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

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.

The Courier-Mail 10 August 1938.  ttp://

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938.

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

The Courier-Mail 5 November 1938

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

The Courier-Mail 18 November 1939

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 15

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

The Courier-Mail 18 September 1947

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.

The Courier-Mail 17 September 1953.

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.

52 weeks of Personal Genealogy and History – Week 15: Sports

Amy Coffin and Geneablogger’s topic for Week 15 in the 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History is Sports. Did you have a favorite sports team as a child? If so, which one and why. Did your parents follow the same teams? Do you still support the same teams.

Having been procrastinating on the topic of Sport for the past week, last night I commenced reading Tim Winton’s book “Breath” and found a sentence which took my breath away for its aptness in relation to this topic. “I avoided teams of any kind and the prospect of organized sport was a misery”.[i]

Like Tim Winton’s character Pikelet, my family didn’t follow sport or any particular team, except that if asked we probably would have said that we followed Queensland or Australia as the case required, but not in the devoted “above and beyond” sense of team loyalty.

Throw into the mix my ineptitude with sport and you can see why this wasn’t a topic I rushed to post about.  For me school sports days were anathema (as were later Melbourne Cup Day work-based sports days –a double jeopardy exercise!). I may have been peripherally involved in ball games and netball in primary school but my overarching response was “boring”, (see ineptitude again).  My photo collection seems to share my general lack of enthusiasm with none relating to sport, and those relevant to the topic being copyrighted.


My mother arranged tennis lessons for me in the latter years of primary school with the Fancutts and given Daphne Fancutt’s own expertise it’s hardly her fault I wasn’t a good player. In early high school my friend and neighbour, with whom I also went to Guides, joined me in playing tennis at the Fancutt’s courts at Lutwyche, again not something I relished. In early adulthood I took up squash which I enjoyed a lot more even though I was only marginally better at it.


For whatever reason, however, when I got to high school I became addicted to cricket though I have no recollection of it being of any interest to the rest of my family. One of my high school friends and I would go to the Gabba for any cricket match that appealed to us. These were the days of the big players in cricket before it became commercialised. We loved seeing the talent and skill of the West Indian bowlers and batsmen (like Gary Sobers and Wes Hall) and the fantastic Aussie cricketers – I was a particular fan of Doug Walters. The famous travel writer, Bill Bryson, puts an hilarious spin on cricket (pardon the pun) in his book Down Under… “ it is an odd game., it’s the only sport that incorporates meal breaks.[ii]  And during those meal breaks, our own snack was, de rigeur, a Chiko Roll….ah they were the days when a Chiko Roll was the ultimate junk food/ fast food.  The importance of cricket in the Australian psyche is encapsulated in John Williamson’s song The Baggy Green.

Chiko rolls and cricket went together like football and pies.


Another sport which I enjoyed sporadically was ice skating. I’m not sure when the ice skating rink at Mowbray Park opened and have not had much luck finding out online other than immigration-related photos of a former British ice skater Brian Crossland who became the rink’s manager circa 1958. It may have been open less than 10 years when I started going there but it was on my bus route so was convenient to get there independently. I remember distinctly the ruts and tracks of the ice which was not especially conducive to learning to skate well. The ice, the particular smell of an ice rink and the sound of Rambling Rose by Nat King Cole playing over the speakers are distinctive and very fond memories from this time. Not long after we returned to Australia from Papua New Guinea, the Olympic rink at IceWorld at Acacia Ridge was opened and we spent many happy hours skating there as a family. I loved everything about it.


Is dancing a sport? Ballroom dancing was another activity I followed and thoroughly enjoyed through high school and university. I used to go to Wrightsons Dance Studio in the Valley (Fortitude Valley) each week and it was a highlight on my life in those days, and a relaxation from the tough grind of study. Far more fun than organised sport!


My father worked shift work, rode to/from work every day on his push bike and then walked miles, literally,  every day through the dangerous environment of a railway shunting yard. Little wonder that in his spare time he was not interested in playing any type of sport. However when it was proposed that nearby Ballymore Park would become the home of Queensland’s Rugby Union club he was up in arms (figuratively only!) against it. I think his main objection was the likely general disruption to the neighbourhood, especially for parking. Ironic because not long after it opened his new son-in-law-to-be converted him to the joys of Rugby Union. He loved watching a match often at home on TV and I have an amusing memory of the day when the pair of them were watching a major game on the TV while Mum dusted and cleaned around them. Immersed in the excitement of a close finish, Dad didn’t notice she had moved the coffee table until he placed his beer glass on the table that was no longer there!

I was also inducted into the joys of rugby union and enjoyed going to the matches at Ballymore which were also a social event in the way I imagine British horse racing to be. Somehow my other half (and I) always managed to be seated in the middle of the opposing team, while he, a normally mild-mannered man, heaped scorn on them. I also remember the kookaburras sitting on the crossbars at the creek end of the ground during a night match, and having a great time catching bugs and large moths in the beams of the lights –they must have thought it a veritable smorgasbord. Quick as a wink my husband tells me the match was Queensland vs Orange Free State…the male perspective on sport.

Do I still follow the same teams?

If you are born a Queenslander then you must, by definition, follow Queensland in all its sporting guises –whether the teams are deemed “Reds” or “Maroons” (pronounced, for the record as marone/maroan not the usual way), or even cane toads!  I think the penalty for not doing so may be more severe than those for treason! Sporting fans from New South Wales have never quite grasped this is why Queenslanders are so passionate about the State of Origin rugby league matches. At a minimum it’s a chance to stir up some disputation with anyone you know from NSW: during State of Origin there are often texts to/from anyone you know who is silly enough to support the Blues. Now that should get the non-Queenslanders going on this blog! Go the Mighty Maroons!

[i] Winton, T. Breath, Hamish Hamilton, Penguin Group (Australia), Victoria, 2008, page 11.

[ii] Bryson, B. Down Under, Double Day, London, 2000, page 111.