Category Archives: Brisbane Back

Memories of Christmas Past and Present

 Bush Christmas illustration, 1897 Christmas morning under the Christmas tree 1935 Immigrants first Christmas in Queensland, 1911 On the beach at Tweed Heads, Christmas 1905. Crowded beach at Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, 1966 Christmas display in Chandler, 2009 House decorated with Christmas lights at Capalaba, 2009 JOL Neg 407846

Memories of Christmas past and present including some of our traditions.  Carols by Candlelight in the parks and gardens of most cities and towns, the mailing of Christmas greeting cards to friends and family near and far, many of whom we have not contacted since the previous Christmas. Our sporting traditions…cricket at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the start of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Christmas decorations in the Myer Centre windows in Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall telling a story (not always a Christmas story) with animated characters etc.  In recent years the family home and garden have been illuminated with fairy lights in the hope of winning a competition for the best Christmas display.

Christmas in Australia falls during the summer holidays which means trips to the coast for the end of year break. It is a time when families can come together to celebrate with a barbecue at the beach or in their back yards.

Above is a selection of images from the John Oxley Library’s pictorial collection which illustrate the celebration of an Australian Christmas, past and present.

From all of us at the State Library of Queensland have a happy and safe Christmas.

Janette Whitehead

Library Technician – Queensland Memory

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Graham Webster’s World of Music

State Library holds a significant collection of sound recordings donated by the late Graham Webster AM, a Queensland radio broadcasting professional with over 40 years’ experience in ABC radio and television. A national figure during his career, Graham presented for NHK (the Japanese national broadcaster), and his work in Japan included narration for films, and TV series such as “The Silk Road”, many of which won international awards.

Towards the end of his career, Graham spent eight years as a voluntary presenter for 4MBS Classic FM 103.7 in Brisbane, and during that time researched, wrote, and presented a high-quality program entitled Graham Webster’s World of Music, which aired between 1990 and 2001. To research each program, Graham made particular use of the State Library’s music, heritage and LP collections. Graham Webster’s World of Music comprises 94 hours of taped documentary and sound music programs which cover a range of subjects in the history of music – from the lives of composers, to major historical events illustrated with music, to modern musicals. The programs were transferred from DAT tapes to approximately 95 CDs including cover art and content notes and are a highlight of the State Library’s music collection. The collection was formally presented to the State Library in June 2005.

Although many of the programs cover general topics in Western Art music, some of the topics have a distinct Queensland theme. For instance, The Cremorne remembered looks back at the shows and performers of the Cremorne Theatre on the South Bank in Brisbane, from its opening in 1911 through the World War II years. In Three Overseas Arrangers in the Sunshine State, Graham talks with Ronald Hanmer, Gordon Langford and Tommy Tycho about their lives and work. Brisbane concert goers in the 1860s provides a fascinating insight into the musical pastimes of Queenslanders more than 150 years ago.

Robyn Hamilton

Queensland Music Coordinator – State Library of Queensland

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A childcare centre closes in the Valley: A history of "Practical Sympathy"

The childcare centre that my children attend, in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, is about to close down. Bear with me. As a parent this of course resonates with the sound of children’s activities, with the voices of teachers, with exuberant greetings and cries of despair at a broken toy or the wrong t-shirt – but what does it mean from a historian’s perspective. Well, a lot, actually, and here’s why.

Children on the rooftop of the Brisbane Institute of Social Service, 1907. State Library of Queensland, negative number 36632   Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley, ca. 1907. State Library of Queensland, negative number 142484

This centre is part of the “C&K” chain. As a Sydneysider, this acronym was new to me when I arrived six years ago, from a state where the word “crèche” isn’t used. But the Crèche and Kindergarten Association is a presence across the whole of Queensland. The organisation’s story has its origins in the state’s management of social welfare, of poverty, and to a whole raft of radical reformers and visionaries. But this is not a tenuous link to one site amongst many – the organisation itself began in the Valley within spitting distance of the building whose doors close next week (not that we spit, do we, children, we use our words et cetera).

I found parts of that story, going back to 1907, here in the John Oxley Library.

The Valley was always a “mixed” place. It was known as one of the poorest areas in Brisbane, but it was also home to the middle classes. It had industry, retail, shipping and working girls; it had religious institutions and social reformers; it had “street boys” and street sweepers; and it had an increasing number of citizens who wondered what might change, what needed to change.

