Mr Dudley Eglinton
Mr Dudley Eglinton (1930) – Brisbane Telegraph 11 Jan 1930

Dudley Eglinton (1850 – 1937), came to Brisbane (from Toowoomba) in the early 1870’s as a young man when he continued his teaching career at the Fortitude Valley Primary School. He seems to have acquired his interest in astronomy in the early 1870’s while teaching in Toowoomba. In 1874 he applied for and became Secretary of the Brisbane School of Arts that was to develop under his stewardship, with its associated Technical College, into a large organisation. Its success was due at least partially to his guidance, and it was reported in press obituaries that he ‘really was the founder of Queensland’s technical education system’. These institutions were the forerunners of the present technical colleges and TAFEs.

He occupied this position of Secretary for 22 years (1874 -1896), impressing all with his diligence and courtesy. It was at this time that his interests in visual astronomy deepened, walking back at night to his home Roseville Cottage, Vulture Street, South Brisbane, beyond the dry dock in South Brisbane. In those days there was little street lighting and night-time traffic was almost negligible.

The Brisbane School of Arts building (1877)
The Brisbane School of Arts building (1877) – Wikipedia

But it was not all smooth travelling. In 1891, moves were afoot by dissident committee members to replace Eglinton as Secretary of the School of Arts with Mr S. W. Brooks the Treasurer, who occupied a senior position at the separately located Technical College. It appears that Brooks was probably considerably involved with such moves. As early as October 1888, he appears to have been ‘getting at’ Eglinton at committee level about ‘clippings’ made by unscrupulous readers from volumes in the School of Arts library.  Events came to a head towards the end of 1891 when the committee terminated Eglinton ‘for inefficiency’. This charge was never proven.  The action was controversial and became public knowledge with reports and letters to the press from both sides.

The half yearly report of the Committee and accounts were to be considered by the members at a meeting just a month later on January 28th 1892 and this matter was considered.1Refer detailed report in the Brisbane ‘Courier’ 29th January 1892 and short report in Queensland News of 6th February 1892. Four or five hundred people were present at the meeting including several ladies and the Mayoress. The meeting was a very lively affair and heavily in favour of Eglinton.

In the end, the half yearly report (and accounts because they could not be separated) were rejected by the members and the meeting was adjourned. Eglinton had won convincingly.

On 5th March 1892 a newspaper report describes a meeting held on 25th February 1892. Once again there was a large attendance with many ladies, and D. Eglinton, now as Secretary stating that he had called it under Rule XI after receiving a requisition signed by 20 or 30 members. At the meeting new office bearers and committee members were elected by ballot.

Dudley Eglinton continued to occupy the position of Secretary until 1896. Subsequently he appears to have been granted five months’ additional salary as an honorarium2Notice of School of Arts meeting on 28 January 1897. – ‘Brisbane Courier’ P1Classifieds  -27 Jan 1897.

The fascinating thing about this whole episode was that in an interview nearly 40 years later in 19303‘Brisbane Telegraph’ 11 Jan 1930, Dudley Eglinton recollects these events extremely accurately, consistent with those reported at the time, but from a milder and more philosophical standpoint, saying that perhaps the other gentleman was better qualified but they had gone about it in the wrong way. However, he did say that the opposing committeemen were later reappointed under a Rule of the Institution and it may well be that the differences continued and led to his tenure as Secretary coming to an end in 1896.

His later employment

A newspaper advertisement on 24th August 1897 under his name advises of ‘Private School and Evening Classes’ at ‘Concord’, Merivale Street, South Brisbane (between Russell and Glenelg Streets) but it appears that he moved from these premises because the house was advertised for rent in another advertisement on 11th January 1898. The Post Office record for 1897-1898 also has him at this address.  Did he live on site with the family?  It was only a four-room house, one room 24X12 feet, plus kitchen etc. etc. Alternatively, was he looking after his father in Church Street, Toowong in which case it was merely a business address4for further information, see information on his residences.

