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  • ArtS1 Grove Estate Plan 1888

    Advertisement for auction sale of lots in Grove Estate, on Saturday 4th February 1888.
    AHS archive no - AHS146

  • ArtS2 Grove Estate map c. 1900

    Grove Estate plan, c.1900. 

  • ArtS3 Ashgrove scouts 1909

    Ashgrove scouts, 1909
    AHS archive no: - 915

  • ArtS3 Seils Dairy Delivery Van 1930s

    Seils Dairy Milk Delivery Van, 1930s, a 1926 Willy’s Whippet,  owned by Seils' Dairy, Toomba Avenue, Ashgrove.  Milk was carried in the Dicky seat. 
    Source:  Neil & Jeanette Seils.

  • ArtS4 Waterworks Road, 1924

    Section of Waterworks Road showing the rough condition of the roadway.  1924.
    John Oxley Library digital image #201390

  • ArtS5 Old St Finbarrs Church Hall 1926

    Old St Finbarrs Church Hall,  Scan, 1926
    AHS Archive No: AHS523

  • ArtS6 Padmore Butcher Ashgrove Crescent c.1946

    WA Padmore, Quality Butcher, Ashgrove Crescent, c. 1946. 
    Source:  Desley Drevins.
    AHS Archive No: 559

  • ArtS7 Tram at Ashgrove West terminus, 1951

    Toast-rack tram No. 65 at the Ashgrove West tram terminus, in front of the Ashgrove West Uniting Church. 1969.

  • ArtS8 Grantuly Ashgrove

    Grantuly, the home of John Killough Stewart, son of Alexander Stewart of Glenlyon House.

The Ladies of Old Government House


A talk given by Leon Misfeld to the Ashgrove Historical Society

on Saturday 6 April 2013, at the Ashgrove Library.


I started off thinking about the wives of the Colonial Governors of Queensland but really I’d like to change the topic slightly and talk about the ladies of Old Government House.  Old Government House is my love in life, actually.  As I go through, you will see that the term ‘wives’ is not always applicable. 

I’ll ask you to picture this:  a family out on a Sunday afternoon drive in the hinterland of the Gold Coast.  The average Australian family – that is Mum and Dad and 2.45 children.  Son of the family is in the stage where he can read.  They first pass a sign and he says, “Dad, why do they name a national park after a cake”.  Dad, thinking on his feet, says, “They didn’t son, they named the cake after the national park.”  Had he known the name Annabella Elizabeth Mary Horton Hozier, he’d have been more informed.  I’ll come back to that name.

Let’s go back a little in history to the middle of the 1800s when people who lived beyond Moreton Bay were getting a bit sick of all those people down in NSW; and the situation hasn’t changed, I might add.  Anyway, a petition was raised in 1859.  Queen Victoria signed letters patent to bring into being the colony of the Settlement of Moreton Bay.  She was given the choice of four names to the new colony, one of which happened to be Queensland.  Guess which one she chose!  So Queensland came into being.  The first Governor she appointed was a fellow called George Ferguson Bowen.  He was an academic of sorts – he was a Master of Arts from Oxford, he was President of the University of Corfu at the time and he was also chief secretary of the Governor of the Ionian Islands.  Now, Sir George was no fool.  He saw the benefits in marrying the daughter of the boss.  So in due course he wooed and won  the hand of the Countess Diamantina di Roma, the daughter of the Count Candiano Roma who was the French President of the group of islands of Ionia.  That was in 1856.  They had one son, who unfortunately died, and then conceived a daughter called Nina. 

