16 February 2012

From Boggo to Bangalore: The Day Boggo Became an Indian Street Market

There have many great movies made in Australia. Sunday Too Far Away, My Brilliant Career, Gallipoli, The Year My Voice Broke, Some Phone Ad with Mahatma Cote. I was lucky enough to be present at the filming of the last one, which took place at Boggo Road circa 2004.

It was actually an ad for a phone card (or something) to be screened only in India. Why they filmed it at Boggo Road I don't know, but one day the production company moved in and transformed the gatehouse and inner compound into an Indian street market. The ad starred ex-cricketer Greg Ritchie as his 'Mahatma Cote' comedy Punjabi Sikh character, a regular guest on 1990s TV sports shows. He was all very It Ain't Half Hot, Mum, (see his work here), and I honestly don't know how it would have gone down in India. Anyway, it was a strange situation, with a fake Indian man in a fake Indian street making an ad that was only intended for viewing in India itself.

The museum staff were blown away by the effort put into filming, which went over a few days. The first step was transforming the prison, and in came tables and bright colours and market produce, finished off with dust thrown all over the floor.

Film shoot for Indian street scene, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane.
The gatehouse (© BRGHS)

Old cars and bikes were dragged into the 'quad', and buntings tied up everywhere.

Film shoot for Indian street scene, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane.
The 'quad' (© BRGHS)

All of the pink and blue building you can see to the left here was in fact just a temporary facade.

Film shoot for Indian street scene, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane.

Directly across from the above was this building, which housed the office of the Boggo Road Gaol Historical Society and normally looked like this...

Film shoot for Indian street scene, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane.

...but ended up looking like this:

Film shoot for Indian street scene, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane.

I've been to India, and have to say the production crew did a surprisingly good job with this recreation. Best of all, during the shoot, the museum staff were kindly invited into the huge on-set catering trailer for a series of delicious all-you-can-politely-eat smorgasbords of great Indian food (which just happens to be my favourite food in the world). I was as happy as a pig in mud. And speaking of animals, what's an Indian street scene without a Brahman bull?

Film shoot for Indian street scene, Boggo Road Gaol, Brisbane.

If anybody has a copy of the ad which came out of all this, I'd love to have a look at it too. Or if any of the production crew have any pics or stories they'd like to share, that would also be great.

Anyway, strange days indeed at Boggo Road.

12 February 2012

Reservation Life in Dutton Park

Dutton Park is only a small suburb, and many people around Brisbane don't know where it is (it lies between Woolloongabba, Highgate Hill and Fairfield), but it has a surprisingly rich and unique heritage because back in the 19th century the colonial government set aside most of the local land as reserves. Queensland was still a brand new colony and Brisbane was beginning to expand rapidly, and the government required land close to the city for a number of government facilities. The area they choose is shown here:

Original 19th-century government reserves (green) overlaid on modern suburb map of Dutton Park, Brisbane..
Original reserves (green) overlaid on modern suburb map.

A survey was undertaken there by Charles Rawnsley in 1863. A huge complex of reserves was created, covering almost 140 hectares between the modern Annerley and Ipswich roads and the river.

19th-century government reserves of Dutton Park, Brisbane.

There were up to ten different reserves, and I’ll run through a list of some of them and how they were used:

South Brisbane Cemetery (1866 - )
The first reserve to be actively used was the cemetery, which was reserved in 1866 and first used in 1870, and is now the oldest surviving municipal cemetery in Brisbane. About 100,000 people have been buried there.

South Brisbane Cemetery, Dutton Park, circa 1898. (John Oxley Library).
South Brisbane Cemetery, circa 1898 (John Oxley Library).

Deaf, Dumb and Blind School (1883 - 1988)
This school opened in 1883 as the 'Brisbane Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, Deaf and Dumb'. It later became the Queensland School for the Deaf and this old building was demolished when a new school opened on the same site (next to Dutton Park railway station) in 1973. The school closed in 1988 when the children were placed into the mainstream school system.

Queensland School for the Deaf, Dutton Park, circa 1935. (JOL)
Queensland School for the Deaf, circa 1935. (JOL)

Orphanage/Diamantina Hospital (1883-)
The Diamantina Orphanage was established in 1883, and after several changes of function it became a hospital for chronic diseases in 1897. After a major rebuilding programme it was renamed the Princess Alexandra Hospital in 1959. The Diamantina Museum, in the only original building left from the first hospital, is worth a visit.

On the verandah of the Diamantina Hospital, Brisbane, 1925. (JOL)
On the verandah of the Diamantina Hospital, 1925. (JOL)

The prisons (1883 - 2000)
There were a number of different prison buildings that came and went on this site over time. The first, shown below, was built in 1883 for male prisoners.And a new prison opened next door to the first prison in 1903 to hold female prisoners. This is now the only remaining prison building left at the site.

