Olio is a cafe at 133 Grey St, on South Bank and it is at the far end of the foyer of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre. It is a pleasant place for a cup of coffee or a light lunch and you can check out their menu here.
After you have given your order and you are waiting, I urge you to get up and look at the beautiful artwork which is above each seating alcove in the foyer. And this is where the hidden history suddenly comes alive.
The art is the work of Bruce Reynolds when he was commissioned in 2010. The resulting artwork of linoleum, paintwork and photography allowed him to pursue his interest in history, the early settlement of the Brisbane River and industrial buildings, while dedicating the whole project to Thomas Pamphlet(t).
Thomas Pamphlet, also Pamphlett, was a convict and a castaway. You can read an account of his life written by J.H. Hornibrook here.
He was a brickmaker and caught for stealing cloth and a Bay mare and he was sentenced to death - the harshness of these sentences makes me cringe. His death sentence was commuted to transportation and he arrived in Sydney in 1812. He got a pardon for good behaviour in 1818 and in 1823, he and three other men set off for the Illawarra Five Islands to cut Cedar. The boat was shipwrecked and they ended up on the shore of Moreton Island. Their adventures and survival over a period of seven months with the help of Aboriginals was quite remarkable and you can read a full description of his adventures here. Press on the image of the two pages which will bring up the narrative and scroll through.
In September 1823, Pamphlett and the Aboriginals attracted the attention of John Oxley, who was then exploring the "Mermaid" for the site of a new penal settlement at Moreton Bay. Pamphlett was taken on board. Oxley was interested to hear of the large river and explored it as far as the point reached by the castaways. Oxley then took the two men with him to Sydney.
On 11 October 1826, Pamphlett was found guilty of larceny and sent back to Moreton Bay. He left Moreton Bay eventually and lived uneventfully until his death on 1 December 1838 at Penrith.
It is perhaps thanks to Pamphlett that John Oxley was able to identify the Brisbane River, which led him to eventually establish the penal colony and eventually the founding of Brisbane as we know it today.
And all this was revealed on the walls adjoining Olio Cafe and Bar in the foyer of the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Next time you are in South Bank, stop for a coffee and or lunch and take in this remarkable story in the process.
The artwork warrants a close look - there are photos of a Brisbane of past times, wallpapers and industrial sites, patterns and permutations intertwining my favourite subjects of art and history in a constant creative process.