Monday, December 30, 2013

Changing face of Brisbane - cnr Maxwell St & Merthyr Rd New Farm

What does the passing of years do to a Brisbane streetscape? Here are before and after photographs to show fifty years of change in the near-city suburb of New Farm.

Here is the corner of Maxwell St and Merthyr Rd at New Farm photographed in 1962. The houses are low set and the Story Bridge is clearly visible in the background. 

(Photo: Brisbane City Council; BCC-B54-17857)

When we revisited the site recently, most of the houses have been replaced by apartment buildings or larger residences. That, and the mature trees, have all but hidden the bridge from view - you can just see an upper span above the red car if you look very closely. The other change is the emergence of large office and residential towers in the CBD behind the bridge.

(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, December 23, 2013

Changing face of Brisbane - Corner Ann St and Wickham St, Fortitude Valley

A quick pictorial for Christmas. Three views of the intersection of two of Brisbane's busiest streets - Ann St and Wickham St at the lower end of Fortitude Valley.

The building in the foreground is Metropolitan Motors.
(Photo: Brisbane City Council; BCC-S35-97186)

Same building, now housing Windscreens O'Brien. Whose idea was it to erect that awful monument to Brisbane?
(Photo: Brisbane City Council; BCC-B120-15126)

Monument gone, thank goodness! The whole area has been redeveloped and is now one of Brisbane's finer shopping and eating precincts.


(Click here for a Google Map)


Monday, December 16, 2013

Gasworks Plaza, Newstead

Let there be light.

Before electric light there was gas lighting in Brisbane. The Brisbane Gas Company started producing in 1865 at its site at Petrie Bight, and Brisbane's expanding population over the ensuing two decades demanded that a second facility be constructed at Newstead. That gasometer was erected in 1887 and operated through to 1996 when natural gas took over.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10189-0002-0027)

We previously looked at this site when it was first being redeveloped. All of that reclamation work has finished, but there are still cranes and workmen there constructing apartment buildings, office towers and shopping complexes.
(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

I dined there just recently with some old friends (well, they're not old and neither am I - it's just that we have known each other for a long time) and I noticed that the new coffee shops, bars, restaurants and provision shops next to the gasometer are doing a roaring trade.
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The remaining frame of the gasometer has been made a feature and is lit up at night, making it somewhat of an attraction in its own right.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, December 9, 2013

El Nido, Hamilton

Spanish Mission styled houses are fairly rare in Brisbane. We have previously looked at the attractive Santa Barbara at New Farm, designed by architect EP (Percy) Trewern and built in 1930.

Percy Trewern was again the designer for today's heritage listed house, El Nido, also of Spanish Mission design, situated on a marvellous site overlooking the river at Hamiton. It pre-dates Santa Barbara by a couple of years. Here it is, photographed in 1954 and all dressed up for the visit of QEII - the actual monarch, not the ship.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #150390)

Percy Trewern was born in Bendigo, and worked as a draughtsman for the Queensland Public Works Department before establishing his own architectural practice in Brisbane in 1920. He became extremely successful, especially noted for adapting the Spanish Mission and California bungalow styles to Queensland. He also designed commercial buildings such as Inchcolm on Wickham Terrace.

Here is a recent photograph of El Nido taken from Kingsford Smith Drive.
(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

El Nido was offered up for sale earlier in the year, having last been sold in 2010 for around $2.8 million. Here is a link to the details of the proposed sale - you will see some lovely photographs of the interior too.

Click here to see a Google Map.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Berry and MacFarlane Monument, Sherwood

Sending young men off overseas to wage war over wealth lying beneath the ground is, unfortunately, not a new occurrence. At the very start of its existence Australia was in the throes of war. The second Boer War in South Africa started in October 1899 when the South Africans decided that they had had enough of the British annexing their land and eyeing off the gold and diamonds beneath it. This resulted in Orange Free State and Transvaal declaring war on Britain.The imperialist British politicians were up for the fight, and very quickly requested backup from their colonies around the world.

