As the burial site of inner city Paddington Cemetery became overcrowded and neglected, calls for a new cemetery were put out by concerned residents. This site was chosen by terminally ill Governor Blackall who was riding past when he was taken with the peaceful hilly location as a prospective resting place for himself.
Subsequently he became the first person to be buried here in 1871 and his substantial monument can be found in a prominent spot with some of the best city views. Since then Toowong Cemetery has become the place where the majority of high profile Brisbane figures from the late 19th and early 20th century have been buried.
The monuments and graves of other governors including Sit Samuel Griffith and Sir Arthur Palmer, premiers such as William Forgan Smith and prominent members of the Labor party including Anderson Dawson, who as Premier of Qld in 1899 led the world’s first Labor Government are also represented heavily in this cemetery.
Other noteworthy figures interred here are artist Richard Godfrey Rivers whose iconic painting ‘Under the Jacarandas’ (featuring his wife), hangs in the Queensland Art Gallery, famed explorer and Surveyor General Augustus Gregory (whose house remains virtually untouched in Bardon), 19th century builder Andrew Petrie, his father and Brisbane’s first mayor John Petrie, colonial architect FDG Stanley, suffragette and Labor Party activist Emma Miller, mayor and colonial builder Joshua Jeays as well as Dr Lillian Cooper (Queensland’s first female doctor) whose practice was in The Mansions and her life long partner Mary Bedford, founding member of the C&K who worked tirelessly to improve the lot of poor women and their children.
At the time the cemetery was established, over 50% of children born died before their fifth birthday, resulting in many tiny graves from that era, including some that have been moved here from the old Paddington Cemetery while three children who died in the Convict Penal Settlement during the 1830’s have had their graves moved from Brisbane’s first burial ground on North Quay. The most tragically famous of the children’s graves belongs to Hector Vasyli, the 11yo Greek boy who was killed by a swerving motor vehicle in a welcome home parade for returned World War I servicemen on the old Victoria Bridge and whose memorial is set into the remaining abutment of that bridge at South Bank.
Dead residents of notoriety include Patrick Mayne, the infamous death bed murder confessor. Although his gravestone can be found in the tiny Christ Church graveyard behind Suncorp Stadium, along with that of his infant daughter, here stands the large white family monument where his children and wife came to rest after their final years at their Toowong home Moorlands. More famously, speculation in recent years by avid Ripper researchers has it that Jack the Ripper is buried here under the guise of one Walter Porriott, an English bigamist, convicted killer and conman who married 20 women, was known to be in Whitechapel at the time of the murders and sailed to Australia just after they stopped. The grave in which he lies, having died in his 80’s in 1952, is simply marked ‘Bessie Died 25th June 1957 and Her Husband’.
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