There is a reference in the Eglinton Family Papers regarding its contents which include: ‘school roll book listing students who attended Dudley Eglinton’s private school for youths and young ladies which was located on the corner of Peel and Stanleys (sic) Streets, (South Brisbane)’. This address is compatible with the Post Office entry for 1901 which describes him a ‘Teacher’, Stanley Street South Brisbane. Again, the question is asked whether he lived on site.

In 1902, his postal address is Ipswich Road Woolloongabba, then in 1903, Jeays Street Bowen Hills, in 1905, Markwell Street Bowen Hills, and in 1907, Gladstone Road Highgate Hill. These are clearly residential addresses.

Apart from the Private School and Evening Classes references (as a teacher), no record of his later employment has been uncovered apart from an intriguing entry in a 1908 list of voters where a Dudley Eglinton, of ‘Woodhope’, Walmsley Street, Kangaroo Point is shown with the occupation of ‘collector’, namely someone employed to collect debts, tickets, taxes, etc.  The postal records place him at this address between 1908 and 1912.

Dudley probably owned the Walmsley Street, Kangaroo Point property (being on the local electoral roll) and may have sold it to purchase the River Road property. In a Commonwealth electoral roll entry in 1913, his well-known residence, the River Road Milton address, first appears.

He may have also authored an illustrated book ‘A nautical career: and a good record for the civil service’ by Dudley Eglinton, published by Watson Ferguson (Brisbane Printers) in 1914. Its subject is a biography of Thomas Rooksby, a Queensland Lighthouse keeper.  Its significance is unknown, but the writing may have been commissioned.

His astronomical interests continued and in 1912 on a letter of recommendation from Sir William MacGregor, the then Governor, he was nominated by Colonel E.F. Plant of Brisbane, seconded by Sir Benjamin Stone (who was an expert in astronomical photography) and was duly elected as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. (F.R.A.S.)

Research indicates that Dudley Eglinton did not have his own observatory, nor any sizable telescope. Certainly, the way he shifted residences, he could not have maintained an observatory for long. Thomson had an observatory on probably two separate occasions – certainly around the turn of the century at his Dornoch Terrace address and probably from 1922. Reports in other research papers indicating that Eglinton had a 12” reflector (in an observatory) from the 1890’s appear to be in error and confusion may have arisen with the 12” ‘Fire Station Reflector’, that Eglinton was instrumental in obtaining in 1919 and installing.

In his astronomical endeavours, Dudley Eglinton was a populariser and demonstrator and his dogged determination largely sustained the public interest in astronomy for over a quarter of a century between 1896 and 1924/5, and to an extent even later after blindness had overtaken him.

Dudley Eglinton may have had some independent means, or almost certainly some other employment which has not ascertained.  For example, Dr Taylor had proposed to telephone Mr Eglinton at 11am 27th October 1916 (Friday) but realised he would not be home at that time. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that Eglinton must have been occupied regularly at some business or occupation at that hour.

During this period (while at River Road), his wife’s name appears in the social pages of newspapers, so the impression created is that they were well to do. Her family was the well-known ‘Shirlows’.

Dudley Eglinton’s blindness

No date or cause of this occurrence for Eglinton’s blindness has been ascertained, but from various accounts it was in 1924. It has been stated that it was ‘as a result of using a telescope in astronomical observation’ and ‘as a result of his continuous use of a telescope in stellar observations.’  The only star that would cause this kind of damage is the Sun if the sunlight was not properly filtered and in these days it may not have been (using ‘smoked glass’ was common). Apart from very small instruments, Eglinton seems to have had no telescope of his own but the ‘Old Fire Brigade Station’ 12” (a huge light gathering size for the time) was presumably operational from the latter part of 1922. Perhaps it was as a result of solar observations with that instrument?  But there are problems even there. Astronomers usually have a favourite eye and if the central portion of the retina is damaged in this way it becomes immediately apparent and the other eye is not affected. It is unlikely that binoculars were in common use for this purpose. Besides, Eglinton was an experienced observer.  While it may be convenient to blame observations, the cause may be macular degeneration, severe cataracts or some other ailment of the eye such a glaucoma that struck around this time. But, both eyes?  It remains a mystery, and one supposes it is convenient to blame the telescope.

