Category Archives: Brisbane Back

The circus comes to Brisbane, May 1903

Costumed performer posing with a trained lion at Wirth's Circus in Brisbane, 1903. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 150867

Costumed performer posing with a trained lion at Wirth's Circus in Brisbane, 1903

On May 9, 1903, Wirth’s Circus gave the opening performance of its Brisbane season at a site near Central Railway Station. Tickets sold quickly; Wirth’s later boasted that hundreds had to be turned away. Inside the main tent, audiences saw a show The Brisbane Courier described as “a wide diversity of performance, in which sensationalism, gracefulness, clownish farcicalities, humorous as well as grimly earnest aerobatics, are intermixed with the other”.

Advertisement for Wirth's Circus, published in the Brisbane Courier newspaper on 8 May 1903

Advertisement for Wirth's Circus, published in the Brisbane Courier newspaper on 8 May 1903

This included a menagerie of performing animals (lions, tigers, horses, bears and more), thought-reading duo the Howard Brothers, aerial performers the Flying Eugenes, and clowns and acrobats.

Herr Pagel ready to tackle the lion at Wirth's Circus, Brisbane, 1903. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 422

Herr Pagel ready to tackle the lion at Wirth's Circus, Brisbane, 1903

A later addition to the Brisbane season was Herr Pagel, the German Hercules (pictured above), whose feats included carrying a horse up a ladder and “lifting” a full-grown elephant. Less successful were his attempts to subdue and lift a lion above his head. On one occasion the lion escaped from Pagel, scratching him in the process. Although audiences thrilled at the spectacle, the Queensland Figaro was less impressed, proclaiming Pagel’s behaviour with animals as showing “as much respect as children usually bestow on a toy Noah’s Ark and its contents. Someday, his audience may ‘snatch a fearful joy’ by seeing Herr Pagel crunched up by one of his pets”.

Circus strongman lifting a horse, Brisbane, 1903. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.  Neg 69044

Herr Pagel lifting a horse, Wirth's Circus 1903, Brisbane

On another evening, waiting crowds got more thrills than usual when a boy noticed one of the tigers had escaped its cage. Terrified the boy ran to the front entrance and shouted to the waiting crowd at there was a tiger on the loose. This news caused considerable panic as people fled. The tiger was quickly subdued by the head trainer. The tiger’s cage had not been properly secure and the big cat had merely stepped out of its cage to play with the ball it performed on during its act.

Herr Pagel supporting Mrs Pagel and nine men on a plank. Wirth's Circus, Brisbane, 1903. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 421

Herr Pagel supporting Mrs Pagel and nine men on a plank. Wirth's Circus, Brisbane, 1903

State Library of Queensland holds a number of materials documenting circuses in Queensland, including photographs, posters, programs and books.

Further reading: On the road, the wandering Wirth family

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

Water for a thirsty city

I was interested to read an article recently revealing that Brisbane based company Underground Opera has reached agreement with the Brisbane City Council to stage a series of performances in the Spring Hill Reservoirs.  These underground reservoirs, the first built in 1871, were still in use until 1962.  Most Brisbane residents, myself included, have not known of the existence of these rather striking vaulted brick spaces, whose only visible sign is a couple of modest low roofed structures on the hillside below the iconic Windmill.  What is the story of these reservoirs, and how do they fit in to the vital story of supplying water to a rapidly growing city?

Drinking fountain in the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane, ca. 1910, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 24215

Drinking fountain in the Botanic Gardens in Brisbane, ca. 1910

The first Moreton Bay settlement was established at Redcliffe but the water supply soon dried up and the settlement was relocated to Brisbane where there was a reliable water source.  This was a creek that emerged at Yorks Hollow near the current location of Brisbane Grammar School and flowed through what would be the middle of the city, entering the Brisbane River near Creek Street.  This creek was augmented by an earth dam in 1838 under the direction of Captain Logan and this reservoir served as the cities only public water supply, with some improvements, until 1866.  The Brisbane River itself is too salty for drinking, being subject to tidal flows for a considerable distance past the city.

