Monday, February 29, 2016

Richard Randall's Art Studio, Toowong

(Photo: "Lady with umbrella", Richard Randall

Richard Randall, painter, had a short but productive life. Although aged only 36 at the time of his death in 1906 which followed a fall from a horse, the Brisbane-born Randall had produced a large volume of his own work, and as a teacher was instrumental in establishing an art scene in his home town.

Richard Randall was born in South Brisbane in 1869, the son of George Randall who was a well-known and successful businessman. It appears that George was supportive of his son's artistic efforts and was prepared to underwrite Richard's travel and study overseas. George Randall also became an emigration agent for Queensland, and his extensive contact list was also beneficial to Robert who was able to paint portraits of many distinguished people.

Richard Randall returned to Brisbane from working in England in 1899, apparently at the request of his father who thought that Richard should promote art in the colony. Richard set about establishing a studio in South Brisbane in which he could work and teach. The resultant building was modelled on studios he had seen in England, and it featured large windows and a skylight that were fitted with blinds to control the light.

After Richard's untimely death his father George gathered up as many of his works as he could and donated them in trust to the South Brisbane Council. They were held for a time in the South Brisbane Library and then moved to Brisbane City Hall. They remain at City Hall as part of the Museum of Brisbane.

The studio has had a checkered life. Brisbane's much-awaited Expo required extensive resumption of property in South Brisbane. For a while the studio was threatened too, but it was bought by the Brisbane City Council and thus saved. The upper part of the studio was kept and relocated to Musgrave Park in South Brisbane, but here it was subject to vandalism; so it was moved again, this time to the botanical gardens at Mt Coot-tha where it can be seen today. It is listed on the state heritage register.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Cameron Rocks War Memorial

In an earlier post I mentioned the proposed upgrade to one of Brisbane's busiest roads, Kingsford Smith Drive, hoping that the roadworks would not be too detrimental to the area and to traffic flow.

Here is another reason for the utmost care to be taken - one of Brisbane's war memorials, this one in a stunning riverside setting at Cameron Rocks. Here is a current image.
(Photo: Kgbo via Wikimedia)

The memorial was unveiled on 16 August 1931 by the governor, Sir John Goodwin. It is situated on the riverbank at Albion, sandwiched between the Brisbane River and Kingsford Smith Drive, just downstream from Breakfast Creek. The memorial to WWI vets from the area is used each year for Anzac Day ceremonies.

The web site Monument Australia discloses the  following information about it:
The Hamilton Town Council proposed erecting a memorial at Cameron Rocks as a memorial to the soldiers who left the town to fight in the Great War. The project was started during the war but the Council was prevented by Commonwealth edict from raising money. It remained in abeyance until 1922, when the Mayor Alderman CM Jenkinson received further donations. In 1924, there was enough money to start but not complete the memorial. It was planned to erect a pagoda in the form of a Victoria Cross surmounted by a tower with a four face clock with a water fountain installed in the centre of the pagoda. The memorial was unveiled in its present form by the Governor of Queensland Lieutenant-General Sir John Goodwin on the 16th August 1931.
The Brisbane Courier , 9th January & 10th March 1924, 17th August 1931
Kingsford Smith Drive is to be widened to six traffic lanes plus the addition of walking and bicycle lanes. The extra real estate required will come from using clever engineering over the river together with some resumption of properties. The web pages outlining the work to be done talk about the "rejuvenation" of the Cameron Rocks reserve, including a refurbished memorial. Not a lot of detail.

Let's hope that this piece of history that was such a struggle at inception is not adversely effected by any change.

Click here for a Google Map.


Monday, February 15, 2016

James Trackson and Brisbane's first motor car

Does your daily commute look like this? If it does, I'll bet that you wish you could go back to a time when Brisbane's traffic was a lot lighter.

Would you go this far back? Here is Brisbane's first motor car, photographed in Elizabeth St in 1902.
(Photo: SLQ 257640)

While the city would be empty of cars, the early motorist would have had to contend with unpredictable horses, poor roads and a lack of auto mechanics. From a driver's perspective this early vehicle had wheels that would not be out of place on a bicycle and a tiller for steering. I doubt that it was safe or comfortable.

The car in this photograph was known as a Locomobile and was actually steam-powered. It is being driven by Mr James Trackson and his wife is the passenger. To say that Trackson was an enthusiast would be no exaggeration - he was also the first in Brisbane to own an internal combustion car; and in 1905 he was one of the founders of the RACQ, Queensland's motoring body.

Trackson built his own motor car which was dubbed "The Trackson". It was based on a two-cylinder De Dion-Bouton car imported from France in 1900, powered by a 5 hp petrol engine and had a reported top speed of 25 km/h.

James Trackson came to Australia from Norwich in England and he was a qualified electrical engineer. He was associated with erecting the first phone exchange in Melbourne and at Ballarat, and also helped lay the Melbourne cable tramways. He came to Queensland in 1895, and after erecting the first telephone exchange in Queensland he established an engineering firm, Trackson Bros.

James Trackson lived at Newmarket at a property called Sedgley Grange, photographed below. 
(Photo: SLQ 121716)

The house was demolished in 1991 and the property is now called Sedgley Park, administered by Brisbane City Council. It is the site of the well-known Newmarket Olympic Pool.

Click here for a Google Map. 


Monday, February 8, 2016

Goldsworthy & Perkins Boot Factory, Newstead

It seems that we have just about killed off manufacturing industries in Australia. The remaining local auto manufacturers - Holden, Ford and Toyota - will all be gone by the end of 2017. Jobs in the manufacturing sector will be as scarce as hens' teeth then, given that only 10% of current Aussie jobs are employed in manufacturing, down from 25% in the 1960s.

The reasons are varied, and the significance of each individual factor will depend on your political viewpoint as much as anything else. Space here is too limited to discuss this subject at any length, but I did want to mention it with respect to today's topic which is shoes.

Pictured here is a purpose-built shoe and boot manufacturing factory in the suburb of Newstead. It started life in 1889 as the Goldsworthy & Perkins Boot Factory and was subsequently known as the Federal Boot Factory and the Australian Boot Factory. The building maintained its connection to the leather manufacturing industry until it was sold in 1981. It still stands and it is included in the Brisbane City Council heritage list, although apparently vacant at the moment.

(Photo: © 2016 the foto fanatic)

And this photo shows the working conditions in a similar Brisbane factory, Astill & Freeman at South Brisbane, in the year 1900.
(Photo: SLQ 108318)

In 1900 there were about 1400 people employed by boot and shoe manufacturers in Brisbane. As well as Goldsworthy & Perkins, other notable firms were Hunter's, Dixon's and Lawrence's - they all had large premises and employed hundreds of staff.

Goldsworthy & Perkins were well-regarded by the local population. Here is an extract from The Queenslander, 28 July 1900: 
"... Messrs. Goldsworthy and Perkins, the well-known manufacturers at Newstead, Fortitude Valley, enjoy a high reputation, and deservedly so, their special lines of goods being fit for any showcase in the Australian colonies. The machinery used by this firm comprise all the latest novelties of American Ingenuity, which turn out boots either machine-sewn or "fair stitched," the latter  process showing a prettily-finished "stitch welt," equal in appearance to the best hand-made article, the difference in which no person short of an expert would be in a position to detect."
The introduction of mechanisation was a boon for the factory owners but problematic for staff. In those days it was common for female workers to do the finishing jobs that were largely done by hand while the machinery was usually operated by men. The boot making industry employed large numbers of female workers and they were significantly disadvantaged by increasing mechanisation. Added to this mix, the government introduced a tariff on imported footware, thereby creating a larger market for locally made shoes and boots. The increased demand had to be met somehow, and factory owners started to move towards payment by piece - they thought that full-time employment and payment of an hourly or weekly wage did not provide sufficient incentive for workers to increase production. On the other hand, employees wanted security of employment in a factory rather than irregular off-site piece labour, and the impasse was the cause of strikes within the industry in 1899-1900.

Click here for a Google Map.


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