Queensland Places - Douglas Street, Thursday Island

Douglas Street was named in honour of John Douglas, the former Thursday Island government resident and police magistrate.  His appointment to this position came within a long, distinguished and varied career that included a term as the Premier of Queensland.  His influence in the area was also to grow when he was appointed as Commissioner for New Guinea in 1885.

Douglas was deeply religious as well as having an enquiring mind and he travelled widely during his various postings and became very interested in the Torres Strait region.  In many ways he was also ahead of his time, particularly in his interactions and dealings with the residents of the Torres Strait, and was interested in the area’s economic development.  Reflecting this long standing interest he wrote and published several articles on aspects of the area’s history and development.  An example of his care and concern for the welfare of those he met is shown by his efforts in arranging for boats to be provided to the islanders at Darnley, Saibai, Stephens and Mabuiag Islands.  Douglas clearly felt an affinity with the Torres Strait and its residents, remaining there for the majority of the time from when he was appointed in 1885 until his death in 1904.

As a measure of the regard in which he was held, a permanent memorial was constructed in the form of the Douglas Chapel in the Cathedral on Thursday Island.  The memorial tablet was unveiled in late 1907 while the Douglas Chapel itself was dedicated on 29 June 1913.  The residents on Thursday Island also funded a commemorative stained glass window.  As well, the north Queensland town of Port Douglas is named in his honour.

This photograph shows the Hotel Metropole, at Number 1 Douglas Street, Thursday Island, dominating the street and the surrounding area.  The hotel was erected in 1892 and, as a Thursday Island landmark, it would no doubt have been a familiar sight to John Douglas.  The hotel was lost to history, burning down during the Second World War.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

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