Roma Street Reservoir during the early settlement of Brisbane, ca. 1862, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg:147714

Roma Street Reservoir ca. 1862

The Reservoir was the subject of many complaints in the newspapers.  This editorial from the Moreton Bay Courier of 23 March 1850 criticizes the neglect of the provision of fresh water if favour of less vital projects and goes on to a damning assessment of the state of the Brisbane Reservoir. (racist language warning)

These remarks, which are more or less applicable to the whole colony, apply with peculiar force to the towns, and in particular to the town of Brisbane, for there, from the probable future centralization of population, the uncertainty of the seasons, and the absence of fresh water streams, a scarcity of water may be anticipated as a natural contingency if not provided against, and would be most severely and fatally felt. We need only point to the neglected condition of the public reservoir at North Brisbane, upon which that section of the town is chiefly dependant for its supply, to prove the utter indifference hitherto displayed in this respect. Constructed for the purpose of collecting and preserving the waters that drain from the hills in the vicinity; reserved from sale as a public property for that purpose, the reservoir is still abandoned to the destructive ravages of wanton neglect. Its embankments are gradually being washed away, and the water that should be saved for a time of need is allowed to drain off whithersoever chance may guide it. The basin is open alike to the uses of herds of cattle, of stray pigs, dogs, and horses, and to the filthy ablutions of greasy blackfellows. It needs no long sight to predict the speedy annihilation of this source of supply, at the present rate. It is a fact that in proportion to the increase of population in Brisbane, the means of supplying the town with freshwater has been growing indifferent. So long as a cask of water can be obtained at the usual price, no person looks forward, but the spendthrift motto seems to be adopted, to live while you can, and die when you must.”

In 1863 the first Queensland Parliament turned its attention to the water supply and passed a bill to enable the Municipal Council of Brisbane to construct waterworks and to lay down pipes, or to erect public fountains and wells, and to charge for such service.  The Council raised a loan of £50,000 from the Treasury and prepared preliminary plans for a water supply at Enoggera Creek.  On 18th August, 1864, the first sod was turned by Mr A. C. Gregory, the Surveyor-General and works were completed in August 1866.  Just as the work was nearing completion the State Government took control away from the Municipal Council and appointed the Brisbane Board of Waterworks to run the service.

Workers constructing the Enoggera Reservoir, Brisbane, ca. 1864, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 103336

Workers constructing the Enoggera Reservoir, ca. 1864

Some additional pipes were laid in 1869 making a pipe service of some 11 miles within the city boundaries serving up to 6,000 people.  The first service reservoir, the underground brick structure soon to echo with music, was constructed in 1871.  The service reservoirs received water from the main supply from Enoggera.  The water was then distributed from the service reservoir, ensuring no interruption due to excess demand.  As the population of the city continued to grow there was need to increase the supply of water and a new dam was constructed at Gold Creek, completed in 1885.

Workers standing at the entrance to the tunnel at Gold Creek Waterworks, Brisbane, ca. 1885, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: APO-014-0001-0016

Workers standing at the entrance to the tunnel at Gold Creek Waterworks, ca. 1885

The construction of the Gold Creek Dam allowed for improvements to be made to the water supply for South Brisbane and a service reservoir was constructed on Highgate Hill supplied by a branch from the mains coming from Gold Creek and passing under the Brisbane river.    The Brisbane Courier of 10 October 1889 provides this description of the construction of the reservoir.

