The Southern Hemisphere’s finest example of the Neo-Romanesque style is a secret, despite standing strikingly in the heart of Brisbane. It’s an historical gift that keeps giving, as every turn presents another soul to be remembered.
The 111-year-old heritage-listed Saint Andrew’s Uniting Church was born for a Presbyterian congregation started in 1862, although their history predates the colony of Queensland itself.
Amongst the arches, my hosts Bob and Noela lament the roof that’s leaking since the great hail storm of 2014. Tiles arrived from England, but the insurance company has stalled. Brickies love it here, because nowhere else can you see Colonial, English, and Flemish bonding styles, blending beautifully together by one spiral staircase.
One of the world’s great Scottish communion token collections is to the left of the pulpit. Over 800 tokens, one from 1678 for the Brechin & Kilmore Parish in Scotland, the home of an 11th century round tower. It was gifted half a century ago by Mavis Sinclair who in the 1930s was quite a socialite.
Further to the left is the Merrington ANZAC Memorial Peace Chapel, listing 268 parishioners who served in the First World War. When the Reverend Dr Ernest Merrington enlisted as an army chaplain at the outbreak of war in 1914, hundreds of his flock followed. One was Walter Mactaggart who smuggled a kangaroo to Egypt, and together are the subjects of that iconic WW1 pyramids photograph. Merrington was the photographer. The Mactaggart name remains famous today as the Mactaggart Woolstore at Brisbane’s Teneriffe.
Another parishioner was Graham Wareham, recalled by a gorgeous white marble relief featuring an officer’s cap and sword. At one time he was commemorated by the burial of two different corpses. He was buried at Gallipoli in 1915, and a second body was interred in France 5 years later. Those latter remains were actually that of his batman Fred Morely who was misidentified because he retained his late commanding officer’s identity disc.
Just when I thought that Saint Andrew’s had given its all, I peer down a stairwell. Gazing at me is a grand portrait of parishioner Mary Griffith. She was mother of Sir Samuel Griffith, premier of Queensland in the 1880s, chief justice of the high court, and principal author of the constitution of Australia. There’s no end to the stories from this place.