Prior to Federation the individual colonies raised volunteers to aid the "Mother Country" in the fight against the Afrikaners, and then following their assimilation into the new country of Australia, the nation itself continued to supply soldiers to this war. About 16,000 Aussies, including many Queenslanders, served in this brutal war in which 282 men died in action, a further 286 died from disease and another 38 died from accidents. Six Victoria Crosses were awarded as a result of heroism during the Boer War.

Amongst the Queenslanders who went over to South Africa were two lads from the then rural area of Sherwood, situated about 8 km from Brisbane. They were Robert Edwin Berry and John MacFarlane, both of the Fifth Contingent of the Queensland Imperial Bushmen (5QIB). They are pictured below.



The Fifth Queensland Imperial Bushmen left Australia in two tranches - 6th March 1901 and 10 March 1901 - and the contingent returned on 30 April 1902.  Here is a photograph of the surviving members of 5QIB on their return to Australia.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #54982)

On 4th January 1902, 110 men of 5QIB were involved in one of the last serious actions of the Boer War. They were caught in an ambush at Onverwacht where they were heavily outnumbered by Boers. In a furious firefight thirteen Queenslanders were killed, including the two volunteers from Sherwood - Sergeant Robert Berry and Acting Corporal John MacFarlane. 

The shire of Sherwood was galvanized immediately upon hearing of the loss of their two young men. Recognising that the two would forever lie buried in South Africa, friends erected a monument to their memory in the cemetery in front of the Sherwood Anglican Church in Sherwood Road. They must have acted quickly, as the monument was unveiled on Saturday 21 June 1902 in the presence of the premier and other dignitaries, as well as surviving members of 5QIB and a large crowd. The church building was destroyed by fire in 1921 and replaced by a new church that is still standing on the corner of Oxley Rd and Sherwood Rd. Here is a photograph of the previous church taken in 1906.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #10044)

The memorial erected by the friends of the two soldiers remains in the Sherwood Anglican Cemetery which is situated down Sherwood Rd from the existing church, on the corner of  Egmont St. The 4.6 metre-high monument to Robert Berry and John MacFarlane was constructed by Brisbane monumental masons W Batstone & Sons.

(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

The plaques on the monument read:
Top: "This monument is erected by friends in memory of Sergeant Robert Edwin Berry, aged 23 years and Acting Corporal John MacFarlane, aged 21 years, 5th Q.I.B., killed in action, Onverwacht, Transvaal, South Africa, 4th January, 1002."

Bottom: "This monument honours soldiers who fought for the Empire". 

To the right of this monument lie at least five further Berry graves. The Berry family were pioneers of the Sherwood area and heavily involved in the Anglican community.

In 1962 the bodies of the Australian servicemen who died on this battlefield and were buried there were exhumed and reinterred in a Garden of Remembrance in the town of Ermelo, a South African town close to the place of the battle. A bronze plaque carrying the names of the thirteen men of 5QIB who died was dedicated at a service at the Sherwood Memorial on 4 January 2002, the centenary of the battle. The plaque was taken to South Africa and placed on a memorial that had been erected at the actual battle site at Onverwacht at its dedication on 4 February 2002, during a moving ceremony dedicated to the soldiers of both sides.

Each year ceremonies are held at the Sherwood Monument and the Ermelo Monument. Students from Corinda High School here in Brisbane and Ermelo High School in South Africa participate in the memorial services held at the respective sites.

Click here for a Google Map.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

What is happening to our heritage listed buildings?

I was struck by this piece in the local Fairfax press ( which warns that our local heritage is going up in smoke. In the last couple of weeks arsonists have destroyed the historic Belvedere at South Brisbane and the Albion Flour Mill at Albion. Both buildings were listed on the Brisbane City Council Heritage List, but not on the State list.
 (Belvedere on fire - Photo

(Belvedere, formerly named Bandarra. Photo: nla.pic-vn3311316-v)

(Albion Flour Mill - Photo SLQ 10189-0002-0139)

A search in the local press will show you the devastation caused by these fires. Both buildings have subsequently been demolished for safety reasons.

It seems to me that not enough is done to protect these buildings. I don't know the actual legislation, but I am told that the local council's legislation does not have the teeth that the state's version has.

It is quite clear that some owners do not take care of heritage properties. Some of the places lie derelict for years, finally succumbing to vandals, squatters and/or arsonists. When the building then becomes unsafe then it can be knocked down to allow the site to be redeveloped.