A more detailed description of the reservoir may now be entered upon. It has been constructed on the highest part of the hill, on property purchased from Mr. Skinner, and formerly occupied by the residence of Judge Sheppard. The reservoir is a large tank excavated in the rock, lined with concrete, and divided into four equal compartments. It is 207ft. in length by152 ft. wide, and the depth of water, when full, is 12ft. 3in. The walls are 7ft. in thickness where the greatest strain has to be met, tapering to 3ft. at the top, whilst in other parts it begins at 3ft. 6in. and runs out to 18in. The sides rise but a few inches above the surrounding surface, and the whole is protected by a roof composed of matched boards covered with galvanised iron, with felt between the iron and timber to keep out the heat. The roof is supported on four sets of arched iron principals, which rest on the walls of the reservoir and on two rows of iron columns running from end to end. The dust and heat are thus excluded, and evaporation is prevented  

Similar reservoirs can now be found on high points around the city.

Reservoir construction in Albion, ca. 1929, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Image number: 10189-0002-0058

Reservoir construction in Albion, ca. 1929

Soon after the Highgate Hill reservoir was completed the Board arranged for construction of an improved pumping station and a storage reservoir at Mount Crosby, on the Brisbane River.  This work was completed in 1892 and the Mount Crosby reservoir was Brisbane’s main water source at the time of publication of Brisbane’s Water Supply, issued by the Brisbane Board of Waterworks, in 1909.  The Board was very proud of their acheivements.

Great have been the transformations of the past, but to-day, as never before, the march of progress is manifest.  The pressure of population and the demand for greater efficiency than was accepted yesterday are two factors that compel attention.  They ask not quietly and respectfully as in days of old ; they demand loudly and sternly.  But great though future transformations may be, they will never shame the progress of the past, but serve rather to show how carefully the foundations of the great scheme were laid, and how generously the requirements of a growing city have been met.

Sketch of the reservoir at Mount Crosby, 1893, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 193086

Sketch of the reservoir at Mount Crosby, 1893

Since 1909, of course, Brisbane’s population has continued to grow rapidly and new sources of water have had to be found.  In 1916 Lake Manchester Dam was completed North-West of Mt Crosby.  In 1935 work commenced on Somerset Dam and after an interruption due to material shortages during World War Two it was eventually completed in 1959.  North Pine Dam was completed in 1976, holding 200,000 megalitres of water and Wivenhoe Dam was finished in 1985 at a cost of $160 million, with a storage capacity of 1.15 million megalitres.

Workmen laying water pipes along Mount Crosby Road, Brisbane, Queensland, 1920, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 161466

Workmen laying water pipes along Mount Crosby Road, 1920

A byproduct of all this dam construction is that the newly formed lakes make delightful picnic places.

 Day trippers travelling to Enoggera Reservoir, Brisbane, ca. 1896, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 123081

Day trippers travelling to Enoggera Reservoir, ca. 1896

Not sure where these places are?  All the illustrations in this article have been pinned to the map in Historypin on our State Library of Queensland channel.

Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

A Brief History of ‘Beenleigh’

Guest blogger: Don Watson – architect and historian (2012 John Oxley Library Fellow)

The building of the Queensland house : a carpenter's handbook and owner's manual by Andrew L. Jenner

The building of the Queensland house : a carpenter's handbook and owner's manual by Andrew L. Jenner

If you are looking for information about Queensland timber houses, a delightful and very informative text about their construction is The building of the Queensland house : a carpenter’s handbook and owner’s manual, written and published (in 2012) by the author, Andy Jenner. Andrew Lathan Jenner (1943- ) was born at Wallase, Cheshire and trained as a carpenter and joiner with John Barnes of Suffolk and Rollo Sherwill of Guernsey, Channel Islands. Jenner migrated to Australia in 1979 as one of the last ten-pound poms. In his book, he follows the process of constructing a timber Queenslander as if he were the original builder. The narrative is based on his own experience in conserving his own house in 1977-78, but reflecting also his subsequent experience over more than thirty years working on local timber houses. In 1977-78, Jenner’s house was at Red Hill in Brisbane. After carefully completing his work, Jenner sold the house. Later, when he returned, the house was gone, despite Jenner’s care and concern for its longevity.

