This spectral story from Queensland’s oldest building, which was made by convicts in 1829, might disturb you. I told a version live on West Bremer Radio.
The Commissariat Store (pictured above) was built by convicts in Brisbane back in colonial days. It’s the oldest inhabitable building in Queensland. The only one that’s older is the 1828 Windmill up the hill where echoes of the feared treadmill still casts a shadow of cruelty and death.
The Commissariat is a beautiful three-story stone building that today is right next to the new Queen’s Wharf development. It’s made from Brisbane tuff stone that was quarried from the Kangaroo Point cliffs. It has bars on the windows to stop convicts breaking in to steal the food that was stored there, and was constructed under the orders of Captain Patrick Logan. He was the commandant of the fledgling Moreton Bay Penal Settlement.
Logan handed out harsh discipline. It’s reported that he once said to convicts, “Do you know where you are? You are in hell – and I’m the devil!” But he was also a prolific explorer. He was the first European to discover the location of what today is Ipswich. There’s a cairn and plaque dedicated to him in Esk in the Brisbane Valley. Landmarks about that are named after him, places like Logan City, the Logan Motorway, Logan Road, Logan River, Logan Creek, Loganholme, and Loganlea. He’s regarded by many to be the true founder of Queensland.
I’m a member of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland and was at the Commissariat Store last Sunday. I was there for Brisbane Open House. That’s when the public can visit amazing places which they may not normally be able to see, and on this occasion the Commissariat could be entered for free. The society is based there, and since it was founded in 1913 has done an outstanding job of promoting Queensland history. The governor of Queensland has been its patron since inception.
You can see real convict iron chains at the Commissariat, and all sorts of genuinely fascinating relics. At the front door is an old hall stand that was once belonged to relatives of the Snelling family who were owners of the historic house Dovercourt, and boasted a founder of the Queensland defence forces and a world champion auctioneer.
When you go to the Commissariat, try to be there on the hour, hopefully at midday, so that you can hear the wonderful clock chimes sounding exactly as they have for the past two hundred and twelve years. This echo of the past emanates from an 1810 longcase clock.
There’s also the gallows beam from the old Boggo Road gaol. From 1883 until the last hanging in 1913, there were forty-two people executed from that beam. There were more death sentences, like in 1905 which was the last time that a woman was sentenced to death in Queensland, but that and many others were commuted. In 1922 Queensland was the first jurisdiction in the British empire to abolish capital punishment. It took over half a century for most of the other Australian states to follow suit, not ending the practice until the 1970s and 80s.
But if you do go to the Commissariat, make sure you also go to the ground floor and quietly stroll outside. From there, gaze across the river to where the new Queen’s Wharf foot-bridge will take you. That’s exactly the direction that some convicts looked at around midday on Sunday the 17th of October 1830.
What they saw was the Captain Logan on horseback on the far side of the river. He was beckoning to them. They took a punt from the original Queen’s Wharf, however as they neared the far bank, the figure of Captain Logan disappeared.
What they witnessed could only have been one thing – that was Logan’s ghost haunting the convicts in death, just as he had done so in life. That’s because, at around that time but seventy miles west of there, Logan had lost his life. He’d been murdered by Aboriginals.
Captain Logan, the founder of Queensland, was killed while exploring what would become the district of Ipswich. His mutilated body, clubbed by waddies, was discovered in a shallow grave. There are reports of his ghost being seen in the area today.
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO A VERSION OF THIS STORY TOLD LIVE ON RADIO.
Commissariat Store 2022 – Harold Peacock.
Captain Patrick Logan 57th Regiment Commandant at Moreton Bay 1826-1830 – State Library of New South Wales.
Commissariat Store Gallows Beam 2022 – original artwork Meryl Frederick.