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Victor Drury - A Stroll Around Brisbane

Early in the 1870s, the house at the then end of Boundary Street was occupied by Mr. D. F. Longland and his neighbour Albert Victor Drury, (Bio) two well-known old Brisbane families.

Close to Mr. Drury’s residence was a stone wall, erected by the late W. Arthur Martin, then an auctioneer. He planned to build a residence there, but this was not proceeded with, and later on the property was acquired by the late Mr. J. W. Sutton, a well-known engineer, who had a ship-building yard on Kangaroo Point, adjoining Burley Bros.’ Sawmill.

There was only a track to the end of Boundary Street, and on one side with the river frontage was the Brisbane Gas Works. Where Adelaide Street extends to Boundary Street, there were turnstiles and only pedestrians could use the “short-cut” into Queen Street.

Opposite the Boundary Street turnstile was the home and workshop of Mr. Stephen Rogers – carpenter- and above his place the house occupied by Mr. George Spencer, who was employed by Messrs. Bright Bros., afterwards Gibbs, Bright, and Co.

The Gas Company had a small wharf where coal punts discharged their cargoes. From the Gas Company’s property to the foot of Queen Street, was a green slope, no wharf. Mr. Francis Beattie, a former member for Fortitude Valley, had a small wharf the downstream side of the Kangaroo Point ferry.

There was no retaining wall at the Bight, and a road ran from the Customs House around the hill, occupied by private residences, towards the valley.

Adelaide Street was not “cut down” for some years and to go to the old Normal School, we walked from the Valley over Dr. Hobb’s hill. The doctor had a stone residence, which is still standing, next to the Anglican Cathedral.

At the corner of Wharf and Adelaide Streets, Mr. John Petrie had his monumental works, and carpenters and joinery shops. He was a large builder and contractor and resided in a two story stone house overlooking Queen Street.

On the other corner was a Congregational Church, the Rev. Edward Griffith who resided next to Mr. Petrie was the Minister, and the father of the late Sir Samuel Walker Griffith. The Bank of Australasia occupied their present position and had a garden extending up Wharf Street to the Baptist Church, on the site where Mr. R. W. Thurlow and Co. are at present.

As years went on, Messrs Howard Smith and Company wharves were erected between the Kangaroo Point ferry and the Gas Works, and that necessitated the building of the stone retaining wall running along the bight.

As Brisbane progressed, wharves increased and a wharf at the foot of Boundary Street was built by the late Mr. John Watson, contractor, a former member for Fortitude Valley.

Those wharves spoilt the locality for private residences, and the Longland family moved to Stratton on the Bulimba Road, and the Drurys to Bowen Terrace, New Farm. There was no road leading from Boundary Street to Bowen Terrace, only a “goat” track running in front of All Hallows Convent. The present large All Hallows School was then built, with the Sisters of All Hallows occupying the old stone building still in existence behind the present school.

The Convent “field” ran down to Brunswick Street. The house opposite the Convent was occupied by the late Michael Quinlan, head of the firm Quinlan, Gray and Co., whose business premises were at the bottom of Queen street. There was no proper road connecting this part of Brisbane to Bowen terrace. The road went by way of Ann and Brunswick Streets.

The house adjoining Mr. Quinlan’s belonged to James Lang, painter and decorator.

At the top of Bowen terrace, a house, Ormistone, occupied by Mr. Munce, was longstanding with glorious views of the river and far off hills. Opposite, on the other side of the road, were the homes of the late Graham Lloyd Hart, solicitor, and the Hon. E. B. Forrest.

After the wharf at the foot of Boundary Street was completed, Captain William Collin, who had purchased the Longland property, (then occupied by the O’Flynn family), erected a wharf which extended downstream, and now we have wharves to the old Barker’s quarries.

Mr. John Petrie was the first Mayor of Brisbane, and had a very extensive business. At his home, he had a very old cockatoo. The Kangaroo Point ferry – one rowing boat- used to ply all through the night, and if a passenger came down the steps, and found the boat on the other side of the river, he called “Over!” The ferryman then came over.

This cockatoo much to the annoyance of the old ferryman, at night time, sometimes would take it into his head to cry “Over!” and the boat would be rowed over to find no-one on the ferry steps. The Brisbane Gas Company moved to Newstead and their former property at the Bight is now all built over and large warehouses erected thereon.