Most of the book is illustrated with useful sketches by John Braben, but also includes photographs taken by Jenner. Among these are three of the house, which from its juxtaposition to St Brigid’s Church, Red Hill and a steep fall to the rear of its site, together with Detail Plan 117 of the Brisbane City Council, make it possible to identify the house as Beenleigh, 25 Upper Cairns Terrace, Red Hill.

Beenleigh, Upper Cairns Terrace, Red Hill, c.1977. Reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Jenner

Beenleigh, Upper Cairns Terrace, Red Hill, c.1977. Reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Jenner

Rear view of Beenleigh, Upper Cairns Terrace, Red Hill, c.1977. Reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Jenner

Rear view of Beenleigh, Upper Cairns Terrace, Red Hill, c.1977. Reproduced with the kind permission of Andy Jenner

On the rear cover of his book, Jenner supposes that the house was about ‘100 years old’ but research suggests an earlier date, c.1886. A search of the title shows that the site (Subdivision 4, Portion 721, Parish of Enoggera, 23.4 perches) was acquired by Robert Mills of Brisbane on 29th July 1885. On 9th December 1885, he takes a mortgage with the Brisbane Permanent Benefit Building & Investment Society for £140 which may have been towards the cost of the house. On 23rd November 1897, the land was transferred to Helen Urquhart, wife of Thomas Urquhart.

This occurred after the death of a Robert Mills on 2nd March 1897 (Death certificate 1897/1587). Mills’ funeral was held from the residence of his son-in-law William Day, Cairns Terrace, Red Hill (Brisbane Courier, 3.3.1897, 1). In 1889, William Day had married Margaret Rubina Mills, the eldest surviving daughter of Robert Mills, a printer who died in 1897.

In the Post Office Directory for 1885-6, a Robert Mills, compositor, was living at Petrie Terrace. A year later, there are two Robert Mills, the second, a clerk living at Cairns Terrace. Mills’ eldest surviving son in 1897 was Robert William Albert Mills, presumably the Robert Mills, who occupied the house prior to his sister and brother-in-law, Margaret and William Day. Robert William Albert Mills had married Elizabeth Murphy at Brisbane in 1884. In the following year, the house was built for Robert Mills snr, apparently for the use of his married children. The name Beenleigh was in use by 1937.

From an obituary, quite a lot is known of Robert Mills snr (Telegraph, 2.3.1897, 5) who had a long association with Australian newspapers. He was born Longford, Ireland late in 1827. With his parents, brothers and sisters, he migrated to Australia in 1850 on the Argyle. The rest of the family went to Sydney but Robert stayed in Melbourne where he married Ann Mills (it is not known in they are related) in 1852. In the boom conditions Robert prospered as a compositor and was associated with the Melbourne Argus in its early days. Later he worked in Sydney on Henry Parkes’ paper the Empire before in 1863 he moved to Brisbane where he became overseer of the Guardian for which his brother Charles was stone-hand. After the Guardian was incorporated in the Courier, Robert Mills was printer and publisher of the Express. Following its demise in 1871, he brought out is successor, the short-lived Colonist which merged with the Telegraph in October 1872. Mills then worked for the Queensland Government Printer before overseeing a new Roman Catholic journal, the Australian, before he returned to the Telegraph where he spent almost the balance of his career in the composing room. He was a strong Protestant and an active member of the congregations of All Saints, and Christ Church, Milton. He was a lieutenant with the Fortitude Valley Corps of the volunteer Queensland Defence Force and one of the first presidents of the Queensland Typographical Association. With members of his family living at Cairns Terrace, Robert Mills moved from Petrie Terrace to Thorroldtown where he lived for many years until his health failed late in 1896 and he returned to Cairns Terrace to live with Margaret Day, his married daughter. He was buried at Toowong.