Can you imagine what it must have been like for a lady of the aristocracy to come from the courts of Ionia to Brisbane town?  And to make matters worse, on 1st December 1859,  the middle of summer –  to a town which had a population of about 5000 people, 4000 of which turned out to see the arrival of the Governor and his wife.  But what a shock it must have been for her.  Nina their daughter came with them.   Sir George had a job, he was commissioned by the Queen, and I quote,  “to Govern for the peace, order and good government of our said Colony and to elect a Government”.  But what about Diamantina?   She had no job, she had no support, she just happened to be the wife of the Governor.  So while Sir George set about electing a government, she looked for a job to do.  And fortunately, she took up philanthropy as her object in life.  It was not always seen as the role of distinguished ladies in those days, but having the Governor’s wife as the patron of your organisation bought status and more importantly, the ability to raise funds.  She had as an object the love of children and mothers in particular.  Sir George saw Government House as neutral ground on which men of all  parties can meet in harmony.   Lady Bowen on the other hand saw it very much as a social centre of the colony.  I might add when they arrived they didn’t have a home.  Government House hadn’t even been started.  They moved into Adelaide House on a temporary basis which we now call the Deanery at St John’s Cathedral.   Lady Bowen had a big hand in setting up Government House.  She was a keen gardener and to this day there is a planting which she planted with her own hands, down there at what we call the garden of gates between the kidney lawn and the botanical gardens, and it is still growing.  It’s a yellow trumpet vine for those people who might want to go and see it. 

Lady Bowen is described in the contemporary literature as a gracious person with a kindly smile, an accent, always wearing a ribbon in her hair and carrying a monogrammed handkerchief with all the arms of her family.  She was musical, she was a good singer and she sponsored the music section of All Hallows Girls School, which at that stage was just down the road from Government House.  It was on the grounds of the Cathedral before it moved down towards the grounds which was donated by the great-great grandfather of my wife.  Whilst at Government House, she bore three children, she taught Sunday school at St John’s Cathedral and so you can see, was very active in life.  But as I said, her real interest was in the children and the mothers of the colony.  In 1863, she set up a servant’s home for girls coming out on the migrant ships so that they had somewhere to stay until they moved into employment.  That building still stands.  It’s in Adelaide Street and been known variously as the old school of arts etc. and that was her initiative.  In 1864 she established the Lady Bowen Lying-In Hospital.  A lying-in hospital is a place where mothers went to have their babies.  This was originally in Leichhardt Street and moved to Ann Street and then to Wickham Terrace and eventually became the Brisbane Women’s Hospital.  It is interesting to note the records of the place – in the first year there were 41 births in the lying-in hospital, 27 to married women and 14 to unmarried women.  One of the other things I’d mention about her is in 1865 she turned the sod of the first railway in Queensland from Ipswich to Grandchester.  There is a whole story of that particular day – it’s one of those little incidents that started off with everything going wrong but ended up with everything going right. 

The Bowens departed Queensland in January 1868.  He had been the Governor for 8 years which is a record for colonial governors.  Sir George was well respected as a governor, but she was genuinely loved.  Records of her live on – she has given her name to a river, the Diamantina River, to a city, Roma, to Roma Street, Countess Street and she is only lady at Government House who had a statue erected in her honour.  That stands in the grounds of the Greek Orthodox Church and there is a replica on what used to be the private lawn of old Government House.  Her role as a vice regal wife didn’t end there.  From Queensland they went on to serve in  New Zealand, Victoria, Mauritius and Hong Kong.  He then retired and took up a doctor of letters with Oxford and Cambridge, became a privy councillor in 1886 and was awarded the GCMG, Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George.  Lady Diamantina di Roma died in 1893.  So I think we can say that Queensland, as far as the ladies are concerned, was off to a flying start.  A well respected lady, a well-loved lady, a very busy lady.

The next Governor (and pardon me for leading in with the Governors but really this is what it is about and the ladies who accompanied the governors in these early days). The next Governor was Colonel Samuel William Blackall.  He arrived in August 1868 and was governor for 3 years.  He was a soldier and served in various government services.  He was the Lieutenant Governor of Dominica, Sierra Leone and Governor of West Africa before he came to Queensland.  He was on older man and one account says he was unmarried but another says he left behind a grown family.  There was no mention that I can find of a wife.  When he arrived here he was certainly unaccompanied.  He was lucky,  because of a lady who served as his consort whenever it was necessary, and that was the wife of his aide.  This was Mrs Terry, she had known him for years, she was a very capable lady and was able to step in and act as hostess at Government House.  Governor Blackall dies whilst in office, in January 1871 and was buried in the Toowong cemetery.  He is reported in the press of the day as being a model Governor.  So there we have another good woman, in this case, not his wife, not his mistress but a friend who was well able to step in and take on the role. 

