Memories of the Characters and Business Activities in West End – Highgate Hill from Christine Hill, resident Hill End


Bill Pitt raced cars for (Mrs) Geordie Anderson, wife of Cyril Anderson. Cyril Anderson and his brother owned Western Transport, which was in Montague Road, in a huge building.  The building is still there, on Montague Road, from Brereton Street to Norfolk Street; it became the ‘Norfolk Centre’. Originally, it had quite an Art Deco type façade on the angular wall that faced down Montague Road towards the Pauls Milk Factory.  It would have been built in the late fifties.  Western Transport was a well-known, large transport company for years, and Bill used to race this little Type One Jaguar (or C type it may be called), for Mrs Anderson.  As a young woman, she had made headlines, as she herself had raced up at Lowood prior to WW2 (and possibly also at Leyburn).  Not the ‘done thing’ in those days for a woman!  If she were alive today she’d be a hundred years old.  Geordie was a very pleasant person – both Grandma (Muriel Mackie) and Mum (Daph Mackie) knew her and liked her.  

Because the families were all in the transport business in West End they would meet up at Annual Road Transport Conferences and general social functions.  Another road transport family was the Nicholsons.  Jack Nicholson had a large truck yard on the corner of Bank Street and Mollison Street, and stretching back along Bank Street – all the land that Millers (now Kennards) occupies today.  His company’s motto was ‘Our business is Moving’.  Even though all these transport businesses were in opposition, it was a different era, and the families knew each other and were often good friends.  Mr and Mrs Jack Nicholson (who were also my grandmother’s generation) had a holiday house right on the front, straight onto the beach at Bilinga (Tugun).  I can remember holidaying at Kirra (on the front in the caravan), and walking around to their beach house for visits. 

Photos: supplied by Christine Hill from her family collection Reunion of Geordie with Bill Pitt, and with her Jag. April 1993

Business Activity…

After my great-grandfather, Thomas Haig, left the sawmill (1890), he had a few different jobs, including that of Nightwatchman at the factory in Vulture Street owned by Lahey Bros, and then he started driving a delivery van for Bryce & Co throughout West End and South Brisbane.  He was with Bryce’s for nearly 5 years, when he left and started out in business for himself with a carrying company. Bryce & Co had large premises, even still in the 1950s when we were children, and they were located somewhere within the block bounded by Montague Road, the river, Jane St and Donkin Streets, I think.  They didn’t take up all that land – but that was the general area of the Bryce business and truck yard.

There were many businesses there then, but also houses.  The Gas Works were operative, and managed by Mr Petrie, (no connection to the John Petrie family who lived on river, corner of Avebury Street) and you can still see the old Gas Works entrance gates.  Hudson’s Engineering, where our Dad had begun his working life was still there – and some of those old buildings still are – where the IVAN TIGHE building is for sale on the corner of Anthony St and Montague Rd, and if you go down Anthony St there are a number of very old factory buildings that are now Bryants’ Engineering – they were all there when we were children.  I have heard that those factories are up for sale, and that residential units will be built there, so Montague Road will ‘change’ again.

We’d go down Ferry Rd (opposite Drake Street) to catch the cross-river ferry over to Toowong (just near the ABC studios).  DHA built their huge premises in Montague Road when we were children – the buildings seemed very modern to us then.  They were then occupied by Education Queensland (School of Distance Education). Now it’s the site for Montague Markets and associated high rise apartments, opposite the newly refurbished Thomas Dixon Boot Factory, home of the Queensland Ballet. And Chandlers had a depot just past the DHA buildings, towards Victoria Street. Victoria Street was all housing on the northern side then – there are no houses there now in the block where the street runs down to the river.  The McLeod family lived in the end of Victoria Street near the river – their father was one of the McLeod Bakers, but by the 60s their family no longer had their own bakery and Mr McLeod was working for Tip Top bakeries, which was then located on Gladstone Rd (opposite Dutton Park, where Canon then had its building).

Note: some of the buildings and land parcels have changed hands since these memories were written.

P.S. John Chandler and family owned Chandlers in Montague Road and he was later Sir John Chandler, Lord Mayor of Brisbane 1940 – 1952.  Chandlers in Montague Road was the wholesale depot for his business, mainly electrical goods.  Originally Chandlers had their own trucks and delivered to their retail stores which were dotted around Brisbane, so that was another family involved in road transport, from West End.