When I referred this information to Andy Jenner, he queried the area of the property (23.4p) and it quickly became apparent that Beenleigh as shown on Detail Plan 117 (and on page 16 of Andy’s book) would have fitted on Subdivision 4. A check of the title of Subdivision 5, the neighbouring property on the eastern side, showed that it also was owned by Andy Jenner, making the site of Beenleigh 46.8p, with the house straddling the common boundary between Subdivisions 4 and 5, an unusual circumstance, but not a difficulty at that time, provided that both allotments were owned by the same person. Subdivision 4 (No. 25 Upper Cairns Terrace) was transferred from Helen Urquhart to Isabella Campbell Ferguson, wife of William Ferguson, a Sergeant of Police in July 1900. Isabella transferred the title to her husband in October 1905, on the same day that he purchased Subdivision 5 (No. 23 Upper Cairns Terrace). What this probably means is that although the core of Beenleigh was built c1886, the eastern side verandah (which overlapped the common boundary) was not added until after 1905. Previously Subdivision 5 was owned by Matthew Lovenberry until 1901 when he sold it to Francis Alexander Jackson Isles in November 1901 who sold it to William Ferguson in 1905. Such an extension would explain a change in wall cladding on the rear elevation and with this knowledge, would also have been apparent elsewhere in the house.

Detail Plan, Brisbane City Council. No.117. Courtesy Brisbane City Archives

Detail Plan, Brisbane City Council. No.117. Courtesy Brisbane City Archives

Detail Plan, Brisbane City Council. No.117. Courtesy Brisbane City Archives

Detail Plan, Brisbane City Council. No.117. Courtesy Brisbane City Archives

Beenleigh passed through a further five owners before it was purchased by Andy Jenner in June 1977. Sometime after he sold it in February 1978, Beenleigh was removed or demolished. None of this information diminishes the usefulness and interest of Andy Jenner’s book. .

Thanks to Andy Jenner; Annabel Lloyd, Brisbane City Archives; and Kaye Nardella, Museum of Mapping and Surveying

New Accession: Equal Love Brisbane Collection

The John Oxley Library recently received a wonderful donation of memorabilia from the pressure group, Equal Love Brisbane, relating to the Marriage Equality campaign.

Equal Love Brisbane poster

Equal Love Brisbane poster

Assorted memorabilia

Assorted memorabilia

Equal Love is a nationwide organization which was formed in 2004 as a response to the Howard Government’s amendment of the Marriage Act to outlaw marriage between people of the same sex.  Equal Love’s objective is to campaign for same sex marriage in Australia through education and direct action, the aim being to change public attitudes towards gay and lesbian relationships and put pressure on the government to legislate for equal marriage rights.

It is timely that in 2014, the 10 year anniversary since the amendment to the Marriage Act and a significant year of action for the group, that material has been donated to State Library.  Also of interest is the very recent legalisation of same sex marriage in England and Wales where the first weddings took place on March 29th.  Scotland has also legislated to allow same sex marriage with ceremonies expected to take place later this year.

The collection includes T-shirts, badges, stickers, flyers, posters, rainbow banners, magazine articles and other memorabilia, as well as two life size wooden figures of same sex couples in wedding costume.

It's Okay to be Gay Sticker

It's Okay to be Gay Sticker

Assorted badges

Assorted badges

Marriage Equality T-shirt

Marriage Equality T-shirt


The collection also includes items relating to the 2013 Federal Election in which marriage equality was one of the key issues.  The rallies held in Brisbane leading up to the election attracted crowds of supporters and significant media attention.  A recent rally held  on the 8th March 2014 in Queen’s Park, Brisbane, attracted up to 1000 supporters.


Rally Poster

Rally Poster

Marriage Equality 2013 election material

Marriage Equality 2013 election material

The Equal Love Brisbane Collection may be viewed in the John Oxley Library Reading Room, Accession No. 29397, Boxes 18356-18357, 17387 O/S, 18359 O/S.


