Treasure of photographs from Brisbane’s early years donated to QUT by a local family


A treasure trove of photographs reveals how much Brisbane has changed over the past century.

The images, part of a new collection released by Queensland University of Technology (QUT), were donated to the university by a local family.

Lyndal O’Gorman, daughter of one of the photographers, Cynthia O’Gorman, provided photographs of her mother and grandfather.

The family’s albums and slide boxes contained over 100,000 images.

They include iconic Brisbane locations including the river, New Farm Park and Eagle Street Pier.

A much flatter city skyline was captured at a glance from Mount Coot-tha in 1954, before today’s tall towers.

View of Brisbane from Mount Coot-tha in 1954.(Provided: Jack Bain)
City of Brisbane from Mount Coot-tha.
View of the city of Brisbane from Mount Coot-tha in 2022.(ABC News: Alexander Lewis)

The view towards Eagle Street Pier from the Story Bridge was very different in 1965.

Instead of apartment buildings and office buildings, docks and warehouses lined the river.

But the red-roofed building at the bottom of the frame is still there.

Originally the offices of the Howard Smith Ltd shipping company, it is now a restaurant.

Eagle Street Wharf 1965.
Looking along Petrie Bight with the old Eagle Street Quays towards the city of Brisbane from the Story Bridge, December 1965.(Provided: Jack Bain)
Eagle Street Wharf.
Eagle Street Pier in 2022.(ABC News: Alexander Lewis)

Even in the 1960s, Queen Street was a major shopping center – except you could drive or take a tram along the Strip, until it was turned into a pedestrian mall in the 1980s.

Queen Street 1960.
Queen Street in 1960.(Provided: Jack Bain)
Queen Street 2022.
Queen Street in 2022.(ABC News: Alexander Lewis)

The King George Square of the 1950s is barely recognizable.

Among the many changes, the statue depicting his namesake on horseback has been moved.

King George Square, Brisbane, 1954.
King George Square, Brisbane, 1954.(Provided: Jack Bain)
King George Square 2022.
King George Square in 2022.(ABC News: Alexander Lewis)

Anzac Square has not changed much. The sandstone war memorial still stands in front of Central Station, but is now overshadowed by skyscrapers.

ANZAC Square, looking towards Central Station, Brisbane 1930s
ANZAC Square, towards Central Station in 1930.(Provided: Jack Bain)
Anzac Square 2022.
Anzac Square in 2022.(ABC News: Alexander Lewis)

Although the Porte Cochere of Parliament looks dated, it was not completed until 1982.

The sandstone is a lighter shade of the main structure and the metal roofs have developed a patina.

Queensland Parliament 1972. O'Gorman, Cynthia
Queensland Parliament in 1972.(Provided: Cynthia O’Gorman)
Queensland Parliament, 2022.
Queensland Parliament in 2022.(ABC News: Alexander Lewis)

Some places look pretty much like they did 50 years ago.

Jacarandas and roses continue to color New Farm Park.

New Fark Park, Brisbane, October 1972. O'Gorman, Cynthia.
New Fark Park in October 1972.(Provided: Cynthia O’Gorman)

The photos were taken by amateur photographer Jack Bain and his daughter Cynthia O’Gorman.

Jack Bain on a motorbike (left) and his daughter Cynthia O'Gorman playing with a dolphin (right)
Photographer Jack Bain in 1926 (left) and his daughter Cynthia O’Gorman (right).(Provided by: QUT Media)

So far, more than 500 have been digitized and made available to the public on the QUT website.

Lyndal said her grandfather worked as a bank teller in Brisbane for most of his life.

Jill Rogers (left) and Dr. Lyndal O'Gorman (right).
Jill Rogers, QUT Digital Collections Librarian (left) and Dr. Lyndal O’Gorman (right), QUT scholar and photo donor.(Provided by: QUT Media)

“He didn’t like it, he didn’t like it, but it was reliable work. I think photography was an escape for him,” she said.

Nowadays it would take a brave person to swim in the ‘Brown Snake’. But in a snap from 1928, Mr Bain looks unfazed as he pushes a rowboat down the Brisbane River.

Swimming and canoeing in the Brisbane River 1928.
People swimming and canoeing in the Brisbane River in 1928.(Provided)

But he was well clear of the water in 1965, when he captured the blasting of a channel at Seventeen Mile Rocks.

The explosions were expected to facilitate the passage of steamers between Brisbane and Ipswich.

A crowd watched as a column of spray slammed into the sky.

Blasting River Channel, Seventeen Mile Rocks.
Blasting was carried out in the Brisbane River due to pressure from the gravel and coal industries in the area in 1965, so that ships could pass more freely.(Provided: Jack Bain)

Mr Bain captured momentous occasions, such as the decorated Brisbane CBD for Queen Elizabeth’s first visit to Brisbane in 1954.

The monarch celebrated 70 years on the throne this week.

Decorated buildings in Queen Street for Queen Elizabeth's first royal visit to Brisbane, 1954.
Decorating buildings in Queen Street for Queen Elizabeth’s first royal visit to Brisbane in 1954.(Provided: Jack Bain)

While Mr Bain and Mrs O’Gorman have passed away, their photographs will live on in the QUT’s digital collections, a legacy of Queensland history for generations to enjoy.

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