In 1907, too, more and more working class women were doing paid work; just as a number of middle class women were extending their own skills and political concerns outside the home. Of course, there were activist working women too. But a group of reformers who lived in and around “Poverty Valley” were concerned with the life of the street; were worried about how these women would look after their children; and believed in intervention and in the role of reform through both activity and edification. And there, on the corner of Brunswick and Ivory Streets – where there’s now a collection of nightclubs, host to occasional headline-making behaviour – was a tobacco factory that had just closed down. The smell of tobacco had gone, but so had a significant number of jobs.

One of the leaders of this group of change-artists, was an American-born Congregationist minister with the unlikely name of Loyal Wirt. Wirt, and some of his cronies – both women and men, in a period when these stories tended to be hung on the hook of one male leader – decided they wanted to do something. Together, they formed the Brisbane Institute of Social Service, and they wanted a place to act as an antidote to the mean streets. A site for a boys club, a girls club, a crèche and a kindergarten, at the very least. So they approached the owners of the now-closed tobacco factory, and asked if they could rent the space. To their surprise, they were given the space for free, for a while at least, and off they went.

This is the lineage, for that childcare centre, where 104 years later I send my children.

Some things have changed. Childcare is no longer a question of social welfare for the working class, and a space for “saviour”, although the tradition of “teaching” parenting as a way to save the nation and build citizens (etc) hasn’t entirely gone away. The childcare centre is no longer in an old tobacco factory, but the tradition of moving every few years, fighting over rents and ownership, and dissent about the philosophy behind such centres has a fine long history of acrimony. There is no longer a boys club with a billiards room and hopes to build Australia’s first navy from its cadets. (It’s 1907 – there was no navy. The so-called “Great White Fleet” from the US was due to visit Australia, the following year, and excite the country both with its seafaring spectacle and with the idea of two White nations in the Pacific. Nationalism was simmering away. But enough of that.)

Because the tradition of social reform is a rich and interesting one. It’s at least as dynamic as the better-known stories of nationalism and alliances. So when a childcare centre closes in one community, there’s more to be salvaged than artwork to stick on your fridge.

Interior view of the Brisbane Institute of Social Service, 1907. State Library of Queensland, negative number 36669   Storytelling at the Brisbane Institute of Social Service Kindergarten, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane, 1907. State Library of Queensland, negative number 184067

Not only that, striking and familiar figures from Brisbane’s history keep coming up as part of the story. The first woman doctor in Brisbane, Lilian Cooper, and her life partner Josephine Bedford, were mainstays of this and other reform movements. Those who wanted to change the lives of the working class in Fortitude Valley also wanted to build parks and playgrounds, to teach mothercraft, to reform government, and to change women’s lives and ability to speak on a world stage. Indeed, these reformers were part of the emerging international rights movements that saw ideas transformed from the US and Europe and elsewhere.

Some more details, then. There are two histories of the C&K system, including a commissioned history by the inimitable Brisbane historian Helen Gregory (Playing for Keeps: C&K’s First Century), and a more in-house version by C&K “insiders” Peggy Banff and Norma Ross (The Peppercorn Trail”: The story of the Creche & Kindergarten Association and its People). Helen Gregory’s history places the movement in its wider context, from Brisbane specifically through modernity and international reform movements, the role of the state and changing educational contexts, right up to the present. The Peppercorn Trail does something similar, but has much more detail about the administrative details of the organisation. Both draw upon the C&K’s own archives as well as oral histories. I’m not going to replicate their work – as it does something I can’t do in a blog entry. Instead, I want to tell a few stories (focusing on the very early years) and draw some broad connections, especially in the context of the State Library’s own collection, and the other histories that emerge from the archives.

In part, though, it’s a reminder that “childcare” – which in 2011 is so much part of the fabric of everyday life that we don’t necessarily think about it – has its own history. Or rather, it has many histories. A radical history, of reform. A conservative history, of gender and control. An educational history, of institutions and regulation. A history of work, opportunity, and care; of wages, buildings, and change. And many many personal stories and memories.

Back, then, to 1906. The very first minutes of the first Committee Meeting of the Brisbane Institute of Social Service (Papers of the Brisbane Institution of Social Services, JOL OM72-21/1B [Box 8813]. Minutes, OM72-21/3), on 20th March, was chaired by the Rev. Loyal Wirt.