In 1871, George Augustus Constance Phipps arrived.  He was the 2nd Marquis of Normanby.  He spent time in the army, he was a member of parliament, he was privy councillor and Lieutenant  Governor  of Nova Scotia before coming to Queensland.  The lady in his life was Laurel Russel.  They had 4 sons and 3 daughters.  One of the daughters remained in Queensland and her family is still in existence in Queensland.  We have very few reports about the Marchioness.  They were a popular couple and they travelled widely.  The Marchioness was unfortunately injured on the way up the Brisbane River to the public reception and was unable to attend the civic reception for their welcome to the colony.  She accompanied the Governor to a civic reception in Ipswich.  Ladies didn’t generally attend civic receptions, but she did, and they had to made certain adjustments to seating arrangements to accommodate her.  So this was a first for the Marchioness to attend a civic reception in Queensland.  The Russel River is named in honour of her family.  They went from Queensland to New Zealand as the Vice Regal couple and then to Victoria.  The Marquis has gone down in Australian folk law as being the man who signed the death warrant for Ned Kelly.  It is strange that he is remembered for that probably more than being governor of 3 colonies.  The Marchioness died in 1885 and he died 5 years later.

We then come to Governor number 4 who arrived in January 1873 and was

Governor for 4 years.  His name was William Wellington Cairns.  He was unmarried, he was frail in health and he had an all-male staff.  He had no social life what-so-ever at Government House and he left Queensland after having been generally recognised as being a fairly unsuccessful Governor.  The ladies here will say, “ no woman behind him, no success”.  He went on to be the Governor of South Australia where he lasted for 8 weeks before chucking it in and going back to England.  He was knighted in 1887 as a Knight of St Michael and St George, KMG.  He died in 1888. 

Number 5 was Sir Arthur Edward Kennedy, KCMG, Knight Commander of St Michael and St George.  He was an Irishman, educated at the Dublin University and he had 5 previous governorships before coming to Queensland.  In 1839 he married Georgina Mildred McCarthy.  They had 3 children but she unfortunately died in 1874.  So when he arrived he had been 3 years a widower.  He brought with him his daughter Georgina who was 15 years of age.  She assumed the role of hostess at Government House.  They brought with them a Chinese household which did not make him too popular.  The interesting thing about this was that he was appointed Governor of Queensland because of his experience as Governor of Hong Kong and we had a Chinese problem in Queensland at that stage.  The Chinese were flooding in because gold had been found and so it was reckoned that Sir Arthur would be able to handle this problem.  Whilst unpopular on arrival, father and daughter proved to be a pretty good team, and by the time they left they were highly successful and very popular.  The contemporary press of the day described Georgina as an advanced young lady, a keen walker and rider, with a bright and genial character.  But she wore short skirts, with her ankles sometimes to be seen and particularly the high laced boots that she loved wearing.  Never-the-less, she was pretty popular and devoted to her dad.  She hosted Prince Albert and Prince George on their visit in August 1881 and her diaries recall that she was teased unmercifully by the 2 princes because of her pig-tails.  She was credited with restoring the governorship to public affection.  There is a river that bears her name (although there is some doubt about this) and a county which is named after her.  Sir Arthur fell ill and on his way back to England after having left the post and he died at Aden, so this was just another rod that Georgina had to bear.  She was a good young woman who supported the Governor of Queensland.  Now you see why I am beginning to go away from talking about wives of colonial governors because by my count at this stage, after the first 5 governors, we have had 2 wives, 1 friend , 1 daughter and 1unmarried. 

Let me now tell you something which is completely irrelevant.  These awards (GCMG, KCMG etc.) are generally awarded to people who have had colonial service or public service in the UK and those who have watched Yes Minister, you will know the old story – the public service say that KMG means ‘known by my God’,  KCMG, kindly call me God, and GCMG means ‘God calls me God’. 

