When Woolloongabba was Wattle Scented

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Queenslanders Squeezed Out of South Bank

43,45 and 47 Tribune Street, South Brisbane, now gone.

Walk through a twenty hectare area in in any major city in the world and you’ll likely find some nod or trace to the history of cities built environments, take a walk around South Brisbane and there is nothing that even hints at that sense of history. In recent weeks the last three residential homes north of Vulture Street at South Brisbane were removed completing what has been a thirty year vision to turn one of Brisbane’s most historical suburbs into a contrived parkland sitting on a 20 hectare slab of concrete. Whilst these houses were not the most elaborate of homes they were certainly fine examples of a streetscape that is quickly vanishing in the city of Brisbane.

43, 45 and 47 Tribune Street (left) Collins Place (right) circa 1987

43, 45, and 47 Tribune Street circa 2016

You can now walk the equivalent of four city blocks long and three wide without seeing a single piece of architecture that has been preserved and considerably managed. Collins Place is still with us, albeit raised from its original street presence atop a 4 metre concrete box and re birthed as bar with all the aesthetic quality of an AirBnB overnighter. In place of the houses in Tribune Street we are to get another student accommodation block, a knock em up prefabricated box made to look interesting because its painted lime green of fluorescent pink. 

How does a city just forget about its historical buildings? Was it the fate of the Bellevue Hotel, Cloud Land, Her Majesty’s Theatre. Did the destruction of these three Brisbane landmarks set the bar high, and so scarred the psyche of Brisbane’s populous it has produced a decades long, collective acceptance that if those three buildings couldn’t survive nothing ever will.

 The Bellevue Hotel, George Street, Brisbane.

 Her Majesty's Theatre, Queen Street, Brisbane.

Cloud Land, Bowen Hills, Brisbane.

Sources: Black and White images, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Blessing of Breakfast Creek Holy Triad Temple - 1886 - First-hand Account.

The Temple Trustees(?) and Priest, and temple exterior, 1886.

Its a wonder that one of Brisbane's unique but lesser known historical buildings built in 1886 is with us today. Built with the patronage of one of Brisbane's biggest tea trading merchants, which happened to go broke in the most spectacular of financial collapses of the time, the Joss House was effectively abandoned by the turn of the century, faced demolition by the council for unpaid rates in the 1920's (until someone pointed out that despite the rates bill, it was a blessed house of worship after all) it wasn't until the 1964 that the buildings future was secured when the Qld government passed The Chinese Temple Society Act that was enacted specifically to address the problem that the temple had no legal owner.

Following is a detailed account of the blessing of the temple in January of 1886, published in The Brisbane Courier,  22nd January 1886.


