Marly, Myora and St. Magnus : auction catalogues of three Brisbane houses

State Library’s ephemera collections contain volumes of small publications of the kind that are produced for a limited use and then usually thrown away. Such items as advertising material, postcards, programmes, stickers, tickets and menus are not generally considered worth keeping but, when collected and sorted, these kinds of items can reveal significant stories of our history. One of our ephemera collections consists of three boxes of auction catalogues of various kinds. Among these catalogues are three relating to auctions of houses and complete contents. These are all auctions of named houses. Marly, in Franklin Street, Highgate Hill, was auctioned in 1917 ; St. Magnus at 144 Bowen Terrace, Fortitude Valley, was auctioned in 1938 and Myora, in Glasnevin Street, Indooroopilly, was auctioned in 1950. These houses and the families who lived in them have interesting stories to tell.

Auction catalogues, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Auction catalogues, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

‘Marly’ in Franklin Street, Highgate Hill, was the home of George Bruce Nicol, one of the founders of the West End Brewery, his wife Helene Theresa Nicol (nee Gaugard) and their three children Corinne, Stella and Victor. It was no doubt the death of George Bruce Nicol on 10 February 1917 that prompted the sale of the house and contents in June 1917. Also, Mrs Bruce-Nicol’s obituary, published in The Queenslander in 1929, suggests that a heart condition may have been another factor in the decision to ‘downsize’ the family home.

For some time the late Mrs. Bruce-Nicol suffered from a severe form of heart trouble, which necessitated her retirement into a very quiet home life, when she continued to be a faithful employer of the many talents with which she was endowed. She endeared herself to a large number of friends, as well as winning general admiration for her many accomplishments.
While in France she studied art and music, and the products of her brush were awarded prizes at many of the Exhibitions in Brisbane. An accomplished musician, she made use of her gift when a younger woman in helping charities. Her artistic instincts also found scope in beautiful needlework, and she was a prize-winner for specimens of art needlework at the Brisbane Shows, and in the Southern States. During the war, together with her daughters, she rendered splendid service in Red Cross work, and was a real friend to returned soldiers. She was one of the first in Queensland to establish the French Red Cross fund, and of recent years her interest had been in the works of the Church of England Sisters. St. Martin’s Hospital, St. Margaret’s School, and the Missions to Seamen. Her interest in the establishment of an art gallery was very keen, and she was always ready to give a helping hand in all charitable movements.

Detail of Catalogue of Sale / Isles, Love & Co. , John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Detail of Catalogue of Sale / Isles, Love & Co. , John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

In happier times ‘Marly’ had been quite a social hub and the family had hosted parties and charitable events. This description of a birthday party is from the pages of Queensland Figaro in 1905.

A Birthday Ball
Was given by Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Nicol, of Marly, Franklin Street, South Brisbane, in the Technical College Hall, South Brisbane, on Monday evening, to celebrate the coming of age of their pretty daughter, Miss Corinne Nicol, and proved in every way a great success. A very large number of their friends responded to invitations. The Hall was beautifully decorated with scarlet and white lillies, and throughout the evening Eschenhagen’s waitresses were most attentive, continental ices, iced coffee and claret cup being served all evening, and at 10.15 supper was given, at which Mr. J. Brown proposed the toast of Miss Corinne Nicol, to which her brother, Mr. Victor Bruce-Nicol responded.
The toast of ” our genial host and hostess ” was given by Mr. Wilkie, in a smart and interesting speech, to which Mr. Bruce Nicol feelingly responded. Duke Stewart’s band played lively dance music, and a card room was prepared for those who preferred this form of amusement. Miss Corinne Nicol received many beautiful souvenirs, and her pretty dress was adorned with many valuable jewels presented to her in honour of her twenty-first birthday, her father presenting her with a handsome sapphire and diamond bangle, and her mother a pearl and diamond ring. Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Nicol have long been famed for their hospitality, but this large and brilliant ball given by them surpassed all former functions, and was greatly enjoyed by all their friends who attended it.

Staff standing on the verandah of the Mary Sumner Nursing Home, Brisbane, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 118110

Staff standing on the verandah of the Mary Sumner Nursing Home, Brisbane, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 118110

After the auction the house passed into the hands of the Mothers’ Union District Nursing Association and was renamed the Mary Sumner Nursing Home after the founder of the Association and has since reverted to private ownership.

The house ‘St. Magnus’ in Bowen Terrace was “The residence of, and built expressly to suit his own taste and convenience by Julius Brabant, Esq.” This from an advertisement in The Brisbane Courier, 3 February 1866, when the recently built house was offered for sale as the owner was returning to Europe. Bernhard Gerhard Julius Brabant first arrived in Brisbane in 1850 , establishing a successful wool and tobacco trading business. He returned to his native Bremen for a time until on 2 August 1864, he became Consul for the Hanseatic Republic of Bremen for Australian Affairs for Queensland in Brisbane.

The house then passed into the hands of the Forrest family until it was auctioned in 1938 by Philip McIlwraith Forrest. Philip Forrest’s uncle William was a pastoralist and company director and was appointed to the Legislative Council of Queensland by his old friend Sir Thomas McIlwraith. William’s younger brother John was the owner of ‘St Magnus’. In 1902 he succeeded William as chairman of Moreheads and managing director of the North Australian Pastoral Co. John Forrest died in 1911 and the house went to his oldest son William Tyler Forrest. William Tyler Forrest died in 1936 and Philip McIlwraith Forrest inherited the house. It is at this point that State Library and in particular the John Oxley Library comes into the story, as recorded in The Courier-Mail.