Before the wharves were built above the old Gas Works, Charle le Brocq had his swimming baths known as the Metropolitan swimming baths, a large floating wooden building with a swimming area about 180 feet by 50 feet, with open batten floor, and sides through which the tide flowed- around the swimming pool was erected cubicles where patrons undressed.

The baths were moored to the shore with stout cables and a pontoon bridge which rose and fell with the tide, connected thebaths with the shore. When Howard Smith’s wharf was commenced, the baths were moved to the foot of Boundary Street, later to be again moved to the foot of Alice Street, near the Botanical Gardens.

Many old boating men will remember Rob Smith, the boatman, who had boats (sailing and rowing) for hire, and whose slip was at the foot of Boundary Street. Amongst his fleet were the Mist, Leisure Hour, Bully Frog, Blue Jacket and several rowing skiffs.

Several business men regularly hired skiffs from Old Bob and had an hour’s rowing exercise. It was Old Bob Smith who carried Alexy Drury up to his home after he had been fatally injured by a shark when bathing with schoolmates in the river, where many school boys went in daily for a swim.

We took a great interest in the shipping and generally went on board the sailing ships and barques that were towed up the Brisbane River. Captain Davies commanded the tug Francis Cadell, and afterwards the tug, Boko. Both belonged to Messrs. Gibbs, Bright, and Co. Messrs. Webster Bros., general merchants of Mary Street, brought out the tug, Otter, shortly afterward acquired by the Queensland Government during the Russian scare in 1884.

The old stern wheeler Settler was in charge of Captain Mellor. This old river boat was very popular for day excursions, and was always chartered by the Congregational Church for their annual Sunday School treat. The two Government steamers were the Kate and the Leura.

Large vessels anchored in Moreton Bay and their cargoes were lightered into barges towed up and down the river. The names of some of the sailing vessels of those days were Windsor Castle, Corinth, Decapolis, Gauntlette, and Spirit of the South.

The Ipswich and Emu were favourite river steamers which, with the Settler, traded by Ipswich and Brisbane. Captain G. P. Heath, who lived at Norman Creek, was port master, and Captain Wyvorne harbour-master.

The first British-India Company’s mail boat to moor alongside a Brisbane wharf was the Jumna, after which many came up the river. The name of an old Brisbane Grammar School boy, E. A. Cullen, will always be associated with the port of Brisbane. The first dredge I remember was the Groper, others followed, including the historical Linden bates dredges, with their huge pumping apparatus and machinery.

The Brisbane regattas took place in the Victoria Bridge and Milton reaches of the river, and one year, the Groper was the flagship. The regattas were always held on December 10, known as Separation Day- the date Queensland became a separate colony from New South Wales, in 1859.

Kangaroo Point has greatly altered now, through the work of building the Story Bridge, but in the early days it was a very busy part of Brisbane. I have already referred to Messrs. Burley Bros., right on the point. Their huge logs came down the Brisbane River chained together, and towed by a small river tug. Mr. J. W. Sutton built several steamers and other craft at his works on the point.

Most of the land occupied in those days there, has all gone now.

During the 1893 flood, that was washed away, and since then the Harbors and Rivers Department have cut away a great deal under their Flood Preventions Scheme. At Kangaroo Point, our boat builders carried on their trade – boating men will remember Messrs. Harry McCleer, E. Nimmo, and J. Edwards, all between the Edward Street and Kangaroo Point ferries. Peter Woods was an apprentice at Harry McCleer’s yard.

The old stone Supreme Court House, which was presided over by Mr. Justice Lutwyche, and later by Chief Justice Sir James Cockle, was still in use when I attended the old Normal School, and through the archway you went to the residence of Mr. L. A. Bernays, who was Clerk of Parliaments and who also occupied many other important positions. The house faced Burnet Lane.

Past the Old Supreme Court House, were the Post Office, a small wooden building and the Museum. The Museum was a favourite place for school boys during lunch hour. The cab stand occupied the centre of Queen Street, opposite the then Town Hall. The Government Savings Bank faced Queen Street, near the bridge, and the Real Property Office was at the corner of Queen and George Streets.

