This is the story of Gerard and Gloria – finally united on the Brisbane River.
Gerard joins Gloria
Gerard in the flesh on the cover of My Village Magazine
Once upon a time, and that time was not that long ago, Teneriffe was a busy, scruffy, industrial suburb of Brisbane. The reason –Wool. After John MacArthur introduced wool sheep into Australia around the time of the First Fleet arriving here, sheep farming became very popular and lucrative.
In 1870, Australia was the world's largest exporter of wool. At that time, ships travelled up the Brisbane River and sheep farmers from all over the state brought their wool to the large four-storey warehouses built along the river's foreshore in Teneriffe. These four-storey buildings were quite a departure from the traditional wooden buildings in Queensland. These were brick buildings with a wooden foundation. The bricks came in as Ballast from places like Belgium and left with many bales of wool.
Sheep farmers brought their wool in on the railways which ran conveniently along the front of the warehouses. If you go to Vernon Terrace and look carefully, you can see that parts of the railway line have been preserved. The wool was offloaded and placed in the big warehouses where it was inspected and graded and after being made into bales, finally exported.
It was a burgeoning wool empire in the 1870s and the 1900s – the two world wars only increased this demand. It is useful to remember that everything was made of wool. Army uniforms and socks (wool is not cold when wet – a big consideration) blankets, carpets, underwear, men's and women's clothing and so much more besides.
So Teneriffe had its golden wool age – or should we say its golden fleece.
The importance of wool may have declined as more synthetic materials appeared on the market, but people were conscious of how vital a role it had played in the continuing prosperity of Queensland.
One of these people was David Hinchcliffe, MP activist, ex-mayor and artist. He felt very strongly that some form of tribute to wool needed to be created. Something that people would remember for its message but also its playfulness. An artwork proposed by Mark Andrews was commissioned to create two wonderful woolly people in polished metal but which gleamed golden when the sun was dipping on them. One depicted a lady complete with sun hat and handbag. The other was a man with glasses at the time, now binoculars.
The original concept
His initiative was welcomed and resulted in the installation of the first woolly person - Gloria. Gloria was named after Gloria Grant, who co-authored a book with Gerard Benjamin called Reflections on New Farm, an area in the city they lived in and loved. She was installed a few years ago but efforts to have her male counterpart join her proved rather long and protracted. Finally, after a few years delay, this was achieved some weeks ago. He is called Gerard – after her co-author and a historian who has written extensively about New Farm and the surrounding neighbourhoods. He has taken up his position by her side complete with his hat and a pair of binoculars.
Go down to the boardwalk near Teneriffe – take in the beauty of the river at sunset, admire Gloria and Gerard, glimmering in the golden light, read about the Submariners Story on the heritage trail. Stroll by the wool stores, now trendy apartments, restaurants and eateries, once the powerhouses of the wool industry, mercifully preserved and transformed for us by people who have a vision for the city but also an abiding love for heritage and history.