Number 6 was Sir Anthony Musgrave, GCMG (God calls me God).  He arrived in November 1883 and was Governor for 5 years – an interesting period.  He had had 5 previous Governorships before arriving in Queensland, so he was no amateur.  He married Christine Brian in Antigua in 1854 but she died 5 years later and then he married Janine Lucinda Field, who was in interesting lady.  She was the daughter of one of New York’s leading legal families, very well off, very well educated, very widely read.  They had 3 sons and she educated the children herself to a certain stage and then returned to England to finish off their education.  Apart from her intellect and her knowledge, she was also a connoisseur of fine gowns, according to the fashion writers of the day and she was also very much the social leader of the colony.  It is said that she didn’t tolerate fools, she sometimes couldn’t hide her wealth and her knowledge.  This was much to the dislike of other society ladies in the colony and used to get right up the nose of the all the less well read gentlemen.  When they were at Government House, vice-regal entertainment was lifted to a new level.  She used to have house parties and every fortnight she would have one of these little tennis parties.   The object of these was to allow the young ladies of the colony to meet the dashing young men from the barracks.  Her real interest again was in mothers and young migrant women.  She set up a governor’s home for day care for children of working mothers.  She also set up the Lady Musgrave Lodge in 1885.  This institution continued as an entity until 1972 when it was converted to a trust and the current governor is still patron of the Lady Musgrave Lodge Trust. Some of you may know the story of Agnes Stokes.  She was a young girl who came out here to take up service and when she was standing on the wharf she was approached by a young man who said “do you have anywhere to go”.  When she said no, he said, “could I invite you to come to my mother’s house’.   It turns out that Lady Musgrave used to go down to the wharf and meet these young ladies and invite them to her lodge.  On this occasion, she was ill, so she sent her son there to meet the young ladies.  This caused a bit of a stir but he eventually he got 4 or 5 young ladies to go to his mother’s house, to the Lady Musgrave Lodge.  Agnes Stokes makes interesting reading and has written a little book about several incidents like that in the early days of the colony.  Lady Musgrave was not a person to stand by idly.  The Musgraves were interesting people all over.  They came across, in the second half of their time in Government House,  Sir Thomas McIlwraith. He wanted the Governor to pardon a fellow who had been arrested for stealing a pair of boots.  They were worth 40 shillings and the premier asked the Governor to pardon him.  The Governor refused to exercise his royal prerogative to pardon.  He did that because he feared that had he done that, the next request, which he knew was in the wind, was to pardon the crew of a black birding ship, and he was not prepared to do that.  There were some bitter exchanges between Government House and the Premier and in the midst of all this, unfortunately, the Governor died.  Lady Musgrave called Sir Thomas up and said that the Governor expressed on his dying bed that he held no blame against Sir Thomas but Lady Musgrave wasn’t so sure.  It goes on, with the development of an argument between them, where it ended up with the famous incident where she summons the premier up examine the books of Government House to prove that much of the entertainment, much of the vice-regal activities, had been subsidised by her family.  Unfortunately, under those conditions, Lady Musgrave departed from Queensland and much of the very good that she did in the day was forgotten.  She really did a lot of practical good for the colony.  The government yacht which was launched in 1884, was named Lucinda after her.  The Lucinda has long since gone the way of all good ships but the fittings are in the bar at Parliament House. 

Next came Sir Henry Wylie Norman, GCMG, GCB, CI, and he was Governor for 6 years.  He had in imperfect education.  He grew up in business circumstances but he had an astute memory and he was energetic.  He was a soldier, an aide to Queen Victoria and he had been the Governor of Jamaica before coming to Queensland.  He was also active in the marriage stakes – he was married 3 times.  Firstly, he was married to Celina Davidson in 1853, but she unfortunately died 9 years later but not before they had had 1 son and 4 daughters.  He then married Jemima Ann Pembleton who unfortunately died fairly soon after their marriage.  He then married Alice Claudine Sandies, who accompanied him to Government House as the next lady in Government House.  She was a lady, it is said, of practical mind and I can assert to that because in the annals of old Government House there is a record that she instituted fire drills which she insisted were to be carried out every month.  She was a zealous supporter, according to the press, of the children’s hospital and we have the Lady Norman wing at the hospital to this day.  She also laid the foundation stone of the Albert Street Methodist Church on 8 November 1885 and she was a great traveller.  It is interesting to note that the Governor and Lady Norman went to Barcaldine almost immediately after the shearer’s strike and the problem there, to try to soothe things over.  He was reckoned to be a steady man in turbulent times and she was his able supporter, public spirited and a stickler for colonial rights. 

