Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival – the intro

Some weeks ago Julie from Angler’s Rest challenged us all to join her in the February Photo Collage Festival.  It seemed logical to combine this with the Family History Writing Challenge hosted by The Armchair Genealogist, Lynn Palermo which inspires us all to write at least 250 words a day throughout February. As I’d already decided to prepare my photo collage based on the first 28 years of my life, inevitably the writing challenge has to be a memoir of sorts, something like the 52 weeks of Personal Genealogy and History I completed in 2011 but with a different spin.

4 x 7UP collage

Since 28 days of photos correlates so neatly with four lots of seven years, I thought immediately of the series “Seven Up” in which a documentary maker tracks the lives of a small group of children from mixed socio-economic groups across seven year periods. So this collage is my personal “7 Up” challenge (note, not the drink of the same name!).

Each day in February I will write my own memories “inspired” by one of the photos in the collage – I’m going to work left to right, then down the rows. Mostly they’ll be themed so it will lead to a particular type of story and will often include more than just photo in the collage.  Although the sub-text of my response to the challenge could be “it’s all about me”, it’s also about my family: my original family and our own Cass clan. While not strictly chronological year-by-year, it will cover my childhood, teenage years, school, romance, marriage, migration and children. I hope you’ll join me on this journey as I attempt to leave some memory crumbs for my descendants.


You can do your own collage in photoshop or equivalent (which I did previously –but can’t remember how!) or you can use Julie’s suggestion of Photovisi. This worked well but the downside is that you can’t  save it until the very end and then you’re committed. Although a couple of us are following this challenge on our family history blogs, there’s nothing to stop anyone else from joining in with a photo collage and any time of story for each photo.

Don’t forget to go and sign up on the linky facility on Angler’s Rest.

Fab Feb image
For those who want to join us, feel free to add the image below to your sidebar and use the twitter tag #fpcf13. Let’s have fun!

Sepia Saturday: shops and genealogy mazes

sepia saturday 26 JanDaniel (38) and Winifred O’Brien arrived in Queensland on board the Florentia on 29 April 1853. Accompanying them on the voyage were their children Mary 18, Ellen 16, Denis 13, Sarah 12, Hanora 9 and Daniel 2. The family came from Tipperary and on the immigration lists Daniel stated his parents were Denis and Mary O’Brien (mother still alive) and his wife’s parents were Thomas and Ellen Carter (both dead). Daniel apparently went on to become a blacksmith near the current Amberley airforce runway. This photo of his shop, with staff, and possibly family standing outside, is reminiscent of this week’s Sepia Saturday theme. The photo has been digitised by Picture Ipswich.

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

Ipswich Library &​ Information Service, Ipswich City Council, 1860-1869   oai:picture.ipswich.qld.gov.au:8704

An Ancestry family tree indicates that Daniel was born c1801 at Bishopswood near Dundrum, Tipperary. This is a slightly longer distance from Limerick than my O’Brien’s home in Ballykelly near Broadford, Co Clare. From time to time, I’ve wondered if my Mary O’Brien Kunkel somehow emigrated with the Daniel O’Brien family, but this remains conjecture or fantasy rather than fact. Daniel and Winifred’s daughter, Ellen O’Brien, married a John Collins and son Daniel married Anne Brennan from Maitland. There is nothing whatsoever to suggest that this family is any way connected to my O’Brien family from County Clare…BUT…

So why do I say “BUT”? Well there are a number of connections between my O’Brien-Kunkel family and this family.

Daniel O'Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

Daniel O’Brien /Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0003p.jpg

I believe it’s likely that the Sarah O’Brien who witnesses George Kunkel’s and Mary O’Brien’s marriage in Ipswich Queensland in 1857 is the daughter listed above, although I have no strong evidence that she’s the right one, rather perhaps than any other.

The link to one sister is stronger however. Sarah’s sister, Mary O’Brien, married a James McGrath and this couple witnessed the baptism of the Kunkel’s second child, Joseph.