Just about 500 yards in a bee line from the Breakfast Creek Bridge stands a peculiar looking building. It is the new Joss House and for the last three days the fever of anticipation had settled upon the usually cold-blooded Chinese of this city, for the building was approaching completion, and they at last were to have a respectable place wherein to conduct their strange rites and mysterious ceremonies. They would have a place where in the omnipotent Joss could be exhibited in a majestic and befitting manner, before whom his worshippers could grovel to their hearts content, and bow down in idolatrous adoration. The building is a peculiar specimen of architecture. It is about 45ft. in length and 24ft. wide, and the whitewashed brick walls are a little over 20ft. high. The walls are constructed in the plainest English style of architecture, but the roof is essentially Chinese. The building is triple roofed, the front and the back being ordinary gables, but the central one, which is not so high as the others is " hip" shaped with a semi-dome for a summit. On each side this central roof is raised from the top of the walls for about 2ft., thus allowing plenty of ventilation. It is also so constructed that slanting rains cannot enter. The covering of the roof consisted of tiles, with mortar ridge-rolls, coated with some black substance.This ridging greatly enhances the appearance of the roof. The guttering is so arranged by means of pipes that the water flows into four receptacles, two on each wall, and the liquid is discharged through the gaping maws of four hideous earthenware fishes. What gives the exterior of the building its queer and grotesque look is the mass of decorative incongruities which surmount the front and back roofs. Here are to be seen a heterogeneous collection of Chinese figures made of chinaware, cunningly painted. There is not much difference between the groups of gorgeous ornamentation on the two roofs. On the front one are pretty scenes, representing Chinese life in the ancient days. Kings, Emperors, Mandarins, and other courtiers and dignitaries are grouped together in a most picturesque and striking manner. Here a warrior with his circular gold-coloured shield and poised javelin, standing in an attitude of supreme defiance; there a king seated on a throne, with long thin spicular jet beard extending to the waist, his hands held out as if bestowing a benediction; then a pretty little veranda scene, with a lady smiling in a captivating manner, and waving a painted fan to an invisible somebody. Then there is clustered together a multitude of magnificently attired figures, bold and grand looking ;and there are other figures, on the features of which are faithfully depicted Hope, Fear, Despondency, Joy, &c. There are two porcelain female figures, one at each gable end. They are from a Chinese point of view of ravishing beauty, and from a Caucasian point of view it must be admitted that their personal attractions are of a most alluring character. They are seated in a graceful posture, with a gilt flute held between dainty tapering fingers. One is reminded that beauty with dangerous charms exists in China as well as in Australia, and one feels inclined to applaud the subtle strategy of the wily and jealous old monarch, Tsi, who in centuries gone by sent a bevy of beauties trained from infancy in all the seductive arts to overthrow the model court which Confucius had raised in the Kingdom of Loo. At the feet of each lady is a large and horrid fish, with enormous tail and fins, which curl in the air. In the centre of the roof, and between the two fishes, is a low,broad spire, surmounted by a small painted globe. When this grotesque cluster is closely inspected it is found to be more meretricious glitter than anything else. The painting is by no means artistically performed, in fact a near examination shows it to be nothing more than clumsy daubs. These ornamental roofs were imported from the Flowery Land by Quong Nam Tai and Co., and the whole triple roof was erected by Chinese artisans. With all its gorgeousness the roof leaks in several places, and it will certainly go hard with it when anything like a good stiff breeze blows off the Bulimba Reach.

Interior of the temple, 1886.

The interior of the Joss House is like a scene from the "Arabian Nights." The entrance is protected by a small veranda made by the front roof overlapping to the extent of about 4ft. Over the door is hung a fantastic piece of wood-work fancifully carved and painted, with Chinese hieroglyphics engraved upon it. On the wall on each side of the door there are a number of long tablets on which are imprinted more characters, which, if translated, would mean that no one was to enter the portals of the sacred edifice without first having performed a series of ablutions. He must be dressed in his best clothes and must also be clean in flesh and spirit. If he were not so, and he dared to enter, he would draw upon himself the everlasting anger of the almighty Joss. Then the supreme influence, the magnificence and the virtues of Joss are set forth. It is stated how he can pry into man's most secret thoughts, how he knows his every action from his cradle, and likewise what his conduct and bearing will be in the future. The devotee is informed that he must not go into the building unless he is perfectly contrite, and his intentions towards his fellow - men are strictly upright. Joss receives with open arms the good man, but he condemns the wicked to eternal torments. All this and much more is placed on wooden tables at the entrance to the house, so that a man gets a fair warning. Suspended from the veranda are two globe-like lanterns, one on each side of the door, the present of a gentle-manly Celestial of the name of Lum Sing. Entering the door there will be found a curiously-carved wooden case placed on a table against the wall on each side to supply the place of a niche. On the top of each case is a large burnished sun, and the gold-leaf has not been spared in tho adornment of the whole case. The back of the interior of the niches represents a Chinese scene drawn by an artist from China ; that on the right being a bird sitting on a tree growing on a mountain side. The bird is gazing in a fascinated manner at the sun surging through a mass of flaky clouds. The scene on the left is much tho same as the above, only the bird is larger and of more beautiful plumage. On the walls of the house hang red tablets displaying some of the maxims and proverbs of Mencius, Confucius, and other philosophers. Silk curtains with satin embroidery, in the centre of which are worked symbols in black velvet edged with gold, depend from the roof, and some are attached to the walls. Large lamps and lanterns of various shapes and colours also hang from the roof. A huge tongue-less bell hangs by a strong chain on one side of the cross-beam running through the centre of the house ; and on the opposite side a tubular shaped drum, with a glowing sun daubed in the middle of the ox-hide covering, stands on a tall wooden rest. The altar at the end of the house extends the whole width of the building. It consists of three niches, made of frail wood-work, carved into fantastic devices. A large burning sun surmounts the frame of each niche. In the background of the centre niche is represented a fabulous animal, which, from its terrifying aspect, is supposed to considerably affect the erring man for good. The legs are goat-like, the body scaled, and shaped similar to that of a dog, and the head like a dragon's the mouth being open, displaying four terrible fangs and a fiery tongue. With glaring eye-balls that the artist has made to appear ready to burst from their sockets, this hideous-looking beast is gazing intently at the sun surrounded by empurpled clouds. The scenery in the niches on either side of the centre one is very pretty, showing beautiful spreading trees, among the branches of which birds of all sizes and colours are embowered. The altar is simply one glittering mass, in which the variegated butterfly is placed alongside a horrible dragon, the humming bird beside that of Paradise, and the flowing bearded mandarin cheek by jowl with a ferocious warrior. A collection of military weapons of former days, some of which are remarkably like tho halberd wielded by our forefathers, are ranged in racks along the wall in proximity to the altar. These weapons cannot be considered dangerous, they are made of lead.