Enter Annabella Elizabeth Mary Horton Hozier, whom I mentioned earlier.  She was married to Charles Wallace Alexander Napier Cochrane-Baillie, GCMG.  They arrived here in April 1896 and are better known to us as Lord and Lady Lamington.  They were young, they were stylish, they were wealthy, and they were well-connected.  We see a complete change in the role of Governor with the arrival of the Lamingtons, with the move away from being the chief administrator of the colony to the ceremonial role of the Governor, more akin to what we know today.  Still very much in charge but ceremony becoming more and more part of the role.  They had 2 children born in Brisbane, one of them has Brisbane in his name.   He was a man of empire, he was a champion for eastern people and also a champion for kanakas and aborigines when he took up the role of Governor here.  He was also a dab hand at cricket, which is all-important.  He was the man who was in office here at federation, so he was the last Colonial Governor and the first State Governor.  Lady Lamington is said, in the contemporary press, to be congenial, a hard worker, and very good driver of four-in-hand.  She took her patronage very seriously.  She in fact said, ‘it’s no fine lady’s craze or fashionable hobby.’  She set up a number of institutions which live on today.   She established a hospital for women’s diseases, the Lady Lamington Hospital, she set up a nurse’s home, which is still standing at the hospital today, the Lady Lamington Nurse’s Home which, as a person who loves his heritage, I hope they will never get round to knocking down in the name of progress.  The other thing about her is that she actually trained as a nurse.  She did the St John’s training, she took the examinations and qualified as a nurse and used to take her turn on volunteer rosters in the wards of the general hospital.  So you can see she was a very busy lady and very well regarded.  She was also the patron of the braille society, once again hands-on, and there are several works around the library which she translated into braille.  In her travels she was always concerned for women. She hosted the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall when they came out here – he later became George V.  She used to have receptions at home.  Every Thursday she was at-home from 12 until 2.  At one of these receptions, she ran out of food, or food was running low, and that’s when Armand Gallad came to his fore.  He got some cake, rolled it in chocolate, dipped it in coconut and there we have what was known at the time as Lady Lamington’s cake  - it became an instant hit.  These days it is an institution and I would put it to you – where would most school and not-for-profit organisations be if it wasn’t for the lamington?  And I dare say it will live on, long after people who made it are gone.  So, why did they name the national park after the cake?  They didn’t, of course, they named the national park after Lord Lamington.  And in his diaries there is an interesting note.  When they proclaimed the park named after Lord Lamington, they actually put it down that he had chosen the area, he wrote in his diary later, “I cannot understand why we had to travel so far to see a paddock with trees!  However, on the way back, we stopped and I was able to shoot a native bear.”  But if this was a test of his ability as a Governor and the Governor’s Lady, they certainly passed, because he went on from here to one of the better posting of being Governor of Bombay.  Just as a footnote, when the great war came around, Lord Lamington joined the army and served in the great war in Syria.  Lady Lamington volunteered in the ambulance brigade and served in France.  On 13 March 1940, Lord Lamington was addressing a public gathering, talking about the virtues of eastern people and he was shot.  He was wounded, the wound never healed and he died in September.  In all respects, unusual people.  Lady Lamington lost her hearing and died about 5 years later, in 1944.