“The Chairman thought the first move ought to be the establishment of a crèche on the ground floor and thought the matter would be taken up by the ladies of the several churches. Mr Wassell kindly offered to equip one cot for the crèche or make one of 20 at ₤5 to cover the first outlay of ₤100.”

By the meeting just two weeks later, it was decided that the crèche should operate at nominal cost to mothers – say, 2d a day.

By the time of the second Annual Report – for 1908/09 – there was not only a crèche and kindergarten, but also a boys’ club, with boxing, billiards, and a “temperance bar” , while the Girls’ Club included a swimming club  as well. [Brisbane Institute of Social Service, Annual Report 1908/09, JOL OM72-21/4) The C&K received a long mention, given that there was on average over forty children in the kindergarten each day, and thirty in the crèche. The board was already worried about space and over crowding and then, as now, the Valley centre wasn’t just servicing the immediate suburb, but rather the whole innercity area:

“That the Creche is ‘filling a long felt want’ for working mothers is proved by the fact that children brought to us form Highgate Hill – Paddington – Red Hill – Woolloongabba – Kangaroo Point – Milton – Thompson Estate.”

Money was always a problem. A rather hefty letterbook for 1907 and 1908 contains carbon copies of the typed letters sent to business people and, well, pretty much anybody they could think of, spruiking the work of the Institute and begging for “practical sympathy”. (Letterbook, 6 Dec 1907-17 Dec 1908, Brisbane Institue of Social Service, OM 72-21/8, Box 8817)

“Practical Sympathy” – not yet called charity or donations, it used familiar techniques of combining heartfelt stories with claims for the greater good, to bald-faced requests for equipment (for a free piano and an old billiard table, for example). Time and again, they proclaim their origins:

“the Institute came into existence, bearing with it noble aspirations, laudable objects and practical aims for the poorer classes of the City.” (Letter to Mr B Whitehouse, businessman, 18 Dec 1907, p 21 of letterbook)

And extend their claims outwards, to the nation:

“a great national asset is being conserved and proved in the persons of babies being cared for in our Day Nurseries while the mothers are out at work; and the little children whose minds are being trained in our Kindergarten department” (letter to Mr Maxwell, Bundaberg, 20 Jan 1908, p 71 of letterbook)

(And by 1930, when the Institute was busily documenting its own history, it described itself as an organisation founded to “help towards the social uplift of the then residents of Brisbane.” [Brisbane Institute of Social Services, The Important Years, 1930,  JOL P369.4imp.]

And then back again into the homes and lives of the working class women who children attend the crèche.

“I could tell you many pitiful stories of poor women whose lives are made weary by the dragging of little fingers at their skirts and of the little folks themselves who now receive their education in life from the gutters or are locked up at home while Mother is seeking bread for them . . . We want to bring them into our big loving home, feed, clothe and teach the little ones, and inspire the young men and women with hope and give them through the Institute windows and influence a better and truer outlook upon life.” (Generic letter to plea for donations, 15 Sept 1908, p 356 of letterbook)

Not to mention the work of cleaning up the street, because “you are doubtless aware that here in the valley there are crowds of young men who apparently are aimless, and walk about the street with seemingly no object in view” (letter to Mr Harris, Clarence Hotel, 3 Jan 1907).

And then, in between the appeals for practical sympathy, are details about who will scrub the lavatory outside the crèche door once a week . . . and hints of the cracks that are beginning to appear behind the righteous aims. Stories of rumours and ructions, hints at disquiet, elliptical references to arguments that are going on.

Again, the formal histories are able to make more sense of this . . .

Because by 1911, the Creche and Kindergarten split from the Institute, and went its own separate way.

From here, the larger story of social reform gets messier, but the intersecting organisations, and the cast of characters, remains vibrant. While the “street larrikin” required bringing inside, by an avowedly non-religious organisation, to be made into a “creditable citizen”, there were also moves afoot to change the streets themselves. The origins of the international “city beautiful” and “parks and playgrounds” movements were in this period, and the ideas travelled the world. Charters for the rights of women and children were being drafted, in Brisbane, Sydney, New York and elsewhere. Action moved from “practical sympathy” to practical action, by organisations like the National Council of Women (see for example, History of the National Council of Women in Qld, the First Fifty Years, 1956. JOL J305.4/FIR/C1), and the Playground and Recreation of Association of Queensland, whose aims – and people – overlapped with that of the Creche and Kindergarten Association. Central to many of these organisations was the extraordinary figure of Josephine Bedford, who seems to leap from the most mundane of administrative papers, with her energy and interest and sheer involvement in things.