All Wednesday afternoon the scene at the Joss House and on the ground was a most animated one. In the building almond-eyed Mongols were fixing up the various decorations, or putting a finishing touch here and there. Outside a number of Chinese butchers were slaughtering and cooking pigs and fowls. There were about a dozen pigs slain, and the bodies cooked in a large brick oven erected for the purpose in one corner of the ground.

At 6 o'clock the Chinese struck work for tea,which consisted of boiled rice, strewn with small pieces of pork and fowl ; strong black tea, and the spirit saki, which is dear to the soul of the Celestials. About 7 o'clock, as the full moon crept up in all its splendour from behind the wooded height of Toorak, Ah King, Lum Sing, and Shin Fooie brought forth musical instruments, and formed themselves into a orchestra. A small cask-like drum, a sonorous sounding pan-gong, and a pair of enormous cymbals formed the orchestral instruments. Shin Fooie was deputed leader. First they began by gently tapping and clapping, gradually putting on steam until the noise culminated in one prolonged and deafening crash, a most rude and tormenting din that would have awakened the Seven Sleepers. This kind of thing was kept up for over an hour, during which all the people of the neighbourhood poured into the yard. Soon there were the loafer and larrikin, and "Arry" and " Arriet," arm in arm; there were women with babies in arms, and any number of budding beauties, with springing elastic step; and there was the workman washed and combed down for the night. Curiosity had driven them all out to see the fun that was going on, and they mingled with the Mongolians and sadly plagued the poor wretches by asking questions, and getting them delightfully mixed in their efforts to explain in pigeon English.

About 11 o'clock Chick Tong and other notables arrived. There were two flaring red flags with white mitred borders already flying from two masts on the ground. There was a third mast without a flag, and shortly after Chick Tong arrived he hoisted his own, a splendid flag of real silk, beautifully coloured and worked, and costing nearly £50. The notables did not like to see the large number of white men and women thronging tho Joss House and poking about in an inquisitive manner, and they were glad when several heavy cases were brought into the yard to be able to inform tho whites that they were going to make the final arrangements for the approaching festival and they wanted the building to themselves. The whites had to leave and the doors were closed against them. The doors remained closed for over two hours, and much speculation was rife as to tho nature of the mysterious business that was being conducted within. People idled around, gossiping and yawning, and wishing that 2 o'clock would come, the hour when something very startling, it was said, would occur. But the lamp of night shone down and bathed the surroundings in floods of silvery light ;the air was dry and warm, and on the whole it was a lovely night to be out in, and there was the thirst of curiosity to be satisfied.