It is just not good enough.

I have been alerted by reader Wes that another of Brisbane's old buildings is likely to suffer a similar fate. Abbotsleigh at Bowen Hills has been cruelly treated of late. A fire and squatter damage has already marred this grand old residence, and the absence of proper incentive for the owner to remedy the situation could create similar issues to what we have seen in the last couple of weeks.
(Photo: woc)

Like the other two buildings, Abbotsleigh appears on the BCC Heritage Register but not on that of the Queensland Government. It would be a desperate shame if this residence was also lost due to inaction.

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you?

I was fourteen years old and in my first year at high school. I was also working part-time after school and on the weekends at our local store that was just a couple of blocks from my home.

On this Saturday morning in November 1963 I was at work at the shop performing one of my favourite jobs - weighing and packing the staples like sugar, flour and salt that came into the shop in wholesale quantities and were repacked into smaller retail packages. On a large set of Wedderburn scales I would place a free weight (say 1lb) plus a paper bag of the size to be used on the left side of the scales, then on the right side of the scales I would carefully fill a paper bag that I had already labelled "Sugar (or whatever) 1lb net" until the large needle on the face of the scale registered zero. My boss, the shop owner, was an exacting man who taught me that anything other than absolute precision weighing these items was unacceptable. He often selected a couple of random packages off the shelf after I had finished and reweighed them to make sure that they were exactly as labelled.

The wireless was allowed to be on at the back of the shop where I worked. It would have been tuned to one of the commercial radio stations - perhaps 4BC - where there would be a mix of news, music and sport. The popular songs of the time included Roy Orbison's "Blue Bayou", the Delltones' "Hangin' Five" and Cliff Richard's "It's All in the Game".

It was the custom to have a cuppa mid-morning, and another of my jobs was to boil the kettle and make a pot of tea. For some reason I always got compliments about the tea, but I think that it was probably more an appreciation of sitting down for a few minutes during the morning. It was quite a busy store, the only one within a radius of a few kilometres in a housing commission suburb that was a long way from anywhere and had little public transport to take you places more upmarket. In addition to the shop owner and me there were three or four female staff who served the customers.

I can't be sure now of the exact time of the special announcement on the wireless that silenced the shop, staff and customers alike, in an instant. The sombre tones foretold something awful and it took a few minutes for everyone to absorb the terrible news.

President John F Kennedy shot during a motorcade in Dallas Texas. Believed dead.

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Then there was an uproar as everyone spoke at the same time. "It's the Russians!" "Who would shoot President Kennedy?" "Poor, poor Jackie!" "Let's hope we don't have a war!"

I think the radio station changed gear. There followed continuing updates on Kennedy's condition, the search for the shooter(s), the well-being of the rest of the motorcade and especially news about Jackie Kennedy and the soon-to-be new president Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Although Kennedy had never been to Australia, his celebrity had certainly reached our shores, and he and wife Jackie, together with their two children Caroline and John Jr were as intensely scrutinised as modern movie stars. Here is a 1961 photgraph of JFK and Australian prime minister Robert Menzies.

That was, of course, only the start of this astounding period.  I was intensely curious about the assassination and all things related to it. There are little vignettes of memory as I look back now:

 - The arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and, a couple of days later, his shooting at the hands of Jack Ruby. I still remember a schoolmate telling me that "the assassin has been assassinated". There is a famous photo of the shooting.

 - The swearing in of Lyndon Johnson on board Air Force One.
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 - The funeral, including the riderless horse with boots mounted backwards in the stirrups, and that salute from John Jr.
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Fifty years have passed since that event deeply traumatised not just the USA, but the whole world. I cannot help but wonder what may have happened in subsequent years if the US government had been prepared then to enact gun control laws.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day, or Armistice Day as it used to be known. It commemorates the anniversary of the armistice that terminated WWI, the Great War. There was never meant to be another one like it, but unfortunately the brutality of war did not end with that cease-fire in 1918.

A couple of newspaper items caught my attention this week. The first was a column in the British newspaper The Guardian. In it, the 90 year-old writer announces that this will be the last time he will wear the poppy because he feels the act of remembrance has changed over time. He says:
"I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy." 