(I first came across Jean Bedford in an exhibition on love and travel held at the State Library of Queensland (Travelling for Love) but she appears in collection after collection. Clearly a force to be reckoned with, to use a cliché.)

And by 1911, and this split with the original Social Institute structure, the childcare centre in the Valley had already had to move to new premises. The draper James McWhirter offered up an empty shop to use as a baby’s nursery from 1910, and the year after there was another move. In the same year, C&K opened a Kindergarten Teachers College, and began to have links with both government and researchers.

McWhirter’s shop window, ca. 1911. State Library of Queensland, negative number 52156

World Wars, centre closures, workers in munitions factories, polio and influenza epidemics, lead poisoning from toys, theories about play, arguments about women’s lives and relationship between home and work, agonising about what and how to feed children, the role of fathers . . . all of these are tied up with the story too. All these can be found within the archival record – where the papers hold whiffs of “convalescent food” and egg custard, powdered paint and rooms full of children, within even the driest administrative record.

Which takes me back to where I began, as a working woman, with a partner and two children, and a C&K childcare centre in Fortitude Valley, that’s about to close: 1907 to 2011.

Kate Evans, Historian in Residence, John Oxley Library

Note  The most obvious papers have been listed in the text (above) or referenced via hyperlink. Other papers accessed for this story, which deserve a more detailed study (and more blog entries to come), include:

Posted in Brisbane, Collections, Guest blogger, Uncategorized | 2 Comments


  1. This is a very important contribution giving a sense of the social welfare ferment which occupied many Brisbane people from a variety of backgrounds and social classes in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. It also speaks volumes for early Queensland education policy which regarded teaching children basic literacy and numeracy skills from the ages of 6-7 to about 13, with little regard for the more formative earlier years. It also provides a very useful platform for more contributions about the lives of women of all social strata at that time. How sad that the Valley Centre is closing!

  2. I have only just seen this post – many apologies. This is so sad if this is the Valley Creche and Kindy where my children went in Robertson Street. I used to work at JWCOCA and it was a joy to park in the carpark every morning and hear the little voices from across the road in the playground – squealing and shrieking with delight as they played under the tree and in the sandpit. Many happy memories of that place. Thanks for posting and letting us know about the history. Much appreciated.

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Indigenous Languages Discovery Workshop

Through funding made available by the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Office of the Arts’ Indigenous Language Support program the State Library’s Queensland Memory Unit recently held a 3 day Indigenous Languages Discovery Workshop in the John Oxley Library Reading Room.

Des Crump leads the Indigenous Languages Discovery Workshop in the John Oxley Library Reading Room. Workshop attendees in the Oxley Reading Room. Jedda Priman from Townsville in North Queensland trains attendees in the use of Miromaa software for the preservation of Aboriginal languages.

Visitors from Townsville, Woorabinda, Bundaberg, Stradbroke Island and the Sunshine Coast participated in the workshop facilitated by Des Crump from Monday 20 to Wednesday 23 November.

Linguist Colleen Hattersley discusses her research. Phillip Brown from the Gidarjil Development Corporation in Bundaberg chats with Colleen at morning tea. Jedda Priman and Stacie Saltner from Townsville at morning tea.

Thanks very much to Des for organising and leading the workshop and to all of our presenters and participants for their contributions. This was another great opportunity for people involved in the preservation and revival of Indigenous languages to come together, learn from each other and discover the John Oxley Library’s rich array of collections documenting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and culture.

Simon Farley – Queensland Memory

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Queensland Light Opera Company archive

The Gondoliers 1963In the early 1990s the historical Queensland Light Opera Company donated its rich archive of scores, photographs, programmes and production notes to State Library. The donation provided a detailed and entertaining picture of operatic activity in Brisbane from the early 1960s to the late 1980s.   

No! No! Nanette 1964

Queensland Light Opera Company was formed in 1962 as an amateur Gilbert and Sullivan company, and many Brisbane singers took to the stage for the first time as cast members in these early productions. Others also developed their skills, as small orchestra players, directors, producers, designers or backstage crew. 