Shortly before 1 o'clock our reporter managed, by aid of a couple of Chinese friends, to get into the Joss House. The scene was one of striking and imposing grandeur. The place was ablaze with light, and the altars that glittered in the daylight now fairly dazzled one. Spiral bouquets of artificial flowers made of golden-hue tinsel and innumerable peacocks' feathers of rare beauty had been placed on the altar ; and on these and the mass of gold which had been worked into the altar frame fell the effulgence from thousands of tiny tapers placed in silver urns. The perpetual lamp before the central niche had been lit, and all the lamps, chandeliers, and lanterns which hung around now gleamed and blazed. In each niche of the altar there had been placed an object, which was covered with crimson-coloured paper, and the niches near the door also contained hidden objects. On the tables before these small pyramids of rice were placed, besides plates of uninviting food and infinitesimal cups of tea and saki. In the very centre of the house three cooked pigs, crisp and greasy, rested upon a table, and between these latter and the altar stood another table, the front of which was carved, gilt, and ornamented. On this there were five silver gilt peculiarly-shaped vases filled with sand, in which were place artificial bouquets and feathers. There was also on the table a small square rack, containing twelve prettily painted bannerets, and in the centre there was a short wooden sword in a paper sheath. Near the altar was another and smaller table covered with small cups of spirits and tea, pyramids of rice, roast and boiled fowls, pastry, and numerous other comestibles. This was the banquet for the triune God.


It was about half-past 1, when suddenly there broke upon the still night a thundering feu de joie of crackers and bombs. Outside a cable of crackers interspersed with bombs had been run up to the top of a high pole. It was this rope of fireworks, which was over 30ft in length, that had been fired, and it took seven minutes to explode them. Showers of sparks fell, and clouds of smoke rose and darkened the yard. 

It was evident that the hour was at hand, for the Chinese appeared to be considerably perturbed. At a quarter to 2 o'clock a most unearthly din was heard coming from the yard, and the front-door of the Joss House being thrown wide open a strange procession entered. First came a young Chinese strenuously beating a gong, followed by Chick Tong and George Shue bearing between them a small strip of cloth half rolled up. There was a canopy of the richest material magnificently embroidered and embellished held over their heads, while above that was raised an enormous leaf-shaped fan composed of stuff similar to that in the canopy. Behind the two last mentioned came an old Chinaman with prominent cheek bones, hollow jaws, and lacklustre eyes. This was the priest, and he was attired in a surplice of red flannel relieved by chintz borders, and a rural scene painted on the part covering the small of the back. He wore a black cap, with red border and a golden knob on the crown. In his hand he held a circular plate of iron, which he kept beating with all his might. Following him came the rabble, beating drums and gongs and playing on reed instruments in a most infernal way, while outside there were the crackle and roar of the exploding fireworks. When the procession reached the altar the cloth was unfolded and hung in the centre niche just covering the body of the terrible dragon-headed monster. This was no sooner done than eager hands tore away the crimson paper hiding the objects in the niches, and there were revealed to the gaze several bronze idols. Then one after another the excited Celestials fell upon their knees and bowed their heads three times, touching the floor with the forehead. The priest next took a branch, and,dipping it in a bowl, sprinkled the idols, the altar, and the building around, muttering to himself while doing so. This being done, Way Hop entered with a live cock, and the comb on its head was solemnly bled. Taking a pointed stick the priest set up a low, weird chant or wail, and proceeded to anoint the idols on various parts of the body with the blood of the cock. On beginning this work hundreds and hundreds of tapers were brought and added to those already lighted. Then the awful orchestra set up its ear-splitting noise, which it continued until being signalled to stop by the priest. The old man went round to all the statues, anointing each one, and chanting his mystic wail. When he concluded this task, the Chinese began to genuflect with amazing rapidity, grovelling abjectly and bobbing like marionettes. Bundles of printed gilt paper were burnt, and the house now fairly reeked with the smell of roast pig and the rancid tallow from the candles. It was hot as an oven, full of smoke, and the air was close and stifling. As soon as some of the smoke had cleared away, tho old priest was seen standing before the altar, still chanting, but in a louder voice, while kneeling behind him were Chick Tong, George Shue, Way Hop, Wam Yo, and Tong Wah, the trustees of the house. By anointing the idols with the hot blood taken from the head of the living cock.