So is there a relationship connection between my Mary O’Brien from Co Clare to the Daniel O’Brien family? Unfortunately I just can’t say.

Winifred O'Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

Winifred O’Brien nee Carter. Picture Ipswich/People/Families/ARCHIVE/qips-2010-10-24-0002p.jpg

There’s yet more confusion to add to this O’Brien maze because a Kate O’Brien witnesses the baptisms of the Kunkel daughters Mary Ellen and Elizabeth (later known as Louisa).  Is Kate a “ring-in” or is she really my Mary’s sister, who oral history says came with her older sisters Bridget and Mary? If she was a sister, and they arrived together, surely she would have witnessed Mary’s marriage as well? I’d previously discounted this because of no clear links, because Kate marries in Sydney in 1871. Would she have waited that long if she’d arrived in Moreton Bay circa 1855? She’d have been quite young, about 14, on arrival but that’s far from impossible too.

Just to add to the confusion, there’s yet another O’Brien strand to add to the mix. Bridget O’Brien, daughter of Patrick O’Brien and Mary Latchford of Limerick appears regularly in my Kunkel-O’Brien history. Bridget married a Robert Mullen and one of the witnesses to the wedding was my George Kunkel. Bridget’s husband Robert then witnesses Mary Ellen and Louisa Kunkel’s baptisms (together with Kate above). Bridget is later the sponsor at the baptism of Bridget Catherine Kunkel. My Mary O’Brien Kunkel is in turn the sponsor at the baptism of baby Mary Alice Mullen who dies in 1865. My working hypothesis is that Robert Mullen may also worked on the development of the railway line to Toowoomba. The families appear to have remained in contact over the decades as evidenced by the loan of a wedding gown by their daughter to Mary O’Brien Kunkel’s granddaughter. Robert Mullen died within a year of his old friend George Kunkel on 7 July 1915.

This interwoven story comprises several O’Brien strands:

Strand 1: My Mary O’Brien from Ballykelly near Broadford, County Clare

Strand 2: Sarah O’Brien who witnesses the Kunkel-O’Brien marriage –is she a relation of my Mary’s? Daughter of Daniel and Winifred? Or someone else altogether?

Strand 3: Kate O’Brien who witnesses baptisms (a relation or a friend?)

Strand 4: Bridget O’Brien married to Robert Mullen who we know is not obviously related to any of these families. However the Mullen family continues their links with the Kunkels over many years.

Strand 5: Mary O’Brien, daughter of Daniel and Winifred, who married James McGrath and who witnesses the Kunkels’ second child’s baptism.

This is something of a muddled link to the theme of shop and staff for this week’s Sepia Saturday, but it does show the importance and complexity of FANs (friends/family, Associates, Neighbours) in relation to our family history. Maybe something will come of this post to make the connections less ambiguous.

Australia Day 2013: The Kents from Sandon, Herts

The 2013 Australia Day challenge was initiated by Helen of the blog From Helen V Smith’s Keyboard. The challenge is to talk about our first ancestors to arrive in Australia, male or female, or perhaps both. My initial reaction hovered around my “swimmers” George Kunkel and his wife Mary O’Brien. While George may have been part of the Victorian gold rush fever, it’s by no means certain, so in the end I decided to go with my earliest identified arrivals. This neatly captured both my great-great-great grandparents, Richard and Mary Kent, but also my great-great-grandmother, their daughter Hannah, who would later marry William Partridge in Ipswich, Queensland.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent 1909, probably taken for Qld's 50th anniversary celebrations.

