Ever wondered what your ancestors were doing 160 years ago? I know that two of my great grandfathers were blacksmithing in England and Greece, but I don't know what their living and working conditions were like, let alone their family situation. Recently my husband had some of these questions answered when we witnessed Natalie Cowling's insightful dramatic presentation of the life of Lady Diamantina Bowen, wife of our first Governor of Queensland. My husband's great-great-grandfather was Gilbert Eliott, first speaker of the Queensland Parliament until 1871, and undoubtedly he hobnobbed with the Governor and his family and witnessed much of their life and times.
Natalie has developed a reputation as Brisbane's female time traveller (Dr Who took its time to catch up with her) in the HerStory tours where she takes on the personae of prominent Brisbane ladies. She is a professional and seasoned musician and actor, with an immense passion for storytelling and local history.
OGH's Historic Bunya Pine
Engaging the Audience
The tour begins at the statue of Lady Bowen, which was funded by the Greek community in recognition of her heritage. The audience immediately feels comfortable as friends of Lady Bowen to whom she relates her history, including the pleasures she has derived from her life. There don't seem to be too many downsides, although she hints at her husband's moods. I thought there would have been something about her anguish when she had to leave Brisbane for New Zealand, when reportedly she was carried to the ship "prostrate with grief". And no wonder, as she immersed herself in the colonial life of Brisbane with gusto.
Thank heavens for nursemaids in that era, otherwise much of Lady Bowen's time would have been taken up with parenting. Not that she neglected her brood. She was extremely proud of their accomplishments, and family holidays at Sandgate were much enjoyed.
Her fondness and concern for the people of Brisbane was illustrated in her establishment of facilities for the less fortunate. One can read about her good works, but when Natalie tells the tales in the first person of what Lady Bowen achieved with the help of her good friend Elizabeth O'Connell, these good works come to life.
I wonder if your ancestors played a part in the early development of Queensland. They may not have been part of the upper crust, but Lady Bowen had a generous view of mankind in that any member of society was invited to partake of her hospitality. Maybe they didn't feel sufficiently comfortable to avail themselves of her kind offer, but the invitation was always there.
Old Government House itself almost steals the show with its magnificence. Lady Bowen is a most capable hostess, taking us on a tour both inside and out. She certainly was not an indoors girl, and related many stories about her connection with the grounds.
Grandeur of Yesteryear
Efflorescence in Lights
Set in Stone
I have viewed the panoramic photographic displays at OGH many times, but I now have a better understanding of their significance since hearing Lady Bowen's explanation of them. They also give a good view of OGH's place in the growing town of Brisbane.
If you invite friends to a morning soiree, morning tea is usually on the agenda, and it is no different when Lady Bowen takes you on a tour. We partook of refreshments on her private verandah with a beautiful view over the garden, a fitting way to end a most entertaining morning.