The Boundary Hotel in Boundary Street in the south Brisbane suburb of West End has been an important landmark in the suburb since 1864. This year the hotel is celebrating 150 years of continuous trading. The history of the hotel is linked to some significant figures and events in Brisbane’s history.
The original Boundary Hotel was a wooden building built by Donald Wilson. Wilson and his wife and four year old son John, arrived in Brisbane aboard the S.S. Artemisia in December 1848. This was the first passenger ship to bring free settlers to Moreton Bay. The John Oxley Library holds a copy of the journal of Robert Inglis, a Scottish ironfounder, who was also a passenger on this historic voyage.
The Wilson family soon took up residence in West End, then virgin forest. John Wilson lived on the same plot of land in Jane Street, West End for the next 76 years until his death in 1925. Donald Wilson and his sons built many houses around their own as well as the hotel and John Wilson saw West End grow from virgin bush into a thriving suburb. The Brisbane Courier published an article based on an interview with the then 78 year old John Wilson in 1922.
Some of the people who arrived in ’64 are still about, but Mr. Wilson knows of no one else in Brisbane who arrived so far back as ’48. Still continuing to live at West End he has watched the place grow. What now is Davies Park was all standing scrubland, owned by a man in Sydney. Ultimately the late Mr. Hargrave bought it, and sold it to the council for a park. Mr. Wilson, Snr., built the old Boundary Hotel—a wooden structure—which some maintain was a four-roomed cottage, a ’photo, however, proving it to be almost as big as the present structure. Then father and son proceeded to build all round their home, the result of their activities showing from Thomas street to where the Baby Clinic now stands. Mr. Wilson is justified in any pride he may feel at his accomplishment, for he never had a “boss,” nor was he ever a carpenter—but he had no labour troubles. When asked whether he could have succeeded similarly under more recent working conditions, he smiled. But there was much meaning in that smile.
More information about John Wilson can be found in the obituary published in the Brisbane Courier in October 1925.
Mr. Wilson was one of the founders of the West End School of Arts, and for many years continued to evince keen interest in this, as well as exercising silent but generous support to all movements for the advancement of the West End district. Mr. Wilson’s spirit of sportsmanship was keen, and in the early eighties he was prominent in racing circles, amongst his notable wins of that time being the Brisbane Cup of 1880 with the horse Major. In connection with recent Brisbane Centenary Celebrations, it is of interest to note that Mr. Wilson was fourth on the list of the then surviving pioneers of Queensland. Mr. Wilson married in 1872, Miss E. A. Clarke, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. James Clarke, of South Brisbane. He is survived by his widow and eight children, and two of his sons gave three years’ active service in the Great War. Deceased was of a retiring disposition, and by his death is removed another of those pioneers who were noted for their generous and kindly natures.
In 1896 the licensee of the hotel was Thomas Lehane, and his daughter Mary, then aged thirteen was caught up in one of Brisbane’s great disasters. On the afternoon of 13 February 1896, Mary and her cousin Mary Cain and two other school friends boarded the ferry Pearl to return home to West End. The Pearl never made it to the other side of the river, colliding with the anchor chains of the government yacht Lucinda and rapidly sinking in the river. What happened to the four girls is described in the Queensland Times, Ipswich Herald and General Advertiser.
The girls were in a group on the deck when the collision tools place. They rushed forward, and the girl Lehane took hold of a seat and kept a grip of it after she was precipitated into the water. A rope was flung to her from a vessel-she thinks it was the Lucinda-and she was thereby rescued. The girl Cain, was successful in catching on to the Lucinda’s anchor chains, and was speedily taken on board the steamer by willing hands. The sisters M’Groarty clung to each other as the Pearl collided, and went into the river together. Geraldine caught hold of a piece of wood which was floating past, and bravely supported her sister Maud, who was clinging to her as they were carried down by the current. The sisters were picked up by a boat when a little below the Ernest-street Baths. Last night the four girls were suffering no ill-effects, from their trying experience.
More details about the Pearl disaster can be found in a previous blog story.
In 1910 another licensee of the hotel, Walter Aspinall, died in mysterious circumstances. The death was reported in the Northern Miner as Mr Aspinall had previously lived in Charters Towers.
Further details as to the death of Walter Aspinall are published in the “Brisbane Courier:”–”About 1.30 p.m. on Thursday, a full suit of male attire was found lying on the river bank in the West End Cricket Reserve. The matter was immediately reported to the West End police, who found the clothes to be the property of Mr. Walter Aspinall, licensee of the Boundary Hotel, West End. The Water Police were communicated with, and dragging operations were commenced, but up to a late hour last night were unsuccessful. It is stated that Mr. Aspinall left his home about 10.30 yesterday morning, and soon afterwards was seen in the reserve by a man named Matthew Pitt, who was employed by the Council in cutting weeds there. About midday Pitt noticed him sitting close to the water’s edge smoking, and, on visiting the spot again later, found the clothes lying on the bank. It is supposed that the missing man, who is said to have been unable to swim, entered the water, and was carried downstream by the ebb tide. Mr. Aspinall was a married man, with three children – a son and two daughters. He was 51years of age. He formerly resided at Charters Towers, whence he came to Brisbane in October, 1906. Mrs. Aspinall and her two daughters are at present on a holiday visit to the Blue Mountains, New South Wales.
The Boundary Hotel has had a number of different licensees over the years but the ownership of the hotel has been remarkably stable. Donald Wilson passed the hotel on to his son John who replaced the original wooden hotel with a new brick building. John Wilson sold the hotel in 1922 to Thomas Corrigan who transfered ownership to Corrigan Pty Ltd in 1934. Corrigan Pty Ltd still own the hotel today.
Thomas Corrigan also seems to have owned the Metropolitan Hotel in Bundaberg and appears in a number of newspaper advertisements endorsing the benefits of Bile Beans for the relief of colic and indigestion. His obituary appears in the Courier-Mail of 21 August 1935.
The death occurred recently at his home, Boundary Hotel, West End, of Mr. Thomas Corrigan. At the age of 19 he came to Queensland from Ireland in 1874. He settled in Warwick and was later attracted to the Palmer goldfield. Later he settled in Bundaberg, first as a contractor, and later in the hotel business. In 1910 Mr. Corrigan paid a visit to the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Of late years he had lived a retired life in Brisbane. He is survived by a grownup family.
Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland