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Early Settler Recollections of Bygone Brisbane

A Noted Toy Shop Albert Street to Edward Street Edward Street to Creek Street Creek Street to Wharf Street Spring Hill Destructive Fire Famous Ginger Beer The "Courier" Valued

George Street to Albert Street

About 50 years ago, the corner of William Street was occupied by the Registrar General’s Office, which at that time was a long one story building. The Master of Titles was Henry Scott, who lived on the Shafston Estate, Kangaroo Point; Seth Paterson was his deputy.

The William street wing housed the Government Lithographic Office, under the charge of C. J. Ham, with Mr. Eaton as his assistant. Many a time (when on an errand to the Audit Office), I stood for a few minutes watching with much interest the printing of the old (full face) Queensland stamps from the steel plates that were engraved by Perkins Bedon and Co., London.

These beautiful productions were replaced about 1879 by a second issue (small head) a very commonplace design, produced in the colony. On the northern corner of George Street stood the Bank of New South Wales (Mr. Archer, manager) an old fashioned building with a veranda, and a garden that extended some distance down Queen Street, with banana trees visible above the fence, and sometimes fruit of the same hanging over the footpath.

The Trustee’s Building is now on the site of the garden. Speaking of that bank reminds me of an incident in connection therewith that took place about the year 1877. The staff were working back one night, and shortly after a large roll of notes was missing.

The usual search was made, but no trace of them could be found until some months later, when one of the clerks marched into the Union Bank at the corner of Creek Street to open an account with a bundle of notes. The teller noticed that these had an earthy odour, and becoming suspicious, he had the prospective customer interviewed, with the result that the clerk “made a full” confession, saying he had buried them by the garden. The culprit , who was 27 years of age, was committed to trial, proved guilty, and sentenced to 10 years at St. Helena.

Next to the Bank came the “Telegraph” Newspaper office, then Sewell (optician), who, I believe, was instrumental in starting English Good Templar Lodges in Brisbane. Chas. Morell (watchmaker), had a shop here.

Then in more or less regular succession were E and J Young (grocers), Voges’ European Hotel, Clarke (pastry cook), Travers and Schaffer (cabinetmakers), J. F. Hinton (fruiterer), James Farry, boot maker, and a couple of shops used as a store by G. B. Molle. Geo. Camm’s well-known lolly shop followed, next to which was Nathaniel Lade (saddler).

The latter employed several apprentices, among whom were George Madgwick, who now has a place of business on the Fairy Meadows road, Woollongong, and W. Jackson, who has a saddler’s shop at Stanthorpe.

Watson and Co (booksellers, late W. Gowans), came next to Lade’s. Mr. Gowans was buried in the old graveyard behind the gaol, as we used to call that part of Brisbane, and his tombstone may still be seen alongside the Mortuary Chapel (now Christ Church) at Milton. When visiting the old burial ground a few years ago, I was struck with a peculiar epitaph on an old headstone, which possibly may be on interest to many of the “Courier” readers. It read as follows:

“Life is a city with many crooked streets,

Death is a market place where all the people meet,

If life were merchandise, that money could buy;

All the rich would live, and all the poor would die.”

A Noted Toy Shop

Kosvitz, the jeweller, was next door to Watson’s, then Lenneberg’s Café de Paris. The “Civet Cat”, a noted toy shop, faced the archway of the old Supreme Court (by the way, there seems to be no toy shops now, these and many other specialties have practically disappeared, the large departmental stores have gobbled them up). W. Munro Smith, the bookseller, came next; Miss Femister’s fancy work repository occupying one side of his shop.

I fancy she was a sister of Mrs. Smith, and they all came to the colony before Separation, being mentioned in the jubilee issue of the “Queenslander,” as among the “Fifty Niners.” Charles Street (draper) had their window frontages next. He had several daughters, who were fine, stylish-looking girls, and, as I still remember, were objects of my boyish admiration. There were others of the same surname in Brisbane at the time, though not related to each other. One family lived near Harris Terrace in George Street, and another (feather-dyers) near Pettigrew’s, in William Street.

Street, draper, lived on the North Quay not far from the bridge, and close to the residence of Mr. Kingsmill Shaw, a business man who was drowned near Dalby, and whose young widow of about 26, with her four children, returned to Sydney (her native town), and took up her old profession of teaching music and singing.

I frequently saw her on the Mosman ferry about 9 in the morning on her way to her rooms in the city. She eventually went to live with her daughter (Mme. Carrara) at Milan, Italy, and died there nearly two years ago, at 70 years of age.

She had an individuality all her own, and I easily recognised her, though I had not seen her for more than 40 years. Her husband was superintendent of All Saints Sunday School for some years prior and until his death, and was a close friend of the Rev. T. Jones, who for so many years was the popular incumbent of All Saints’ Church, Wickham Terrace, the present building and the one it replaced.

Emil Gaujard (afterwards Gaujard and Elsen) who, as was then the custom, advertised his tobacconist shop by a little statue standing on the kerbstone, was next, and like his neighbour, Street, was reputed to be of French nationality. I am afraid I have been “meandering” from Queen Street, but as one in memory takes a stroll and becomes reminiscent, it is surprising the number of old faces that reappear to divert us from our theme.

Near Gaujard’s was a chemist shop kept by Charles Davies, a quiet mannered benevolent gentleman whose life gave him his looks, for he was the essence of kindness, and many a poor woman unable to pay for a doctor lived to bless him for his gratuitous advice and medicine when the baby was sick. This was only one of many ways in which he displayed his generosity. The kind hearted chemist has gone to his reward these many years.

Hockings and Son (seeds men) were on the corner of Albert Street, their nursery being at the West End, but I expect it is now covered with cottage homes.

Albert Street to Edward Street

Opposite Hockings was a draper’s shop (R. F. Edward’s Glasgow House) and next door, D. P. Milne’s Glasgow Boot Mart. The Grotto, another well-known toy shop, was here, then a lane leading to the rear of St. Patrick’s Tavern.

The latter was a low one storey structure built of red brick, with an extensive frontage to the main street, and was one of the old fashioned buildings standing a little way back from the footpath alignment, with a front veranda the whole length of the building (tradition says it was the first place of business erected in Queen Street).

Next door was Paddy Mayne’s butchery afterwards pulled down to make way for the British Empire Hotel, under host Armstrong, formerly lessee of the ferry to the south side.

The north side ferry house was next to J. and G. Harris’ stores, at the rear of the Immigration Depot. A few doors lower down was Dickson and Duncan’s auction mart. Murray, the cabinetmaker, Brabant and Co (merchants), J. and J. Burns (grocers), John Forsyth (draper) and Lot Randle’s bookshop. The Oxford Hotel, occupied a little later by T. C. Moxley, stood in this locality, near which was a jeweller’s shop, conducted by Mrs. Terry.

Perry Bros, ironmongers, had their original shop in the block, also W. Potts (tailor) Jesse Sawyer (tobacconist) and W. Hughes (formerly McKinlay Bros), tea and coffee merchants. The latter afterwards moved to Sydney and conducted a similar shop in William Street, Woolloomooloo.

Upstairs, near Forsyth’s, John Watson had a photographic studio (afterwards Metcalfe and Glaister).. He bought William Gowan’s bookselling business on the death of the latter. Mr. Watson lived over the water, and I fancy, had no children, but his aged mother stayed with them.

I can remember him say that he longed to revisit the Old Country, but would not leave while his mother was living. In the course of time, she passed away, so the long looked for trip was planned, and the passage booked for himself and his wife by the ill-fated Quetta. They went “home,” but not to the Old Country, and will be seen no more until the sea gives up its dead.

Upstairs from Potts, the tailor, was S. Duesbury’s photographic parlour; and let me say just here, that having your “likeness” taken was anything but pleasant operation in those days. The process took several minutes, during which (to ensure perfect stillness) the head was held in a metal grip placed at the back of the chair. The elevation of the machine was regulated by telescopic action, and the grip itself by means of a screw process to keep the head in the desired position, which it easily did.

As soon as the cap was removed from the muzzle of the camera, a hanging screen at the back of the “patient” was kept in motion until the picture was taken. There was no dry plate system nor gaslight printing in those days, the plates had to be prepared by the wet process and all printings were by sunlight, so that if the day was cloudy, printing was postponed; but Brisbane suffered very little from that trouble unless during what we called the “wet season,” when it would have rained for weeks at a stretch.

There was not much choice in the size or style of the photographs, the variety consisting of carte-de-visite (small size) and cabinet (large size). The former cost 7 / 6d per dozen, or, if hand coloured, 12 /6d, the latter being fairly common. Every household had its photographic album, which was invariably a wedding present, and had spaced for the small size chiefly, with a few for the cabinet size.

Mr. Duesbury had a branch studio round the corner in Edward Street under the charge of his son, Horace, who did the hand colouring for both places. Horace was rather clever at oil painting but found limited scope for his hobby in the small population of Brisbane, so migrated to America, where he eventually died.

The old man did pretty well at his profession, and in after years he and his good wife returned to England to the place they came from to end their days in a well earned rest, but for the climate and other reasons. They returned to Queensland, where Mr. Duesbury died some years ago. All his children did well, and a younger son (Frank) became a clergyman. Some months ago, I read of his passing away in a private hospital at Woollahra (Sydney).

Speaking of climate reminds me of a story I heard many years ago about George Case, who, with his wife, toured the colonies away back in the 1860s. He was a professional player on the English concertina (having compiled a tutor for that instrument) and their entertainments were much appreciated.

While in Brisbane, he bought a home near Breakfast Creek, and, said that of all the places he had visited, there was no climate to compare with Brisbane, so they decided when their then (and final) tour was ended they would return to Brisbane for the remainder of their days. They were just about finishing up in Canada when Mrs. Case died, so his plans were upset, and he did not return.

Next to Hughes the grocer, was Arthur Martin’s auction mart. When quite a small boy auction rooms (during a sale) always fascinated me. Many an idle hour I spent listening to their persuasive eloquence, and of auctioneers, Arthur Martin was the “king.”

Edward Street to Creek Street

Across Edward Street the one storied buildings known as “Refuge Row” took up several fronts. They were so named from the fact of being the refuge of several business people after one of the big fires up Queen Street during the middle 1860s. Matthew Walmsley had a fruit shop on the corner, Abraham’s store was next, then Jimmy Ah Ming, who hanged himself from one of the rafters. Adam Young had a fruit shop in the “Row.”

Mr. Walmsley was associated with the little church in Ann Street, near Creek Street, and after he had to move when the “Row” was demolished to make way for the A.M.P. building about 1880, he went to Sydney. I stayed with the family in Darlington shortly afterwards, and we often talked about bygone times in Brisbane.

On one occasion I mentioned that I had often seen pineapples sold for 6d a dozen in his shop, and Mrs. Walmsley replied that they were frequently as low as 4d a dozen, and it was no uncommon sight, when a shipload of immigrants arrived to see “new chums” walking down Queen Street eating the fruit.

However, to get back to Queen Street, and “Refuge Row,” Baynes the butcher (afterwards the Co-operative) was next door, and following on, were Milne and Rorke (cabinetmakers), who a little later dissolved partnership, each opening on his own account in different localities.

Then came Phillips and Woodcock (tailors). Mr. Phillips was a leading member of old St. John’s Church (Rev. J Sutton), while good Tom Woodcock had a class in All Saint’s Sunday School on Wickham Terrace.

Along towards Creek Street was a stretch of vacant land, with the old convict built police lock-up standing back some distance from the footpath, and about 30 feet higher that the Queen Street level. It was at this point that the arch was built across the street to welcome the Duke of Edinburgh when he visited Brisbane in 1868 on the Galatea, and at each end of the arch stood a black fellow flourishing a boomerang.

Children from the various city schools sat on elevated tiers of forms, and sang the National Anthem as the Duke passed under the arch. Shortly before this time the fire bell tower stood in front of the lock-up.

Izatt and Mitchell’s sewing machine shop came next, then Francis Beattie, the hatter, who performed many years of meritorious service as Superintendent of the Brisbane Volunteer Fire Brigade (a younger brother Dick, died, in Sydney last August). There was a drum and fife band attached to the Fire Brigade at this time, and the instructor was Professor Seal. Albert Lomer (photographer) was near by also Knight (picture framer), and there was an hotel at the corner of Creek Street kept by a Mr Whitty.

Creek Street to Wharf Street

The two storey Commercial Bank of Pyrmont stone, occupied its present site, then a lot of vacant land with a drainage area in it. Butler Bros and S. Hoffnung’s warehouse were the only other places till W. Berkeley’s chemist shop was reached (afterwards Berkeley and Taylor). Mr. Berkeley’s assistants were rather fond of practical jokes, and when quite a lad, I remember being sent there for a prescription to be made up.

While waiting for it, one of the young fellows came round with a bottle of something and asked me to smell it. I fancied I could detect an unpleasant odour, so I refused to inhale it, but was urged to take a long “sniff,” with the assurance that it was all right. When I awoke I was lying on a couch in a back room with several persons standing by.

Evidently I had followed his advice and taken a long “sniff.” Very soon I was fit to go, and they bribed me to silence, with a packet full of extra strong peppermints. I felt a bit “groggy,” for a while, but was perfectly right by the time I reached home, and the subject was never referred to until I reached manhood.

However, I have never eaten peppermints since without fancying that they have an ammonia flavour. The perpetrator of the “joke” later had a shop of his own on the south side, but, like poor Uncle Ned in the old Christy Minstrel song, “he is dead and gone long ago.”

Spring Hill

When revisiting Brisbane after an absence of 20 years, I noticed that Spring Hill seemed to have altered less than any other part of the city, and subsequent visits deepened that impression.

Looking back over a period of 50 years, Parish’s Hotel at the top of Leichhardt Street was considered the principal landmark on the hill. When I saw it in 1910, I was surprised that the name, familiar for so many years had gone, and that it was called “The City View.”

Opposite Parish’s lived Mr. D.’ Arcy. Then came a boot maker’s shop kept by Sam and Johnny Mills, well-known and respected residents of the Hill. Sam was tall and thin, with a billy goat beard. Johnny was the reverse, being more of a Falstaffian build.

There were four brothers, all big men; one (Bob) was a compositor and superintendent of the Milton Sunday School. I have forgotten the name of the fourth. Their aged father lived with the boot makers in a cottage adjoining the shop and when he died the four sons carried him to his grave.

The young fellows of the district patronized that shop, and would often spend an hour or two chatting with Sam or Johnny as they “pegged away.” Johnny especially was an intellectual and well read man.

Further along stood the new Primitive Methodist Church, on the site of Grant’s furniture shop. All the rest was vacant land as far as Fortescue Street and right through to Boundary Street.

On the right hand side of the way were residences between the hotel and Birley Street, and then nothing more to Upper Edward (now Berry) street.

Destructive Fire

Some years before, Snell’s Bakery and a few cottages stood there, but about 1865, all these were burned down by a fire that originated at Snell’s, and the charred stumps remained for about 10 years. This was Spring Hill’s most destructive fire.

Speaking of Birley Street reminds me that at the foot of it- before the street was cut through the paddock to them (Gregory) Terrace- lived a Mr. Edmund Morris Lockyer, a Customs Officer.

In 1872 the barque Tyra arrived from the islands with a shipment of “boys.” The vessel had very bad weather coming across, and for some reason was taken over by the authorities, none of the cargo being allowed to be removed from the vessel.

Mr. Lockyer was taking his turn as guard one night, and being lonely his wife accompanied him. They sat in a cabin on deck. He had to go round on a tour of inspection at regular intervals. As he seemed to be much longer than usual on one of these tours, his wife grew anxious and left the cabin to find out the reason. The night was dark and the deck indifferently lighted.

Hearing a moan, she made for the direction of the sound, and in doing so, fell down a hatchway, the cover of which had been left off. It was down this hatch that her husband had fallen, and she fell on him. The result of this accident was that Mr. Lockyer received serious internal injuries from which he died about a week later.

On the north east corner of Fortescue Street was R. Bell’s shop, where one bought stationery, and valentines as well as smoking requisites. Mr. Bell arrived in the Colony before Separation, and his name and photo appeared in the Jubilee “Queenslander” as one of the “fifty-niners.”

Famous Ginger Beer

The short block between Bell’s and Little Edward Street was taken up with a few cottages, and business places, the latter comprising Hugall’s Bakery and that of W. Goeldner, cabinetmaker, except for Charley O’Brien’s Hotel on the corner.

The next corner was vacant land until Larry Cusack built his big store on it. Next came Bob Milne’s draper’s shop, and Mrs. Brown’s grocery, famous for its penny bottles of ginger beer, a luxury much appreciated during the summer months by children with limited pocket money. Hill, the boot maker, came next, then vacant land on the corner of Hope Street.

Returning to the other side, and continuing from Berry Street (named after the Berry family, who owned the largest residence, “Richmond Cottage,” in the street), Captain Burn’s house was on the corner, and Paddy Walsh, cabman, was next. Monteith, the builder, had a place on the first corner of Edward Street, where a fruit shop had been for many years, and on the eastern corner was Rheinold’s, well-known fruit and vegetable mart, at the back of which was an orchard, now built on, among the products of which was a delicious peach known as “China flats.” They are rarely met with now, and I do not remember ever noticing them in Sydney shops.

Close on the same side of Leichhardt Street was Fisher’s night school, which the writer attended for many months when a small boy. I remember no more of the places until Wharf Street, on the corner of which stood Brodies’ Royal Oak Hotel. This was a two storied building with attic windows. And now, going back to Hope Street, we find the Sir John Young Hotel on the eastern corner, but like its fellow at the top of the street, it has had its name changed.

The “Courier” Valued

Next to the hotel was the produce store of J. J. Lovekin, who was Spring Hill agent for the “Courier,” and “Queenslander,” the former being a four page paper except on Saturdays, when it was double the size and sold at 4d a copy. As the price limited its sale, it was commonly lent out at 1d an hour to residents in the neighbourhood. The “Queenslander” was a 12 page broad sheet at 6d, and the heading was in Old English type, like the “Courier” of today.

When the “Queenslander” was converted into a folio- slightly narrower than its present shape- it had a pictorial heading illustrating the industries of the colony, and was machine stitched along the back. I have vivid recollections of seeing the girls running them off and clipping them apart. This was at the old office at the corner of George and Charlotte Streets, and the building was still there when I visited Brisbane a few years ago. One of the early Christmas numbers of the improved “Queenslander” contained the first publication of Brunton Stephen’s clever poem, “Marsupial Bill.”

About this time, a row two storied shops was built just beyond Lovekin’s and they were let to Cusack, grocer, J. Grant, furniture dealer, Hughie Carbery, grocer, and J. Wilmington, baker, the latter being on the corner of a lane leading to Miss Wilson’s Girls School. The lane is still there, but the old red-brick school house has gone, by being razed to the ground about 20 years ago.

- H.A.P