Monday, March 30, 2015

Thomas Proe, former mayor of Brisbane

Pictured below is the warehouse of S Hoffnung & Co Ltd in Charlotte St. Of course it no longer exists. Despite being championed at times by the National Trust of Queensland it was demolished years ago - replaced in 1983 by a 15-storey glass and steel tower. The warehouse had been built in 1871 as the Brisbane offices of the wholesalers, Hoffnung's, that was formed in Sydney by Jewish immigrant Sigmond Hoffnung and grew to become a national business. 

The photo above is from 1980, while the one below is taken from the other direction during the 1893 flood.
(Photo: fryer-ref_20150315)

So, redevelopment has achieved what flood and even fire could not. On 14 April 1902 the top three storeys of the building were damaged in a furious fire, one of the biggest ever in the city. However our story today concerns not the fire itself but the aftermath.

After the fire was extinguished and the damage was being assessed it came to light that someone was trying to sell about 50lb (almost 23kg) of tobacco in northern Queensland. The rumour was that the vendors were Brisbane firemen. Investigations proceeded and it was discovered that the tobacco had most likely come from the Hoffnung's warehouse.

The mayor of Brisbane at the time was Mr Leslie Corrie, and he was also the chairman of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade Board. He called two of the firemen to a meeting and questioned them about the tobacco. Eventually the fireys admitted having been involved in the theft and although they indicated that others were also involved they refused to name them.

This left the mayor in a rather sticky situation. The theft was undeniably a very serious matter and in the normal course of employment it should have resulted in dismissal of the offenders. Mayor Corrie, however, took a pragmatic view and severely censured the men while docking them a week's wages.

This is where Thomas Proe comes to light. A council alderman and former mayor, he was also a member of the Fire Brigade Board and felt that the punishment was insufficient, promptly protesting by tendering a letter of resignation from the Fire Brigade Board. Here is a picture of the man.
(Photo: BCC-B120-33442)

At a later meeting Mayor Corrie explained his decision. At the time the fire brigade was already understaffed and hiring a large number of new recruits would be impractical because of the long hours of training necessary to produce an qualified firefighter. The fire at Hoffnungs was itself an indication of how important it was for Brisbane to have a fully capable fire brigade. At this meeting Thomas Proe was encouraged to withdraw his resignation. He did so.

In those days the position of mayor was rotated amongst the elected aldermen, and Thomas Proe later became mayor of Brisbane again. Here he is pictured in his mayoral robes.
(Photo: BCC-B120-32306)

What more of Thomas Proe? A Lancastrian born in 1852, he came to Queensland in 1876, married in 1881 and had seven children. He was initially a trained engineer, but became a publican, owning at different times a couple of Fortitude Valley hotels - the Osbourne and the Royal George.

He is remembered by the naming of Proe St in Fortitude Valley.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 23, 2015

Hobbs Park, CBD

At present almost every bus I take to the city is held up on Adelaide St to allow cement trucks and other delivery vehicles to access the rear of a Grocon development at 480 Queen St. So I was interested to read about a public amenity that is to be included in the new high rise. Here is a news report.

That's right - an outdoor park, accessible to the public, that will provide a unique city vantage point on the fourth floor of the new building. In a nod to Brisbane's history the park will be known as Hobbs Park, named after one of Brisbane's first medical practitioners, Dr William Hobbs, pictured below.  
(Photo: wikipedia)

Dr Hobbs was aged around 27 when he arrived in Brisbane aboard the Chasely in 1849. He had been the ship's surgeon on that voyage, and then set up in private practice in Brisbane. When Dr David Ballow died from typhus in 1850 Dr Hobbs took over as resident surgeon of Brisbane Hospital for a time, but otherwise remained in private practice although he held several honorary appointments during his lifetime here. He became a member of Queensland's legislative council (the now abolished upper house) in 1861. But none of those was the reason for naming this park after Dr Hobbs.

In 1853 William Hobbs married Anna Louisa Barton, the sister of Sir Edmund Barton, and they moved to a house built for them on Adelaide St by Andrew Petrie. The house is still extant and is right opposite the Adelaide St side of the new Grocon building. At the time of its completion the house was so far away from Brisbane's business area it was known as Hobbs' Folly. Dr Hobbs preferred to call it Adelaide House, and it is shown photographed below around 1882 after significant earth works had taken place on the Adelaide St ridge.
(Photo: JOL 21925)

When Queensland separated from New South Wales the state's first governor, Sir George Bowen, read the proclamation from the verandah of Adelaide House which then became a temporary Government House until the purpose-built one on George St was completed. Here is a later photograph - this one is from around 1921 and the view from the new park should be similar.
(Photo: SLQ 152917)

The public park in the completed Grocon project will overlook St John's Anglican Cathedral and the former Hobbs residence which is now part of the cathedral precinct and known as The Deanery. This is how the developers say it should look when completed.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 16, 2015

St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital, Spring Hill

We have just looked at three politicians of the late nineteenth century and another one is involved in today's post.

Sir Charles Lilley achieved an awful lot during his life. He was a soldier, a journalist, a newspaper editor, a lawyer, a politician, colonial secretary of Queensland, attorney-general, premier, judge and chief justice. Whew! 

There was a notable number of firsts involved - he was the first solicitor admitted to practice at the Supreme Court at Moreton Bay, he was a member of the first Legislative Assembly of Queensland, and after becoming a barrister he was the first Queen's Counsel in the colony of Queensland. He is also largely credited with the provision of free education in government schools and he was knighted in 1881.

Charles Lilley was born in 1827 in England and found himself in Moreton Bay in 1856, working as an articled clerk to solicitor Robert Little. He married Sarah Jane Jeays in 1858 - she was the daughter of prominent builder Joshua Jeays. It is believed that Jeays built the couple's residence "Jesmond" on Wickham Terrace in 1859-60. The Lilleys probably lived there until the mid-1860s when their burgeoning family forced them to move - they ended up having thirteen children! The Lilley family moved temporarily to another Jeays-built residence, Bardon House, possibly in 1865. While they were living there, Jesmond was enlarged, presumably by Joshua Jeays, enabling the Lilley family to move back there when renovations were complete.

The house Jesmond remained in the hands of Charles Lilley until his death in 1897 and was subsequently purchased from his estate by the Presbyterian Church for the purpose of providing a college for students of the newly established University of Queensland at Gardens Point. It was then called Emmanuel College and here is a picture of it from 1930.
(Photo: JOL 126462) 

When the University of Queensland moved to St Lucia post WWII, Emmanuel College moved there also. Jesmond and the surrounding property was transferred to St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital with the house becoming the administration building.  

The current photograph below shows the administration block of St Andrew's War Memorial Hospital. Traces of Sir Charles Lilley's house survive in the entry to the administration block which stands slightly extended from the rest of the building, and more of the original structure can be found inside. In the picture below you can see the entry - it's at the top of the stairs, between the two flagpoles. The roof above it is the same shape as the roof of the building on the left in the older photo.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Three Ms - Morehead Avenue, Norman Park

The most northerly street and the last in our series of Three Ms is Morehead Avenue, and like the others it is named after an early politician.

Boyd Dunlop Morehead, born in Sydney in 1843, was a conservative Queensland politician aligned with Sir Thomas McIlwraith, and in 1888 he succeeded McIlwraith as premier of the state. Here is a photograph of him that was taken in 1888.
(Photo: JOL 68159)

Morehead was an astute businessman and a canny investor. In 1873 he established BD Morehead & Co, a stock and station agency as well as a mercantile trading business. He first entered parliament in 1871 as the member for Mitchell and later became the member for Balonne.

By 1877 his business interests were substantial - he had thirteen stations in the Mitchell area. Next he embarked on real estate acquisitions in Brisbane, purchasing a share of Harris Terrace in George St in 1887 and then in 1888 in partnership with others he commissioned the construction of The Mansions, also in George St. Both of these buildings are still standing and are listed in the Queensland heritage pages. Here is a photo of The Mansions circa 1892.
(Photo: JOL 19426)

In 1886 Morehead and his family made a trip to England. Here is a link to a newspaper report of a banquet given in his honour prior to his departure. It is a rather long article but well worth reading by those with an interest in the social mores of the time. The attendees were political colleagues and foes alike, and all seemed to have a complimentary word for Morehead, who was a popular member with a witty persona. For example: the Queensland government appointed Mr Clement Wragge as government meteorologist in January 1887 to study the effects of cyclones on shipping. He arrived in Brisbane as 18 inches (450 ml) of rain was falling - this prompted Morehead to dub him Inclement Wragge. Morehead's sister Margaret was the mother of Helen Lyndon Goff, who as PL Travers was the author of Mary Poppins.

The 1893 Brisbane flood and subsequent depression became an issue for Morehead's businesses. Like his political colleague McIlwraith, Morehead was caught up in the collapse of the Queensland National Bank where he was a director and substantial shareholder. Here is a photograph of the BD Morehead & Co business premises in Mary St under threat from the floodwaters (on the RHS of the image; the building behind it is Naldham House).
(Photo: JOL 61436)

Boyd Dunlop Morehead died in Brisbane on 30 October 1905.


PS - As a point of interest the next street north is Thynne Avenue, named after Andrew Thynne - he was another politician of the same era.    

Monday, March 2, 2015

Three Ms - Macrossan Avenue, Norman Park

This is the second in the trio of Norman Park streets that start with the letter M - Macrossan Avenue, the next street north of McIlwraith Avenue. This was the street on which my cousins lived for many years from the 1950s onwards. The street is now a very busy through-road that takes traffic from Carina and Seven Hills to Coorparoo and East Brisbane and vice versa. When I used to go there regularly I could join my cousins and all their neighbours for games of street cricket - we only had to remember our made-up cricket rules, not traffic rules.
(from Google Maps)

Macrossan Avenue is named after another Queensland politician and a contemporary of Thomas McIlwraith's, John Murtagh Macrossan. An Irish Catholic, Macrossan came to the Queensland parliament after being a miner in Victoria, New South Wales, New Zealand and Queensland. He organised the Ravenswood Miners' Protection Association in North Queensland to make representations to the state government concerning the rights of miners. One might think that he would have become a Labor parliamentarian, but Macrossan aligned himself with McIlwraith on the conservative side.  It is also a fact that he was somewhat of an entrepreneur, having established and run newspapers in North Queensland. Here is a photograph. 
(Photo: JOL 68214)

Macrossan was recognised as a hard-working member of parliament, and he became instrumental in legislation concerning mining and the railways. He was a powerful orator and very passionate about items that affected him personally. He supported the proposed secession of North Queensland and introduced legislation protecting workers' rights. Although extremely influential amongst conservative ranks he was twice passed over to succeed McIlwraith for the leadership.

Like McIlwraith, Macrossan was a fervent federationist and attended the conference called by Sir Henry Parkes in Melbourne in 1890.  He is listed as being in the following photograph of delegates to but I cannot identify him. Sir Henry Parkes, known as the Father of Federation, is the man with the large white beard standing in the middle of the picture.
(Photo: SLSA B22268)

Macrossan was then chosen to accompany Sir Samuel Griffith to the Australian National Convention in Sydney in March 1891. It was at this gathering that Macrossan passed away following an attack of bronchitis.

However, the Macrossan name lived on - two of his sons, Hugh and Neal, became Chief Justices and other descendents have also become prominent lawyers.


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