”.
The Sunday Mail in its January 1970 edition ran a front cover and two page spread with headline of MR as “The Man who helped change the face of Queensland”. These big projects and other bridge building, power houses, tunnels etc in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory and New Guinea were part of a process of transition for Queensland from being a primary production state to developing confidence and capacity in competitive industrial development.
MR was a pioneer in building and construction and was renowned for his determination. As Waveney Browne notes in her book, A Man of Achievement, MR was awarded many honours for his contributions to Master Builders Federation of Australia, Queensland Master Builders Association, Australian Institute of Building & Queensland Civil Engineering Contractors Association, “for the inspiration he has provided to the growth of Australia by demonstrating that the highest position in industry, commerce and education can be attained by hard work and the will to succeed; for demonstrating to Australians that as individuals, ambition, motivation and ability are the true keys to learning. MR was a truly great man”.
The online Issues and future blogs will detail more of the history of the bridge projects and life in Brisbane 1920’s-1940.
Julie Hornibrook, 2015 Queensland Business Leaders Hall of Fame Fellow