Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Regatta Hotel, Toowong

The next Gailey structure for the week is the Regatta Hotel at Toowong, which has long been a favourite Brisbane watering hole. Just recently, it received fifteen minutes of national fame (not its first, either) when it was awarded a Gold Logie for best hotel. Not really :-) But veteran actor Ray Meagher did win Australian television's top gong, and referred to the venerable Toowong institution in his acceptance speech by declaring that the last thing he had won was a chook raffle at the Regatta in 1965. Meagher is a Queenslander from the country town of Roma who was a regular visitor to the Regatta in the sixties and early seventies when he was a first-grade player at the local Wests rugby club. Their Sylvan Road home ground is just down the street, and the Wests' players ran chook raffles at the Regatta every weekend. "Meggsy" Meagher, as he was then known because of his red hair and freckles, was already an aspiring actor; and I can remember what was probably his first ever television performance when he appeared in a commercial for Metropolitan Permanent Building Society (now Suncorp-Metway Bank) as "The Loan Arranger". That, of course, was a spoof on the Lone Ranger, with Meggsy in a mask atop a rearing horse, heroically organising home loans for Queenslanders. Here is a photo of the Regatta from around 1940 - just prior to Meggsy's time :-)
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #12977)

Actually there are a number of stories featuring the Regatta that I could regale you with - and several that I couldn't, fearing prosecution. There was the bloke dressed in a gorilla suit who turned up for a drink on his way to a fancy-dress party. A drunk emerging from the men's ablutions area took fright and punched him. Then there was the group of students who lived in a humble abode nearby who didn't have any outdoor furniture. They absconded with a table and four chairs from the Regatta's verandah, all transported home in a Mini. The table was supported above the roof by the hands of the passengers. I swear it's true! 
 (Photo: Courtesy Courier-Mail)

The last time the Regatta achieved national coverage happened to be back in 1965, when two women - Rosalie Bognor (above, L) and Merle Thornton - chained themselves to the bar in the Regatta, protesting against Queensland's archaic licencing laws that decreed that females were not allowed to drink in a public bar. The photo above and the story headlined around the world.


Edit: In April 2014, following renovations to the Regatta, this story was remembered with the naming of Merle's Bar - a tribute to Merle Thornton, one of the two women who made this historic protest. That is Merle, above. Read the details here

(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #16169)

The first Regatta Hotel on this site was built around 1876, and was the single-storey structure above. Publican William Winterford bought the site, and engaged Richard Gailey to design a large hotel to be constructed in place of the earlier building. The new three-storey hotel was opened in 1887, and was situated ideally for people attending sailing regattas and rowing races on the Toowong Reach of the river. Being situated on River Drive (now called Coronation Drive) meant that the hotel had the normal issues with Brisbane floods. Here is a photo from 1908 showing the Brisbane River breaching its banks and flowing across River Drive. The new Regatta Hotel is visible in the picture.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #133441)

The design of the hotel was typical Gailey. Wide verandahs have unparalleled views of the river and provide breezeways for the patrons, and ornate cast-iron balustrades were a feature of the building. Unfortunately Mr Winterford's fortunes declined and he was forced to surrender the Regatta to the mortgagors. Fortunately, others were quick to take up the challenge and the hotel survives to this day. Here is a current picture of it.
(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Next: Timber church


  1. i had my wedding "reception" at the Regatta - only because it was close, and was cool on a fairly warm october day

  2. I think the lady on the left chained to the bar is the mother of Sigrid Thornton - the actress from The Man From Snowy River. I lived around the corner from The Regatta during my uni years in the 90s. Many a party there!!

  3. It's actually Merle Thornton on the right.

    I'm sure the Regatta has lots of stories to tell!

  4. I love this! There has just been an announcement that a cocktail bar in the newly-refurbished Regatta Hotel will be named after Merle Thornton. Read about it here:


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...