A Tale of two Cities – Part 2

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In part one of this blog I wrote about a town/city called Gympie.  It was a slightly odd place as it did not seem to have a centre.  However our next city visit definitely did have a centre, and a fine one too.

Maryborough, together with its close neighbour Hervey Bay form part of the Fraser Coast area talked about in another blog.  We got to hear of this place from a chap we met walking his dog whilst out early one morning for our walk/run.  He suggested we look at Hervey Bay and Maryborough, although he was quite disparaging about the latter.  We stopped in Maryborough briefly on our day out to Hervey Bay but in the very short time we were there, decided that the city deserved closer examination, despite his observations hence the return visit.

Maryborough is about 20 miles Southwest of Hervey Bay and was founded around 1847.  During the second half of the 1800s, the city was the major port of entry to immigrants arriving in Queensland from all parts of the world.  The name was derived from the Mary River which was named in 1847 after Lady Mary Lennox (1790–1847) the wife of Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy, Governor of the colony of New South Wales of which Maryborough was then a part.  Lady Mary was killed in a coach accident not long after.

When we visit cities we always investigate the free waking tours available.  Maryborough was no exception and we were able to join one on the day we visited.  We started in the old city hall, in the council chamber which is now a museum and exhibition centre.  The museum displayed photographs of all the mayors of the old borough before its merger with Hervey Bay.  Our guide spoke of some “good guys” including a migrant Yorkshireman who settled in the area, who was instrumental in campaigning for the standard 8 hour working day in the early part of the last century.  He ended up as a noted local and regional politician, even getting elected to the state parliament in his later years.  On the other hand he told us of one mayor in the late 19th century who was a thief and a rogue who was eventually found out, arrested and jailed!

The walk continued into a large memorial park, part of Queens Park, which has a large memorial to the Anzac troops who fell at Gallipoli in 1915.  Alone in the centre of a  large concreted area is the single figure of a solder, pistol drawn.  This is Lt Duncan Chapman, from Maryborough, who was reputedly the first Australian to land on the beach at Gallipoli.  He survived this military disaster only to be killed a year later in the first Battle of the Somme.

Clockwise from top left:  Maryborough School of Arts, now offices; Catholic Church; Statue of Lt Duncan Chapman; Maryborough Cenotaph.

Maryborough was once Queensland’s largest port and a number of buildings sitting on or close to the river bank originate from the colonial era, including the Customs House, Port Buildings and the Bond Store. Close by is the Immigration holding centre, where new migrants arriving from the ships could be accommodated whilst being processed.  Many of Australia’s free settlers arrived through the port of Maryborough between 1859 and 1901.  The city has many other preserved 19th and early 20th century buildings including the Post Office and a hotel of the same name.

Clockwise from top left:  The old Immigration Building, now a Heritage Centre; Panorama of Queens Park; A Banyan Tree in Queens Park, thought to be well over 100 years old; Us by the railway with the Mary River in the background.

More views of the Anzac Memorial in Queens Park: Clockwise L-R:The sculpture represents the cliffs at Gallipoli that the Anzac Troops had to scale to attack the enemy; Lt Duncan Chapman, “on the beach” at Gallipoli – the marks on the ground represent footprints of the attacking troops; Soldier in France WW1; Lt Chapman, the boats represent the craft that the troops came ashore in.

Today, tourism plays a significant part in the economy of the city. Maryborough is the self-styled Heritage City of Queensland and holds heritage markets each Thursday. We had a look round the market after our walk and there were many ‘Artisan’ stalls selling such diverse things as jewellery, locally made or grown food, hand crafted leather goods and local trinkets.  It was a vibrant and lively place with many characters plying their wares.

Clockwise from top left: Busker entertains the crowd during the Artisan Market; Bandstand in Queens Park; Walk/Don’t Walk – Pedestrian Crossing celebrating Mary Poppins!

Maryborough’s biggest claim to fame however is that it is the birthplace of Pamela Lyndon Travers (P.L. Travers), best known for creating the “Mary Poppins” character.  The film “Saving Mr Banks”  starring Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson is her story and much of it was filmed in and around the city.  There is a statue of the worlds most famous fictional nanny in the town and as you can see above, an imaginative use of the Mary Poppins silhouette in the pedestrian crossings!

Finally Maryborough had a couple of art galleries which we visited.  The first gallery was run by volunteers but had nothing of interest for us.  The second gallery was next door to the Military Museum and part of a complex.  The main feature was an exhibition of photographs by local photographer Jenny Beck.  There were some stunning and imaginative images which gave me much food for thought.

1-3: Pictures from the Jenny Beck photography exhibition.  4: One of a number of murals in Maryborough, this one in a car park.

All in all Maryborough was a fascinating and pleasant place to visit.  It may have its detractors because it’s near neighbour Hervey Bay is more glamorous, and a beach resort which is always more attractive in the eyes of most people.  Maryborough had a unique charm and we came away thinking, not bad for a city, albeit a small one.

Next stop for us is Hobart, and the start of our “Tour de Tassie”, by car though, not by bike. Here is where we will meet up with Lyn’s cousin Jo, who is joining us from Melbourne for the weekend.

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