Saturday, June 25, 2016

George Street Post Office opening ceremony

An article on the opening of the George Street post office in Brisbane, Queensland on 31 August 1899

Brisbane Courier 2 September 1899, p. 4

The newly erected post office at George Street was formally opened on Thursday, the ceremony being performed by the Hon. W. H. (Wilson, Postmaster- General The interest that has been taken by the ratepayers in the establishment and building of this office is well known, and as it approached completion a committee was formed, consisting of the aldermen for the district, Messrs. T. M. Hall and J. McNab, and Messrs. J. Reid, R. Edwards, P. Murphy, T. Goodhead, E. Duncalfe, Thorpe, and Alderman Phillips, of the South Brisbane Council, to arrange an opening ceremony. The ratepayers having subscribed liberally to a fund for this purpose, it was decided to open the building with a champagne luncheon.

Punctually at 4 pm. the committee named assembled at the building, and amongst those who accepted the invitations issued were the Mayor of Brisbane, Aldermen Thorne, Proe, Messrs. Lenneberg, R. Edwards, R. Rankin, J. Reid (of J. C. Hutton & Co.), J. Clark, W. Brown, P. Phillips, T. Pratten, J. Rogers (city engineer), T. Morrow, and a number of others. A few minutes later the 'on. W. H. Willson, Postmaster-General, arrived, accompanied by Mr. R. Scott, Acting Under Secretary, Post and Telegraph Office.

The Postmaster-General, after having been welcomed by those present, assured them of the pleasure lit gave him to be amongst so many of the representative business men of that part of the town, and to declare this new branch of the Post Office open for public business. It had been an idea of his for a considerable time, but in departmental matters it it was sometimes difficult to at once give effect to one's ideas. When in office in Sir Thomas McIlwraith's Government he had made inquiries into the matter, as he was then sure that people residing in that locality found great inconvenience in having to go to the Queen Street office to do their business. He had thought to establish a post office where the Real Property Office was situated, but Mr. Jack valued his specimens too highly. He (Mr Wilson) had then tried to obtain other premises lower down, but still near Queen Street. He was glad now that he had not succeeded, because the present site was a very much better one. He had gathered information, however, as he went on, and be had been assisted in this direction by the deputation which, headed by Mr. John Reid, had waited upon him on the subject. Mr. Scott, Acting Under Secretary, too, had taken the matter up con amore, and eventually this building in which they stood had been decided upon. The situation of the office he thought was everything they could wish for, but its erection had taken some little time, and whilst this was being done they had opened a temporary office. He was very glad to say that the business which had followed had been very satisfactory. He had asked Mr. Scott to provide him with a few figures which would be of sufficient interest to them and the general public to excuse their being given. The temporary offices were secured in April last, and were opened on the 27th of that month. During the four months that have elapsed, that is, from the 27th of April until the 26th of the present month, August, 943 mails have been received and despatched, containing 54,682 articles, 421 of which were registered, and also 518 parcels. The monetary transactions include the issue and payment of 186 money orders and 770 postal notes, of the aggregate value of £892 4s. 2d., to which must be added stamp sales and postage collections amounting to £541 8s. 6d. Telegraph business during the same period consisted of a total of 3100 messages of the value of £195 12s. 4d. (Applause.) This was most satisfactory. He intended as long as he was in office to afford the very best of services to the country. Great strides had been made during the past twelve months in the telephone service, and hard words had been said because progress had not been made as fast as people would have liked, but he had determined to have the most up-to-date pattern of switchboard, as well as the best attendants, and both coming together had upset them. He thought the public were now well satisfied, however, and he had been informed the other day that a gentleman who had come to have a look at the new switchboard had decided to get one similar in New South Wales. It was only on an occasion like this that opportunity offered to give the public some figures on such matters, and it would interest them to know that in 1887, when he took over the Post and Telegraph Office, there had been only five exchanges open in the colony. In 1896 there were six, and now there were twelve. In 1887 there were 510 subscribers connected. In 1896 there were 808, and in 1899 there were 1610. There were no departmental instruments in use in 1887, there were fifty in 1896, and there were now 1353. The telegraph offices now served by telephone were forty-five, as against none in 1887 or 1896. Of these sixteen are working on existing telegraph lines, and they are opened at no cost but for the instruments. There were now about forty telephones in country districts, which were of immense value in connecting large station properties, &c, with the nearest telegraph office, and thus with the outside world, at but little cost to the department. For instance, a telegraph office could not be opened at a less cost than £150 to £200 per annum under the old system, whereas a telephone office, worked by a local storekeeper or by the school-master, cost but £15 to £20. Telephones could thus be used to reach and benefit the small settlements. He wanted to let the public know that, wherever possible, the department would be up to date with the first offices in the world.

The party then sat down to a champagne luncheon laid in the large chamber of the office by Mr. Lenneberg, of the Grand Hotel. Alderman T. M. Hall took the chair, and Alderman Phillips (South Brisbane) occupied the vice-chair. Apologies were read from Mr. E. B. Forrest, M.L.A., Mr. R. Gray (Commissioner for Railways), the Hon. D. H. Dalrymple (Minister for Public Instruction), Mr. J. P. Thallon (Deputy Commissioner for Railways), and Alderman Stewart.

The usual loyal toasts were first honoured, after which the chairman proposed the toast of the Postmaster-General in warmly eulogistic terms. He declared Mr. Wilson to he possessed of the culture and refinement or the true English gentleman, and his qualities of courtesy disseminated throughout his department. This gathering had been selected as a means of showing the Postmaster-General that it was not a passing fancy which had prompted the George-street residents in asking for a post- office. He did not wish to take advantage of Mr. Wilson in any way, but he wished to say that they would like very much to have the fine building In which they were seated still further equipped with a telephone. Then, again, came the matter of the telegraph connection, which of course he looked upon as certain to be added soon. The position was most central, near to the markets and the Roma Street Railway Station, and it would be a very great convenience indeed to merchants and travellers to be able to send wires without going all the way to Queen Street. In conclusion, he desired to present Mr. Wilson with a small memento of the occasion, in the shape of a golden key symbolical of the opening ceremony, which had been purchased out of the fund subscribed by the residents. (Loud applause.) Alderman Hall then handed to Mr. Wilson a very handsome golden key bearing on one side the words, "Post Office, George-street, Aug. 31st., 1899," with the recipient's monogram worked in the centre, and on the other side the inscription, "Presented to the Hon. W. H. Wilson,

Mr. Wilson, in reply, said, however undeserved and unexpected the presentation might have been, it would be highly prized, indeed as an indication that his efforts to do his duties to the citizens had been appreciated. He was a modest man, but proud to have done some few things, notably perhaps, the introduction of the letter-bags on the tramcars. which had excited the attention of Mr. Henniker Heaton to such an extent that he had asked for a pattern to hang up In the House of Commons. Cheap telegrams and other things it pleased him to have done, and during his term of office he
would always be glad to provide the public with all modern facilities for their business. (Cheers.)

Mr. John Reid proposed the health of the Mayor (Alderman Seal) and the City Council, referring to the good work that had been done in the matters of wood-paving, &c.

The Mayor, in replying, remarked that he hoped the Postmaster-General would use his influence to push on the new measure of local government, and said he thought that the Government should send comes of the proposed bill to the Local Authorities' Association. An application for these had been made, and the reply received had been that copies would be sent as soon as it came before Parliament. He thought, however, that even if it cost a little more, copies should be sent before the bill went before Parliament, and that the Local Authorities' Association should be invited to make suggestions with regard to the provisions of the bill. They would be most competent to know what was wanted. (Mr. Wilson: " I will undertake to see that you get what you want." Applause.) He trusted that in ten years' time the city would "have as good men in the council as it had at present.

Aldermen McNab and Thorn also responded, the former pointing out that such measures as better lighting and water service could not be accomplished until the city boundaries were extended ; and Alderman Thorn said no doubt with all their improvements George Street residents would be satisfied to pay a higher rate next year. (Laughter.)

Alderman Phillips proposed the toast of " The Commercial Interests," coupled with the names of Messrs. T. Morrow and J, Reid (J. C. Hutton and 'Co.), and those gentlemen responded. Mr. R. Edwards proposed the health of Mr. John Reid, who had first suggested the idea of a post office for George Street. Alderman McNab toasted " The Press," and Mr. P. Murphy proposed the health of the chairman. Suitable responses closed the proceedings. During the latter speeches particular reference was made to the strides being made in the business and commercial life of Queensland, and the vast possibilities before the country, and several of the speakers also spoke in complimentary terms of the courtesy and good management displayed by Mr. Spencer, who had been in charge of the temporary George-street post office.

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