The Chinese, believed that life had mysteriously entered the statues. Now the priest was informing the Trinity who the trustees of the  church were, and invoked the god to guard them from all evil. The invocation lasted until 3 o'clock, and it concluded in a decidedly ludicrous manner. In finding out if the Great Spirit had come among them, and whether he intended watching over his people,the priest tossed in the air two pieces of wood,which fell on the floor, and were feverishly scanned by the kneeling trustees. There was a favourable reply from Joss after seven tries,and a cry of thankfulness broke from the motley crowd. After this the trustees bowed to each other with clasped hands, and the singular service terminated.

Feature about the temple published in The Queenslander, 1906.

The Holy Triad Temple, 1987.

 'OPENING OF THE JOSS HOUSE.', The Brisbane Courier, 22 January, 1886.

'Bhudda and Cofuscious in Brisbane' The Queenslander , 4th April, 1903.

Photo Images: 
State Library of Queensland, John Oxley Collection.
Department of Environment and Heritage Queensland

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Wet Spectators and Dodgy Infrastructure...A Queensland Swimming Tradition

The lack of roof at the 2014 Pan Pacific Swimming Championships, held in an unseasonably wet August and reports of poor public amenities and technical issues with displaying results has raised questions as to whether the Southport Aquatic Centre which will be host venue for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games swimming and diving competition is up to muster. In the Australian tradition of "she'll be right mate" it will be compared to Brisbane's hosting of the diving competition of the Australian Swimming Titles for 1949, where the Australia's best divers competed......in a quarry.

In what may seem the craziest idea ever a former quarry, and local waterhole, was proposed as the host venue as Brisbane had no diving towers at any of the few public pools. The Queensland Amateur Swimming Association president Joe Emerson set himself the task of wrestling the Australian Swimming Championships from the southern states whom had hosted the event for the last 20 years. The last time the swimming titles were in held in Brisbane was 1925, the host venue was the niftily converted dry docks at South Brisbane. "Lake Emerson" as it was coined by the press of the day was a former Brisbane City Council quarry was gifted to Morningside State School by the council in 1930. The pool was fed a natural spring and due to the lack of public swimming facilities on the south side of Brisbane became an unofficial public pool.

The South Brisbane dry dock was the venue for an Australian amateur swimming championship in 1925.

As expected all hell broke loose. Boycotts were threatened by the Southern states, the venue called unsuitable as it was too deep, full of fish, a former dumping ground for World War Two supplies and munitions (one urban myth had the quarry full of surplus war jeeps from a US military post that was located on Richmond Road). The final decision went to a postal vote of the Australian SwimmingUnion and Brisbane prevailed, the Brisbane Council kicked in 150 pounds with an indemnity noticed attached to build a dive tower ('take that' 30 million dollars to roof the Southport Aquatic Centre); judges would be moored in boats on the water and spectators were dammed to stand around the quarry edge, rain, hail or sunshine.

The dive tower, in all it's scaffold glory.

On Saturday February 28th, 1949 the Australian Swimming Titles dive competition commenced and of course.....it rained. No matter, The Sunday Mail reported a crowd in excess of 5000 people bused, drove, trained and walked to the event despite the wet conditions. There were a number of incidents throughout the day, officials were forced to shout when the public address system failed, a competitor nearly crash dived into a boat of water-born judges, a young boy spectator slid down the steep embankment into the water and a female competitor reported being nibbled by fish.

Spectators take whatever vantage point they could, bare foot and umbrellas on hand.

Excerpt form Sunday Mail, Sunday 27 February 1949.

More than 5000 people were drenched by rain three times at the Morningside pool while the Australian springboard diving championships were being held yesterday. Special buses and more than 300 cars took the spectators to the championships. The first heavy shower fell just before the events were to begin at 2 o'clock. Beach umbrellas, cars, and lorries were rushed at as spectators tried to shelter from the downpour. The afternoon was full of incident. A young boy fell down the side of the quarry, and was fortunate to escape injury. Two of the seven judge. In the junior men's springboard championship, who were going to officiate from a small boat in the pool, had to return to shore because they could not anchor securely. Clive Dyson of Victoria, dived off the springboard, and missed one of the judges in a boat, by inches. Breakdown of the microphone compelled referee Len Warner, of Victoria, to shout to the competitors and judges. Noeline Maclean, who was runner-up in the women's championship, said that she had been 'nibbled at' by small fish. 'The fish did not hurt me, and I would rather dive at Morningside than the Valley Baths,' she said. Olympian Dave Norris, who retained his Australian title, said that it was safer diving at Morningside than at theValley, where the water is only 8ft. deep. Competitors' only complaint was the muddy nature of the ground near the diving board. Many of the men covered their feet when they left the water between dives. They were afraid the mud might make their feet slippery which would be dangerous when they attempted to dive. All used a mat near the diving; tower before they went on to the board. Cars and spectators were lined around the entire perimeter of the quarry and some car-drivers manoeuvred down on to the cut-away portion on the southern side.