Lynn Meyers – Original Materials Librarian, State Library of Queensland

First baby born at the Women’s Hospital in Brisbane (1938)

First baby born at the new Women's Hospital, 26 March 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 53863

First baby born at the new Women's Hospital, 26 March 1938

The first baby to be born at the new Women’s Hospital in Brisbane arrived on March 26, 1938. Five days later, the then minister for health and home affairs – and future Queensland premier – Ned Hanlon visited the new arrival and presented mother and baby with a 14-inch (35cm) silver loving cup to mark this important event (pictured above). The baby was also presented with a small silver drinking cup, silver porridge bowl and spoon.

Opening ceremony for Brisbane's new Women's Hospital. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 201609

Opening ceremony for Brisbane's new Women's Hospital

The hospital’s official opening ceremony had taken place two weeks earlier on March 13, at which premier William Forgan Smith said, “The best investments a people can make are in health services, maternity services and child welfare. They are investments giving increasing dividends”.  In an editorial, The Courier-Mail boasted of the new facility that “a stranger who dropped from the clouds and found himself at the portals of the new Brisbane Women’s Hospital could be convinced, after less than an hour’s inspection, that he was in one of the most modern cities in the world”. But it would take almost a fortnight before patients could be admitted.

Royal Women's Hospital in Brisbane at the time of its opening 1938

Royal Women's Hospital in Brisbane at the time of its opening 1938

According to The Courier-Mail: “It was necessary to cleanse and refumigate the whole place, repolish the floors, and remove fingermarks everywhere”, following the crowds who had passed through during the opening.

The hospital finally opened its doors to receive patients at midnight on March 25 with “a large staff of trained nurses”. The first patient did not arrive until 2.56am.

Maternity ward at the new Women's Hospital Brisbane March 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 54380

Maternity ward at the new Women's Hospital Brisbane March 1938

Nursing staff signing on for the first shift at the Women's Hospital in Brisbane 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg

Nursing staff signing on for the first shift at the Women's Hospital in Brisbane 1938

Then, at 3.15am, a second patient was admitted, a Mrs Mollie Kirkwood, whose baby girl, Noela Margaret, became the celebrated “first baby” of the hospital.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

Boundary Hotel West End – 150 years of trading

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.

Boundary Hotel, West End, Brisbane, ca. 1930, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 37972

Boundary Hotel, West End, Brisbane, ca. 1930

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.

Artemisia (ship), John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 60903

Emigrants aboard the Artemisia

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.

John Wilson (The Brisbane Courier, 17 October 1925)

John Wilson 1814-1925

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.  

West End School of Arts in Brisbane, 1928, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 108637

The West End School of Arts with the memorial clock tower under construction in 1928

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.

Pearl (ship), John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 103398

Wreck of the Pearl 1896

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.

Metropolitan Hotel, Bundaberg, ca. 1888, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland Neg: 66916

The Metropolitan Hotel, Bundaberg, ca. 1888

Simon Miller – Library Technician, State Library of Queensland

Those Days – Living History in the QPAC Tunnel

Last Tuesday a group of State Library staff enjoyed the privilege of a curated walk through of the Clancestry visual exhibition Those days…a Living History.  The installation, the achievement of a joint QPAC /State Library of Queensland project, is currently enlivening the QPAC tunnel at the South Bank cultural complex until 23rd February – and its viewing is a highly recommended experience.

Those Days...A Living History. Aunty Joan Hendriks, February 2014, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Those Days...A Living History. Aunty Joan Hendriks, February 2014

Clancestry is a word you may have seen advertised around the city in recent days.  As my bus whizzed past a street corner in the western suburbs the other day, I saw it writ large on a billboard – community festival, produced by QPAC, celebrating the arts and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, mention of some interesting looking cultural events, many of them free.

The rest of the story is that Clancestry is a three-day celebration of country features music, dance, crafts, workshops, visual arts and storytelling – and most of it is staged in the open air at South Bank. It’s an annual festival and when it was initiated last year, the inaugural event received a Queensland Reconciliation award.

