Taringa History Group Meeting Notes 2009 and 2010

The Taringa History Group was formed in 2002, the initial goal to collect and record the essence of village life before it was lost. Since that time the group has held regular meetings and published Memories of Taringa Village in 2006 and more recently contributed to Brisbane Spreads West.

Topics addressed at the group’s meetings are wide raging, from heritage matters and living memory to the presentation of research based on primary material related to Taringa notables and events. This set of Meeting Notes is a summary of the discussions held at the meetings during 2009 and 2010. This is the first of what will be a progressive release of meeting notes up to the present time. There has been some minor reformatting of the original files. An Index is provided.

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Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt Coot-tha

When Barbara Wintringham retired as a volunteer guide after 25 years, she decided to put together a profile of some of the key players in the planning, establishment and development of the gardens at Mt Coot-tha. Together with one time BCC Parks Manager and fellow volunteer Ray Steward, they have prepared  an A5 booklet which combines an outline history together with chapters recognising the significant contribution made by six selected individuals; Clem Jones, Ray, Harold Caulfield, Deanne Millar, Barry Dangerfield and librarian Dawn Conderlag. The Mount Coot-tha site was selected as the preferred site for the new gardens in the late 1960s and officially opened in 1976.


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Voluntary Aid Detachments

Members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment at Kangaroo Point Military Hospital

On 5 December 2017 Red Cross Queensland  launched Maids of All Work a booklet that documents the history of Queensland Voluntary Aid Detachments. VADs, mainly young women (only 5% were men),  volunteered in hospitals across Queensland to do tasks such as cleaning, cooking, washing clothes, dressing injured servicemen, entertaining patients, serving refreshments and fundraising. VADs were formed by both the Red Cross and the Order of St John. The launch was accompanied by the modelling of replica VAD uniforms consisting of dress, apron and veil.

The project is the work of a group of Red Cross archive volunteers who have been researching, creating displays, organising the replica uniforms (60 No) and liaising with branches throughout Queensland to participate in VAD commemorations in 2018. The project has been supported by a grant from the Queensland Government through the Queensland Anzac Centenary programme.

If you have a story of a Red Cross VAD, the team would be interested to hear from you qldarchives@redcross.org.au

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Midnight Sun to Southern Cross – new book by Ruth Bonetti

In her new book Midnight Sun to Southern Cross  Ruth Bonetti tells of her grandfather WA Back’s role in heading Coronation Park Ltd, a syndicate of graziers and businessmen who were active in the residential development of the southern part of today’s St Lucia. In 1921 they acquired 148 acres of land and converted it into 870 lush building blocks, of which the University later resumed 200 blocks.

“From the time I first saw the beautiful hills of St Lucia I knew that one day it would blossom” Mr Back muses. “There were times though, that courage, faith – and a bundle of unwanted land – was all that we had. The subdivision had been carried out on a contour town plan system by two of the best surveyors in the business [McInnis & Manning]. We wanted to make it a model suburb; and even in the early days each sale contract carried certain development clauses. Trees were to be left intact and only houses costing a minimum of £700 were allowed to be built”…

In 1946-47 Coronation Park Ltd wound up voluntarily and the unsold land was divided among the partners. Mr Back, left with a parcel of about 40 blocks agreed to take over the sale of some of the other land of his associates. “In 1948 there were mobs of Kangaroos all over the place, dirt roads, and no worthwhile shopping facilities” he says. (WA Back interview – The Telegraph 25 January, 1948)

Born in 1886 in Finland, then a Grand Duchy under Russia, Wilhelm Anders Back escaped conscription into the Russian army by migrating to the Byron Bay area as a 16-year old. Ruth’s book outlines how he became the quintessential Migrant Made Good, building the Art Deco ‘Big House with a lift in it’ on Hawken Drive, later owned by Michael and Quentin Bryce.

What drove the wheeler-dealer Wilhelm Anders Back, known as WA, to become in his time Australia’s richest Finn? And what stirred his eccentric writerly elder brother Karl Johan, KJ, pacifist and political dissenter whose own story is told in this books predecessor Burn My Letters.

Both books are timely in the centenary year of Finnish Independence as they track the Back brothers’ flight from Russian-occupied Finland to Australia as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth. From frozen Finland to the lush rainforests of northern New South Wales, to the dry and dusty sheep country of western Queensland, the stories follow the highs and lows of their new life. It is an extraordinary tale of success, failure, hard work and dreaming.

Midnight Sun to Southern Cross was launched by Dr Bill Glasson OA in the St Lucia Uniting Church with a recital using the organ Ruth’s grandfather donated.

Copies of the book, $28 each or $50 for both, are available from http://www.ruthbonetti.com/burn-my-letters/

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Brisbane’s Early Roller Skating Rinks

The now sadly empty and deteriorating Inala Sports Centre on Rosemary Street holds a special place in the memories of a couple of generations who swam, skated or just hung out there during the 1960s,70s and 80s. Developed as a speculative venture by the Boss brothers, who built over 1,000 concrete houses in the new satellite town, Jack Boss at the opening in 1959 suggested the cutting edge facility was something of a thankyou and investment in the local community. Skating particularly blossomed and Inala’s skaters competed with the best as the amateur sport developed at state, national and international level.

Inala was not alone, there were a number of contemporaries during this period, but where did people skate before these rinks were built ? Continue reading

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SLHG Research Eleven – St Lucia Pre-School, St Thomas Aquinas School and Riverford

This history of the St Lucia Pre-School outlines some of the challenges associated with establishing and maintaining this community service. Whilst St Lucia specific it is more than likely these were typical of those faced by its contemporaries in other parts of Brisbane. This paper, prepared by former Director Isa Maynard, and based on material unearthed by Marjorie Voss, covers the period from its establishment in 1948 up until 2000. 2018 will mark this local ‘institution’s’ seventieth year of operation.

Recycled military huts also feature in the history of the St Thomas Aquinas Parish, services commencing in a two storey configuration in Eighth Avenue prior to the current church being constructed. The huts also provided accommodation for the St Thomas Aquinas School, an initiative of the Brigidine sisters, which operated from 1953. Former student Liz Little prepared this history following a reunion in 2006, forty years after the school closed its doors.

Check out when the Title for your house lot was first registered and there is a good chance it will be in either the 1880s or the 1920s by which time most of the land in St Lucia had been sub-divided for residential purposes. Both were periods of comparative economic confidence. St Lucia’s third phase of residential sub-division began in the 1970s as houses were demolished and replaced with multiple dwelling strata titled units, and multi-storey apartments. This paper tracks the progressive sub-division for one such tower block, Riverford, which was built on part of what was the first land freeholded in St Lucia, Robert Cribb’s Lang Farm.

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SLHG Research Ten – St Lucia during and after the 1939-45 War and Karl and Gertrude Langer

Once the Australian Defence Force commandeered the substantially completed first phase University  buildings for its Advanced Land Headquarters, the district became a hub of military activity. Residential properties in St Lucia, Taringa and Indooroopilly were requisitioned for officer’s accommodation, and temporary camps to house AWAS, communications and intelligence units spread through Long Pocket and Indooroopilly. Witton Barracks, centred on Tignabruaich and the previously re-located Witton House was used as an interrogation centre for Japanese prisoners of war. St Lucia at War provides a background to this war time activity including personal experiences.

Living in St Lucia Part 2 includes personal recollections of what life was like in the suburb during and after the 1935-45 War. Strongly influenced by the opening of the University for its first civilian use, this paper also examines the provision of public transport including schemes that never came to fruition, the provision of a tram ferry from West End and the extension of the trolley bus network.

In 2004 the late Laurie West gave a presentation to the group outlining some of the achievements of Doctors Karl and Gertrude Langer. The Langers left their native Austria to escape the repressive environment in the years leading up to the 1939-45 War. Initially they lived in Sydney before settling in Brisbane. Laurie was both a friend and client, Karl designing the West family’s new furniture showroom at their premises in Fortitude Valley

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SLHG Research Nine – Portion 9 Parish of Indooroopilly, A Bridge to St Lucia and Parks and Creeks

When offered for sale at the initial government land auction Portion 9, at 40 acres was typical of the Lots offered for sale in the district. It was quickly sub-divided into three, likely to make it more affordable as family farms for the early settlers. This paper tracks subsequent sub-division and the transition from farming to residential use. Three early residents, Frederick Depper, Thomas Augustine Ryan (often referred to as the ‘Father of Anzac Day’) and Robert Lee Bryce are remembered in the naming of local roads and streets.

120 years from when a bridge to West End was first proposed the Eleanor Schonell Bridge was formally opened in December 2006. The initial 1880s concept was a road bridge to service the residential estates being marketed along St Lucia Reach. This was followed by a couple of separate designs which evolved with the planning and to service the relocated University. The St Lucia site selected was considered very remote in the early days. A Bridge to St Lucia details the various schemes that were proposed and the subtle implications for the initial orientation of the main buildings at UQ.

When the developers speculatively sub-divided the land for residential purposes in the 1880s they made provision on plan for streets to connect to identified ‘Government Roads’, however, they were not required to build the roads or provide drainage/water to the housing lots. No provision was made for open space or parks. Road building was left to the newly formed local authority, and local residents, through the St Lucia Progress Association, to campaign for recreation areas and public parkland. Parks and Creeks provides a listing and the background/reason for their naming. SLHG has provided input into BCC’s programme of progressively updating park signage to include relevant history panels

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SLHG Research Eight – Living in St Lucia before WW I, Community Organisations and the Guyatt Family

Living in St Lucia Part 1 draws on individual recollections and broader events to give a flavour of what life was like in our district from the beginnings of European settlement to the start of the 1939-45 War. Somewhat of a backwater before the construction of the University, much of St Lucia remained lightly farmed or bush during this period and the early lifestyle of our long term residents reflects this.

Community Organisations takes this further, providing a background to governance and land tenure, and then a more detailed look at the associations, clubs etc that evolved as the local community developed. And strong community spirit was evident even in the early days as the Indooroopilly Pocket farmers banded together to form the first coherent community to the immediate west of Brisbane. The local Progress Association was notable in lobbying to locate the University in the suburb in addition to promoting the local show, public debate, provision of local parks and services. Their final act was to sell their hall to fund the Ironside School swimming pool.

The Guyatts takes a closer look at one such family, David and Martha Guyatt who arrived in the 1880s and set up what is believed to be our first shop. The Ironside Post Office and Store took its name from the residential estate where it was initially located, and duly passed it on to the State School. David, an elected local government representative, was instrumental in establishing the Method Church on Ryans Road and the whole family active in some way in supporting the Methodist cause. His grandson Leo Guyatt was prominent in amateur dramatics and entertainment, and the emerging Brisbane theatre scene.

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SLHG Research Seven – Industrial and Retail Development, Droughts, Floods, Heritage and Housing and Capemba

Whilst the suburb is probably best known for producing graduates St Lucia has over the years also been home to a number of industries including sugar milling and refining, boat building, fencing manufacture, joinery works and was where the Alvey Reel was refined and produced for 40 years. Industrial and Retail Development provides an outline of these activities together with information on the evolution of local service providers and shopping hubs.

Droughts, Floods, Heritage and Housing looks at the river’s propensity to realign its banks periodically, land values over time, heritage protected buildings, some modern ‘classic’ residences and a few that have been lost over time.

Only a stone’s throw outside the suburb’s boundary, the residence Capemba on Swann Road was designed by Alexander Brown Wilson for Queensland’s colourful meteorologist Clement Wragge. He developed the two acre property into a renowned sub-tropical garden. Having failed to secure the Commonwealth Meteorologist role when this was created following federation, he left for New Zealand selling the house to the up and coming Brisbane tailor and outfitter Thomas James Rothwell. These notes provide a background to the lives of these two men and how the property has fared over time.

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SLHG Research Six – Residential development in St Lucia, Taringa and Indooroopilly, Road, Streets and Local Government

The following papers and notes are part of the ongoing research undertaken by members of the St Lucia History Group. Whilst many are ‘work in progress’ they are being progressively uploaded to provide an on-line resource. Comments, corrections and contributions are welcome.

St Lucia’s original roads were little more than lines on the land surveyor’s plans when the land was sub-divided for sale by government auction in the 1850s. It was initially left to the settlers to clear them and add others. The late 1880s/early 1890s saw additional roads being provided and made trafficable by the local authorities, and the various residential sub-divisions of the era fixing the pattern of streets we have today. History of Roads and Road Names outlines the evolution and naming of our road and street network.

Notwithstanding the flurry of residential sub-division of farming land in the 1880s, the actual building of homes was slow to take off. Residential Development after the 1880s tracks the impact of the economic depression of the 1890s, the cash strapped war years, the more optimistic early 1920s and the development of estates on the ridges south of Carmody Road. Relatively isolated, the early homes were built mainly within walking distance of the railway station at Toowong, or the West End Ferry. Both provided a direct connection with the city. With the opening of the university in 1949 and increasing car ownership St Lucia became a traditional post-war suburb with housing, shops, churches, and an active community.

Early Residential Sub-Divisions Taringa and Indooroopilly is a compilation of copies of the Estate sales lithographs held by the John Oxley Library. Arranged in chronological order (printed and assessed) this collection provides an indication of the pattern of residential development in these suburbs. The extension of the railway from Ipswich through to Brisbane in the mid 1870s was the  key factor in prompting this, a common phenomenon throughout Brisbane as ‘commuter’ suburbs evolved following the new railway tracks.

Representing St Lucia traces the development of the various levels of government from colonial times to the implementation of the Greater Brisbane Scheme in the mid 1920s. It covers representation in Colonial and State Parliaments with a more particular focus on the activity of the Divisional Board era, the extension of local government beyond the boundaries of the early municipalities.


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SLHG Research Five – S&W Railway, Government Services, Residential Sub-Division and the Naming of the Suburb

The following papers and notes are part of the ongoing research undertaken by members of the St Lucia History Group. Whilst many are ‘work in progress’ they are being progressively uploaded to provide an on-line resource. Comments, corrections and contributions are welcome.

