Monday, November 24, 2014

Red Ted Theodore (and other Labor luminaries)

In successive months we lost two mighty Labor politicians - former prime minister Gough Whitlam and former Queensland premier Wayne Goss. I am not really from their side of the political spectrum but I did vote for each of them at the elections that propelled them to high office. 

Gough Whitlam (11/07/1916 - 21/10/2014)
(Photo: National Library of Australia) 

Gough Whitlam's "It's Time" slogan in 1972 resonated with me, particularly on the policy of conscription. By 1975 and the infamous Khemlani loans affair Whitlam's government was on the nose with me and plenty of others who voted him out after Fraser forced a double dissolution by refusing to allow the passage of the financial legislation needed to run the country. The closest I ever got to Whitlam was to be on the same plane as him on a flight from Maryborough in Queensland to Brisbane in 1971 when he was leader of the opposition. A man of huge stature and enormous charisma, he had the flight attendants and fellow passengers stealing admiring glances at him for the duration of the short flight. Many of the things that we now take for granted were products of the Whitlam era and it is a real shame that his government couldn't manage the country's finances effectively and subsequently ran off the rails. Whitlam remained an elder statesman and almost a cult hero until his recent death. Now he is a legend.

Wayne Goss (26/02/1951 – 10/11/2014)

Wayne Goss grew up just a couple of streets from me and we went to the same school a year apart. I knew him as a youth from the basketball courts and footy fields, but not as a man. Having said that, I attended the opening night of the Brisbane International Film Festival one year when Goss was Premier of Queensland, some twenty-plus years after our school days. He was also on the board of BIFF and he was greeting patrons as they arrived at the cinema. He knew me instantly and greeted me by name - a politician's gift to be sure, but but the mark of an impressive human being. The Goss government's willingness to attack corruption and make government accountable were landmark steps in Queensland and Wayne Goss deserves all the accolades being paid to him. His life and achievements were celebrated last Friday at a memorial service that was held at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. Well played, Wayne!

Edward Theodore (29/12/1884 - 09/02/1950)

Another outstanding Labor politician from yesteryear is Edward Granville Theodore, who became known as Red Ted Theodore. He was initially a miner and a union organiser in North Queensland, but turned to politics in 1909 by winning the state seat of Woothaka. Theodore formed the Amalgamated Workers Association, the forerunner of today's Australian Workers Union. He became the state's treasurer under premier TJ Ryan and then succeeded Ryan as premier, a post he held between 1919 and 1925.

While in Queensland politics, Theodore bought this house in New Farm that still stands today.

(Photo: 2013

(Photo: BCC) 2010

Although partially hidden by vegetation, the roof and verandahs of this house give a clue to its designer, Robin Dods. Dods designed the house for barrister John Trude who had it built in 1907 and then sold it to Theodore in 1918, so it would have been Theodore's base whilst he was the state's premier.

Theodore moved to the federal sphere in 1927, contesting and winning a seat in New South Wales. He later became deputy prime minister and treasurer, living in the upmarket Kirribilli area. He sold this house in 1933.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Old movie films - who was the photographer?

I have recently received an email from a history buff in the US.

The email contains links to three 16mm movie films apparently taken by someone who visited Australia around the year 1940. These films were found in a garage sale and have been digitised by an American history group that is now trying to locate the photographer or anyone with a connection to them.

I have viewed the three films and find them to be fascinating. They show wonderful glimpses of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Shot in colour, they portray life in Australia at that time and many of the background scenes are familiar even today.

This blog is happy to pass on the plea of the Americans for assistance in identifying the photographer. If anyone has any information that would help please contact me by email.

Take a look at the films - you will enjoy the representation of Australia in the 1940s.

Melbourne 1940

Monday, November 10, 2014

Torwood Police Station (aka Sister Mary Angeline's house)

On the way towards the city, as you ease down the long hill before the old Milton tennis centre, she stands there, still and silent. On the verandah of a triple-gabled Queenslander is a nun, waving at the passing traffic. 

She is wearing a dark nun's habit with a touch of pure white wimple showing around a rather plastic face. 

Plastic face? 

Yes, it is someone having a leg-pull. Not a botoxed nun, but a mannequin dressed as a nun to brighten a commuter's day. She has even made it onto Google Maps - look below - you can just make her out above the red door behind the glass.

Recently I was browsing through some archived photographs at the BCC Brisbane Images site when I came across a structure that looked familiar to me. I checked the information filed with the image which told me that the building was the Torwood police station, photographed in 1935. This is the photo.
(BCC-B120-80976) 1935

It took me a while to place the building because no address was provided. But the triple gables and the two separate staircases apparent in the old image are still features of this nun's house on Milton Rd. It was a police station that opened in 1898 and operated through to 1992 before being decommissioned. It was purpose-built as a police station and I assume that one staircase led to the official side of the building while the other led to the residence of the officer who probably lived on the premises. Here is a more complete photo from Google. 

And another photo, this time from BCC where it is listed on their heritage register. The suburb of Torwood that this police station served no longer exists, though - it has been amalgamated into Auchenflower.
(BCC 2011)

And now, as I research the story, I find that the nun is famous. Here is a piece from the Brisbane Times that tells us that she has been delighting commuters for years and often reflects topical stories such as the reminder to vote in an election. 
(Photo: Michelle Smith via
If you Google "nun on milton road" you will find further evidence of her sense of fun - for example she donned a pair of floaties in case the 2011 flood reached her door!

Hooray for you, Sister Mary Angeline!

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, November 3, 2014

Ausralian Estates Wool Store No 2

We have had a couple of glimpses of the Australian Estates Company Limited No 1 wool store earlier in this blog - once to discuss its WWII use by the US contingent in Brisbane, and on another occasion the fabulous Vice-Regal Ball in honour of the Duke and Duchess of York held there shortly after its opening in 1927.

Both of those posts were about the original Australian Estates wool store at Teneriffe. Today we are looking at the Australian Estates No 2 wool store, a four-storey construction built into the side of Teneriffe Hill next to its sister building in the late 1950s.

Things had changed in the thirty years since the first of these two buildings was erected. Wool was at its financial peak in the boom period immediately following WWII, and this new wool store was of a fresher, more modern design than the earlier ones in the area. When it was completed Australian Estates used it as a showroom where buyers could take advantage of the abundant natural light to assess and bid for the bales of wool. However mechanisation was already replacing manpower and this wool store was destined to be the last of its kind.
(BCC-S35-97186) 1990

In the 1990s the Brisbane City Council commenced its urban renewal plan that intended to convert industrial Teneriffe into a residential area. All the wool stores, including this one, were rezoned for residential makeovers that have transformed the suburb. This one had its four floors converted into 36 apartments.
(Photo: © Queensland Government) 2009

But the increasing demand for homes in the area led to a decision to enlarge the former wool store. This has been achieved in a unique fashion by lifting the roof off the building and adding a further nine apartments. The beginning of the transformation can be seen in the following photograph. 

(Photo: © 2014 the foto fanatic) 2014

The process that will add exclusive residences to this heritage listed building can be seen on the developer's web site.

The views to the river and also back to the city should be fantastic.

Click here for a Google Map.

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