Yeoman of the Guard 1965In the 1970s the Company broadened its repertoire and received State government funding. Under the direction of David McFarlane, already well known as the director of music at the Anglican Church Grammar School, the Company was transformed into a semi-professional concern, and in additional to Gilbert and Sullivan light operas, it also presented The Student Prince, White Horse Inn, Kiss Me Kate, Samson and Delilah and many others. Artist Max Hurley was the talented theatrical designer for most of these productions. 

The Queensland Light Opera Company continued to operate successfully into the 1980s, until its funding was withdrawn in 1982. It reappeared in 1983 under the auspices of the Queensland Light Opera Trust as The Brisbane Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company, then as the Brisbane Light Opera Company, until its final curtain call in late 1990.Showboat 1968

While some of the material, such as press releases, posters, flyers and subscription promotions reflect the public face of QLOC, much of the donation reveals the inner workings of the Company. Costume measurements, ticketing allocations, lighting plans, cast lists, advertising invoices, opening night VIP lists and a reservoir of glorious production photos provide a documentary narrative for shows such as Yeoman of the Guard, No! No! Nanette and Cosi Fan Tutte, and give shape to the working lives of the many singers, musicians, production staff and administrators who pulled together countless productions over the Company’s 30-year lifespan.  

The Marriage of Figaro 1969To highlight the Queensland Light Opera Company donation, the next event in State Library’s regular Tea & Music series has an operatic theme. On Tuesday morning 29 November at 10.30am, soprano D’Arne Sleeman, tenor Bernard Wheaton, and pianist Mark Leung will present Lovely Light Opera – a delightful selection of Light Opera classics. 

Waltz into the festive season and book a ticket for Tea & Music through QTIX 136 246 or The Library Shop.

Robyn Hamilton – Queensland Music Coordinator – Queensland Memory

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Documenting Queensland’s Wartime Heritage

Have you ever found weathered concrete structures in the scrub or near the beach in Queensland, and wondered what they were? The Department of Public Works has designed a website: Queensland WWII Historic Places to answer questions about Queensland’s World War II sites

As part of the project Dr Jack Ford, Brian Rough and Dr Brian Sinclair collected images, maps and information for a number of WWII places in Brisbane and South East Queensland. On Wednesday 16 November in the last of our Out of the Port lunchtime lectures for 2011 they discussed their research methods and the various types of wartime sites they uncovered.

Demonstrating the Queensland WWII Historic Places website. Demonstrating how wartime era films can be viewed through the WWII Historic Places website. This one is about Red Cross activities in support of the war effort.

Brian Rough and Jack Ford are both long serving, experienced historians with the Brisbane City Council’s Heritage Unit, and have an interest in military history. Brian was a major contributor to the work Brisbane, 150 Stories: 1859-2009; while Jack has published Allies in a bind: Australia and the Netherlands East Indies in the second World War.

Brian Sinclair is a Senior Heritage Officer in the Heritage Branch, Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM). He researches a variety of places nominated for entry in the Queensland Heritage Register, but is particularly fond of military sites.

All three have worked together recently as contributors to the multi-author book A Most Promising Corps: Citizen Soldiers in Colonial Queensland, 1860-1903.

The Out of the Port series of free lunchtime talks, presented by State Library’s John Oxley Library and the Department of Environmental and Resource Management will recommence next year.

Special thanks to our partners at DERM and to all who presented and attended our sessions in 2011. Previous talks are available as webcasts through the State Library of Queensland’s website.

Simon Farley – Arts Portfolio – State Library of Queensland.

Posted in Brisbane, Events, Out of the Port | Tagged , , | 2 Comments


  1. It always used to fascinate me as a kid in the ’60s that there was still the skeleton of a World War 2 bomb shelter in the small park between Annerley Road and Cornwall Street, Dutton Park, near my maternal grandmother’s place in Wilkins Street East. Nowadays I get to drive past it at least once a week on the way to work. I think a site about such relics of the not-so-distant past is long overdue. Well done to the authors!

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1893 Brisbane flood

In 1893 the Great Flood of Brisbane left a path of destruction in its wake. The total rainfall in Brisbane for over 8 days was about 20 inches (500mm) and the Brisbane River rose 23 feet (7 metres) above its ordinary level – 10 feet (3 metres) higher than the flood of 1890. Brisbane suffered approximately £2,000,000 worth of damages. The Victoria Bridge and the Indooroopilly Railway Bridge were swept away and in Queen Street, the businesses of Finney, Isles and Co, drapers, Perry Brothers, the goldsmiths, Hall Company, H. L. Davies and Gordon and Gotch, all suffered major damage.

