Premier’s grave overlooks Queensland

The grave of the seventh premier of the state of Queensland lies at the highest aspect of the Thursday Island cemetery.

Douglas’s headstone in the Thursday Island cemetery today. Image Sharyn Moodie 2022.

It looks back across the waters to the rest of the state John Douglas oversaw from 1877-1879.

Aged 76 when he died in 1904, the former statesman had been Government Resident and magistrate at Thursday Island since 1885.

He played an important role in seeing the island opened to private settlement – beforehand it had been an administrative settlement, and in trying to shield the Torres Strait islanders from government protection acts in the heyday of blackbirding.

Ironically, he had been a Cemetery Trustee from 1889 until his death.

His tall dark granite headstone is not the only monument to his life. The town of Port Douglas also bears his name.

The west aisle of the Quetta Memorial Cathedral Church, which is in Thursday Island’s Douglas Street, was dedicated in 1913 as the Douglas Memorial Chapel. The memorial stained glass window within shows an elderly St John – in the likeness of John Douglas.

Douglas had laid the church’s foundation stone. The church itself is a memorial to the 133 lives lost in one of Queensland’s and Australia’s worst maritime disasters, the sinking  of the RMS Quetta.

Leading up to his demise, Douglas had been ill for a few weeks. Then, according to a newspaper report “he appeared to rally for a day or two before the end came… haematemesis (vomiting blood) ensued and left him very weak. He gradually sank, expiring shortly after eleven o’clock on Saturday evening’’.

“Almost the whole population of the Island and Torres Strait were at his funeral, only the sick being the exception.

“Masonic ceremony was carried out, the firing of a salute and the sounding of the Last Post by the garrison bugles.

A salute being fired at John Douglas’s funeral.

 Douglas was outlived by his second wife (his first having died) and four children.

Thursday Island, Queensland.

Sources: Darling Downs Gazette, Monday 25 July 1904, p2

Memorial window for John Douglas at Quetta Cathedral, Thursday Island, Queensland, ca. 1913 Retrieved November 12, 2022, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-151172779

https://www.qld.gov.au/firstnations/cultural-awareness-heritage-arts/community-histories/community-histories-s-t/community-histories-thursday-island

The Week, Friday 29 July 1904, p27

Published by Sharyn Moodie

Travelling around Australia for work, I've found so many amazing headstones. But what is more amazing is the stories behind some of these deaths, and the way newspapers of the day reported them.

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