Queensland Museum Viewing of Donated Government House Items
Thank you, Dr Thompson, for your kind introduction.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands and pay my respects to their Elders and emerging leaders.
It is a great honour, as Governor and proud Patron of the Queensland Museum Foundation, to join you for today’s special viewing.
Shortly after I commenced as Governor, I was rummaging through the small attic above Fernberg’s handsome sandstone entrance, built in 1865.
I came across what I now know to be some really significant historical pieces – clocks, uniforms, a Ruth Stoneley patchwork quilt and ceremonial military attire and accoutrements worn by Queensland’s 16th Governor, Sir Henry Abel Smith, and 20th Governor, Sir James Ramsay.
I am very grateful to the Queensland Museum staff who studiously identified the provenance of these items.
I was particularly taken by the steward uniforms. They reminded me of the striking white coats worn when Kaye and I first started going to Fernberg some decades ago.
Those white coats transmogrified into Daniel Lightfoot’s fawn uniforms of the Arnison era – impressively conceived from a design perspective, but which I think were a mixed success.
After that, they returned to the current style which is very smart and appropriately contemporary.
The uniforms I today donate were undoubtedly worn with pride by hard-working, dedicated staff.
Those staff always presented perfectly – they still do – as a mark of respect for the remarkable Queenslanders who are routinely acknowledged at Fernberg.
Speaking of remarkable people, the items belonging to Sir Henry and Sir James, are, I think, really very special.
Both were distinguished military men known for their affable manner and diligent attention to duty.
Sir James appointed me as a judge of the Supreme Court in 1985.
I vividly remember going to a law society cocktail party for the opening of the law year. Word was sent out the Governor wanted to meet the judge he had just appointed. We did meet, in the forecourt of what was then the new Supreme Court building, but now demolished.
I am on the record elsewhere as saying Sir Henry Abel Smith was Queensland’s most popular Governor – ever. He served from 1958 to 1966.
Sir Henry was the last British-born Governor – but he and Lady May were very extremely popular and gave the role a certain mojo – they served with dedication and panache.
Along with Sir Henry’s ceremonial lace belt, shoulder decorations, and peaked hat, I also offer to donate my original University of Queensland Regiment Officer’s Commission and regimental cap. I am amazed the latter is in such good condition – it dates from the late 60s.
There was a photo somewhere of me wearing the cap – however in a fit of overwrought vandalism as I prepare to move out of Fernberg, I am sad to say I have surrendered it to the skip bin!
As a sign of the times, I also offer to donate my vaccine certificates – from my childhood during the 50s and 60s and now during COVID-19 – both doses of AstraZeneca, for the public record!
Ladies and gentlemen, there is a supervening purpose to my visit today, which is to acknowledge the extraordinary work of all Queensland Museum Network staff and supporters, here and across all Museum Network sites.
You all do so much to advance human achievement, deepen scientific understanding and connect Queenslanders with their place in the world.
Over the years I have enjoyed so many memorable visits here – for the Science Festival, to donate my judicial robes, and to view those remarkable dinosaur exhibitions! I am touched I have finally reached a state you think I am now also equally worthy of preservation!
It has been an immense honour to continue the long-standing vice-regal connections with this remarkable Queensland institution.
Thank you all for your service to our State. I look forward to viewing these items which I now officially donate to the Queensland Museum, and to speaking to you throughout the morning.