Edward Street during the 1893 flood. State Library of Queensland, negative number 74951 Scene at the corner of Albert Street and Elizabeth Street during the 1893 flood. State Library of Queensland, negative number 64182 Victoria Bridge, South Brisbane, Queensland after a flood, 1893. State Library of Queensland, negative number 172633 Looking across the flooded Brisbane River towards South Brisbane, 1893. State Library of Queensland, image number: API-032-01-0005

Brisbane wasn’t the only area hit. The countryside for miles on either side of the Mary River was devastated and the loss of settlers enormous. The Mayor of Brisbane composed the following cable for the Lord Mayor of London: “Brisbane, Mayborough, Gympie, Ipswich, Bundaberg and Rockhampton inundated by floods. Destruction of property and loss of life enormous. Relief urgently required. ” Against the wishes of the Queensland public, this message was never sent. (Western Mail, 18 February 1893 p.40)

In the Legislative Assembly, Sir Henry Parkes asked “if, in view of the disastrous floods in Brisbane, the Government had considered the desirableness of assisting by direct relief those suffering from the effects of the appalling disaster. Sir George Dibbs, in reply, said the citizens had initiated such a movement, and no doubt members of the Government and of the House would join in it, but he did not see that it was a matter where the Goverment could offer direct assistance.” (South Australian Register, 10 February 1893, p.5) However, citizens of Australia and abroad were touched by the disaster and rallied to raise funds for the flood affected.

In the Argus a reader wrote “The terrible disaster which has befallen Brisbane during the past few days has arroused universal sympathy amongst all classes”. The magnitute of the present calamity in Queensland calls for world – wide recognition and should touch the hearts and pockets of everyone whose last coin is not yet spent or pledged. I trust that Victoria, as a colony, will once more respond promptly and generously to the cry of suffering humanity beyond her borders.” (Argus, 11 February 1893 p.9)

1893 flood taken from the Rosalie Torwood area looking towards old Bishopsbourne. State Library of Queensland, image number 6288-0001-0001 West End during the 1893 Brisbane flood. State Library of Queensland, negative number 119203 Indooroopilly Railway Bridge (First) destroyed by flood, 1893. State Library of Queensland, negative number 187148 Eagle Street, Brisbane inundated with flood waters, 1893. State Library of Queensland, image number APE-066-01-0002

“At the Municipal chambers, women, dirt besmeared and almost naked, trooped into the rooms set apart as supply stores, while their husbands carried on cleansing operations The mayor, aldermen, town clerk, and other officers of the council have worked with a will to cope with the distress. Relief funds have been opened at various centres of population throughout Australia.” (Argus, 13 February 1893 p.3)

Messages of sympathy were received from all over the world including the Secretary of State for Canada, the Queen of England and the Premier of New Zealand. Relief funds were received from all over Australia and abroad. By October 1893 the total amount of funds raised was £83,015.

Flood waters in Queen Street, Brisbane, 1893. State Library of Queensland, negative number 84890 Floods at Milton, Brisbane, 1893. State Library of Queensland, negative number 146845 Children playing in the receding floodwaters, Brisbane, 1893. State Library of Queensland, image number API-033-01-0004 Subsidence along the River Road (Coronation Drive). State Library of Queensland, image number: 6288-0001-0003

In a gathering to thank fund raisers after the flood the Lord Mayor of South Brisbane in praise of the Flood Relief Distribution Committee said “The ladies had all along stuck manfully to their posts from 9 in the morning till 5 in the afternoon every day, and been ably assisted in overtaking the Work devolving upon them by the gentleman on the committee. He pointed out that many poople in South Brisbane who suffered severely through the flood seemed to forget their own losses in their solicitude for the sufferings of others. (Applause.) The calamity, dreadful though it was, was a means of good in one respect at all events-it brought poople of all shades of opinion and of all nationalities together to work for the common good and in the cause of suffering humanity ; and nothing but the greatest praise could be accorded to the Distribution Committee for the arduous duties they took upon themselves and so cheerfully and faithfully performed. (Cheers.)” (Brisbane Courier, 20 April 1983 p.6)

The State Library of Queensland holds an extensive collection of photographs covering the 1893 flood which can be viewed through our One Search catalogue.