No.1 Division, Brisbane Prison, Dutton Park (replaced in early 1970s). (JOL)
No.1 Division, Brisbane Prison (replaced in early 1970s). (JOL)

Dutton Park State School (1884 -)
The school reserve next to the prison was cleared by prison labour, and the school opened in 1884 as the Woolloongabba Mixed School, later becoming the Dutton Park school.

Woolloongabba Mixed School, later Dutton Park, class of 1895.
The Class of 1895.

Dutton Park recreation reserve (1884 -)
This park is where the suburb gets its name from. It was set aside as a recreation reserve in 1884 by Charles Dutton, who was the secretary of lands, and was leased by the Brisbane Tramway company in the 1900s. Their trams ran to a nearby stop and the company tried to boost patronage by turning the park into a leisure resort by building kiosks and organising attractions such as the ‘Continentals’, outdoor shows which combined live acts and silent movie screening.

The park became so popular that nearby housing became known as the name ‘Dutton Park Estate’. This name was soon being used for the local train station and school, and although it became a distinct area within the suburb of Woolloongabba, the modern suburb was not formed until the 1970s.

Oddfellows' Village Fair at Dutton Park, 1909. (JOL)
Village Fair at Dutton Park, 1909 (JOL).

Animal pound (1887-1920s)
The next reserve to be used was the animal pound, seen below in green, which was used for confining stray animals, including stray cattle and horses which were wandering around the suburbs. This opened in 1887 across from the cemetery. This was under the charge of a police-appointed poundkeeper, a position originally paid for through animal sales. There was originally no water at the pound, and the animals had to be driven twice a day to nearby waterholes before a trough and water mains were installed in the 1890s. It was closed in the 1920s and its former presence is marked in the name of Pound Street.

Some other reserves
Other reserves included ones for the police, a school of arts, and a road metal quarry (now Quarry Street).

Government reserves at Dutton Park. Brisbane.
Yellow: School of Arts
Red: Road metal quarry
Green: Animal pound
Blue: Police reserve
Pink: Sanitary works

Although it was not on a reserve as such, the sanitation works are shown here as another interesting aspect of the local history. Operating from the 1880s until 1907, this was a large industrial facility where the 'night soil' from outside toilets in South Brisbane was destroyed in incinerators. Locals often complained of the smell arising from this facility, as you can imagine. Household waste was also dumped in trenches in the nearby park, which was the scene of an archaeological dig recently which turned up household objects from the 1890s and World War 2.

Some of the reserve land was later developed into streets, but places such as the hospital and school have survived and are still being used for their original purposes, as of course is the cemetery, which along with Boggo Road Gaol is one of Queensland's important heritage places.

It might only be small, and you can drive through it in 30 seconds, but when it comes to heritage, Dutton Park (and a bit of Buranda) is the mouse that roared.

02 February 2012

What Would Win in a Fight Between a Tiger and a Bull?

Sometimes historical research can go off on a tangent when something interesting catches your eye. When I was writing my article 'Tigers, Roller-Coasters and Special Effects: Brisbane's 19th-century Dreamworld', which mentioned the story of a tiger on the loose in Brisbane's George Street, I came across some old newspaper reports of staged fights between bulls and tigers, and quite frankly I was interested in the outcome of these contests. The result was, however, that people can be very stupid and very cruel, and animals can be very reluctant to fight upon demand.

1950 Topps card - 'Terror of the Jungle'.
1950 Topps card - 'Terror of the Jungle'.

I will cover three reports of tiger/bull fights here, although an earlier and supposedly fictional account had featured in the 1858 novel Jack of all Trades by Charles Reade. I say 'supposedly' because judging by later reports of actual fights, Reade's account was based on reality. After being placed in the arena, the two animals were reluctant to fight, and so Reade's protagonist poked the tiger with a red-hot iron to try and provoke it. As will be seen below, this behaviour was all-too-normal at these events.

The first account of an actual fight to appear in a Queensland newspaper was in 1898, and told of a fight between a Bengal tiger ('Cesar') and an Adalusian fighting bull in front of 1,300 spectators at the Plaza de Madrid. A seventeen-metre-square cage was erected in the middle of the arena, and the bull was the first to be released into the enclosure:
"The brute immediately began to run round and round his prison, bellowing and throwing up sand and gravel with his hoofs. The instant the tiger entered the cage he gave a roar and bounded on the bull, avoiding the horns, and fixed on his flanks and belly with both teeth and claws. The bull remained still for a few seconds, and then seemed to be sinking backwards to the ground. The spectators thought that all was over, but the tiger let go for a second to take another hold, and in the brief interval was kicked over by the wild plunges of the bull. Before the tiger had time to recover the bull was on him, and, staking his horns into the striped hide, it tossed the tiger into the air. This was repeated four or five times, the bull varying his tactics occasionally by banging his adversary against the bars. When the bull stopped the tiger lay limp on the ground, and the crowd, thinking he was dead, cried 'Bravo, toro.' The bull stood stamping for a moment in the middle of the cage, and then, seeing the tiger did not move, approached and smelt him. But Cesar was only shamming death, and seized the bull's muzzle in his powerful jaws so the animal could not move. Eventually, however, he was released, and, after stamping furiously on the tiger, again caught him on his horns. This time the tossing, stamping, and banging apparently ended in Cesar's death. The cage was then opened, and the bull rushed out and back to his stable. For precaution's sake, the tiger's van was brought up, and, to the general surprise, Cesar rose to his feet, glanced round as if afraid the bull was still there, and then bounded into the van. The tiger was found to have five ribs broken, besides having a number of wounds from the bull's horns. He is expected, nevertheless, to survive. It is said that all wild animals - bears, lions, panthers, and tigers - fare badly in combat with the Spanish fighting bull. Man and the elephant are the only sure victors over these active and ferocious beasts." (The Capricornian, 12 March 1898)
Detail from Henri Rosseau, 'Struggle between a tiger and a bull', c.1900.
Detail from Henri Rosseau, 'Struggle between a tiger and a bull', c.1900.

