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Balmoral characters

John Baillie Henderson – “Hydraulic Henderson”

A cockney by birth to Scottish parents, John Baillie Henderson completed his schooling in Scotland before the family emigrated to Australia in 1852. He arrived in Queensland in 1878 when water was not recognised as a public resource. He was appointed Queensland's first Government Hydraulic Engineer in 1883. During his lifetime he earned the title Hydraulic Henderson as his contribution to hydraulic engineering in Queensland was gigantic.

Edward Deshon – Public Servant

Edward Deshon, 1836 - 1924 was an important Queensland Public Servant who bought and sold land around Coorparoo. His family home Kemandine was built around 1885 and was later acquired by Archbishop Duhig and opened as Loreto College. Deshon Street at East Brisbane is named after him.

James Stone – Ginger Beer Entrepreneur

James Stone arrived in Brisbane in 1857 and acquired land in 1875 at the corner of Logan and Old Cleveland Roads. His intention was to establish a hotel but he was never granted a licence so he only sold ginger beer. A hotel was later built on the site. The area was subsequently known as Stones Corner.

James Stone's grave in Balmoral Cemetery has recently been beautifuly restored by his descendants.

Frederick Wecker – Cemetery Trustee

Frederick Wecker was one of the early cemetery Trustees at Balmoral Cemetery. He emigrated to Brisbane from Germany and purchased land near Stones Corner. Lucerne was reputedly grown on his sloping land and the property became known as Wecker's green slopes, giving rise to the suburb name Greenslopes.

Kirkland Avenue in Coorparoo was originally named Wecker Street in Frederick's honour but it was changed in 1914 in the wake of anti-German sentiment. However, Wecker Road at Mansfield, named for Frederick Wecker, reminds us of his pioneer spirit.

wecker's grave

Wecker's grave, located at the highest point of the cemetery grounds, is the most imposing monument in Balmoral Cemetery. Sadly, it is in disrepair.

William Parry-Okeden – Commissioner of Police

William Edward Parry-Okeden was known as a public servant, a police commissioner, a protector of aborigines and a horseman. Born at Murrunumbla Station, Snowy River in New South Wales, he commenced law but after 3 years, in 1860 he left to join his parents in Queensland. He began his 35-year public service career in 1870 with the Border Police Force, which was established to to halt illicet smuggling on the Queensland-New South Wales border. He was appointed to the position of Immigration Agent dealing with migrants in 1886. In 1889 he was appointed the chief public service post of Colonial Under-Secretary (renamed Principal Under Secretary). In 1895 Parry-Okeden was appointed Commissioner of Police. He was an early resident of Hawthorne.

Acknowledgements: Elizabeth Smith, National Trust of Queensland, Queensland Police Journal.

Honourable Herbert Freemont Hardacre – A character of conscience and brotherly kindness

The Honourable Herbert F. Hardacre was Minister for Lands in 1899, Minister for Education in 1915 and Lands Court judge in 1919. He was 78 when he died and is buried with his wife Alice (1879-1942) and son Herbert Maynard Hardacre (d. 1972). He epitaph reads, in part, “His was a life of character of conscience and brotherly kindness”.

Joseph Cornelius Marconi – Goanna Oil Man

Joseph Cornelius Marconi was born Joseph Mahoney in 1876 in London. Immigrating with his family to Australia around 1886, Joseph worked with his father in Sydney as a dealer in building materials. From around 1900 the family spelled their surname “Marney”.

Joseph married Mary Teresa O'Neill in Newtown Registry Office, Sydney, on 27 September 1904.

Joseph became a member of a marionette show in a travelling vaudeville troupe and then traded briefly as a dealer in Newcastle, later joining the sideshow circuit, adopting the name Marconi and basing himself in Brisbane.

As manager of Lyn Vane's snakebite act, and through association with “Professor” James Morrissey, Joseph learned of plants to which goannas were thought to resort when bitten, and of the aborigines' belief in the healing properties of goanna fat.

From about 1910 Marconi manufactured and sold liniments and salves that included ingredients such as oils distilled from herbs and goanna fat. Sufferers of ailments ranging from arthritis to varicose veins attested to the wonders of his products. Marconi was a colourful marketer and he skillfully used comic advertising and widespread signage to promote his products.

Marconi was refused a patent when the Queensland Government declared the goanna a protected species in certain areas 1918, but his sales in Australia and New Zealand continued to increase. In 1920 he opened a shop in Brisbane and in 1922 the Marconi Curative Institute, specialising in massage, hydropathic and herbal treatments was opened.

With a carefully cultivated Italianate appearance, Marconi was one of the best known figures in Brisbane. His hospitality was renowned and the small factory under his home Astra at Bulimba was a Mecca for the local children.

Marconi ran as a Nationalist candidate in the strong Labor ward of Bulimba in the 1921 Balmoral Shire Council election. In his short time in office, Marconi proved to be an effective and energetic councillor.

Tragedy struck on 21 October 1922 when Marconi intervened in a fracas in Elizabeth Street and his skull was fractured. He died a few hours later in the Brisbane General Hospital. After a largely attended funeral service he was buried in Balmoral Cemetery in Brisbane's inner east.