However a newspaper report for the Auchenflower Young Men’s Debating Society relates to a ‘mock banquet’ at Eglinton’s home in River Road on 18th November 1924 and no reference is made to his sight. The newspaper report was short and possibly it was not relevant – or at least tactfully avoided.

He was certainly afflicted by the time of the 21st July 1925 annular eclipse of the Sun in the Pacific when from Brisbane a partial eclipse was visible. Just over half the Sun was obscured at sunrise but the eclipse ended by 7.24am5‘Occult’ Prediction Program. Eglinton stated 6Page 6, Brisbane Courier 22nd July 1925:

‘I should be glad if you would inform your readers that my want of eyesight prevented my seeing more exact particulars concerning the places from which the eclipse would be noticeable. Observations made by a friend at Toowong this morning at about half past 7, with a 3 in telescope revealed the fact that the Sun’s face was in no way marred by any interposition of the Moon….’

The partial phase had finished minutes before this observation, but Eglinton realised that the main part of the eclipse was to the east.

Dudley Eglinton’s later years

As stated, quite possibly from 1924 and certainly by mid-1925, Dudley Eglinton had lost his eyesight and could no longer observe. He still wrote articles which were published and indeed his final article ‘The Southern Cross’ for the Queensland Agricultural Journal was published in December 1936. He managed this by dictating to his third wife Anna Catherine Sophie Cordes Eglinton. But Anna was not a mere helper.  She was very competent, and as later described, considerably ameliorated the shortcomings brought about by his blindness.

John Henry Nicholson and his wife Anna Cordes
Anna Cordes and John Henry Nicholson – State Library of Queensland. Circa 1905.

Dudley Eglington had married Anna on 4th August 1926 when he was already blind. She was the widow of John Henry Nicholson – schoolmaster, poet and author of ‘Halek’ and other works (1838 -1923). Nicholson’s first wife had died in 1901.  Anna had married him in 1905 but after three months suffering from ‘melancholia’, Nicholson had spent much of his remaining time at the Goodna Mental Hospital7Australian Dictionary of Biography 1974.

Anna had a German background, was intellectually accomplished, and perhaps she enjoyed the mental stimulation even though living in a position of a carer for old men. She survived Eglinton by 11 years, dying in 1948, and together with Eglinton and his family members is buried in Toowong Cemetery, Brisbane.

His marriage to Anna  may have been concurrent with, or at least not long after, his move to ‘Vort Hem’, William Street Virginia (now Wade Street) where he is recorded in the 1928 electoral roll as ‘lecturer’ (blind and at age 77/78!) and again in 1934 with an identical entry.

In his final decade, his wife attended to his secretarial work and he would dictate correspondence, articles and papers. From at least one article that appeared under both their names, she appears to have collaborated with him. You may well visualise an intelligent articulate person able to perform the research, collaborating with a person with the experience and background knowledge, but whose blindness severely limited him.

His wife attended for him and presented a paper to the first official meeting of the newly formed Astronomical Society of Queensland on 3rd October 1927. There were two vice Presidents of this new Society. He was one but it was clearly nominal because he appears to have rarely left home. The appointment to this position recognised his contribution to astronomy in Queensland, but probably also his successful efforts in having the remaining property of the defunct Brisbane Astronomical Society transferred to the new body. (There is a later parallel in the Vice Presidency of the British Astronomical Association awarded to Sir Patrick Moore.)  John Beebe is listed as a Councillor of this new organisation, but there is no mention of J.P. Thomson.

In January 1930, a detailed and comprehensive interview on his life and achievements was conducted by reporters visiting his home. This indicates a complete command of his mental faculties at that time8‘Brisbane Telegraph’ 11th January 1930. Another report indicated that because of his animated discussion and demeanour it was hard to realise during an interview that he was in fact blind.

