Monday, February 16, 2009

Hawthorne St Woolloongabba

"Bring out yer dead!" "Bring out yer dead!" For those who, like me, love the irreverent humour of Monty Python, those words immediately bring to mind this sketch from their movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", a hilarious look at life in the Middle Ages. Watch it right to the end for their bitingly satirical comment on royalty.

Naturally, there is really nothing humorous about the Bubonic Plague - we can only laugh at it from afar. We have never experienced it, so it is safe to laugh at comic scenes of someone gathering bodies on a hand-drawn cart, including one who says "I'm not dead!". But, did you know that we did have the Black Death here in Brisbane? I didn't, at least until I was researching for this blog and came across the following photo. Just click on it to see a larger version.

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #47425)

According to information kept at the John Oxley Library, Brisbane experienced about 56 cases of the plague around the years 1900 to 1902, with 25 deaths reported. Here is some more information from the ABC's science program. The photo above was taken in Hawthorne St Woolloongabba, just up from the Ipswich Rd corner. The street had to be quarantined to stop the disease from spreading, and uniformed police have cordoned off Hawthorne St, preventing people from entering or leaving. The houses in the foreground have been infected, while in the backgound can be seen a church. The houses were ultimately barricaded off, and the hunt was on for the rats that were spreading the disease. The church in the background is the German Lutheran Church, built in 1896. Here is a similar picture of Hawthorne St that I took recently. (Photo: © 2009 the foto fanatic)

The church is still present today, and although it seems to have added some building improvements, those spires on the roof provide a reference. It is now known as the Nazareth Lutheran Church, the adjective "German" having been dropped during WWII, I suppose to avoid any discrimination that may have occurred at that time. The wooden buildings that had been quarantined have long gone, and there are now brick flats in their place. Looking at this quiet suburban street, one can hardly imagine the dread that must have been experienced by its inhabitants a century ago.

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Back to Queen and Edward


  1. When did the plague start? (What date?)

    1. The first case in Queensland was discovered in April 1900 and it was found in Brisbane shortly thereafter.


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