Joseph's wife Mary had pre-deceased him but he was survived by three of their four daughters and three sons. Son Norman Charles (1905-1959) was a pioneer of aviation in Queensland.

Joseph Marconi was remembered by the Bulimba schoolchildren in their chant:

Old Marconi's dead,
Knocked on the head.
Goannas are glad,
Children are sad.
Old Marconi's dead.

Acknowledgements: Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10.407.

Eric Abraham – Last of the Dungarees

The people of Australia came to know Eric Abraham because he was a veteran: 4355, Sapper, E.K. Abraham, 5th division signals company, 5th Australian Division, First Australian Imperial Force; holder of the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, Chevalier of the Legion of Honour of France. He was our beloved “last of the Dungarees” whose final resting-place is Balmoral Cemetery.

The son of English migrants, Eric Kingsley Abraham joined the first AIF on 26 November 1915 by way of the famous Dungaree march. He was one of five brothers who enlisted in the course of the war.

In his memoirs, Eric would say that his thoughts were of Gallipoli and glory. By the time he completed his training, the Gallipoli campaign had ended and he found himself instead confronted by the horrific reality of war on the Western Front. By his own account, Eric's decision to enlist in 1915 was an impulsive act prompted by the strains of “la Marseillaise” played by a country band as the Dungaree recruitment march passed through Boonah. After his war service, Eric was left with a deep abhorrence of war that he carried for the rest of his life.

Eric Abraham was proud to be the last surviving Dungaree Digger and one of the last members of the generation of Queenslanders who served during World War One.

His final resting place, with his father Jabez, is at Balmoral Cemetery, where the Friends of Balmoral Cemetery like to keep a careful and caring eye on that special monument.

Acknowledgements: Mrs Beryl Wilson and Dr Graeme Killer AO.

My Whip Bird
By Eric Abraham, July 2002 (aged 104)

My whip bird is back,
I'm so glad to say
I've just heard his call
From the bushes away.
I thought he'd diced me
But I'm thankful to say –
To hear his call again
Has just made my day.
Keep on going my friend
Till at last I am gone,
Keep cracking that whip
Don't be sad; just move on.

Captain John Mackay – Discoverer of Mackay

An explorer, sailor and harbour-master, Captain John Mackay led a party that explored the Mackay district. He was the Brisbane Harbour-Master from 1892 to 1902, Chairman of the Queensland Marine Board until 1914 and, at the time of his death in 1914, Port Master.

Johnston Family - Pioneers of the Bulimba District

James and Helen Johnston emigrated from Scotland to Australia aboard the famous ship Lima in 1849. With their young sons, they settled in Brisbane and James took up the position of gardener at Bulimba House, at that time the home of David and Mary McConnell. Helen gained employment as the McConnell’s housekeeper and helped Mrs McConnell with the care of her baby.

With his earnings, James purchased 70 acres of land which adjoined the McConnell property and this became the first scrub farm on the Brisbane River. James called their new home Mt Lang Farm, in honour of the Reverend John Dunmore Lang whom he greatly esteemed. The settlers worked hard to carve out a home and a livelihood in the new colony and with the occupation of these farms the settlement of the district may be said to have begun.

Stories abound of James’s relationship with the Tugulawa people, the traditional owners of the Bulimba area. Apparently, James was a great favourite and was tagged kiwanan, and a great display was made upon meeting him, with the people calling "kiwanan – wanan!: kiwanan – wanan!". There was a strong mutual respect between many of the area’s European settlers and the indigenous people, and it is said that the Tugulawa people “could never do enough to help the old farmers and their families”.

James grew arrowroot, wheat, cotton and bananas with a mixture of success and failure. Around 1862, the heavy flooding of the river made it impossible to get to Brisbane and the farmers and their families had to exist solely on bananas. James tried his luck at growing sugar and he also erected a sugar mill at Tingalpa, where Kelly's brickyards later stood.

Tragically, in 1874 James’s foot was caught in machinery at the mill and was so badly crushed that it had to be amputated.

In June 1876 James was elected to the Queensland Parliament to represent the people of Bulimba but sadly his new role was short lived. Perhaps the accident at the sugar mill a few years earlier had taken its toll, bu James died on 3 November 1876 with paralysis recorded as the cause of death.

James Johnston was a leader in his community and worked hard to help establish the district and support its people. This earliest of settlers of the Bulimba district became a successful agriculturist, horticulturist and community leader whose contribution is remembered to this day.

Acknowledgements: Des and Renee Johnston.

Sir James Blair KCMG – First Lieutenant Governor

james blair grave

Queensland’s first Lieutenant Governor was born at Coalfalls in Ipswich in 1870. He was admitted to the bar on 6 March 1894. As the independent candidate for Ipswich he was elected to State Parliament in 1902 and appointed Attorney-General in 1903. After losing his seat in 1915 he returned to his legal practice and in 1925 was appointed Chief Justice. From 1930 he acted as Deputy Governor and was formally appointed Lieutenant Governor in 1933. He was knighted in 1930 and appointed KCMG (Knight Commander of St Michael and St George) directly by the king in 1935.