A History of Fish Lane, part 3: The Fish Steam Laundry

During the 1880s, while the Eodone Aerated Water Company was booming along Soda Water Lane, another business was thriving a few dozen metres away on the opposite side of the lane.

The Brisbane Steam Laundry had originally announced its opening in January 1881 on Grey Street, South Brisbane, under the management of B. Burlinson.

Excerpt from The Telegraph, 22 Jan 1881.

Excerpt from The Telegraph, 22 Jan 1881.

After a couple of years, Burlinson announced that he was handing over the reins to a Mr George Fish. Around the same time Brisbane Steam Laundry appears to have relocated to Stanley Street, on the corner of Soda Water Lane. The Post Office Directory lists Brisbane Steam Laundry at this address for the remainder of the 1880's.

Excerpt from Queensland Post Office Directory, 1887 (showing the Brisbane Steam Laundry, managed by George Fish, on the corner of Soda Water Lane).

Excerpt from Queensland Post Office Directory, 1887 (showing the Brisbane Steam Laundry, managed by George Fish, on the corner of Soda Water Lane).

The early 1890's were tough times in Brisbane. Following minor floods in 1887 and 1890, Brisbane suffered massive flooding in 1893 and South Brisbane was hit especially hard.  Lives were lost, homes and businesses were destroyed, and the Victoria Bridge was washed away. In its extensive summary of flood damage, The Week newspaper described Brisbane Steam Laundry as being 'very materially damaged'.

Illustration by Mr Murray Fraser, from a photograph by Mr. Wiley, The Week, Feb 10 1893

Illustration by Mr Murray Fraser, from a photograph by Mr. Wiley, The Week, Feb 10 1893

Yet despite these setbacks the 1890s were boom times for George Fish. Soon after the floods, in October 1893, he took the bold step of dispensing with the name Brisbane Steam Laundry, renaming the business Fish Steam Laundry.

Excerpt from The Telegraph, 25 Oct 1893.

Excerpt from The Telegraph, 25 Oct 1893.

The following year, in 1894 he entered into politics successfully contesting a seat for the South Brisbane City Council to which he was re-elected in 1897, 1900 and 1901. As a politician and a prominent member of the community, Fish made considerable contributions to the southern suburbs of Brisbane. He successfully lead the campaign to abolish the Victoria Bridge toll and was instrumental in the construction of the Jubilee wing of the South Brisbane Technical College as well as assisting in setting up the Brisbane Cricket Ground at Woolloongabba.

Alderman George Fish ca. 1902, Poulsen Studios. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 115268

Alderman George Fish ca. 1902, Poulsen Studios. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 115268

By 1902, the laundry had outgrown its Stanley Street building and that year Mr. Fish moved the entire business across the river into purpose fitted new premises on Ann Street, Fortitude Valley. Despite the business moving, George Fish remained true to South Brisbane, remaining in his family house ‘Banyo’ on the corner of Grey and Peel.

The new Fish Steam Laundry premises in Fortitude Valley, 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 45207

The new Fish Steam Laundry premises in Fortitude Valley, 1902. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 45207

George Fish died in 1925 after a long illness, but his name was to live on in Fish Lane.

From the Daily Mail (Brisbane), 24 September 1925

From the Daily Mail (Brisbane), 24 September 1925

It wasn’t until some years after the laundry moved that Fish Lane began to appear on maps and directories.  Possibly due to the controversial demise of the Eodone Aerated Water Company, during the 1890s the name Soda Water Lane seems to have fallen into disuse and the laneway stopped being listed altogether. Then, after an absence of over a decade, the lane was re-listed in the Post Office Directory in 1906, now under the name Fish Lane. One George Gordon is listed as the only occupant .

Excerpt from Queensland Post Office Directory, 1906.

Excerpt from Queensland Post Office Directory, 1906.

Whether renamed by, or named in recognition of Mr George Fish, the re-branded lane still only ran one block from Stanley Street through to Grey Street.  Either way, it has memorialised George Fish now for more than 110 years.

Further reading:

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I am the granddaughter of Harry Edward Fish who was associated with the laundry in the years before WW1. My mother Phyllis Beryl Fish became asthmatic and they had to return to England just as the war begun. I remember they spoke about Auntie Edna and the laundry on Fish Lane. I would love to hear more if any relative (however distant) would contact me. I am an optimist, so please get in touch!!
Diana