Hannah Partridge nee Kent 1909, probably taken for Qld’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Richard and Mary Kent arrived at Moreton Bay with their adult children on 16 December 1854 on board the General Hewitt. Richard Kent (46) was an agricultural labourer whose parents were Richard and Mary Kent, both deceased. Mary Kent was 49 and her parents, John and Mary Camp, were both deceased. Also among the married couples was their son Richard Kent (23) with his wife Mary Kent (23) and daughter Catherine Kent (1). The younger Richard was also an agricultural labourer and of course his parents were on board. His wife’s parents were Samuel and Mary Brittain who were both living in Cambridge. Listed among the single passengers were the older Richard and Mary’s other adult children: Hannah Kent, aged 19 was a servant whose parents were on board; Thomas Kent (19) and John Kent (17) both agricultural labourers. All the members of the family are recorded, not entirely accurately, as born in Hertfordshire. All could read and write except Mary Brittain Kent and John Kent who could read only. They all stated their religion as Church of England.[1] .

Were the Kents among the many passengers who signed the testimonials. Moreton Bay Courier 23 December 1854.

Were the Kents among the many passengers who signed the testimonials? Moreton Bay Courier 23 December 1854.

The immigrants on the General Hewitt, a ship of 965 tons, had sailed from Southampton on 25 August 1854 and arrived in Moreton Bay 107 days later. There had been 16 deaths on board (14 of them children) and 3 births. The brig Sporting Lass went down to the Bay to bring the passengers up to town but the weather was so rough it prevented the brig from lying alongside. After such a long time at sea, the immigrants had a frustrating week waiting to be taken ashore.[2] As they landed only days before Christmas I wonder what how they felt to be in such a different environment.

On arrival 381 immigrants were disembarked and the newspapers report that there was such demand for labour that less than two weeks later there were only 70 adults remaining in the immigration barracks and most of them were hired.[3] The Kents were among the large groups of agricultural labourers and servants looking for work. Presumably they were recruited by an Ipswich employer because this is where they settled. Wages for a married couple were £50 and for female servants £20.

The Kent family came from the village of Sandon in Hertfordshire which had been the family’s home for hundreds of years. In the 1851 census Richard Kent (46) was enumerated at Roe Green near Sandon as a farmer of 40 acres (employing one man) and a beer house keeper.[4] His wife Mary was 50 and their sons, Thomas 17 and John 15, were employed at home. All of the family were born in Sandon. Roe Green is an old medieval settlement and I wrote about my discovery of their pub’s name and more about it here.[5]

Sandon Church and the old Six Bells public house © Pauleen Cass 1992

Sandon Church and the old Six Bells public house © Pauleen Cass 1992

In 1851, Richard and Mary’s daughter Hannah (my great-great-grandmother-to-be) was 14 and a servant working for Mrs Anne Field at Wood Farm, in the adjacent parish of Rushden. Wood Farm has a long history, being an old moated site from the 16th century. Their eldest son, Richard Kent (21) and his wife Mary Ann Kent née Brittain (21) were living at Green End in Sandon where Richard was working as an agricultural labourer. Mary Ann Brittain’s home place is recorded as Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, not Sandon. It is interesting to compare the family’s ages with the stated ages on arrival compared to their actual ages: Richard 46 (actually 49), Mary 49 (53), Richard jnr 23 (24), Mary Ann 23 (24), Hannah 19 (17), Thomas 19 (20) and John 17 (18). Hence all their ages, except Hannah’s, were decreased to enhance their immigration prospects and reduce costs.

An 1851 Post office directory for Hertfordshire confirms that Richard Kent was a beer retailer.[6] The village of Sandon was not a large one, though the parish is a little spread out and in 1851 there were 176 houses with a population of 770 (412 men and 358 women). It seems that the Kents were reasonably well established though not affluent. One wonders why the whole family decided to emigrate and re-establish themselves in MoretonBay. I think their reasons were either economic or to help the adult children get ahead. At one time I thought it may also have been attributable to religious affiliation as in Queensland there were occasional non-conformist links. I now suspect this was not the case.

Richard Kent’s name appears on various electoral rolls and on endorsements of nominees for parliamentary positions in Queensland. Apart from that he seems to have kept a fairly low profile in his new town and without any oral history it is difficult to develop a more holistic understanding of Richard or his wife Mary Kent.

