Mandalay History

What’s in a Name

The name “Fig Tree Pocket” developed as a local name for what was originally part of Indooroopilly. By the late 1860’s Fig Tree Pocket Road already existed in its present configuration, ending at a Reserve at the tip of the pocket. There is some suggestion that the road was originally “Fig Tree” Road, the road to a particular fig tree. What is certain is that there was a massive fig tree in the Reserve that now exists at the end of Fig Tree Pocket Road and that the reserve was created because of it.

Queensland was opened to free settlers in 1842. In 1862 the Surveyor-General instructed H.C. Rawnsley to survey the pocket into farms of 15 to 30 acres. While this was being done, the following letter (dated 14th June 1866) was sent from A.V. Herbert at the Dep’t of Lands and Works to the Surveyor-General:
Sir ,
I have been desired to request you to be good enough to reserve the land situated about halfway between Oxley Creek and the 17 Mile Rocks on the left bank of the Brisbane river and upon which a remarkable Fig Tree stands of which a photograph is enclosed – it is assumed that there will be no difficulty in recognising the spot and if the surveys are sufficiently forward you are to be good enough to send this office a tracing showing the Same area reserved.

(State Archives Location No.:SUR/A 2281 ; Surveyor-General: In Letters)

On the side of Herbert’s letter is an annotation that simply states: “Rawnsley instructed 18-6-66”. On 13th August, 1866 Rawnsley submitted the plans. The Reserve is included. Of particular interest, however, is the fact that while numerous trees are located on the plans by simple means of a letter of the alphabet, a fig tree in the Reserve is sketched in as a rough circle and labelled (indicating that it was of some considerable size and particularly noteworthy). If you study the accompanying copies of sections of the original plans, you will see the tree sketched in and labelled “Fig Tree”.

The said photo of the tree is reproduced on the poster. Notice how the man in the photo is dwarfed by the buttresses. Professor Clifford of the Botany Department at Queensland University estimates that the tree would have been a massive 50 metres tall. Henry Clarkson recalls his mother’s anecdotes about the tree and how she played amongst the buttresses. Apparently a dray could be hidden between them and a herd of cattle could shelter under its branches.

It is assumed that the tree died when surrounding scrub was cleared, although some stories indicate that a local grass fire may have hastened its demise. Other stories blame the floods of the 1890’s while yet others say that the excavation of sand from the area undermined the tree. A letter dated 29 June, 1892 and sent to the Commissioner of Crown Lands complains of the amount of sand being removed from the area . In fact, the Reserve was not gazetted until 1892 (apparently in response to the said letter).

The Mandalay Progress Association has chosen as its chief Bicentennial activity to plant a fig tree in the Reserve to commemorate the original tree. The precise location of that original “remarkable fig tree” (as determined by student surveyors from the Q.I.T. as an exercise was revealed at the Cel-arbor-ation.

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