Karen Hind, Librarian – State Library of Queensland

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John Oxley Library embraces ‘Punk’ music

This morning the library took possession of a valuable collection of Brisbane punk recordings from the seventies. These recordings are all 7” singles and include works by Young Identities, Just Urbain, Section Urbain,  Bodysnatchers, Upsets and Public Execution. These bands are interesting not only for their music, but also as examples of the music being produced in Brisbane in reaction to the repression of the Bjelke Petersen era, and against a backdrop of constant political protest. These recordings are from the personal collection of local collector, researcher, and author, Andrew Stafford.

Andrew and I with Upsets poster. New collection of punk records for the John Oxley Library.

The library is actively collecting Queensland music and recordings of all genres. If you have any music which you think should be preserved in our collection for the use of current and future generations of Queenslanders, we would like to hear from you. Manuscripts, printed music, sound recordings, (vinyl, CD, MP3, files) programmes, memorabilia, and photographs connected with the Queensland music scene, past and current, would all be valuable additions to our collection. We need you to help us build a collection rich in cultural memory. Please contact me if you can help. My email is: My  phone number is 3840 7835.

Laurel Dingle

Queensland Music Coordinator, Queensland Memory – State Library of Queensland

Posted in Brisbane, Collections, People | 2 Comments


  1. I’ve got a Saints album and a couple of Queensland country albums in my collection from memory. Send me an email or DM at @SimonBedak on twitter and I’ll let you know what might be useful to you. I wouldn’t want to give away something you may already have. cheers

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Collection of the week – Tristram's Ginger Beer bottles (1890s to 1920s)

Accession 28174

Tristram’s ginger beer bottles

This accession contains eighteen stoneware soft drink bottles, found by the staff of ARCHAEO Cultural Heritage Services during the archaeological selvage work carried out on the site of the Millenium Arts Project in South Brisbane in 2004.

The bottles were found in a bottle dump and were washed, identified and described by the ARCHAEO staff. They were made by Kennedy Barrowfield Pottery in Glasgow, Scotland and the Bendigo Pottery in Victoria and were used by Tristram’s Company for ginger beer.

Tristram’s ginger beer bottle

Tristram’s was established in 1875 and is still in operation today, under the commercial name of Trisco Foods. Their soft drink factory was in Boundary Street, West End. The original building still exists under a different name–The Markets.

Tristram’s soft drink factory at West End, Brisbane

(Image accession number: 10189/1; Collection reference: 10189, Queensland Cement & Lime Company Limited Photograph Albums, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.)


Report on the Cultural Heritage Selvage Operation, ARCHAEO Cultural Heritage Services (2005)

Veronika Farley

Librarian, Queensland Memory – State Library of Queensland

Posted in Brisbane, Collections, New Acquisitions | 2 Comments


  1. Tristrams were established in 1874 with the original factory located in George Street; by 1877 Thomas Tristram was operating a softdrink factory in Hope Street, South Brisbane.

    Extract from Morrison’s Queensland History 1888.
    “T. Tristram, Ginger Beer Brewer, Hope Street, South Brisbane, may almost be considered an Australian, as he landed with his parents when very young in Melbourne. After travelling through the different colonies he settled in Brisbane in 1861, and in 1864 entered the employ of Messrs. Gardner and Keid, with whom he remained ten years.
    He then started business on his own account, and conducted it for two years, when being offered a substantial share of the profits, he opened a branch for Mr. Gardner in Hope Street, into which he merged his own business. After managing this concern for nearly nine years, he again started business on his own account and has succeeded in working up a large connection. All drinks manufactured in this establishment are first class.”

  2. Pingback: Bottles and cans: an adventure in suburban archaeology | There once was a creek . . .

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Swimming Pools

Before Brisbane’s public swimming pools were built, swimmers used a number of floating baths in the Brisbane River. These baths were subject to tidal variations which often made them unusable.  Brisbane residents, faced with a hot climate, were keen to bathe.  According to Helen Gregory, Brisbane’s first public bath was built by the Brisbane businessman Taylor Winship.  Opened in April 1857,  it was moored close to the river bank near the old convict hospital, now the Brisbane Supreme Court.  It was one shilling for a single bathe or twenty shillings for 3 months. (Brisbane River Story p 125-126).

