Maryborough, Queensland: The Little Town That Could

May 6, 2021

The following extract was published by on 21 April, 2021 and was authored by Liz Bond.
Click here to view the original article.


Maryborough Heritage Centre with character as mary poppins in front. Maryborough, Queensland.Maryborough Heritage Centre with character as mary poppins in front. Maryborough, Queensland.


From an Anzac hero to the creator of Mary Poppins, Maryborough celebrates ordinary people who do extraordinary things.

Everything is bigger in Queensland. The Sunshine State is often known for its larger-than-life tributes to the everyday like the Big Pineapple or Big Barra. But Maryborough on the Fraser Coast looks and feels more like country Victoria than regional Queensland, and its elegant Victorian buildings whisper tales of gold-driven prosperity and skulduggery.

While famous folk are most often celebrated in marble and museums, in Maryborough, three hours’ drive north of Brisbane, ordinary people are championed.

Remembering heroes

Maryborough born and bred, Duncan Chapman was the first Allied soldier to step ashore at Gallipoli. At the Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial at the edge of Queens Park, his first steps are etched with sand and pebbles from that desperate Turkish landing place. His sacrifice and those of the Australians who followed are told simply through a series of interactive dedications. Listen to the march of foot soldiers and a haunting Maori hymn, read the words of frontline journalists and share a mother’s tears.

Frank Lawrence mural outside the Military and Colonial Museum.

Frank Lawrence mural outside the Military and Colonial Museum.

Military memorabilia

Medals, books, photos, diaries, uniforms and vehicles are among the around 10,000 pieces on show in the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum, housed in an 1879 building on Wharf Street. It’s the richest collection of military memorabilia outside the Australian War Memorial.

History in paint

Download a map of the 37-stop Maryborough Mural Trail, which winds through Maryborough’s heritage CBD. Army chaplain Reverend Philip “Tubby” Clayton opened Talbot House in Belgium for soldiers confronting physical and mental battle scars. Nearby a mural commemorates the city’s most decorated World War II veteran, Squadron Leader Frank Lawrence. As part of Operation Manna, he and other Allied flyers dropped hundreds of thousands of tons of supplies to Rotterdam’s starving residents.

Near the Military Museum, Badtjala storyteller Wilfred (Uncle Wilfie) Walter Reeves’ war service and literary contributions are remembered. He and his sister Olga Miller wrote, illustrated and published the first book of Australian Indigenous stories, Legends of Moonie Jarl.

Immigrant past

Once Australia’s busiest port, Maryborough first boomed with wool, then gold, timber, and coal. From 1859, more than 22,000 immigrants came from across the world to stake their claim on their own piece of Australia. In the Portside Heritage Precinct, the Bond Store’s earth floors, handmade bricks, and barrels give up some of those colonial secrets and scandalous tales of opium dens, and fortunes made and squandered.

Gallipoli to Armistice Gas Mark Digger, Maryborough, Queensland.

Gallipoli to Armistice Gas Mark Digger, Maryborough, Queensland.

Walk with achievers

Along Wharf and Richmond streets, plaques dedicated to Maryborough’s success stories dot the footpaths. Pioneers and those who made their mark in Australia and around the world as Rhodes scholars, scientists, Olympians, and war heroes are immortalised. All of these remarkable people once called Maryborough home.

Pop in to see Mary Poppins

Once upon a time –August 9, 1899 – to be exact, Helen Lyndon Goff was born upstairs at the Australian Joint Stock Bank at 331 Kent Street, now the Story Bank. She went on to tour Australia and New Zealand as a Shakespearean actor. When she moved to England she took the pen name PL Travers and created Mary Poppins’ magical world. The bank trades in the flying nanny’s adventures, while visitors can deposit their own fairy tales in this interactive wonderland devoted to story-telling.

As you enter Jane and Michael slide down the banister. The Character Room shines the spotlight on illustrator Mary Shepard, who first put Mary Poppins in the picture. Throughout Story Bank, her line drawings fool the eye and add much to the whimsical decor. Skip down Cherry Tree Lane to The Yarning Circle where the story-telling tradition of the region’s original owners – the local Badtjala people – inspires both kids and adults to dream.

The Mary Ann train was built in Maryborough in 1873 to haul logs. Now the replica hauls plenty of kids on tracks built to service the busy port and Walker’s Foundry. Each Thursday and on the last Sunday of the month, Mary Ann’s whistle can be heard across the city.

Retail time capsule

Take a short drive to Lennox Street to find Brennan and Geraghty’s Store, built by brothers-in-law Patrick Brennan and Martin Geraghty 1871. The family traded for 101 years until George Geraghty closed the door one last time. The thrifty family threw away nothing – not an advertising sign, a ledger or piece of farm machinery. Fifty thousand jars and packets are preserved, and the shop’s shelves are filled with curry powder dating back to the 1870s, boiled sweets, and 20th-century household names like Bex, Persil, and Solvol.