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.

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