Our best guess on the location of the dive tower, where the text "Park" appears on map.

 Looking eastward across Keralgerie Park.

The only diving that happens today at Lake Emerson are those for tennis balls as it is the off-leash dog area in what is now known as Keralgerie Park.  The quarry pool was deemed unsafe in the 1950's after a double drowning incident involving two local boys and was eventually filled. The cut rock of the top of the quarry face is still visible today and the ridge that served as a spectator area is clearly visible, my best guess is the dive tower would have been situated on the south-eastern side of the park. If a crowd of 5000 Queenslander's turn up in 1949  to a rainy, mud soaked, amenity free sporting venue to watch a diving competition despite the alleged shortcomings and roof or no roof, the Southport Aquatic Centre will be quite a spectacle come the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

The quarry face today, covered in vegetation.

Citations and Credits

1948 'HOW THE QUARRY WILL BE 'DRESSED'.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 14 December, p. 3, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49927718

1925 The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939), 7 February, p. 28, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page2541722

1948 'Mail vote to shift dive pool.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 19 November, p. 6, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49908765

1948 'QUARRY IDEAL FOR DIVE.', The Courier-Mail(Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 23 October, p. 5, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49914929

1949 'Spectators almost as damn as the divers.', Sunday Mail(Brisbane) (Qld. : 1926 - 1954), 27 February, p. 1, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article98290996

1949 The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 12 January, p. 7, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49919516

Map Image Google Maps

Original Images The McWhirters Project

Friday, March 22, 2013

Man Eating Tiger Eats Man on George St. Brisbane, 1888. Make Tracks if Tiger Attacks!

The neighbourhood was all hustle and bustles in the early mornings as Turbot St Brisbane provided the street frontage to the Brisbane Produce Markets where produce from all over Queensland was freighted in the backdoor from the Roma Street rail yards and out the front door to be processed and or sold by Brisbane factories, produce merchants and fruit shops. By lunchtime the area would be relatively quiet, with just light traffic of drays, carriages and horses but around noon on Wednesday 21st of November 1888 there was a blood curdling scream. From a narrow alley opposite the markets ran a mauled and bleeding  Peter Bertram and in hot pursuit, a full grown Bengal tiger. Betrand was an animal keeper and one of his charges. Sammy, from the travelling zoo Higgins Menagerie had escaped and decided that Betrand would be his lunchtime playmate. Betrand was literally running for his life towards George St,  having  already been mauled the tiger dragged him down for a final go and horrified onlookers did what anyone would do in that situation, they "made tracks".