To a certain extent I see his point, and that point may be even more relevant in Australia. Britain faced the prospect of invasion in both world wars, and he asserts that remembrance should be about those who paid the ultimate price in actual defence of their country. 

What about Australia? It could be argued that Australia might have been invaded by the Japanese in WWII but for heroic action in Papua-New Guinea and the Coral Sea. Certainly no conflict since then has actually threatened our shores. The major places of engagement were as far afield as Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

My viewpoint is different though. The decisions to become involved in these conflicts were made by politicians, not by soldiers. The service personnel were doing what their jobs required them to do, and we should recognise and remember the sacrifices they and their families made at the request of their country, even if not actually in defence of their country.

Which brings me to the second article. I read that there had been a movement to alter the inscription at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Canberra. That memorial dates from 1993, when the remains of an unknown WWI soldier that had been recovered from the Western Front were interred at the Australian War Memorial. A few years later the inscription "known unto God" was added to the tomb. That inscription is one adopted by the Imperial War Graves Commission on the advice of Rudyard Kipling.

During a speech to the National Press Club Brendan Nelson, the director of the Australian War Memorial announced that the Kipling-inspired words were to be removed and replaced by the words "we do not know this Australian's name, we never will", part of the famous eulogy to the Unknown Soldier given by Paul Keating at the interment twenty years ago.

Controversy followed and now Brendan Nelson has reversed his decision and the original words will remain. I think that is the right decision.

Here are some photographs of Remembrance (or Armistice) Day being observed in Brisbane.

Firstly a family group celebrating in 1918. Note that the flags that they are adorned with are the Union Jack, not the Australian flag. 
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #250868)

Next, the 1918 Armistice parade outside the GPO.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #201302)

An acknowledgement of Armistice Day at Brisbane's City Hall in 1940, during another horrific conflict.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #7708-0001-0107)

And a more recent memorial service at Brisbane's Shrine of Remembrance in Anzac Square.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


My blog "Your Brisbane: Past and Present" has been selected by the State Library of Queensland to be archived as part of PANDORA, Australia's web archive. In due course it will be catalogued and made available through the State Library catalogue.

In the meantime the archived website can be viewed here: Click on the date link to view the blog.

Needless to say I am quite chuffed at this development. Wouldn't it be cool if say, in 50 years' time, someone came along and updated the information on the people and places featured in the blog?


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Post #500

When I started this blog in January 2009 I had no idea that I would reach 100 posts, let alone 500. But Blogger tells me that this will be the 500th post published, so I am accepting their arithmetic.

Fellow bloggers and perhaps even readers will realise that blogging is compulsive, frustrating, rewarding and cathartic all rolled into one. There are times when I could have easily given up and other times when I thought I might continue forever.

I started this exercise as an addendum to my photography hobby, having retired from work because of an illness (life changing, not life threatening, fortunately for me). I wanted to do something that would get me out of the house and also keep me busy when I was in the house, and blogging has filled those needs admirably. I have happily pottered about all over Brisbane, mainly on public transport, and spent hours on-line discovering information about Brisbane people and places.

I am principally a secondary researcher rather than a primary one. That means that I have "stood on the shoulders of giants" to fact-find for my stories. Places like the John Oxley Library, the Brisbane City Council Library Services, Trove and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection have provided much of the material that I have used here. Other researchers and writers, too numerous to mention, have provided inspiration and information. I have tried to credit sources wherever possible and if I have left any out I can only apologise. Similarly, I have endeavoured to be accurate, but if there are any mistakes I am responsible for them. One of the disadvantages of running for so long is that some of the older pages have links that now do not work because the originating site has been altered, a peril of the ever-changing digital world.

So - the blog is taking a sabbatical. I expect to be back but I don't know when. My extremely patient wife and I are travelling overseas in June and when we return I will consider all options, as they say in the classics.