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 30 September 1856, page 1

The North Australian, Ipswich and General Advertiser, 30 September 1856, page 1

Trove has helped me to unearth a clue to the family’s early life in Ipswich with several advertisements throughout 1856, thanks to the recent digitisation of the Ipswich newspapers. Richard Kent was working on Rhossili/Rhossilli, a property in Little Ipswich (now the edge of West Ipswich) where he is listed as “in charge” of stock. Whether this Richard was the father, who had run a farm as well as his public house, or the son who had worked as a farm labourer, is nigh on impossible to know. I like the fact that whichever man it was, had the opportunity to work with skills he’d acquired in England. Perhaps it was even his first contract on arrival in Queensland less than two years earlier.

Rhossilli Ipswich, but is it the right one? 1939. bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:130643 Copyright expired.

Rhossilli Ipswich, but is it the right one? 1939. bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:130643 Copyright expired.

My search for Rhossili in Trove revealed that around this time it was lived in by Pollett Cardew, Commissioner of the Peace. Ipswich Heritage lists a property called Rhossili but states it’s unclear whether this is the first property of that name. My ambivalence rests on the fact that this Rhossili is in Newtown, to the east of the city centre, whereas Little Ipswich was to the west. Conversely, Cardew is mentioned in association with the Ipswich Heritage site, in Pugh’s Almanac and in Trove family notices from 1857. Obviously there’s scope for future research at Queensland archives and libraries now I’m aware of the family connection.

The family’s hopes for a promising new life disappeared with the early deaths of children and grandchildren, leaving the succession limited mainly to the women in the line. On such genetic whims of matrilineal inheritance does my own existence depend.

Richard Kent died, aged 65, on 31 July 1870 at his residence at Pelican Street, North Ipswich. Richard’s place of birth is correctly stated as Red Hill (Sandon).[7] He was buried in the Ipswich cemetery by the Church of England minister.  His wife, Mary Kent, died aged 75, only a few months later on 26 September 1870 at Terrace Street, NorthIpswich, the home of her daughter Hannah Partridge. Plainly her age had been routinely under-stated in the records. Her place of birth is stated as Weston (not Sandon), Hereford (actually Hertfordshire).

© Pauleen Cass

[1] State Records of NSW, Persons on Bounty ships to Sydney, Newcastle, MoretonBay 1848-1866. CGS 5317, microfilm 2466, reference 4/4937.

[2] The Moreton Bay Courier, 23 December 1854, page 2.

[3] The Moreton Bay Courier, 30 December 1854, page 2.

[4] 1851 English census, Hertfordshire, Registration district of Royston, Sub-registration district of Buntingford, parish of Sandon, HO107.

[6] Post Office Directory Hertfordshire, 1851,village of Sandon, page 222, digitised by Archive CD Books.

[7]Queensland death certificate 1870/C490. His county of birth is shown as Herefordshire not Hertfordshire, a mistake which was repeated on Mary Kent’s death certificate.

Wordless Wednesday: mystery photo from Lundager Rockhampton

This photo is among some we inherited from Mr Cassmob’s father, probably one he rescued while living in Rocky. We know it’s not one of his family because it’s from Queensland, probably in the 1880s, whereas his family were from Victoria <gasp! horror!>.

It’s such a delightful photograph that it would be wonderful if someone could identify the woman and child. Lundager was in Rockhampton in the 1880s then in Mt Morgan so it’s likely an 1880s photo, which fits with the woman’s dress style.

Having good Scottish ancestry I just love the little fellow’s outfit. The dog’s not bad either! On closer inspection I wonder if the woman is indeed the boy’s mother, or a sister. She looks quite young although very much like the boy.

Unknown family by Lundager, Rockhampton, Queensland.

Unknown family by Lundager, Rockhampton, Queensland.