Moving away from those people who were well-connected and young and charismatic, we come to Sir Herbert Charles Chermside, GCMG.  He was a soldier, he spent his life in foreign service, he was the Governor General of the Red Sea Neutral States, before taking up the post as the Governor of Queensland.  His first wife was Geraldine Katherine Webb who died in 1901, no children.  She inherited Newstead Abbey, which was the home of Lord Byron.  Sir Herbert Chermside then married Clementine de Rosa.  She was said to be a sweet and homely lady of delicate health.  Probably it was her health which caused him to leave the colony early - he was only Governor here for 2 years.  They endeared themselves to the public and particularly to the treasurer, no double.  When Queensland fell on hard times at about that stage, they took a voluntary 15% cut in their salary to help the state out, and cut down on all the entertainment at Government House that became quite austere during the drought years.  The other thing is that they arrived by train.  Her sister happened to live in Toowoomba, a Mrs Webb, and they came down from Toowoomba by train to take up the position.  He retired from the army as a Lieutenant General in 1907.  They were well respected and not a lot is written about her, basically because of her health.

Next on the scene was Frederick John Napier Thesiger, KCMG, the 3rd Baron Chelmsford.  He brought with him Frances Charlotte Jest whom he married in 1894, who was the daughter of Lord Winbourne and the cousin of Winston Churchill.  They had 2 sons and 4 daughters, 4 of whom were born in old Government House.  She was skilled at water colours as was her daughter, and I believe there are pictures done by her daughter held by the art gallery here in Queensland.  She was a great pianist and if you go into  old Government House you will find a piano which is a Beckstein, which she ordered from Germany.  It had been ‘tropicalised’, which means that it had little brass brackets on the corners, because they thought that if they brought a piano out to the colonies such as this, it would crack in the heat.  Another interesting story about that is when they brought the Beckstein in, they moved the piano which was downstairs, upstairs so that the children could practice on it.  Heinze was hired to do that and it cost them 10 shillings to move it.  On the bill which was presented for payment to Parliament, the secretary had written on it, “His Excellency considers this charge to be outrageous!”  They really brought music back into old Government House because not only was she a fine pianist, but he was a first rate cellist, so musical evenings  in Government House were the order of the day.  But she was not a lady to stand in the Governor’s shadow.  Her special interests, again, were child welfare and we have the Lady Chelmsford Ward for sick children in the hospital.  She also started the Mothers Union and she was instrumental in setting up pure milk depots for children in Queensland.  They travelled far and wide,  she was regarded as an able person, she appealed to the public and she really believed that the well-to-do had a moral obligation to help those who were less well off.  She also supported women’s suffrage which came to Queensland during her time in 1907.  It might be said that it did face a little bit of opposition, one of the points being that female suffrage would bring about a degrading of the morals of women because some of them would lie about their ages.  But never-the-less, it came in in 1907.  He went on to be the Viceroy of India from 1916 to 1921 and he was the co-author of the report which brought about responsible government to India.  He died in 1933 and she had the right genes and lived until 1957.

The last one I will touch on is Sir William MacGregor, GCMG (God calls me God).  Lady MacGregor is a lady about whom we know very little.  It is said she was a lady of homely pursuits and it is just as well because she was the lady who had to preside over the moving from old Government House at the end of George Street up to Fernberg and she did it quietly and calmly. 

So that brings to an end the ladies who were associated with Old Government House.  So to wrap up I will just run through the list.  The physical legacies left by these ladies include:  1 island, Lady Musgrave Island, 3 rivers, 1 town, 4 streets, 1 lodge, 2 hospital wings, 1 nurse’s home, 1 county, 1 parliamentary bar, 1 statue, 1 garden planting and 1 cake.  Seriously, the real legacies of these women were their charitable works and their concern for those who were not so well-off and who really needed representation in the workings of the day.  They were great champions for women and children.  Without exception, you will find that they were great supporters of their men folk and vice-regal duties that they carried out and followed them to all parts of the world.  They were culture conscious within the limitations of morals in every case.  They were good women indeed and I think they go unrecognised.  We talk about the Colonial Governors all the time but very few of us go to look at the ladies.  These ladies did things off their own bat and used their position of influence to do a lot of good in the colony. 


I will end up by saying one thing I believe to be true of all those governors with all those good ladies.  There is just one thing,  “there are 2 ways to win an argument with your wife, and neither of them work”.