The area now comprising the central area of Thursday Island was originally called Port Kennedy, in honour of the former Governor of Queensland, Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy. However, over time, the name Thursday Island became more commonly used as the alternative to the name Port Kennedy.
The first formal land survey, with the laying out of the town and its streets, was undertaken in the late 1870s, with the approval for the first sale of town lots, being given on 29 January 1878. The actual sale auction was conducted on 23 April 1878, at which time two of the lots were purchased by the town’s first storekeepers, E.L. Brown and Robert Raff. At this first sale however, more than half the lots were to remain unsold, with the town growing quite slowly during this early period.
The names given to the streets at the time of this first sale reflected the colony’s prominent or well-known politicians and civil servants. Chester Street was named for Henry Chester, the island’s first police magistrate. Jardine Street was named for either John Jardine, the first police magistrate at Somerset or Frank, his son, who was also a Somerset police magistrate. Normanby Street was named for the Marquis of Normanby, former Governor of Queensland, with St. Johns Street named for H. St. John Wood, the surveyor who had laid out the town. Douglas Street was named in honour of Sir John Douglas, Premier of Queensland from 1877 to 1879 and Victoria Street named in honour of Queen Victoria, the then reigning monarch. Blackall Street bears the name of Colonel Samuel Wensley Blackall, Governor of Queensland, who served from 1868 to 1871. Pearl Street was appropriately named for the pearl industry, one of Thursday Island’s most important industries. Finally, Tully Street bears the name of William Adcock Tully, who was the then Under-Secretary of the Queensland Department of Lands and Surveyor-General.
This image shows part of the main business area of Thursday Island in around 1895, with the streets as yet unsealed and the well-known Royal Hotel clearly visible in the foreground.
Brian Randall – Specialist Librarian, State Library of Queensland