My family’s migration statistics

The other day I was reading Sharon’s post on Family Statistics. I’ve done statistics on groups of emigrants from Bavaria or Ireland but not my own family’s migration history. I’ve also “mapped” my ancestral places of origin but now how or when they came to Australia. Having realised this omission, and considering my first arrivals to Australia for the 2013 Australia Day Challenge, it was inevitable that I’d have to have a play.

Unlike Sharon there was no point in considering where my ancestors arrived – they are all “true maroon” Queenslanders.  I immediately knew that many had arrived in the 1850s but that each side of my family tree had one line that was more recent: one maternal Irish, in the 1880s, and one paternal Scottish in the 1910s, with a middle-range Scottish 1870s. In this graph I plotted all family members who arrived in the migration event whether they were a direct ancestor or not.

My family migration stats

Because several migration “events” included multiple generations, I wanted to map my ancestors’ arrival by their ancestral relationship to me. For this purpose I ignored siblings, unrelated spouses, nieces and nephews etc.I also counted each ancestor separately eg my great grandmother and my great grandfather.  I was somewhat surprised to realise that my earliest Australian immigrants included my 3 x great grandparents (it’s easy to sometimes lose track of the generations I find).

Ancestral migration

The question whether they emigrated as singles, couples or families was quickly enough answered in my head, but how would it look on a table and then a graph?

It was clear that, like Sharon, couples with no children hadn’t featured in my family’s migrations, nor do I have any ancestors who arrived as convicts. There were a few hardy singles in the 1850s, and 7 family exoduses en masse from their homelands, sometimes including all the family and some only a couple with a small child or grandchild. My 1880s migration was slightly distorted because two of the migration events were for the same family: in the second case, my great-grandparents left a year after the rest of the family due to the birth of their small child.

migration by marital status

I found this exercise fun and informative – thanks Sharon for prompting me to look at this a new way.

Dorfprozelten emigrant stories

Back in 2009 I submitted a series of articles to the Queensland Family History Society’s Q150 project, Queensland Founding Families. If you have access to this book it is well worth looking at to see if there are any mentions of your pioneer families.

I’ve decided to include my Dorfprozelten emigrant stories on this blog to gain wider coverage. Should anyone find errors in the content I’d appreciate your feedback. Please be aware that these stories are copyrighted to me and may only be used with permission. Over the coming weeks I will add further stories on the different Dorfprozelten immigrants based on my research.

You can read my first story on Johann Hock from Breitenbrunn and Clara/Rosina Günzer from Dorfprozelten at this link. This family were Queensland pioneers.

Sepia Saturday 160: The Gabba

sepia saturday 160It’s funny how even a cryptic image like this Sepia Saturday prompt can stir one’s memories. After a brief “hmmm” moment my sub-conscious brought forth the connection.

For me this image was a straight path back some fifty odd years.

My image today has been chosen from Australia’s wonderful Trove site. While it dates to 1929, a little before my time, it is out of copyright and so can be used here. There are other later photos which you can see if you click the links below.

When I was a young girl, my family lived on the north side of the Brisbane River and my maternal grandparents on the south (a very Brisbane division). Neither family owned a car so the only way we could visit (even on Christmas Day) was by public transport…tedious but do-able.

The Gabba Fiveways 1929picqld-citrix08--2004-11-11-09-09

The Gabba Fiveways 1929

On the plus side, the trip only involved two sectors. The first was our local bus, sometimes a trolley bus with feeler-like poles connecting it to the overhead power line, and other times a diesel bus. This would take us to Woolloongabba near the world-famous cricket ground (to the left of this photo). We would cross one of the roads passing through what was known as the Fiveways for its five intersecting roadways, turn the corner, and then wait under the awnings of shops on the left of the photo for the arrival of the tram to my grandparents’ suburb. In fact on other occasions we used the same route visiting my mother’s friends who lived at the end of the same tram line.