Another bull vs tiger fight took place in front of a huge crowd in a bullring at San Sebastian, Spain, in 1904. The fight was staged in a large cage in the centre of the arena. A cameraman was set up behind a barrier to film the event, but he fled in terror when the bull charged him. The Bengal tiger was reluctant to enter the arena, and when it did the Andalusian bull charged him down and gored him, but the tiger caught him in the neck before retreating and positioned himself to pounce. This was repeated occasionally over half an hour before the crowd grew impatient at the lack of action. A photographer climbed into the arena and prodded the tiger with an iron rod through the bars, but the animals simply stood and stared at each other.

At this point the furious Homer-Simpsonesque spectators "jumped into the arena and shouted all the names they could think of at the animals, hissed, lit squibs, and danced like mad creatures round the cage". This caused the bull to once more gore the tiger against the side of the cage, which made the wall fall over. Now the heroic bogans who had been taunting the animals fled in hysterical terror, and the Gendarme and everyone with a gun "blazed away indiscriminately" at the tiger. One report had eleven people wounded, but another had fifty being hit with bullets, with fourteen severely wounded, three in a critical condition, and one woman dead. The tiger, which had been too badly injured by the bull to attack anyone anyway, was also shot dead. After this it was torn to shreds by 'souvenir hunters', cutting off parts of the tiger's body as keepsakes. All of which proves that the most dangerous animal of all etc, etc.

Photo from the San Sebastian debacle. The tiger box can be seen to the  left of the cage here. (Salt Lake Tribune, 25 September 1904)
Photo from the San Sebastian debacle. The tiger box can be seen to the
left of the cage here. (Salt Lake Tribune, 25 September 1904)
The French government moved to ban these fights from taking place in France, although several hundred people gathered in a private enclosure in Marseilles in 1908 to watch just such a fight, this one staged with the intention of filming it. Not all went to plan because although the bull was ready for a fight, the tiger retreated to a corner and stayed there, prompting yet more human stupidity and cruelty. The impatient crowd pelted the animal with bricks and stones, and the attendants prodded it with an iron bar, turned a hose on it, and finally exploded fireworks in its face, but the tiger could not be provoked. It was returned to the cages and a second tiger produced. This one was much hungrier and instantly attacked the bull, which turned and ripped the tiger's shoulder open. The wounded tiger crawled back to its den, after which it was too dark to film any more and the fight was postponed until the next morning. However, when the time came and a tiger was about to be driven into the enclosure again, the police arrived and arrested the promoters, smashed the photographer's cameras, and led the cinematographer away in handcuffs.

'Tiger and Bull' by Alton S. Tobey.
'Tiger and Bull' by Alton S. Tobey.

Despite the cameraman's problems at San Sebastian in 1904, a silent movie short of that event called 'Tiger and Bull Fighting' was produced and screened to Australian audiences in 1906. The filming had reached the point where the tiger was pressed against the cage, but audiences were informed that the scene in which the bull supposedly killed the tiger was 'missing'. This movie was in circulation for a few years, and was quite possibly shown in Brisbane, but in 1909 the Sunday Times of Perth advised the film's distributor that they would...
"do well to drop such films as "Bull and Tiger Fighting," "Bear hunting in Russia", these exhibitions being anything but of an elevating character. Usually the "savage tiger" is an ancient, toothless, doped animal, which can't get out of its own way, and seems glad to crawl into a corner, and die of disembowelment."
Tiger attacking a calf, Roman mosaic, 4th century CE.
Tiger attacking a calf, Roman mosaic, 4th century CE.

The movie itself seems to have died of disembowelment and disappeared, as did the staging of bull and tiger fights in general. For the record, it looks like bulls generally got the better of the tigers, but then these were contests between bulls trained to fight and tigers trained to be docile. There were always plenty of people to watch them, however, and if the producers of Reality TV shows were given half a chance, they would quite happily stage animal fights and no doubt they would find a huge audience too.