One of the most notable ‘bookish’ events in the history of Queensland occurred yesterday, when the Oxley Memorial Library secured for £2400 the remarkable collection of books gathered over a number of years by Mr. P. M. Forrest, a retired grazier, of Bowen Terrace, New Farm. The purchase was announced by the Lord Mayor (Alderman Jones) yesterday afternoon after a conference with other members of the committee—Professor Cumbrae Stewart, Professor Alcock, Messrs. G. W. Watson, and H. J. Sparkes (honorary secretary). It was reported to the meeting that a valuation indicated that the price was fair, and the meeting unanimously decided to buy the collection, which will be housed in the Oxley memorial section of the public library.

Some of the many treasures included in this collection and still held in the John Oxley Library include Birds of Australia and Mammals of Australia by John Gould and Oblation, one of the first publications of Norman Lindsay from a limited edition of 99 copies.

Philip McIlwraith Forrest, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 66384

Philip McIlwraith Forrest, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 66384

The timing of this sale to the Library suggests that the books may have belonged to William Tyler Forrest and perhaps to their father and uncle as well. In any case the acquisition was a significant addition to the collections of the John Oxley Library. The auction catalogue lists the full furnishings of every room in the house, as do the catalogues of the other houses. In each case we can get an idea of the contents of a well-off house of the period. For instance the lobby of ‘St. Magnus’ contained a number of paintings, bookcases and novels and other books, a fireproof safe, a rosewood writing box, and a ship’s medicine chest, a pewter turbot dish, a mahogany round table, an inlaid mahogany ink stand, a ship in a glass case, a Wilton carpet and two iron foot scrapers.

Detail of a Catalogue of rare antique furnishings, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Detail of a Catalogue of rare antique furnishings, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

The most recent of these auction catalogues dates from 1950 and is for “A beautiful home in a beautiful setting with glorious views of river and surrounding hills know as ‘Myora’ in a secluded glen with a area of 1 acre, 24 perches and having a frontage to the Brisbane River of 155 ft.” The house was passed in at auction according to the Courier-Mail but a handwritten note on the cover of the catalogue indicates that the house sold in July 1951 for £7,250.

Large homes passed in
Two large homes were passed in at auction yesterday.
‘Myora,’ home of the late Mr. and Mrs. Robert Joyce, In Glasnevin Street, Indooroopilly, was passed in at £7500. Isles, Love, and Co., Pty.,Ltd., who conducted the auction, will submit this offer to the executor in the estate. ‘Myora’ is a large house, with an area of 1 acre 24 perches, and a 155ft. frontage to the Brisbane River.
Period furniture
Mr. and Mrs. Joyce died within three hours of each other on April 5. Mr. Joyce was associated with J. Wildridge and Sinclair (Brisbane), Pty., Ltd. Isles. Love, and Co. yesterday also auctioned the collection of English period furniture, valuable pictures, statuary brasses, and Eastern ware in the home. These realised more than £2500. A rosewood china cabinet brought £190, a cedar wardrobe £115, and a camphorwood glory chest £82/10/.

Catalogue of the sale at 'Myora', John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Catalogue of the sale at ‘Myora’, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Detail of Catalogue of the sale at 'Myora', John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Detail of Catalogue of the sale at ‘Myora’, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

It turns out that this house is also connected to an interesting story, in this case, one of romance and tragedy. The Joyce’s son Flight Lieutenant David Joyce was a Catalina pilot during World War Two. On 21 January 1945 the Sunday Mail reported a story with the somewhat sensational headline City Airman marries U.S. Millionairess.

BRISBANE airman, Flight Lieutenant David Joyce, 32, has married an American heiress, Mrs. Mary Davis Clapp, of Los Angeles. The marriage, on Wednesday, was the culmination of a romance which began some time ago, and a proposal on New Year’s Day, at Mrs. Clapp’s home, where Flight Lieut. Joyce was a house guest. Mrs. Clapp is described as “a most philanthropic girl” who has entertained many R.A.A.F. men on their way through San Francisco. She has four children.

Flight Lieut. Joyce, who is a former student of King’s School, Parramatta, Sydney, is at present stationed at San Pedro, the principal naval air station on the west coast of America. His mother says he has done fine work in Catalinas. He met Mrs. Clapp through an Australian friend who has interests In Guinea Airways and the Bulolo goldfields in New Guinea. Before the war Flight Lieut. Joyce had a stud property at Sprlngbrook. where he learned to fly. He sold the property on joining the R.A.A.F.

R.A.A.F personnel in front of the aeroplane Catalina during World War II, ca. 1940, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 25779

R.A.A.F personnel in front of the aeroplane Catalina during World War II, ca. 1940, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 25779

Sadly, the couple’s happiness was short lived. A report from the Sydney Sun of 30 July 1945 explains.

Flight-Lieut. David Joyce, RAAF, reached San Francisco yesterday after a rush flight from Australia to attend his wife’s funeral. Joyce, a ferry pilot of Indooroopilly (Brisbane), married Mary Clapp, divorced wife of an Oregon lumber millionaire, in America last January. Mrs. Joyce was killed in a motor accident last week, together with a young child by her first marriage. Her two other children, also in the accident, may not live.

Houses and their history and stories are the focus of our current exhibition. Home : a suburban obsession is a State Library of Queensland exhibition about the allure of home and the stories found within, inspired by one of the largest digitised photographic collections of Queensland houses. It explores the social and emotional foundations of our houses through ephemera and artistic responses capturing the places we call home.

Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland