Monday, March 30, 2015

Thomas Proe, former mayor of Brisbane

Pictured below is the warehouse of S Hoffnung & Co Ltd in Charlotte St. Of course it no longer exists. Despite being championed at times by the National Trust of Queensland it was demolished years ago - replaced in 1983 by a 15-storey glass and steel tower. The warehouse had been built in 1871 as the Brisbane offices of the wholesalers, Hoffnung's, that was formed in Sydney by Jewish immigrant Sigmond Hoffnung and grew to become a national business. 

The photo above is from 1980, while the one below is taken from the other direction during the 1893 flood.
(Photo: fryer-ref_20150315)

So, redevelopment has achieved what flood and even fire could not. On 14 April 1902 the top three storeys of the building were damaged in a furious fire, one of the biggest ever in the city. However our story today concerns not the fire itself but the aftermath.

After the fire was extinguished and the damage was being assessed it came to light that someone was trying to sell about 50lb (almost 23kg) of tobacco in northern Queensland. The rumour was that the vendors were Brisbane firemen. Investigations proceeded and it was discovered that the tobacco had most likely come from the Hoffnung's warehouse.

The mayor of Brisbane at the time was Mr Leslie Corrie, and he was also the chairman of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Board. He called two of the firemen to a meeting and questioned them about the tobacco. Eventually the fireys admitted having been involved in the theft and although they indicated that others were also involved they refused to name them.

This left the mayor in a rather sticky situation. The theft was undeniably a very serious matter and in the normal course of employment it should have resulted in dismissal of the offenders. Mayor Corrie, however, took a pragmatic view and severely censured the men while docking them a week's wages.

This is where Thomas Proe comes to light. A council alderman and former mayor, he was also a member of the Fire Brigade Board and felt that the punishment was insufficient, promptly protesting by tendering a letter of resignation from the Fire Brigade Board. Here is a picture of the man.
(Photo: BCC-B120-33442)

At a later meeting Mayor Corrie explained his decision. At the time the fire brigade was already understaffed and hiring a large number of new recruits would be impractical because of the long hours of training necessary to produce an qualified firefighter. The fire at Hoffnungs was itself an indication of how important it was for Brisbane to have a fully capable fire brigade. At this meeting Thomas Proe was encouraged to withdraw his resignation. He did so.

In those days the position of mayor was rotated amongst the elected aldermen, and Thomas Proe later became mayor of Brisbane again. Here he is pictured in his mayoral robes.
(Photo: BCC-B120-32306)

What more of Thomas Proe? A Lancastrian born in 1852, he came to Queensland in 1876, married in 1881 and had seven children. He was initially a trained engineer, but became a publican, owning at different times a couple of Fortitude Valley hotels - the Osbourne and the Royal George.

He is remembered by the naming of Proe St in Fortitude Valley.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Hobbs Park, CBD

At present almost every bus I take to the city is held up on Adelaide St to allow cement trucks and other delivery vehicles to access the rear of a Grocon development at 480 Queen St. So I was interested to read about a public amenity that is to be included in the new high rise. Here is a news report.

That's right - an outdoor park, accessible to the public, that will provide a unique city vantage point on the fourth floor of the new building. In a nod to Brisbane's history the park will be known as Hobbs Park, named after one of Brisbane's first medical practitioners, Dr William Hobbs, pictured below.  
(Photo: wikipedia)

Dr Hobbs was aged around 27 when he arrived in Brisbane aboard the Chasely in 1849. He had been the ship's surgeon on that voyage, and then set up in private practice in Brisbane. When Dr David Ballow died from typhus in 1850 Dr Hobbs took over as resident surgeon of Brisbane Hospital for a time, but otherwise remained in private practice although he held several honorary appointments during his lifetime here. He became a member of Queensland's legislative council (the now abolished upper house) in 1861. But none of those was the reason for naming this park after Dr Hobbs.

In 1853 William Hobbs married Anna Louisa Barton, the sister of Sir Edmund Barton, and they moved to a house built for them on Adelaide St by Andrew Petrie. The house is still extant and is right opposite the Adelaide St side of the new Grocon building. At the time of its completion the house was so far away from Brisbane's business area it was known as Hobbs' Folly. Dr Hobbs preferred to call it Adelaide House, and it is shown photographed below around 1882 after significant earth works had taken place on the Adelaide St ridge.
(Photo: JOL 21925)

When Queensland separated from New South Wales the state's first governor, Sir George Bowen, read the proclamation from the verandah of Adelaide House which then became a temporary Government House until the purpose-built one on George St was completed. Here is a later photograph - this one is from around 1921 and the view from the new park should be similar.
(Photo: SLQ 152917)

The public park in the completed Grocon project will overlook St John's Anglican Cathedral and the former Hobbs residence which is now part of the cathedral precinct and known as The Deanery. This is how the developers say it should look when completed.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 16, 2015

St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital, Spring Hill

We have just looked at three politicians of the late nineteenth century and another one is involved in today's post.

Sir Charles Lilley achieved an awful lot during his life. He was a soldier, a journalist, a newspaper editor, a lawyer, a politician, colonial secretary of Queensland, attorney-general, premier, judge and chief justice. Whew! 

There was a notable number of firsts involved - he was the first solicitor admitted to practice at the Supreme Court at Moreton Bay, he was a member of the first Legislative Assembly of Queensland, and after becoming a barrister he was the first Queen's Counsel in the colony of Queensland. He is also largely credited with the provision of free education in government schools and he was knighted in 1881.

Charles Lilley was born in 1827 in England and found himself in Moreton Bay in 1856, working as an articled clerk to solicitor Robert Little. He married Sarah Jane Jeays in 1858 - she was the daughter of prominent builder Joshua Jeays. It is believed that Jeays built the couple's residence "Jesmond" on Wickham Terrace in 1859-60. The Lilleys probably lived there until the mid-1860s when their burgeoning family forced them to move - they ended up having thirteen children! The Lilley family moved temporarily to another Jeays-built residence, Bardon House, possibly in 1865. While they were living there, Jesmond was enlarged, presumably by Joshua Jeays, enabling the Lilley family to move back there when renovations were complete.

The house Jesmond remained in the hands of Charles Lilley until his death in 1897 and was subsequently purchased from his estate by the Presbyterian Church for the purpose of providing a college for students of the newly established University of Queensland at Gardens Point. It was then called Emmanuel College and here is a picture of it from 1930.
(Photo: JOL 126462) 

When the University of Queensland moved to St Lucia post WWII, Emmanuel College moved there also. Jesmond and the surrounding property was transferred to St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital with the house becoming the administration building.  

The current photograph below shows the administration block of St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital. Traces of Sir Charles Lilley's house survive in the entry to the administration block which stands slightly extended from the rest of the building, and more of the original structure can be found inside. In the picture below you can see the entry - it's at the top of the stairs, between the two flagpoles. The roof above it is the same shape as the roof of the building on the left in the older photo.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Three Ms - Morehead Avenue, Norman Park

The most northerly street and the last in our series of Three Ms is Morehead Avenue, and like the others it is named after an early politician.

Boyd Dunlop Morehead, born in Sydney in 1843, was a conservative Queensland politician aligned with Sir Thomas McIlwraith, and in 1888 he succeeded McIlwraith as premier of the state. Here is a photograph of him that was taken in 1888.
(Photo: JOL 68159)

Morehead was an astute businessman and a canny investor. In 1873 he established BD Morehead & Co, a stock and station agency as well as a mercantile trading business. He first entered parliament in 1871 as the member for Mitchell and later became the member for Balonne.

By 1877 his business interests were substantial - he had thirteen stations in the Mitchell area. Next he embarked on real estate acquisitions in Brisbane, purchasing a share of Harris Terrace in George St in 1887 and then in 1888 in partnership with others he commissioned the construction of The Mansions, also in George St. Both of these buildings are still standing and are listed in the Queensland heritage pages. Here is a photo of The Mansions circa 1892.
(Photo: JOL 19426)

In 1886 Morehead and his family made a trip to England. Here is a link to a newspaper report of a banquet given in his honour prior to his departure. It is a rather long article but well worth reading by those with an interest in the social mores of the time. The attendees were political colleagues and foes alike, and all seemed to have a complimentary word for Morehead, who was a popular member with a witty persona. For example: the Queensland government appointed Mr Clement Wragge as government meteorologist in January 1887 to study the effects of cyclones on shipping. He arrived in Brisbane as 18 inches (450 ml) of rain was falling - this prompted Morehead to dub him Inclement Wragge. Morehead's sister Margaret was the mother of Helen Lyndon Goff, who as PL Travers was the author of Mary Poppins.

The 1893 Brisbane flood and subsequent depression became an issue for Morehead's businesses. Like his political colleague McIlwraith, Morehead was caught up in the collapse of the Queensland National Bank where he was a director and substantial shareholder. Here is a photograph of the BD Morehead & Co business premises in Mary St under threat from the floodwaters (on the RHS of the image; the building behind it is Naldham House).
(Photo: JOL 61436)

Boyd Dunlop Morehead died in Brisbane on 30 October 1905.


PS - As a point of interest the next street north is Thynne Avenue, named after Andrew Thynne - he was another politician of the same era.    

Monday, March 2, 2015

Three Ms - Macrossan Avenue, Norman Park

This is the second in the trio of Norman Park streets that start with the letter M - Macrossan Avenue, the next street north of McIlwraith Avenue. This was the street on which my cousins lived for many years from the 1950s onwards. The street is now a very busy through-road that takes traffic from Carina and Seven Hills to Coorparoo and East Brisbane and vice versa. When I used to go there regularly I could join my cousins and all their neighbours for games of street cricket - we only had to remember our made-up cricket rules, not traffic rules.
(from Google Maps)

Macrossan Avenue is named after another Queensland politician and a contemporary of Thomas McIlwraith's, John Murtagh Macrossan. An Irish Catholic, Macrossan came to the Queensland parliament after being a miner in Victoria, New South Wales, New Zealand and Queensland. He organised the Ravenswood Miners' Protection Association in North Queensland to make representations to the state government concerning the rights of miners. One might think that he would have become a Labor parliamentarian, but Macrossan aligned himself with McIlwraith on the conservative side.  It is also a fact that he was somewhat of an entrepreneur, having established and run newspapers in North Queensland. Here is a photograph. 
(Photo: JOL 68214)

Macrossan was recognised as a hard-working member of parliament, and he became instrumental in legislation concerning mining and the railways. He was a powerful orator and very passionate about items that affected him personally. He supported the proposed secession of North Queensland and introduced legislation protecting workers' rights. Although extremely influential amongst conservative ranks he was twice passed over to succeed McIlwraith for the leadership.

Like McIlwraith, Macrossan was a fervent federationist and attended the conference called by Sir Henry Parkes in Melbourne in 1890.  He is listed as being in the following photograph of delegates to but I cannot identify him. Sir Henry Parkes, known as the Father of Federation, is the man with the large white beard standing in the middle of the picture.
(Photo: SLSA B22268)

Macrossan was then chosen to accompany Sir Samuel Griffith to the Australian National Convention in Sydney in March 1891. It was at this gathering that Macrossan passed away following an attack of bronchitis.

However, the Macrossan name lived on - two of his sons, Hugh and Neal, became Chief Justices and other descendents have also become prominent lawyers.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Three Ms - McIwraith Avenue, Norman Park

For some unknown reason I have always been interested in the process of naming streets and I especially enjoy it when I come across a group of streets that have names that are part of a common theme. 

In the near city south-eastern suburb of Norman Park there are three parallel streets named after very famous Queensland politicians of yesteryear- McIlwraith, Macrossan and Morehead - Three Ms. I became acquainted with them (that would be the streets, not the persons!) at a young age as my cousins lived in the middle one, Macrossan Avenue, and I used to visit there quite frequently - usually by catching the trolley bus that dropped me off on McIlwraith Ave, the topic for today.

McIlwraith Avenue was named after Sir Thomas McIlwraith, premier of the state on three separate occasions for a total time of almost six years. Born in Scotland in 1835, 19 year old McIlwraith migrated to Australia in 1854, presumably not then thinking of becoming premier of the colony of Queensland.

I have just read a biography of McIlwraith written by Denver Beanland, a former state politician and deputy premier himself, as well as being a well-regarded and much published historian. The title of the biography provides a clue to McIlwraith's political stature: "The Queensland Caesar".

Comments about McIlwraith are similar to those about most politicians - some are quite complimentary and others not so. For example future governor of Queensland Sir William MacGregor (a fellow Scot, no less) described him as "an able bully with a face like a dugong and a temper like a buffalo". Controversy marred the final days of his political life, yet some see him as being among the best premiers the state has experienced. Beanland cites him as being one of two giants of Queensland's colonial years, the other being McIlwraith's contemporary political foe Sir Samuel Griffith. 

McIlwraith arrived in Victoria during the gold rush and actually worked in the goldfields as a shopkeeper although he had a Scottish university education that featured an outstanding ability in mathematics. As Victoria's economy boomed McIlwraith obtained state government employment and was soon working on developing Victoria's railways as an engineer while also accumulating grazing land in Queensland's Maranoa district. In 1863 he married and at around that time undertook his first tilt at politics. He ran unsuccessfully for the Victorian electorate of Sandhurst, and Victoria's loss precipitated Queensland's gain.

Following a visit to Scotland McIlwraith returned to Queensland where he now had substantial property. He encouraged his wife and two daughters to join him on his property Merivale in 1869, but after only a period of a few months they returned to Melbourne, presumably unable to cope with the spartan conditions of life on a sheep station in outback Queensland. In late 1869 McIlwraith tried politics again, this time successfully standing for the seat of Warrego.

He was sworn into the Queensland parliament as the member for Warrego in 1870, but resigned within two years because of business pressures. He was elected again, this time for Maranoa, in 1873 and was appointed as minister for public works in 1874. Here is a photograph of McIlwraith from 1874.
 (Photo: JOL 195766)

Then commenced a period of disruption in the personal life of Thomas McIlwraith. His wife and children had earlier rejoined him in Queensland, but his biographer discloses drinking and womanising and a lack of attention to his family; all leading to his wife Margaret resorting to the drink herself and becoming an alcoholic. McIlwraith sent his family off to Scotland, whether to help Margaret overcome her problems or just to get them out of the way cannot be known now. Margaret passed away in Scotland in 1877. At the same time McIlwraith's business affairs flourished, and he was by then a wealthy man. When the Queensland National Bank was incorporated in 1872 McIlwraith was one of the first shareholders, and in 1874 he joined the board while still a member of parliament. This relationship was later to cause problems for McIlwraith.

Thomas McIlwraith became premier of Queensland for the first time in January 1879, holding the post of colonial treasurer as well. In June of the same year he remarried; his new wife Harriet was the sister of the wife of an earlier premier, Arthur H Palmer, a political colleague.

As a politician, McIlwraith was a liberal. He was intelligent and forthright to the point of being overbearing. He quickly set about reducing the deficit he inherited upon attaining the treasury and his engineering and railway background came to the fore in the debate about opening up the vast state of Queensland. He was also a strong supporter of federation. Space precludes articulating the full spectrum of McIlwraith's political career here - I recommend that you read the biography which is available at your local library. The financial crash of 1893 and the subsequent collapse of the Queensland National Bank in 1896 at a time when McIlwraith was in debt to the bank to the tune of more than £250,000 cast a shadow over his political career that remains to this day. 
 (Photo: wikipedia)

In 1880 McIlwraith bought a residence standing on substantial property of about 5 hectares (13 acres) at Toowong. He named the house Auchenflower after a family estate back in Scotland. The name stuck - even though the house no longer exists, the surrounding area became the suburb of Auchenflower. Here is a photograph of the house.

The land on which the house stood was eventually purchased by Archbishop Duhig and on it now stands the Church of the Holy Spirit, part of the Toowong Catholic Parish that also includes Toowong's St Ignatius Church.

In a strange quirk of fate, the ballroom and billiard room of Auchenflower House were transported across town to be preserved in Early Street Historical Village, a museum that was situated in - McIlwraith Avenue, Norman Park! Regrettably that museum no longer exists and the remnants of Auchenflower House have been moved to a winery at Mt Tambourine.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Wesley Hospital, Auchenflower

Construction of the Wesley Hospital at Auchenflower commenced in 1975 with the first patients arriving on 1 March 1977. It is run by UnitingCare Health and has over 500 beds as well as suites for medical specialists. The hospital stands on the former Moorlands site that was owned by the Mayne family, and the residence built by Mrs Mayne still stands there.

Some people may not be aware that the Wesley Hospital had its origins across the river at South Brisbane where the Methodist Church had operated St Helen's Private Hospital for decades.

A Dr. Charles Kebbell established St Helen's Hospital in 1896, originally creating the hospital in the St Helen's Boarding House - a two storey building that was situated on the river side of Peel Street, South Brisbane. 
(Photo: JOL 96602) c1911

(Photo: JOL 202857) 1950

In 1900 the hospital was bought by Dr Ernest Sandford Jackson, formerly the medical superintendent at the Brisbane Hospital. Sandford Jackson was a founding father of the university medical school and founder of the (Royal) Australasian College of Surgeons Queensland branch. He had established Australia's first school of nursing at Brisbane Hospital and the nursing school he established at St Helen's was probably the first at a private facility. Here is a photo of the doctor with his St Helen's nurses.
(Photo: SLQ 7979 St Helen's Methodist Hospital Photographs)

Here is a pre-WWII picture of the hospital taken from the Brisbane River.
(Photo: SLQ 7979 St Helen's Methodist Hospital Photographs)

And the following photo shows the same view after extensions and alterations to the building.
(Photo: JOL 7979-0001-0008)

This undated photograph shows an operating theatre at the hospital.
(Photo: SLQ 7979 St Helen's Methodist Hospital Photographs)

Dr Sandford Jackson died in 1938 and his estate continued to run St Helen's for another decade. In 1949 the hospital was acquired by the Methodist Church and became known as the St Helen's Methodist Hospital. In 1969 it was decided to move the hospital to the 'Moorlands' estate on Coronation Drive, Milton, to become part of the planned Wesley Hospital. The St Helen's site was eventually bought by the State Government for the building of a new State Library of Queensland.

One of the buildings on the hospital campus has been named after Dr Ernest Sandford Jackson. Here is a 2009 photograph of the Wesley.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Blair Lodge, Hamilton

Kingsord Smith Drive remains a heavily-used access road from Brisbane Airport to the city despite the recently opened Airport Tunnel that drivers avoid in droves, refusing to cough up a toll when a free (albeit slower) trip is available. It also serves as a conduit to the northern residential and industrial areas as well as linking to the Gateway Motorway to provide access north to the Sunshine Coast and south to the Gold Coast.

In recognition of that Brisbane City Council and the federal government are funding an upgrade that will see Kingsford Smith Drive widened together with the addition of dedicated bicycle and pedestrian access. This will mainly be accomplished by extending the road out above the river, but locals have been warned that some resumptions will occur. Details are yet to be announced - let's hope there is minimal disruption.

Riverfront properties have always been in demand and therefore expensive. Some of Brisbane's prime residential real estate is situated along Kingsford Smith Drive - we have already looked at El Nido and Greystaines. Today we are looking at the excellent Blair Lodge, designed by Claude William Chambers and built around 1912. Chambers was a prominent local architect mostly known for non-residential work such as Perry House and the United Services Club. Blair Lodge is one of the few homes that he designed. This is a recent picture of it showing its proximity to Kingsford Smith Drive.
(Photo: 2013

This is a view of the area just after the house was completed - it can be seen in the centre of the photograph. 
(Photo: JOL: 159854) c1912

And in more recent history we can see a newspaper clipping recording the sale of the residence for $60,000 in 1968. The notional current value of that amount according to the RBA Inflation Calculator is just under $700,000 but my bet is that this piece of real estate would attract a far higher price than that if sold today.
(Photo: 1968

Blair Lodge is currently on the Brisbane City Council heritage register and also appears in the federal Department of Environment listings. Here are further photos from 1976 showing the exterior detail of the house and its superb river vantage point.
(Photo: JOL 199874) 1976
(Photo: JOL 199885) 1976

There is no suggestion here that this property will be adversely affected by the proposed roadworks. We simply don't have that detail yet. I hope that home owners along this ultra-busy corridor do not have to suffer resumptions as well as putting up with all the noise, dust and traffic delays.
 (Department of the Environment rt36908) 1988

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 2, 2015

85 Commercial Rd/ 241 Arthur St Newstead

Here is another of Brisbane's wool stores. Originally Queensland Primary Producers Association Woolstore No 3, it is different from most of the other wool stores in terms of its location. Set back from the river and the railway line that serviced the wharves and the sugar refinery, this wool store must have relied on motor transport to shift bales of wool in and out. Like the others though, it has now been converted into a mix of commercial and retail space. This building was recently struck by lightning in one of Brisbane's fierce electrical storms. There was damage to brickwork and falling bricks caused further damage to windows and vehicles below.

(Photo: BCC)

According to the BCC heritage pages, the wool store was built in 1935. Here is a picture of it during its construction.
(Photo: JOL 407489)

The contractors for the wool store were Stuart Brothers and here is a photograph of the finished building.
(Photo: JOL 406268)

Queensland Primary Producers Co-Operative Association (known usually as Primaries until a later merger with Mactaggarts when it became Primac) was formed in 1920 by returned AIF digger and wool broker Alan Walter Campbell, one of the state's leading businessmen and entrepreneurs. In November 1920 he was also instrumental in the formation of QANTAS. He provided business mentoring to the founders Sir Hudson Fysh, Paul McGuiness and Sir Fergus McMaster and was one of the early investors in the company. According to Sir Hudson Fysh, Campbell was present at the meeting in Brisbane's Gresham Hotel when the paperwork to register the company was executed. Alan Campbell was the temporary secretary once the company was established and became a board member. It was Campbell at a board meeting in 1933 who moved the motion for QANTAS to join with Imperial Airways to operate services to England.
(Photo: Kevin Murphy)

The photograph above is of a Beechcraft Bonanza P-35 assembled in Sydney in 1963 and then registered to Queensland Primary Producers Co-Operative Association in Longreach, by then one of Australia's leading graziers' organisations. Note the registration number on the rear fuselage: VH-AWC. The prefix VH is the designation for Australian aeroplanes, and in this case the suffix AWC represents the initials of Alan Walter Campbell; the registration is a tribute to the Association's founder. When he retired from office in 1968, then aged 88, Primaries had assets of $18 million.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Edwards Dunlop Building

Situated on Edward St in the CBD is this building that backs onto the grounds of St Stephen's Cathedral; it is now known as The Catholic Centre.
(Photo: 2013)

The building was constructed in 1900 for paper manufacturer and wholesaler Edwards Dunlop, who moved into their new premises on 1 January 1901 - the day of federation. On completion the building comprised four storeys and a basement, and included a lift and a telephone system.  The architects were believed to be the Sydney firm of Slatyer & Cosh.
(Photo: Queensland Government)

Here is a picture of the firm's Sydney warehouse, a heritage building still standing in Kent St, that was designed by architects Robertson & Marks. It was constructed in 1897 and you will notice the similarities.

The company was founded by Frederick Lewis Edwards, a stationer, and William Phillip Dunlop, paper manufacturer, in Sydney in 1873 and they expanded to Brisbane in 1880. The firm quickly became Queensland's major paper manufacturer, stationer and newsprint supplier. Part of their operation was the use of commercial travellers to represent their products in country areas. Here is a picture of a sample room set up in Cairns by one of their salesmen.
(Photo: JOL 111288)

The Edward St premises were sold to the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane in 1975 when Edwards Dunlop moved their operations out of the CBD. In the 1980s the firm was taken over by Amcor Pty Ltd but the name was relaunched in 2001 following a merger with Commonwealth Paper. It is now part of the international IGEPA group.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, January 19, 2015

The Brisbane G20 vs All the Way with LBJ

Recently the G20 Conference was held in Brisbane. Kilometres of steel barricades were erected and streets were closed off to protect visiting dignitaries from Brisbane's nasty protestors. I can only recall one arrest though - largely because most Brisbaneites treated the whole exercise as a big yawn.

There was an indigenous protest march, but apart from the burning of an Australian national flag which attracted negative attention, the march was peaceful and uneventful.

 (Photos: news media)

The early planning details released to the public concentrated so heavily on the security aspects of the G20 that Joe Average in Brisbane decided that the best course of action would be to pack up and leave town for a few days. The Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast accommodation and entertainment venues were even busier than their normal peak times of Christmas and Easter, while Brisbane businesses lamented the impact on their annual profits rather than "reaping the economic benefits" of the G20 as was promised by various politicians. Here is a photo showing a cyclist with the streets to himself, and below that a group of police protecting a deserted street.

(Photos: news media)

When the planners and organisers realised that Brisbane was going to be a ghost town they implored people not to stay away from the CBD but to carry on as normal. Too little, too late. Apart from Germany's Angela Merkel who visited Brisbane's famous pub nirvana, Caxton Street, all that the world's other leaders would have seen of Brisbane would have been a sterile cityscape with no inhabitants.
Of course the news media were all over the visitors like a rash, especially
when it came to reporting on the three top dogs: Obama of the USA, Putin of Russia and Cameron of the UK. The itineraries of these and other leaders were cloaked in mystery and their motorcades swept through deserted streets as if pursued by the devil himself.
(Photo: news media)

The last time a visiting US president came to town things were the same yet different. Lyndon Baines Johnson had a one-night stopover in Brisbane on Saturday 22 October 1966 as part of a whirlwind three-day visit to Australia. Johnson had served in Australia during WWII, and in hindsight the 1966 visit seems to have been somewhat of a series of meetings where Johnson was able to reminisce about those days and catch up with acquaintances of that time. Here is a WWII picture of Lyndon Johnson in his naval uniform.

Whilst in Brisbane he and the first lady Lady Bird Johnson did find time to visit Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and the opportunity to cuddle a Koala was also on offer to the G20 visitors.
(Photo: Queensland State Archives Item ID 1140028)


Of course there were also overseas conflicts to muddy the waters. The G20 delegates had to tread warily around the wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, whilst the Vietnam problem was a major talking point for Lyndon Johnson. In Brisbane as in the other venues there were pockets of protestors decrying the war and conscription.   
 (Photo: Graham Garner;

But largely people were curious about the man who had succeeded JFK and launched his own triple-letter identity into history. In those less security conscious times the police were involved more in crowd control than arrests. The photo below shows both uniformed and plain-clothed police with linked arms keeping the Brisbane crowd at bay.
(Photo: David Moore;

Huge crowds greeted Johnson when he arrived at Brisbane airport and at every part of his Brisbane itinerary. Despite the ever-present secret service detail, Johnson stopped the presidential limo on many occasions to interact with Australians - even at times rolling back the perspex roof to enable handshakes. His destination for the evening was Brisbane's top pub of the time, Lennons Hotel in George St, where his limo was surrounded as if he were a rock star or royalty. I was in the crowd outside Lennons that night, largely because I was just finishing my final year at high school and was out having some fun with my friends. The crowd was warm and well-behaved until Johnson's car arrived and then pandemonium ensued - in a good way.

Click here to see a film of Johnson's visit from the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. Unfortunately the Brisbane segment starts at 22:04 and is only a rather brief showing of arrival and departure together with some street scenes which seem to be around the Clayfield area.

Australia's prime minister Harold Holt, fresh from his famous "All the way with LBJ" war cry, chaperoned the US president around in what was the first ever visit to our shores by a serving US president. Unfortunately Johnson was also to make the second visit to Australia by a serving US president when he returned in a little over twelve months time to attend the memorial service for Holt who drowned at Portsea while on his Christmas break.

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