On last Wednesday week the inhabitants of George and Turbot streets were considerably startled at seeing an enormous Bengal tiger spring throughthe menagerie gates, his vast frame flying throughthe air as if propelled from a catapult,and, with a roar, seized an unfortunate man and fell him to the earth with one blow of his terrible paw. The victim, one Peter Bertram,  for an instant lay motionless in the gutter, whilst the tiger crouched on the ground snarling and growling most horribly, the passers-by meanwhile making tracks from the vicinity. The tiger then seemingly satisfied with his work got upand was moving away, when Bertram, finding himself free, rose and started to run. Instantly thebeast's feline nature asserted itself, and again itsprang upon the unfortunate man, this time seizinghim with its teeth and lacerating his neck and backwith its cruel claws. At this moment Higgins, theproprietor of the menagerie, and one Valentine E.Spendelove, of Rosalie, appeared on the scene, and both, without any hesitation, rushed forward to savethe man. Spendelove, who deserves the very greatestcredit for his presence of mind and pluck, seized Bertram's arm to drag him away, whilst Higgins, with the courage of an hero, deliberately "thrusthis arm" into the brute's mouth, thinking that by virtue of his long knowledge of the animal, that itwouli not bite him. In this he was mistaken as the powerful jaws closed over the limb, and the blood instantly spurted out from the deep gashes made by the animal teeth. Not to be deterred by this, however, Higgins held on to the animal, and getting his arm free he labored him about the head with a stick and by creating a diversion enabled Spendelove to drag Bertram from the spot where he lay bathed in his own blood. By this time Higgins had again got command of the tiger, and by dint of much flogging finally got him back into the menagerie, and chained him up. Bertram was taken to the hospital, where he now lies in a rather precarious condition, but his life will probably be saved. Higgins's wounds are progressing favorably also. The outcome of all this is that the menagerie will be removed from the place it occupies at thee corner of Turbot and George streets, the inhabitants of the vicinity objecting to a wild beast show in such close proximity, though, as the tiger escaped by reason of the negligence of Bertram himself, no blame can be attached to Higgins. Rather should credit be given to him and Spendelove for the 
courageous way in which they went to the rescue.

After that incident you'd expect the travelling zoo would have been run out of town overnight. But no, two tigers, a cheetah,  black panther, dingoes, snakes, monkeys, and an orangutan remained in the menagerie for at least three months, whilst all manner of petitions and negotiation went on over the future of the animals. One idea as reported in the Queensland Figaro was that they form the basis of a government run zoological attraction.

The government buyout was a proposition supported by Higgins himself who had come up with a joint venture vision for a zoological gardens, whilst others just wanted the whole dangerous, stinking mess cleaned up and shipped out. With the writer of this letter ;"Astonished"' and describes Brisbane as a "patient donkey" on the issue.

There were various reports  through early 1889 that the animals had been sold to the Manly Aquarium in Sydney or were to be rehoused at the about to open Queensport Aquarium at Hemmant but the menagerie eventually wound up at Toombul.Sammy and Jimmy the Bengal Tigers were affectionately known by locals as the Toombul Tigers and prior to their fame as man eaters, as tiger cubs they would wander Chales Higgins property just 200 metres from the Toombul Railway Station on long chains pegged into the ground. "A Talk with a Tiger Trainer" was published in The Brisbane Courier in July 1889 where Higgins gives a comprehensive account of his life as a tiger trainer and describes what seems to be a fledgling tiger breeding enterprise, Higgins talks of breeding at least two other tigers and describes a female tiger as the "wife" of one of the males. You can read the article at Trove here.

Cute as kitten! Tiger cubs at the the Toombul Tiger Farm, 1884. It was one of these two tigers who dragged down keeper Peter Betram in Turbot St Brisbane just four years later.

In the image above, Higgins Menagerie was located on the corner of George and Turbot streets, where today still stands the Brisbane Associated Friendly Society dispensary building with it's arched windows. The foundation stone for the building was laid in 1915, about 30 years after the tiger attack.

Corner of George and Turbot Streets today.

Could this be the alley from which the Bengal Tiger "catapulted" himself?

Unidentified group posing with a tiger (bottom right) at Toombul Tiger farm, 1884.

By August of 1889 Sammy, Jimmy and a female tiger by the name of Dina were star attractions at Queensport Aquarium at Hemmant, in the Australian Town and Country Journal Saturday 21 July1894  a small notice reported the death of Chales Higgins, thrown from a truck on Ipswich Road at Rocklea. The keeper Peter Betram recovered from his injuries but in 1889 was charged with intent to murder in a shooting incident at Toombul where he accidentally shot a man dead, it was noted in newspaper reporting of the shooting  that Betram had had "mental deficiencies" since the attack.