In December 1930 he was again represented by his wife at a function for his 80th birthday, advising that the condition of his health prevented him from travelling.

He continued contributing the occasional article.

An interesting snippet is that Mrs Eglinton (Anna) was in receipt of a literary pension from the Government – undoubtedly as the widow of J. H. Nicholson. This amounted to £52 in 1932/33.  It only appeared in a listing in the newspaper9Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton 9th October 1934) because there was a controversy about a political inclusion of three persons in the grant including the Prime Minister’s chauffeur and a typist.  Another recipient was Mrs G. Essex-Evans (widow of the poet). She was a sister of Dudley Eglinton and received an identical amount of £52.

In 1935 Dudley Eglinton was made an honorary life member of the Astronomical Society of Queensland.

He died on 10th June 1937. He was survived by his wife Anna, three sons and two daughters.

The wives of Dudley Eglinton (1850- 1937)

Contemporary reports state that he had two wives and left behind three sons and two daughters.

However, several sources including Queensland Government records show that he had three wives. The first was Eveline Stanley Eglinton (nee Phelan) (1858-1883) whom he married on 22nd April 1879, and who died on 18th April 188310Queensland Govt records and notices in the ‘Brisbane Courier’.

His second wife was Martha Shirlow Eglinton (1861 – 1919).  ‘Martha Eglinton’ is recorded on Toowong Cemetery and Queensland Government records as having deceased on 30 October 1919 and she is buried with her daughter who died on 3rd December. An entry on page 4 of the ‘Daily Mail’ for Friday 31st October 1919 giving funeral details confirms that she was ‘Mrs Dudley Eglinton’. Dudley had married Martha on 11th April 1887. She was the mother of Eglinton’s eight children, five surviving at the date of his own death in 1937.

The third wife was Anna Katharina Sophia Cordes (nee Nicholson) as already described (Married 4th August 1926). Anna had married Nicholson in 1905 (and was therefore Anna Eglinton nee Cordes) . Anna was born in Bremervorde, Germany on the 16th of January, 1861. She emigrated with her parents in 1874 to the United States, and grew up in San Francisco (Source: Anna Eglinton Letters Acc M 1572, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland).

The Brisbane residences of Dudley Eglinton

At the time he was Secretary of the School of Arts he had lived ‘beyond the dry dock in South Brisbane’. At the time of the death of his first wife Eveline Stanley Eglinton on 18th April 1883 her address was given as ‘Roseville’ (Roseville Cottage, Vulture Street) South Brisbane, presumably this same address.

Dudley re-married in 1887.  In a notice dated 26th October 1889 for the birth of Vera, a Leichhardt Street address is given, and for two birth notices on 13th March 1891, and 23rd July 1894 (birth of Alvin) at Chester Street, Teneriffe.

In the Queensland (Wise’s) Official Directory for 1894-96, the address of Church St. (present Jephson St.) Toowong is given as a postal address for Dudley Eglinton. At first it appeared connected with the Stanley residence and his observatory with the 6” Grubb refractor since Dudley Eglinton was the person who arranged for the purchase of the telescope by subscription and then became Secretary of the newly formed Brisbane Astronomical Society (1896). He was effectively caretaker of the instrument.  He would have been the logical contact point, if relevant mail somehow got directed to this address.

However, Dudley’s father, the Rev W. Eglinton (Anglican Church) lived at Church Street Toowong (now Jephson St) – the same street!  Dudley’s father died aged 80 at his home on 15 July 1898, after having been effectively retired for around a decade. The house appears to have been next to the Baptist Church at the junction with Sylvan Road, a little over 200 metres from Stanley’s residence.  Dudley had ceased to be Secretary of the Queensland School of Arts in 1896. Whether this resulted from ongoing frictions, or was to assist in his looking after his ailing father full time at his house, is unknown, but it would place him physically very close to Stanley’s location and in an excellent position to make any arrangements regarding the 6” refractor in person.