Brisbane’s first swimming club “The Old Brisbane Amateurs” met at the Metropolitan Floating Baths which were built in 1894 and were at the time at the end of Edward Street in Brisbane.   At one time, the Brisbane River was crowded with a huge number of floating baths and, although these were extremely popular,  there were problems with sanitation and the pools regularly got swept away in floods.  The Redcliffe Baths had problems with jelly fish and once a grey nurse shark broke into the swimming enclosure.

Crowd at the swimming pool, ca. 1910.  John Oxley Library image number 62800  Atherton swimming pool.  John Oxley Library image number 118535  Scarness swimming enclosure in the Pialba district, Queensland, 1932. John Oxley Library image number Image number: TR1867-0001-0017

Brisbane’s earliest official public swimming pool were the Spring Hill Baths in Arthur Street.  Built by M. Callum Park and opened 9 December 1886 before 200 spectators they were 80 ft long, 30ft wide and 7ft. deep at the end nearest the entrance, and 3ft. 6in. at the other end!   There were also sixty dressing rooms, and three shower baths. The water was pumped from the river at Victoria Bridge by an 18in. pipe.

Spring Hill Baths, ca. 1910.  John Oxley Library image number 98708  Diving at the Valley Baths, Brisbane, Queensland, 1938.  John oxley Library image number 204200  Bathers at the Davies Park Baths.  John Oxley Library Image number 60753  Official opening of the Brisbane City Council Public Baths at Manly, 1926.  John Oxley Library image number 76038

The Booroodabin Baths, later the Brisbane Valley Baths was opened in 1896.  When the Valley Baths opened in 1926 suggestions that the old baths be kept open as a ladies only pool was defeated because of the cost of the new pool and the old pool was opened to everyone.   Municipal authorities were responsible for the erection of nearly all Brisbane baths except at Toowong Swimming Club which sold shares and accepted loans and donations to build their pool which was opened in 1909.

Swimming pool at Ayr surrounded by lawns.  John Oxley Library Image number APE-079-0001-0010  Taking the plunge at the Valley Baths, Brisbane, ca. 1930-1940.  John Oxley Library image number 39245  Oasis swimming pool, Sunnybank, Brisbane, 1964.  John Oxley Library image number 97303  Aerial view of Centenary Pool, Brisbane, 1963.  John Oxley Library image number 117794  Activity in and around the pool at Tangalooma Resort, Moreton Island, ca. 1965.  John Oxley Library image number 186412

Although some private schools built swimming pools, baths became a feature of many state schools.  Junction Park was the first state school in the city to have its own pool and Rangeville School in Toowoomba had the first school pool outside the metropolitan area.  Built In 1914, it was 40 feet long and cost 225 pounds.  Dalby had a pool in 1936 and Blackall and Bowen in 1938-39.

The question of mixed bathing remained a problem in the early years with Davies Park the first Brisbane pool to have mixed bathing in 1924.  Swimming pools eventually became a common feature in holiday destinations and backyards.

The State Library has hundreds of photos of swimming and swimming pools, as well as swimming club records such as Commercial Swimming Club records 1900 – 2008; Queensland Amateur Swimming Association Medal 1909; Elsie Dann Papers containing swimming certificates and newspaper cuttings; Paula Stafford, bikini designer clippings, photographs realia and more.

Karen Hind

Librarian, Queensland Memory

Posted in Brisbane, Collections | 5 Comments


  1. Fascinating and great images. My childhood pool memories are of the Oasis Gardens in Sunnybank and there was another pool complex directly across the road from it.

  2. Karen Hind, Many thanks for this summary page. I have used various leads contained within it in a summary of early swimming and lifesaving training in Brisbane which I am compiling.

    My interest grew from compiling a book (2011) on the 1896 s.s. ‘Pearl’ capsizing on 13th February on the Brisbane river, when some 29 people drowned. Many people do not know that also some 60 people were saved, with some being strong swimmers, and some people being revived in and around Stanley street, South Brisbane. (I am also a currently active Royal and Surf lifesaver.)

  3. I am most interested in the Metropolitan baths and the Ithaca baths, and their swimming and life saving clubs over the years, as I am now a patrolling member of both Metropolitan – Caloundra Surf Life Saving Club (Kings Beach) and Ithaca – Caloundra City Life Saving Club (Bulcock Beach), and working on their early histories.
    I look forward to Helen Gregory’s talks in April.

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