Mystery of Roy Symonds

The memorial service for the late Queensland and Australian cricketer Andrew ‘Roy’ Symonds (pictured above) was last week. There was another Roy Symonds. He wasn’t a cricketer, but his family were very well known, and he disappeared in a shroud of mystery one hundred and fifteen years ago. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

One uncle was George Barnes who went to the Ipswich state school. For twenty-seven years George was the member for Warwick in the Queensland parliament, he was also a long-serving member of the Warwick shire council, and there’s even a monument to him outside of the Warwick town hall.

George Barnes

Another uncle was Walter Barnes who also went to the Ipswich state school. He was a member of the Queensland parliament for twenty-nine years, he was twice the treasurer of Queensland, was a long-serving member of the Coorparoo shire council and was shire chairman five times. There’s a memorial to him on the Esplanade at Wynnum.

Walter Barnes

The Barnes brothers founded the business Barnes & Co which were general merchants selling just about everything but specialising in drapery, with stores all over southern Queensland.

Then there’s the father of Roy Symonds. His name was The Reverend Thomas Symonds. He was well-known throughout Queensland including Ipswich because he served at the Baptist churches at Marburg, Beaudesert, as well as Nanango, Lanefield and Petrie Terrace in Brisbane, and was later the president of the Baptist church for the whole of Queensland.

The Reverend Thomas Symonds

Roy Symonds was an intelligent young man, smartly dressed, and fifteen-years-old when he arrived in Ipswich in 1907. But he didn’t stay long. You see he was picked up at the Ipswich train station after midnight by the local police sergeant and appeared in the Ipswich magistrates court the next day.

The magistrate or police didn’t know what to do with Roy because he hadn’t done anything wrong, other than being fifteen-years-old and out after midnight. So they held onto him waiting for word to come from Brisbane.

What had happened was that Roy had just started work at his uncles’ new Barnes & Co drapery store in Brisbane, which back then was on the corner of Roma and Turbot streets – it’s where the magistrates court is today. Roy didn’t like it and so ran away the day after the shop opened.

Barnes & Co, Allora

He was on his way to Warwick hoping to get a job on his uncle’s farm there.

But this is where our Roy Symonds just disappeared from history. You see Roy was actually the adopted son of The Reverend Symonds.

‘Roy Symonds’ wasn’t his real name, and there’s no known reference to him in any records after going to Ipswich. Even when Rev. Symonds passed away, the minister’s natural children were named, but nothing about Roy.

Ipswich proved to be his undoing because after arriving there in 1907, and appearing in the magistrates court, young Roy Symonds simply vanished from history, never to be seen again.

But at least his name was remembered this week with the public memorial to cricketer Roy Symonds in Townsville.


Photo credits:
Andrew ‘Roy’ Symonds – India Times, 26th September 2017
Walter Henry Barnes 1900 – State Library of Queensland
George Powell Barnes 1907 – State Library of Queensland
Rev. Thomas Uren Symonds – The QB: the voice of Queensland Baptists, 21st October 2013 page 32
Barnes & Company in Allora c1918 – State Library of Queensland

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