The Queensport Aquarium was severely flooded beyond repair during the floods of 1897. Can you imagine, Life of Pi style, three tigers drifting on raft out through Moreton Bay? The idea is slightly ridiculous but there is no mention of the eventual fate of the tigers and the the Queensport Aquarium closed. An auction notice for the Aquarium shows no sign of the tigers, though three tiger cages are listed. I feel for the "apes" of which one may have been Higgins orangutan, being auctioned off amongst the goods and chattels of what used to be Brisbane's premiere day trip destination. One can only hope that Sammy, Jimmy and Dina found a safe home and remember, "make tracks" whenever a tiger attacks.


Images From the John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.


From Trove @ trove.nla.gov.au

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) 23 Jan 1889: 3. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page95299>.

Australian Town and Country Journal(NSW : 1870 - 1907) 21 Jul 1894: 15. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article71261958>.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) 9 Apr 1886: 5. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4483231>.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) 28 Nov 1888: 6. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3489245>.

Queensland Figaro and Punch (Brisbane, Qld : 1885 - 1889) 8 Dec 1888: 24. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page8760694>.

Queensland Figaro and Punch(Brisbane, Qld : 1885 - 1889) 1 Dec 1888: 3. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article84132924>.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) 29 Jul 1889: 7. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3499275>.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) 16 Aug 1889: 2. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3500043>.

The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933) 8 Jul 1891: 3. Web. 23 Mar 2013 <http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article3528383>

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Comic Strip Parade - Bluey & Curley, Wally and the Major, Juliet Jones. 1953.


1953 'The Courier-Mail STRIP PARADE.', The Courier-Mail(Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 2 November, p. 14,  http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51073

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Alexander Graham Bell Visits Brisbane, 1910...Thinks It's a Sh*thole.

Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, visited Brisbane in June 1910. Since inventing the telephone some 35 years earlier, he was travelling the world examining various social experiments of the time and one of his interests in Australia was the suffrage movement and the right for women to vote, he was keen to know how this particular "franchise" was working. Bell took some pride in inventing an industry that employed women on a large scale but he admitted at a dinner that this came about by more accident than purpose. The original telephone operators were men whom quickly proved too abrasive dealing with customers and the confusingly, frustrating new technology of the  telephone. Whilst Bell was in Brisbane, he went on a guided tour of the Brisbane telephone exchange and sent a typed note of thanks the Post Master General.

Before his departure from Brisbane for the Atherton Highlands, Bell spent some time with journalists from the The Courier newspaper and shared his thoughts on Brisbane.

"...and ended with a series of questions relating to Australian sewerage systems. On the last named subject he expressed disappointment at what he had so far seen in Brisbane, and astonishment at the comparative dearth of disease. In no civilised country, he said, except, perhaps, Japan, was there to be seen so primitive, sanitary arrangement as ours, and he was the more surprised because in other respects the country had shown itself to he so progressive."


The National Archives of Australia

'THE INVENTOR OF THE TELEPHONE.', The Brisbane Courier (Qld. : 1864 - 1933), 13 June, 1910 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

High Cost of Living - Newspaper Cartoons and Comic Strip, 1912-1954.

The Courier Mail, Brisbane, 1954.

Barrier Miner, 1948

The Sydney Morning Herald, 1948.

The Western Mail, Perth, 1920.

The Worker, 1919.

The Worker, 1916.

The Worker, 1913.

The Worker, 1912.

The Worker Brisbane, 1912.


1954 'AUTOMATIC.', The Courier-Mail (Brisbane, Qld. : 1933 - 1954), 19 July, p. 2, 

1949 'BLUEY AND CURLEY High Cost of Living.', Barrier Miner(Broken Hill, NSW : 1888 - 1954), 14 April, p. 7 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article48590743

1948 'COST OF LIVING v THE REST.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 31 December, p. 2, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18100252

1920 'THE PROBLEM OF THE COST OF LIVING.', Western Mail(Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), 29 April, p. 22

1919 'THE THUG.', Worker (Brisbane, Qld. : 1890 - 1955), 17 July, p. 13

1916 Worker (Brisbane, Qld. : 1890 - 1955), 27 January, p. 8
1913 Worker (Brisbane, Qld. : 1890 - 1955), 18 December, p. 1, 
1912 Worker (Brisbane, Qld. : 1890 - 1955), 7 November, p. 13, 
 1912 Worker (Brisbane, Qld. : 1890 - 1955), 15 August, p. 6,