In those “olden days” there were no traffic lights whatsoever to coordinate traffic flow through the Fiveways and you took your chances either as a vehicle or pedestrian. The only exception was the railway flagman and the central coordinating point for the trams, looking rather like a clock tower.

As there always is with public transport (or so it seems to me) there was the inevitable time delay between the bus and the tram. Sometimes the railway flagman would provide some distraction as he guided a train and carriages through the same intersection, with his red flag to alert and stop vehicles of all sorts. On other occasions it might be quite dull with nothing much happening. That was when I coached myself into spelling that complicated word Woolloongabba (pronounced Wool –un-gabba), an Aboriginal place name.

A tidgy bit before my time. The Fiveways in 1900. bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:15622

A tidgy bit before my time. The Fiveways in 1900. bishop.slq.qld.gov.au:15622

From that “authoritative” source Wikipedia, it’s unclear whether the word means “Whirling Waters” or “Fight talk place”. Considering the Gabba’s whitefella way of merging five streams of traffic and pedestrians, either might have been meaningful even to the current day. It’s also apt in terms of those titanic cricket clashes that have occurred at the adjacent Gabba cricket ground. Once again the Gabba played a key part in my own history as my friend and I would routinely visit the Gabba during school holidays to watch test matches or exciting One Day matches against the West Indies (Wes Hall anyone?). You can click the links above to see more images which are still subject to copyright but viewable on Trove.

In more recent years when my daughter lived not far from the Gabba we had regular outings to the Thai restaurant situated in the upstairs verandah of the building on the left.

You can see why, for me, this Sepia Saturday image prompt brought so many memories flooding back.

Running Writing Heirlooms

We all know the thrill of seeing an ancestor’s signature for the first time. Somehow it makes them seem that much closer to us.

P1190433In her Heirlooms podcast Maria (from Genies Down Under) suggests leaving a sample of your handwriting for descendants, perhaps even some of your family history. Quite honestly this would be a challenge beyond palaeography with some of my notes <smile>. In fact future readers may wonder if it was encrypted.

There’s increasing discussion that we are losing our familiarity with “running writing”, both reading and writing it, that we always type and never write. Is that true for you? Yes I certainly prefer to type stories or family history, not just for legibility but also so it can be stored digitally. Also because these days I think through my fingers, if that makes sense, and my writing can’t keep up. Perhaps we should also be storing a digital copy of something we’ve handwritten. And while we’re at it, why not save a voice recording?

Maybe it’s my career in administration but I have no problem recognising who wrote what annotation on a file (provided I’ve seen their writing before). I can almost always tell who a letter or card comes from without cheating and looking at the back, or opening it first.

How about you? Do you still send snail mail letters, cards or notes? Do you recognise your friends’ or family’s writing? If the answers are a resounding “no” perhaps it’s a resolution for 2013 to occasionally revert to the old ways and use non-digital social media. After all one day someone may think that card is an heirloom. What do you think?

By the way I’ve started another blog (yes, mad I know!) called Bewitched by Books. It’s not rocket science to figure out its content so if you’re interested why not pop over and have a look. Today’s post is a bit of 1950s fun which will be of interest to those with an interest in the more recent “olden days”, and life in our youth, well mine anyway.

Genies Down Under

This month I’ve been honoured, and very delighted, to have the Genies Down Under podcast 16, on researching offline, dedicated to my Beyond the Internet series, a lovely compliment to start the year! I was very chuffed when Maria asked if she could mention me and make reference to my posts. When you’ve put a lot of work into producing something like that it makes it so worthwhile when others find your tips and strategies helpful.

I have to hang my head now because I’ve only relatively recently heard of the Genies Down Under podcasts and hadn’t quite got round to listening to any. However I am now a convert and am working my way through the series. Maria has a huge array of resources available on the blog site and as well as the podcasts there are also links, images and show notes to go with the audio.  Maria’s themed discussions come under the headings of tips, tools, tricks and traps which neatly encapsulate the issues you need to address.