A newspaper report describes his father returning to England about (probably over) ten years previously, and whilst there, undertaking work in several parishes before being compelled to return to Queensland after an attack of influenza... ‘after which he was able only to occasionally assist in clerical duties, and gradually he sank through the infirmities of increasing years.’11‘This Week (Brisbane)’  Friday 15th July 1898 Page 13.

No mention is made of his mother or Dudley’s siblings who were in the country. So, the task of looking after his declining father may have fallen to him. But we do not know. We don’t know even whether Dudley merely rented another house in the same street. If he was living in his father’s house, he would have moved out after his death when the estate was settled.

Dudley conducted a Private School and Evening Classes firstly at a four-room house, plus kitchen etc. named ‘Concord’, at Merivale Street South Brisbane in 1897. The house was being re-let in January 1898, so he had moved out by then. Then he operated in Stanley Street, South Brisbane, by 1901 when he was described as ‘Teacher’. There was no Post Office entry for 1900. It is possible that these were merely business addresses for mail, but if not, it means that he moved out of his father’s residence (if he was indeed living there and not just in the same street) possibly at the end of 1896, some 18 months before his father’s death.

It would seem that he moved to the teaching premises, since the timelines place this commencing shortly after he had ceased to be secretary of the Brisbane School of Arts.

The postal records then show a series of addresses, all certainly residential:

  • 1902 – Ipswich Road, Woolloongabba,
  • 1903 – Jeays Street, Bowen Hills,
  • 1905 – Markwell Street, Bowen Hills,
  • 1907 – Gladstone Road, Highgate Hill,
  • 1908-1912, Walmsley Street, Kangaroo Point.

In a 1908 list of local voters, Dudley Eglinton, ‘collector’ (someone employed to collect debts, tickets, taxes, etc.), of ‘Woodhope’, Walmsley Street, Kangaroo Point is recorded. Martha Eglinton is not12Whilst women could vote –  C’wealth 1902/ Qld 1905, Compulsory voting was not introduced until 1915 Qld, 1924 C’wealth.

However, being on the list of local voters (and not just a tenant), Eglinton may have owned the property.

Image of ‘Holly Dean’, River Road, Auchenflower – State Library Qld
Image of ‘Holly Dean’, River Road, Auchenflower – State Library Qld

Dudley Eglinton is best remembered however for his long-time residence at his property ‘Holly Dean’ in River Road (now Coronation Drive) Auchenflower (sometimes called Milton), and the electoral roll entry for 1913 places him at this address as do the postal records thereafter. He is likely to have purchased this house. Of interest, it was Archbishop Duhig, who recommended in 1937 that ‘River Road’ be renamed ‘Coronation Drive’13for the Coronation of George VI.

Initially the Eglintons’ close neighbours beyond some low land (now Land Street) were the Mayne family at ‘Moorlands’ 451 Coronation Drive, which historic building is still standing. Eglinton’s property, now replaced by the high rise ‘Inn on the Park’, had by the 1920’s fronted on Patrick Lane but the old image in the State Library of Queensland shows a long straight driveway, presumably from River Road. He was there until at least the end of 1924.

Images of ‘Vort Hem’ location 97 William/Wade Street Virginia. (Google Street view - Sept 2015.)
Images of ‘Vort Hem’ location 97 William/Wade Street Virginia. (Google Street view – Sept 2015)

As already stated, his marriage to Anna Nicholson on 4th August 1926 may have been concurrent with, or somewhat after his move to ‘Vort Hem’, William Street Virginia (now Wade Street). He died on 10th June 1937 still residing at this address. The report on their wedding in both the ‘Brisbane Courier’ of 5th August 1926 – Page 18 – and its equivalent afternoon newspaper ‘Brisbane Telegraph’ on 6th August 1926 ends identically: ’Subsequently Mr. and Mrs. Dudley Eglinton motored to their home at Virginia.’  In view of the wording of this statement and his blindness, I would suggest that this had been their home for a time.

The 1958 electoral roll records an Alvin Eglinton (his son, 1894-1982) at 97 Wade Street and this has enabled the property to be identified.