Historic home remains in safe hands

The Bowen Hills, Z Special Unit Safe House acquired by the Commonwealth Government during World War II, remains in the safe hands of the Queensland Women’s Historical Association.

The elegant Victorian Queenslander was built in 1886 and was home to the Perry and Menzies family until 1943.

Mr and Mrs Herbert Perry, of Perry Brothers Ironmongers moved into the house as newlyweds and remained there until their deaths in 1920 and 1922 respectively.

The property was then purchased by Mr Andrew Menzies, a prominent dental surgeon. The last of their four children was born in the front room of the home.

On Mr Menzies’ death in April 1943, his widow and their spinster daughter moved out and the property was acquired by the Commonwealth for war time use.

Exhaustive searches of war time records have to date failed to reveal the conditions under which the house was leased/rented by the government and used as a residence by the military and others until the end of the war.

 It was unfortunate that at the time Mrs Menzies was unable to take a few of her large paintings with her and the mischievous or bored soldiers used them badly as dart boards!

As part of the Australia Remembers program in 1995, members of the Special Unit met at the house for a merry luncheon where daring deeds, and serious and hilarious situations were recalled.

Men and women who had served as coast watchers, wireless operators and other necessary occupations stood silent in memory of their unknown comrades who had gone off on secret missions never to be heard of again.

It is 75 years since the best known of the Z Special Units set out on a secret and successful raid on Singapore Harbour. It is believed that just one member of the Krait crew survives.

The members of the Krait-Jaywick Singapore harbour raiding party returned to the house in early December 1943 and celebrated their success and R&R with a 9gallon keg.

The Commonwealth retained use of the house until the end of 1945 when it became the home of Mr and Mrs Edwin Hayes.

Mr Hayes, a tailor’s cutter, was related to the well-known Pike Brothers quality men’s outfitters know throughout Queensland. Mrs Hayes, the former Kitty Gredden, operated her own factory, manufacturing off-the-peg frocks which she no doubt supplied to the stores run by her sisters Marie, Jean and Beattie.

Marie Gredden operated a chain of women’s outfitting shops down the Queensland coast and in western towns. Jean and Beattie were her agents and distributors.

Kitty and Ted Hayes had one son, Eddie, a prominent Brisbane architect who designed many homes in the developing suburb of St Lucia.

Eddie redesigned the interior of the Bowen Hills house, dividing it into three flats. The largest was for his mother who stayed there until the early 1960s.

In early 1966, Eddie sold the property and some months later the building was auctioned and proposed for demolition to be replaced by multi units.

The property passed in and in December 1966, the Queensland Women’s Historical Association purchased the property.

It reinstated the original name “Miegunyah” meaning “my home”.

Members and volunteers have restored and maintained the home while developing it into a museum dedicated to the collection and preservation of Queensland women’s history.

A great deal of time and effort has gone into researching the history of the house and the people who lived there. This work has been rewarded with an extensive file on the personalities and activities of the owners and their families, especially with regard to the Perry and Menzies families.

Contact has been made with descendants and even a woman who worked as cook/housemaid for Mrs Menzies.

Research into the Hayes/Gredden family has not been so successful. It is possible that Eddie’s two daughters, the eldest, Christine (Tina) may still be a Brisbane resident.

Contact with Tina or any of her family would be most welcome.

The museum is open to the public three days a week and is available for guided and group tours and functions. 

Its wide shady verandah is a pleasant place to enjoy a devonshire tea.

  Visit miegunyah.org or on Facebook