Warning: Don’t listen late at night. Last night I listened to the one on heirlooms, and then so many ideas were swirling in my head that I couldn’t sleep!

If, like me, these podcasts have been on your “gunna” list of things to do, I encourage you to head over and have a look and listen to this great collection of themes. Each podcast is very professionally produced, but is also quite relaxed in style. While Maria says it is genealogy with an Aussie spin, I’d be very surprised if researchers in other countries couldn’t gain something from most of the sessions.

Maria posts each podcast on the first of the month and upcoming ones include naming patterns (Feb), Techie stuff, (March), Irish stuff (April), favourite ancestors (May), immigration (June), storage (July). She also welcomes ideas if you wish to make suggestions or comments on a particular topic. You can contact Maria on geniesdownunder [at] gmail [dot] com.

Why not join me and put a link to the Genies Down Under podcasts on your sidebar.

Trove Tuesday: Let’s go ice skating

Image from Microsoft Images online

Image from Microsoft Images online. Just seeing this photo makes my heart beat faster.

A year or so ago I wrote how ice skating was one of my teenage pleasures. At the time I could find little about the origins of an ice rink that existed at Mowbray Park, South Brisbane in the 1960s. Those searches had left me unsatisfied so with today being Trove Tuesday it seemed only logical to have another trawl of Trove.

Brisbane is of course a sub-tropical city, so one might wonder when someone took on the challenge of building an ice rink. I personally knew of the Mowbray Park one which was definitely open in the 1960s, but when did it start and how long did it last? Thanks to Ice Skating Queensland I now know this rink closed in 1967.

Trove is silent on this rink other than a couple of photos here and here (copyright and reproduction rights apply) because of course the digitised papers don’t go that far forward. The images reveal that Brian Crossland, then a recent immigrant from Blackpool, was the manager of the rink in Brisbane while fellow English immigrant, Terrance Wright, maintained over 500 pairs of skates. That’s a lot of skates so it suggests they must have been doing a reasonable business while it lasted.

Sadly the reality of my skating never matched my imaginings. Image from Microsoft images online

Sadly the reality of my skating never matched my imaginings. Image from Microsoft images online

I did wonder if perhaps the Mowbray Park ice rink was built on the site of a former roller skating rink that had also been in Melbourne St, South Brisbane. It could be a pretty dodgy rink at times, with strips where the ice melted regularly –rather like skating on icy corrugated iron at times.


Architectural drawing of a proposed ice skating rink in Wickham Street, Fortitude Valley, 1938. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland  http://trove.nla.gov.au/work/153922643

Had Brisbane ever had an ice rink before Mowbray Park I wondered? Trove was more helpful with this query revealing there had been grand plans for an Ice Palais in Wickham St, Fortitude Valley opposite McWhirters in 1938. Trove gave me the proposed building design (above), Council approval, and an advertisement. Sydney had its Glaciarium and Brisbane obviously thought it was time to get in on the fun (or more likely the profits).

The Courier-Mail 10 August 1938. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41006705

The Courier-Mail 10 August 1938.  ttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article41006705

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938.http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731079

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938.

So why was Brisbane suddenly so keen on ice skating? Turns out the whole country had gone ice-mad in response to the popularity of Sonja Henie (as per this larger Trove article). Sonja was a beautiful Norwegian ice skater turned movie star. It was interesting to see her skate in this YouTube video but also surprising to see the dependence on spins and relative absence of jumps, revealing just how much more athletic figure skating has become over the years.

Sonja Henie made the cover of Time Magazine in 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Sonja Henie made the cover of Time Magazine in 1939. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

With Brisbane’s Ice Palais scheduled to open in April 1939, it seemed logical that the rink might have been still around when my mother arrived from North Queensland a few years later. I gave her a call, and no, it wasn’t something she could recall either. I’d been pretty astonished to read about this proposed ice rink near my old stomping ground in the Valley where we shopped regularly. If it had survived it might have been there when I was a child, which it surely wasn’t. It’s possible that the sheer cost of such an ice rink meant its construction was delayed. From this story in The Courier Mail it’s clear to see that it was a very expensive investment.