Thank you to all readers, whether occasional or regular. Particular thanks to those who have made comments, provided ideas and information, or corrected errors.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Petrie Family - Tom Petrie

When Andrew Petrie and his family left Scotland in 1831, the youngest child, Tom, was a only a few months old. They arrived in Sydney on October of that year, and in 1837 the family moved north to the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement where Andrew was to be employed as Clerk of Works. Tom grew up in the family home at Petrie Bight, and had the run of the settlement and surrounding area. This unique upbringing gave him particular knowledge of the local flora and fauna, and also of the local indigenous people, the Turrbal. Here is a picture of Tom Petrie in later years.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #12939) 

As a boy Tom was allowed to (and apparently wanted to) mix freely with the Moreton Bay aborigines. He learned to speak their language, learned their bushcraft and participated in their ceremonies. He was frequently engaged as a guide or a companion for expeditions outside of Brisbane Town because of these attributes.

After an unsuccessful stint at gold mining in Victoria he came back to Brisbane, married, and bought a property north of Brisbane that he named Murrumba ("good place" in the local dialect). His aboriginal friends helped to clear the land and erect the early buildings on the property which later gave its name to the suburb Murrumba Downs. Tom Petrie was able to go on expeditions for weeks at a time while leaving his stock and the property in the care of his aboriginal workers, confident that there would be no stealing or damage such as that experienced by other white settlers.

Tom and his wife had nine children and one of his daughters, Constance Campbell Petrie wrote some articles about her father's life that were published in The Queenslander in 1902 and subsequent years. They were then published in book form, and such was the wealth of knowledge and the stories contained in it that it became an often-quoted source on the aborigines and early Queensland history. Titled "Tom Petrie's Reminiscences of Early Queensland", it was the result of hours spent by Constance gradually drawing out Tom's stories and recording them. The book is still available at your local library.

The extent to which Tom was involved in the family construction business is unknown, but was probably slight. However, his importance to the people of Brisbane as a result of his exploration of the area and his close relationship to its indigenous inhabitants can not be overstated. After his death in August 1910, the North Pine area was renamed Petrie and in the following year a memorial was erected in his honour. It still stands in a park next to the North Pine School of Arts. Here is a photograph taken at a ceremony at the memorial a couple of years ago - the women are Mrs Janice Hall, great-granddaughter of Tom Petrie and Maroochy Barambah, representative of Tom's friends the Turrbal people.
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(Photo: Courtesy

Click here for a Google Map.


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Petrie Family - John Petrie

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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #17153)

The eldest of Andrew Petrie's children, John Petrie was groomed from childhood to take over his father's business. John received formal schooling and later was trained in stonemasonry and carpentry. He also accompanied his father on expeditions around the colony - among other achievements Andrew and John were the first white men to climb Mount Beerwah in the Glass House Mountains. However, John's role increased earlier than anticipated by father or son. Andrew Petrie went blind in 1848 when John was 26, and although Andrew still held the reins of the Petrie business, John had to become much more involved.

After his marriage in 1850 John and his wife lived close to the Petrie family house on Queen St. The business continued to prosper in the ensuing years as evidenced in the recent post about Andrew. In 1859 Brisbane was declared a municipality and nine elected men became the first aldermen. John Petrie was one of them and by virtue of having received the most votes he became Brisbane's first mayor. This election occurred only a few weeks prior to the proclamation of Queensland as a separate state, and when Governor Sir George Bowen arrived John was part of the official party that escorted him to Adelaide House (built by the Petries for Dr Hobbs) where the letters patent were read to the people of Brisbane.

The Petrie firm tendered for and won the contracts to build some of Brisbane's most significant houses, such as Kedron Lodge, Oakwal, Eldernell and Toorak House. This meant that they were mixing with some of the most prominent citizens of the time. Not that everything was harmonious - rival contractor Joshua Jeays was also an alderman and was critical of some of the tendering processes that took place for council contracts.

With Andrew Petrie becoming more unable to get around, the result of an old leg injury as well as his blindness, John resigned from the Council in 1868 to focus on the family business. His firm won the contract for the new GPO to be built on the site of the Female Factory where he and the rest of the Petrie family had spent their first months in Brisbane.

