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Authors: Rosamond Siemon

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The Mayne Inheritance

BOOK: The Mayne Inheritance
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Rosamond Siemon
was born in Boonah, Queensland, in 1921. She was educated at St Margaret's, and obtained a Ph.D. in history from the University of Queensland. She served in the Women's Auxiliary Australian Air Force, and was a current affairs broadcaster with ABC Radio and a Radio Australia correspondent 1955–72. She served on the Oriental Studies Society, and the Co-ordinating Committee for Overseas Students in Queensland and was the Singapore government's student liaison officer in Queensland. From 1972–81, she was the Alumni officer at the University of Queensland, and is an elected member of the Convocation of the University of Queensland. She lives in Brisbane.
For my mother Annie Sarah Nunn
whose enthusiasm for the study of history
inspired my similar interest.




Mayne Family Chart

Chapter 1: A Profitable Murder

Chapter 2: Ireland to Australia

Chapter 3: Law Courts & Land Deals

Chapter 4: Consolidating an Empire

Chapter 5: In and Out of Council

Chapter 6: Life in Queen Street 1860–1865

Chapter 7: Crisis After Crisis

Chapter 8: Out of the Ashes

Chapter 9: A Family Ostracised

Chapter 10: The Tobita Murder and Its Aftermath

Chapter 11: The Burden of Inheritance

Chapter 12: Maynes and the University of Queensland




During the two years' research and writing of this history I have been greatly encouraged by the unflagging interest of Betty Crouchley, without whose helpful comments this would have been a lesser book. I am also indebted to the Registrar of the University of Queensland, Mr Douglas Porter and the Trustee of the Mayne Estate, Mr John Moore.

In my search for the truth a great many people kindly provided leads to be followed. I would especially like to acknowledge the generous assistance of Fr Martin at the Roman Catholic Archives; Mr Bill Kitson, Lands Department; psychiatrists, Dr Mary Abrahams and Professor Beverley Raphael; Mr Noel Haysom; and the helpful staff at the University's Archives, Art Museum, and Fryer Library; the Queensland, and the New South Wales State Archives, the John Oxley, and the Mitchell Libraries, and the archival staff at the Brisbane City Council.

For the onerous task of proof-reading I greatly valued the meticulous assistance of Betty Crouchley and Peggy Burke.

Finally, I would like to thank Jill Bruxner, John McAuliffe, and the historians: Professor Malcolm Thomis, Dr Ross Johnston, Dr John Laverty, Dr Clive Moore, Dr Denis Cryle, Mr John Greg Smith, Fr T.P. Boland, Fr N.J. Byrne, and the late Sr Frances O'Donoghue, and the other authors: Dr Harrison Bryan, Dr Geoffrey Kenny, and Dr Clarence Leggett who gave me permission to draw on their published material.


I have known of the Mayne family since I was a child. My knowledge probably dates from the late 1920s when Mary Emelia and James Mayne, the last of the family, donated the money to buy the St Lucia site for the University of Queensland. At that time most of the specious stories which maligned the family resurfaced. In their gruesome variety they still circulate.

If it seems surprising knowledge for a family who lived deep in the mountain-rimmed Fassifern Valley, I can only imagine that, as some of my family regularly climbed those rugged mountains with a group of Brisbane-based bushwalkers, we heard the stories around the nightly campfire. Among the group were several amateur historians such as Danny O'Brien, Romeo Lahey and Doug Jolly.

When, for a few short years before World War 2, I lived by the river at Hill End in Brisbane, I saw where the Mayne family lived. We could see the house, ‘‘Moorlands'', from the Toowong ferry. Locals frequently pointed across the river and said conspiratorily, ‘‘That's a bad place.'' Fate kept the Maynes forever in my sight. I married into a family who were their neighbours. The Siemons' ‘‘Ravensfield'' was separated from ‘‘Moorlands'' by a small creek and a rough track called Patrick Lane. No Siemon child was ever allowed to cross the shallow creek. ‘‘Moorlands'' was out of bounds, regarded as an ‘‘evil place''. My mother-in-law, a gentle, charitable Christian lady, never defined that term. Her knowledge of the Maynes went back many years. Before her marriage she had lived in ‘‘Rocklily'', high on the cliff above the river and overlooking ‘‘Moorlands''. Living the sheltered life of girls of her day, she had accepted without question that the Maynes were not respectable people.

In 1972 I learned of the Maynes' three major bequests to the University of Queensland when I joined the staff as Alumni Officer. What was a big surprise was how much mystery surrounded this family, which must be one of the greatest, if not
greatest benefactor of the University of Queensland and the State's community. When looking for material for a short informative article on them, I came across a list of items that had graced their home and which had come to the University after Mary Emelia Mayne died. With some difficulty, I located them all. They were excellent pieces of nineteenth-century workmanship, and, with the exception of the magnificent cedar table, once used as the Senate table, but which a staff member had later purchased, they were put on display at an ‘‘EXPO UNI''.

In subsequent years I often wondered about the family. Could the people who had been so generous to their community have been as bad as the stories suggest? It became important to me to know the truth. In 1993, after delivering my PhD thesis to the examiners, I countered the withdrawal symptoms which accompanied the long wait for assessment by delving into the Mayne family history. There I was to learn that one of the last people, supposedly involved in this family tragedy, who had died an unnatural death, had at one time been employed by my father-in-law. There was no way I could abandon this story.

Long research into a family history inevitably draws one into their life. To me they are no longer cardboard figures based on facts and footnotes. Rightly or wrongly I believe that they reveal a personality which one can understand just as one has an intuitive understanding of one's own child. In this account I have given the facts, but the family has become very real to me. It cries out for understanding, so I have taken a little licence and added a dimension that, I hope, gives their tragedy a more human face.

We know that the Maynes suffered the stark reality of the long reach of the sins of the fathers. We do not know how far back in time the first culprit-father existed. Perhaps we should be questioning why communities take their revenge and persecute the children who never asked for the ignominy they inherited.







PATRICK 1824 Cookstown Ireland
17.8.1865 Queen St
Mary (née McIntosh) 17.8.1821 Ennis Clare Ireland
4.9.1889 Moorlands Villa
Heart Failure
Mary Kelly (Mary's mother. née Nash. 1 McIntosh, 2 Kelly.) 1800 Ireland
24.3.1865 Bowen Hills
Ann Mayne (Patrick's sister) 1829 Cookstown Ireland
4.7.1905 Moorlands
CHILDREN Rosanna 30.1.1850 Queen St Brisbane
7.3.1934 All Hallows' Convent
Senile Decay
Isaac Patrick 14.1.1852 Queen St
31.1.1905 Bayview Asylum, Sydney
Evelina Selina 19.10.1853 Queen St
8.11.1854 Queen St
William McIntosh 17.5.1856 Queen St
16.8.1921 Moorlands
Heart Failure
Mary Emelia 31.12.1858 Queen St
12.8.1940 Moorlands
Senile Decay Heart Failure
James O'Neil 21.1.1861 Queen St
31.1.1939 Moorlands
Cerebral oedema Hyptertension Arterio-sclerosis


  1. For both Patrick and Mary Mayne the immigration records indicate a birth date which differs from that on their marriage certificate and on the family tomb.
  2. Although Patrick and Evelina were both buried at Paddington and their headstone is still there, their name appears on the family tomb at Toowong. Rosanna's name is not on the tomb.
  3. Paddington Cemetery was sometimes referred to as Milton Cemetery.
BOOK: The Mayne Inheritance
6.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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