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731156

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38731156

The public were still keen to get out skating and a clue in The Courier Mail’s Answers to Correspondents column gives the next clue to the Palais. (17 February 1939)

The Courier Mail 17 February 1939

The Courier Mail 17 February 1939

Trawling Trove month by month through 1939, I could find no further evidence of this grand plan. What happened? Could they not raise sufficient funds? If so then the declaration of war in September 1939 would likely have hammered the final nail in their plans…there’d have been no capital investment money for frivolities like ice skating rinks or Palais.

Instead the focus seems to have turned to entertainment, as it sometimes does during war-time to keep the spirits up. And one of the promotional stories provides the first confirmation that the Palais had not (yet) been built.

The Courier-Mail 18 November 1939 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40887629

The Courier-Mail 18 November 1939 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40887629

Ice revues were popular and just as entertainment events like Disney on Ice have especially set-up ice rinks, so did these revues held at the old His/Her Majesty’s Theatre. I thought it was interesting that the revue was timed to coincide with the annual Ekka when all the country people were in town, thereby maximising the potential audience.

The Courier Mail 16 November 1939.

The Courier Mail 16 November 1939.

The Courier Mail 8 August 1940, page 15http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article40926899

The Courier Mail 8 August 1940, page 15

And so it seems Brisbane’s hopes for an ice rink, or Ice Palais, expired for another twenty years until the Mowbray Park rink seems to have opened.  In the interim, there were two proposals to combine ice skating with other sporting facilities.

The Courier-Mail 18 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49312310

The Courier-Mail 18 September 1947 http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article49312310

Then in 1953, there was a bid for a combined swimming pool and ice rink complex at Mt Gravatt. I’m reasonably sure this never went ahead but would be happy to be corrected if I’m wrong.

The Courier-Mail 17 September 1953. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51079376

The Courier-Mail 17 September 1953. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article51079376

After the Mowbray Park rink closed in 1967, another rink opened in the north-eastern suburb of Toombul in 1971. I did know of this rink though I never skated there (these were my PNG years), but I had completely forgotten about it until reminded by Ice Skating Queensland. My recollection now is that many (all?) of the professionals at the later rink at Acacia Ridge came from there.

Perhaps it was thanks to improved technology that made it viable to open an Olympic standard rink in the sub-tropics with Iceworld at Acacia Ridge. We had not long returned from Papua New Guinea and we embraced this different and fun activity, making Iceworld our home away from home. It also has fond extended family memories as my cousin and his family joined us in our devotion to the sport. Our smallest bear spent lots of time as a toddler at the rink –she’d sit in her pram on the sidelines while I attended women’s classes, and as each woman reached that side of the rink they’d talk to her. And then there were the dawn training sessions with our older daughters until the constant recurrence of their ear infections meant we gave it up. Lots of happy memories!

And then there were costumes to make as well.

The two eldest at Acacia Ridge c1981. And then there were costumes to make as well.

As we found during a Brisbane visit, outdoor rink is set up in King George Square in June each year for their new Winter Festival. It seems to be proving very popular with lots of people having a ton of fun. (By the way, cold in Brisbane doesn’t mean much below 10C)

I still say if Jakarta, Singapore and Dubai can have indoor ice rinks, there’s no reason (other than that pesky money) why Darwin can’t! The fact that I’d probably break my neck these days is beside the point.

The ice rink in Jakarta's Mall Taman Anggrek. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The ice rink in Jakarta’s Mall Taman Anggrek. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can learn about your home city from Trove? I picked up all sorts of clues about Brisbane’s roller skating rinks, but that’s a story for another Trove Tuesday.

Trove Tuesday is an innovative idea by Amy at Branches, Leaves and Pollen.