Behind the Festival is a highly talented team of guest curators and it was one of these curators, Nadine McDonald Dowd, Executive Manager of kuril dhagun at  the State Library – and curator of Those Days – who shared her passion and enthusiasm for storytelling with us as we absorbed the cultural memories of indigenous people living in and around the South Bank precinct over several decades.

What emerges through the shared stories of traditional elders and community leaders – such as Uncle Bob Anderson, Aunty Joan Hendriks, Raelene Baker and Tiga Bayles -  is the importance of this side of the river in establishing and preserving connections amongst the community who lived here.

The collected stories of the Brisbane Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community – who have maintained a continuous presence in the area since the 1920s – reflect a South Brisbane which existed before the establishment of the present day Cultural Complex. There was a different vegetation, a denser tree canopy, we are told, and trams and sprawling boarding houses, a pub on most corners between the Victoria Bridge and Plough Inn, fish markets, protest events, the Black Maria (or prison van) which prowled along the streets and laneways of South Brisbane.

Aunty Valda Coolwell "Being black is what kept us together...", February 2014. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Aunty Valda Coolwell "Being black is what kept us together...", February 2014.

Listening to Nadine, reading the stories of the elders, it was as if one of those coloured cellophane overlays had been gently pulled back from our present day impression of sophisticated South Bank elegance to reveal an altogether different view of this side of the river. It’s an important story and a history that enriches our understanding of this part of Brisbane. As I said earlier – well worth a visit!

Libby Fielding, State Library of Queensland

Remembering World Expo ’88 and the Expo City Marching Band

Expo City Marching Band show at the Piazza. 28957 Douglas Isaac Papers 1988, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Expo City Marching Band show at the Piazza

In 1988, Brisbane staged the unforgettable World Expo ’88, and from April to October that year the South Bank was filled with sights and sounds and crowds from all over the world. One of the highlights of an Expo day was the appearance of the Expo City Marching Band, an accomplished outfit whose drills and antics were as entertaining as the music they played. For most Australian Expo visitors, the Expo City Marching Band was their first experience of American style formation drills and drumming. Over 350 young musicians auditioned in cities all over Australia to score a spot in the colourful 65-member line-up, and their Director Barry Spanier and Percussion Instructor Douglas Isaac led them through a daily schedule of rehearsals, drills, parades and performances that culminated in a nightly show in the Piazza.

Percussionists of the Expo City Marching Band. 28957 Douglas Isaac Papers 1988, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Percussionists of the Expo City Marching Band

In 2013, Douglas Isaac donated his considerable archive to the State Library. As a percussionist and music educator Mr Isaac not only auditioned, trained and conducted the Band’s percussionists prior to and during Expo ’88, but also composed and arranged for the ensemble. For several weeks he too put on a uniform and marched with the Band as a cymbal player.

Percussion Instructor Douglas Isaac. 28957 Douglas Isaac Papers 1988, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Percussion Instructor Douglas Isaac

The collection includes manuscript scores and parts for music composed or arranged for the Percussion Ensemble, drill diagrams for each piece played as part of the daily and nightly shows in the Piazza, Expo ’88 and Band uniforms, video footage, and plenty of photographs of the Band in action. The Douglas Isaac papers are now available via State Library’s One Search catalogue, and you can view the video footage online.

Expo style. 28957 Douglas Isaac Papers 1988, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland
Expo style

Robyn Hamilton – Queensland Music Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

Allies in war, rivals in the ring

Members of the US servicemen's boxing team, Brisbane, February 1943. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 102776

Members of the US servicemen's boxing team, Brisbane, February 1943

On February 27, 1943, two allies in war became rivals in the ring, as the Australian and American servicemen came together for a night of boxing. This inter-Allied competition was held at the old Brisbane Stadium (which stood on the corner of Albert and Charlotte Streets in Brisbane’s CBD). There were an estimated 5,000 people in attendance, including the Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Wilson and the Brisbane Lord Mayor, Alderman Chandler.