Mr. Thomas Gray was the bootmaker on the opposite corner and later his business was carried on by his sons and daughter in George Street, near the corner. Mr. James Martin kept a toy shop called The Civet Cat, and Mr. Myers another toy shop, The Grotto. Mrs. Spillsbury had a sweet shop and Mrs. Beazley a fruit shop and she was noted for her Melton Mowbray pies.

St. John’s Pro-Cathedral was about where the Executive Building, William Street, now stands, and facing William Street nearby were the offices of the Colonial Secretary, and the Electric Telegraph Department. Across the road were the Government stores (still standing), and the Immigration Department.

Many old Queenslanders landed here before the depot was moved to Kangaroo Point. At the end of William Street, Messrs. Pettigrew and Sons had their sawmills, and I well remember a large fire there one Sunday morning. Sir Maurice O’Connell, president of the Legislative Council, lived at Portland Place, opposite the sawmills.

The frontage of Parliament House facing Alice Street was not built in those days. There were fine stables at Parliament House for the use of members, and the groom for many years was John Hayes.

He had a well-known horse called The Badger, which had a very hard mouth and many times bolted with me. He also had a cream pony, with one ear, the other having been injured and amputated. In George Street where the Queensland Club now is, was a vacant allotment where boys played cricket, and Mr. Pring, who lived in Hodgson Terrace, gave his racehorse walking exercise.

Dr. John Kearsey Cannan lived at the other end of Hodgson’s Terrace, at the corner of Margaret and George Streets. On the opposite side of the road was the Belle Vue Hotel, kept by Miss Vix. The Shakespeare Hotel, was where the Hotel Cecil is, and opposite was Harris Terrace, where Dr. K. I. O’Doherty resided for many years.

At the corner of Margaret and George Streets was a Chinaman’s garden. Mr. John McLennon and W. Duncan had the livery stables in Elizabeth Street, next to the Sovereign Hotel, kept by Mick Daly. Mick Daly used to provide the champagne luncheons which always preceded the land sales on Saturday afternoons.

Properties were cut up into 16 perch allotments, and sold on terms. The first estate was the Rosalie Estate, near Milton. The property belonged to the Hon. J. F. McDougall, M.L.C., of Rosalie Station, Darling Downs. During the land boom, large areas were cut up and sold on Saturday afternoons.

The auctioneers of the day were Messrs. Arthur Martin, James Robert Dickson, who was Queensland’s first Federal Minister, John William Todd, Simon Fraser, John Cameron, who for years had his mart in the Town Hall Building, later on Mr. M. B. Gannon joined Arthur Martin and won the Bulimba seat.

Butchers carried on in Queen Street in these days. Mr. J.P. Jost at the corner of the Post Office Lane and Queen Street, and Messrs. Buchanan and Mooney, the Co-operative Butchering Co., next to the old A.M.P. Building. Charles Blanc was also a well known butcher and Mr. White was the pork butcher in Boundary Street.

There were some well-known characters in Queen Street in the early days. Mr. R. Uniacke, commission agent, who always wore a top hat and a morning coat; Same Lesser, with his heavy gold watch chain to be seen outside Australian Chambers next to the Australian Hotel, then kept by Mr. J. A. Phillips. At the Australian, the Queensland Turf Club held their “settling” after a race meeting when cheques for prizes were handed over and champagne flowed. John Lennon was in George Street, and at the corner of George and Adelaide Streets, Mr. Robert Little, Crown Solicitor, resided.

This property was purchased by the Hon. Patrick Perkins, and he built the Imperial Hotel, now called the Hotel Daniell, after the first licencee, the late Charles Daniell. Mr. Robert Adair had the Royal Hotel opposite the Post Office, and Tom Pickett the hotel lower down the street.

There were no trams during these times. The cabs were the landau and pair of horses used by families going to picnics or the balls and parties, the hansom cab, which only held two comfortably, and the jingle. The jingle was a two-wheeled vehicle, three sat in the front seat, and three in the back, back to back.

A thick strap was fixed to the centre of the seat by which passengers in the back seat hauled themselves up. Jingles were very popular, and later were succeeded by Molly Browns. Landau carriages gave place to waggonettes, and now we have no cabs, only taxis.

Looking back to the old cab-horse days, what fun we had going off to the seaside for the day, even if it did take three hours to get there instead of in 30 minutes or less, as nowadays. The cabmen were all proud of their turnouts and people were well catered for when moving about from place to place, with no fear of being stuck up by a blow out or other modern mishaps.