Thursday, June 21, 2012

Special Collections Fossickings 5: Mt Garnet's woman of substance

North Queensland Photographic Collection ID 5205
The redoubtable Julia Lucey (nee O’Connell) was born in 1862 in Co. Cork, Ireland. Believed to be in her forties in this photograph, she came to Australia as a fifteen year-old – possibly unaccompanied. Landing in Townsville, she set out for Port Douglas but an undated obituary notice reports that she crossed the range on the way north, described as “a most hazardous feat”, before going on to brave the many “discomforts and dangers” of life in Mt Albion, Herberton and Irvinebank.

In 1891 Julia married Denis Lucey, manager of Irvinebank’s Vulcan tin mine before moving to Mount Garnet where, in 1898, the couple built the Mount Garnet Hotel, later named Lucey’s Hotel. They had two children, Lenard and Mary, and business was apparently thriving when Denis died in 1910 aged 47.

Undaunted, Julia Lucey continued to run the hotel very successfully despite keen competition. She was respected for refusing to profiteer from the wartime conditions,
North Queensland Photographic Collection ID 5217
maintaining her established rate of 25/- for a week’s bed and board throughout the war. Julia died in December 1928, having run the hotel for nearly 20 years after her husband’s death. The obituary describes her as a widely-read, intellectual woman, devoted to her children and possessing “a fine business capacity.”

A booklet of newspaper cuttings, held in the North Queensland collection, provides evidence that younger generations of the family remained active in local affairs. There are still Luceys in the area and while the family name has gone from the hotel, it is perpetuated in Lucey Street and the Lucey Memorial Park.

The photos featured here are from the Alekua Album within the North Queensland Photographic Collection.  For further access to that collection contact the Special Collections Librarian.

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