On the previous evening the Australians held an “elimination series” between the Army and the Air Force to decided who would make the final team. In the end the Australian team featured several experienced and professional boxers, including Fred Corton, Lionel Orreal and Bill de Blein.

American born Tod Morgan was the trainer of the United States boxing team, himself a former world lightweight champion. Morgan was confident, describing his team of sailor and soldier boxers as being “pretty hot”.

American servicemen boxers in Brisbane. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 104178

American servicemen boxers in Brisbane

There would be 14 fights in total, each bout would be awarded points – 3 for a win, 2 for a draw and 1 for a loss. The Australians had an extra impetus to win; in a previous stoush back in May 1942, they suffered a bruising defeat against the Americans, winning only 4 of 12 bouts. This time around the Australian fighters proved too strong for the Americans, who despite fighting valiantly, won only 5 of the 14 bouts, finishing with 24 points compared to Australia’s 32. The biggest upset of the tournment, according to The Sunday Mail, was when Colin Moody defeated “the star of the American team” Eddie Markham, a light heavyweight.

The tournament raised £1626 for the Queensland Patriotic and Comforts Funds.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

Pamela Connan Papers

Looking down Brighton Rd, Sandgate, ca. 1930. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 93432

Looking down Brighton Rd, Sandgate, ca. 1930

The suburb now known as Sandgate was originally called Cabbage Tree Creek. The Aborigines called the area Warra which means a stretch or expanse of water. The town is situated upon the western shore of Moreton Bay, a few miles north-west of the entrance to the Brisbane River, and has been, in years past, a fashionable watering place for pastoralists from the Darling Downs. In 1880 Sandgate was declared a town by the Governor of Queensland. The population steadily grew as more people moved to the area and local business began to develop, one such business belonged to Dymoke Percival Dart.

Pamela Connan, nee Dart, was the daughter of Dymoke Percival Dart and Jean Ethel Willkie. Dymoke was born in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, England and the son of John Dart and Ellen Brewster Harrison. They came to Australia, settling at first in Victoria. Dymoke and Jean had two children and moved their family to Queensland and settled in Sandgate.

Dymoke established a business known as Dym. Dart Clothier and Mercer which was situated on Brighton Road, Sandgate opposite the Einbunpin Lagoon. They stocked a grand array of gentleman’s attire and were known for the elasta-strap and gripu trousers.

Sunshine Advocate, Friday, 1 October 1937, pg. 9

Elasta-Strap beltless sports trousers

In the period around 1920 – 21 their finances slumped, and Dymoke became unwell. Another daughter Patricia, born in Australia, was about two years old; and Ethel made the heart-breaking (but to her mind, necessary) decision in 1922 to send Pamela back to England until the family fortunes were restored in Queensland. The eleven-year old girl made the long sea voyage accompanied only by a chaperone. Once in England her time was divided between Dart relatives in Lincoln and the Mr and Mrs Charles Gray Hill at Wyken, near Coventry. Through her mother’s letters in particular we can see the young girl’s struggles to adapt to the unknown, and to try to behave in the manner expected of her.  The voyage to England departed just before Christmas 1922 and correspondence from her mother, dated 20 December 1922, gives a clear insight to how Jean Dart felt.

“My dearest Pam, Next Monday is Xmas Day and if the grocer had not reminded me I should never have known, for all the days are alike to me here and I never know one from the other – but I do want to think of you having your dinner on board ship and unpacking the little presents from home darling – if only mummy could give you a kiss and watch your face”…

Pamela was eleven years old at the time.  Pamela eventually returned to Australia later marrying Gordon Connan in 1935.

The John Oxley Library holds letters written to Pamela from her family, friends and others, during her time away at school and after her marriage to Gordon Connan.  The letters are intermittent until her marriage in the late 1930s and continue regularly from this time until the death of both parents. The collection includes letters, photographs and some cuttings.

Letter to Pam.  Pamela Connan Papers, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Letter to Pam. Pamela Connan Papers

Janette Garrad – Original Content Technician, State Library of Queensland