Andrew Petrie passed away in February 1872 leading to one of Brisbane's largest funerals to that time. Around the end of that decade, John and his family moved to their new home "Beerwah" on Gregory Terrace in Fortitude Valley. It was a large one storey house that unfortunately no longer exists, but it was situated across the road from the Exhibition Building. In its later years it became a boarding house. Here it is, photographed circa 1930.
(Photo: Photographic collection, Queensland State Archives)

John Petrie seemed to have a very busy life even after his exit from politics. Amongst other appointments he was on the Brisbane Hospital Committee, he was a Justice of the Peace, he was a member of the Brisbane Licensing Board, trustee of Brisbane cemetery, director of several building societies and an active Freemason. Among his last major projects was the construction of the new Customs House, completed in 1890 and situated near the old family home at Petrie Bight.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #97398)

John Petrie died at the age of 70 in 1892, triggering another large Petrie funeral. The Brisbane Courier reported that "he left hardly an enemy in the city". Flags flew at half-mast as a salute to the former mayor, businesses closed in a mark of respect and a long funeral procession made its way to Toowong Cemetery.

The Petrie business continued though. In family tradition John's oldest son Andrew Lang Petrie took over the reins of the business.

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cribb Island

Recently a reader (Hi Jenny!) suggested a post about the former suburb of Cribb Island. Initially I dismissed the suggestion because I didn't know too much about it, but a couple of things drew me back to it.

Firstly I knew that the BeeGees had lived there at some stage. Secondly, I remembered that not long after I bought my first car I had a couple of dates with a lovely girl who lived there. When I say a couple I mean literally two! The relationship didn't prosper because it was what we used to call "GI". (GI = geographically impossible!) Cribb Island was north-east of Brisbane's CBD and I lived with my parents south-west of the city. The round trip to her place was 100 km, and that was before we went anywhere else. A bit of a shame really, but it didn't seem to cause any great grief - she turned up at the football with one of my team-mates soon afterwards.

In Cribb Island's earliest days aboriginal groups used the area as a food-gathering place. After white settlers arrived it was purchased by JG Cribb in 1863; he sold a portion of it to James Jackson and that part of it became a farming community known as Jackson's Estate, producing bananas, watermelons and pineapples.

Cribb Island was a suburb that was literally on the shores of Moreton Bay. It was not an actual island, although you could be forgiven for thinking that it was. It was bordered by the Bay, Jacksons Creek and Serpentine Creek, making it the ideal spot for fishermen to build their little shacks like the ones in this 1928 picture.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #119341)

During the depression cheap land allowed the relatively small population to increase. The suburb was usually thought of as being in the lower socio-economic band even though it had reasonable facilities for a population that fluctuated between 400 and 900 residents. Many of residents have spoken of the idyllic lifestyle on "Cribby" as children - swimming, fishing and crabbing amongst the regular pastimes.

Cribb Island's location, although handy for fishing, didn't do it any favours. Transport to the area was always problematic because of sand, mud and mangroves and the lack of proper roads. Here's a photograph from around 1929 showing a bogged Model A Ford getting a shove through some sand at Cribb Island.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #156215)

And here is the relevant page from a 1974 Refidex street directory showing the then location of Cribb Island.
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On the eastern side of Serpentine Creek at Luggage Point lay the sewerage outlet for Brisbane. There were often complaints about effluent and odour from local residents and Brisbane City Council has upgraded the facility over the years since. 

And it was location that was to cause the demise of Cribb Island. In 1971 the federal government decided to expand Brisbane Airport to allow the arrival and departure of international flights, and that to do this they would need to reclaim the entire suburb of Cribb Island - an area of 5 km by 400 metres with a population of 870.

Between 1971 and 1980 the creeks and waterways were diverted and all residents were relocated. Understandably there were protests about the forced resumption of property. The prices paid for the houses were low and many people were unable to afford to then purchase houses in other suburbs. Many were bitter about the process and I don't know that anything similar could happen today. The fact that there were relatively few residents and that it was a lower socio-economic area probably made the government's task easier, although it still took many years and disrupted many lives. But there is still rancour - there are books and even a play about the "Cribbies" who were turned out of their homes to allow an airport to be built.

Click here for a google Map.


Friday, May 17, 2013


About 80 km south-west of Brisbane lies the heritage homestead Nindooinbah. There are many stories that intertwine to complete the history of Nindooinbah and I won't have room to tell them all here. But I hope I can provide a potted version that will interest you.