Generally referred to as Indooroopilly the St Lucia ‘pocket’ developed as a farming community in the 1860s and 70s. It wasn’t until the 1880s that thoughts turned to its potential as a more closely settled residential area.

Key players were William Dart who built the sugar mill, and William Alexander Wilson a Brisbane grocer/merchant turned developer. Residential Sub-Division in the 1880s outlines the speculative boom of this decade, and The Naming of St Lucia and Ironside how this came about.

Posties, Cops and Ferrymen examines the development of government services in the area and The Southern & Western Railway Brisbane Extension, constructed during the 1870s, the influence on development of adjoining suburbs. Relatively isolated much of St Lucia would have to wait another seventy years before it would experience any significant residential growth.


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Biography of Henry William Mobsby (1860-1933) by Kaye Mobsby

As a resident of Indooroopilly for many years in the early part of the 20th century, Henry Mobsby would have been quite well known within the area due to his community involvement. He emigrated to Australia from England in 1883 and was living in Indooroopilly by the late 1890s, having previously lived in both Taringa and Toowong.

At St. Andrews Church of England he was a member of the choir and parochial council and he designed the sanctuary which Continue reading

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SLHG Research Four – Long Pocket, Education in St Lucia and the Carr Family

The following papers and notes are part of the ongoing research undertaken by members of the St Lucia History Group. Whilst many are ‘work in progress’ they are being progressively uploaded to provide an on-line resource. Comments, corrections and contributions are welcome.

The farming families of St Lucia and Long Pocket formed an isolated community long before there were suburbs west of Brisbane. In the early 1860s they combined to build a school and a chapel, where Ironside School is today, ‘equidistant’ from both communities.  Starting with lessons held by a wife of one of the farmers in the early 1860s. Education in St Lucia tracks the development of today’s Ironside School. It includes chapters on the Thomas Aquinas Catholic Primary School (1950s/60s), the St Lucia Farm School for Boys (1930s), nursery and pre-schools/kindergartens (from 1940s) and the beginning of the Brisbane Independent School. The section on the University of Queensland examines the why, how and when it ended up in St Lucia.

Relatively more isolated Long Pocket survived as a farming area until controversially the State Government compulsorily acquired some of the farms in 1947 for its own purposes, mainly what became the CSIRO Long Pocket Laboratories and the Indooroopilly Science Centre. Further controversy was to follow as BCC then acquired the rest of the Long Pocket farms for a public park, and then in 1962 leased about half of the park to the Indooroopilly Golf Club as an expansion of its nearby St Lucia course. In 1973 they exchanged almost all the remaining park land to the Golf Club in exchange for the existing St Lucia course.

[ Our children (now grandparents) have come to appreciate the importance of knowing their family history. I have undertaken to certify or correct family stories with confirmed evidence. As part of that project I came across Peter Brown’s research paper SLHG 21: Long Pocket. This is of interest as the Mark Blasdalls were my great great great grandfather and great uncle. The details of your study on the settlers were most interesting. I knew the Blasdalls bought and farmed land at Coolum (Qld archives confirm that) but not that they went to Gympie.  The other precise Long Pocket details I appreciate. Lenore F Jan 2019 ]

The notes on the Carr Family, based on discussions with Mrs Enid Carr of Taringa, gathered together a number of local research threads including the compulsory acquisition of the farms at Long Pocket for the proposed park that never eventuated. The surviving remnants of public parkland are the Sir John Chandler Park at the tip of the peninsular and the Thomas Park Bougainvillea Gardens on Hart Road.

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SLHG Research Three – St Lucia Farming Sub-division, the History of Birdlife and the Dart, Watt and Jarrott Families

Over the last fifteen years members of the St Lucia History Group have researched many aspects of the European development of St Lucia. This individual and collaborative effort is recorded in a series of papers and research notes reflecting the particular interests of each of the authors. Most are considered ‘work in progress’.

Over the coming weeks they will be progressively uploaded as an on-line resource. Comments, corrections and contributions are welcome.

The twenty or so farming families that cleared the bush and settled the land in St Lucia were generally not the original purchasers. John Carmody was alone in taking up residence and farming the land he bought at government auction. Farming Sub-division outlines the first 30 years of this activity from self-sufficiency/market gardening to more intensive crops such as cotton and sugar cane including the establishment of Dart’s Mill where the University Boatsheds are today on the St Lucia Reach.

With common interests and many travelling out together on immigrant ships such as the John Fielden the Indooroopilly farmers (contemporary name for St Lucia and Long Pocket) formed themselves into one of the first coherent communities outside of Brisbane. The Dart, Watt and Jarrott families are good examples of how pioneering lives were closely intertwined with their neighbours.

This early clearing and subsequent development has had a significant impact on the natural environment. The History of Birdlife in St Lucia examines the influence of European development on the species and diversity of birdlife it can support.

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