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