The story begins with Queensland politician AW Compigne who built the original homestead in the 1850s. He was a member of Queensland's Upper House which of course no longer exists. In 1900 the property was leased by William Collins, a grazier. In fact, the Collins family was destined to become grazing aristocracy. The house in those days was a simple L-shape, but William Collins bought the property in 1906 and one of the first things he did was to engage Robin Dods to add extensions to the homestead, converting it to an E-shape. Here are a couple of pictures of Nindooinbah taken in 1908.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #135001)
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #135000)

And here is an undated photograph of William Collins with his wife Gwendoline and daughters Beryl and Dorothea at Nindooinbah. William was a grazier and a company director who died after a heart attack in 1909.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #193507)

The property stayed within the Collins family and was passed down to William's granddaughter Margaret de Burgh Persse who was born at Nindooinbah and lived there all her life. The de Burgh Persse family was another prominent farming and political clan of the era and the union with the Collins dynasty must have made them a formidable presence indeed. 

Margaret married the artist Patrick Hockey in 1983, and together they restored the house and beautified its surrounds. The house became famous for parties and it hosted many important guests over the remaining years of their lives. When Margaret died in 2004 the house was inherited by nephew Tim Stevens, a winemaker in Mudgee. He put the property on the market in 2005 and it was bought by Brisbane entrepreneur Euan Murdoch (of Herron Pharmaceuticals fame) and his wife. 

The Murdochs, too, have wanted to further restore and beautify Nindooinbah. Here are some photographs from the web pages that recorded the five-year transition.
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Nindooinbah today is a leading cattle breeding business. It is at the forefront of artificial breeding, in particular the Angus Brahman cross known as Ultra Black.

This fabulous place launched Open Gardens Australia last year. I missed it, but if it is on again this year I'm a definite starter!

Click here for a Google Map.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mount Coot-tha Lookout

Brisbane is a hilly city, and the highest hill is Mount Coot-tha, formerly known as One Tree Hill. It probably is a hill rather than a mountain - hardly an Everest, Mount Coot-tha has been measured at 287 metres. In some places a mountain is not a mountain if it is less than 300 metres in height, but mostly local custom determines the status of a hill or mountain. Mount Coot-tha is part of the Taylor Range which runs along the western edge of Brisbane.

Mount Coot-tha is only about 6 km from the CBD, and is a favoured spot for sightseers to look over the city. Here is a recent daytime photograph taken from the top, looking east towards Moreton Bay and North Stradbroke Island.
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(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

Apparently the first recorded European ascent of Mount Coot-tha was in 1828, and the energetic climber was none other than the commandant of the penal settlement Captain Patrick Logan. The Turrbal people had obviously climbed the hill prior to this time though - it was one of the best spots for gathering honey, known to them as ku-ta. In a far-sighted move the area was declared a public recreation reserve in 1880, and the former One Tree Hill was officially called Mount Coot-tha, a nod to the indigenous inhabitants of the area.

Since then the place has become the de-facto tourist hot-spot and buses arrive every day to give visitors a look over Brisbane. Brisbane people are also drawn to the kiosk and restaurant that adjoin the lookout. Here are the Duke and Duchess of York near the lookout during their visit to Brisbane in 1927. 
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #62463)

Here is a 1966 colour photograph of the lookout and the kiosk.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #204785

And here is the kiosk today.
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(Photo: © 2013 the foto fanatic)

Although I had a subtle dig at Coot-tha being called a mountain, there are advantages in being taller than the surroundings, even if only slightly. When someone wished to buy One Tree Hill in 1865 the request was knocked back because it was needed as a trigonometrical point for surveying purposes. When television started in Brisbane in 1959 the broadcasters selected Mount Coot-tha as the obvious place to erect the transmission towers which are still based there today. Here is a 1966 photograph of the Channel 7 studio and tower. 
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #204790)

Mount Coot-tha today is not only the kiosk and the lookout. There are walking tracks from adjoining suburbs such as The Gap and Chapel Hills. Barbecue and picnic areas dot the entire summit, and there is a botanical gardens and a planetarium too.
Click here for a Google Map.

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