John Petrie

John Petrie, citizen of Brisbane. People in 130 carriages followed his coffin to Toowong Cemetery in 1892 to pay their respects.

John Petrie, building contractor and mayor of Brisbane, was the eldest son of Andrew Petrie, the appointed clerk of works at the Moreton Bay Penal Settlement. Born in Scotland in 1822, John Petrie in 1837 arrived with his parents, brothers and sisters at a convict settlement on the point of closure.

The non-military person to live in the Moreton Bay settlement, Andrew Petrie chose for his family to remain in there following its closure. He commenced the firm Petrie & Son, which grew with the town. After training, John Petrie gradually assumed responsibility for the firm, becoming the driving force responsible for many early Brisbane buildings. These include the Supreme Court, part of St John’s Pro-cathedral and the gaol at Petrie Terrace, all now demolished, and Roma Street Railway Station, the William Street wing of the former Government Printing Office, the Port Office and the Immigration Depot in William Street, all remaining.

Like William Pettigrew with his sawmill enterprise, John Petrie expanded his building business, introducing new technologies as they became available. On a 36 acre (14.5 hectare) site at Albion, John Petrie established a works area which included a clay pit, machine press for bricks, kilns and a stone quarry. The mechanised approach to brick production allowed Petrie to win contracts, such as that for the Public Services Club in William Street, completed as the Government Printing Office in 1874. Generally the firm employed 100 men, though this figure could double as more contracts were undertaken.

John Petrie was very public-spirited. He served three times as Brisbane’s mayor and was chairman or served on many community and government boards. Although the firm of John Petrie & Son (which included his son Andrew from 1882) was bankrupt in 1894, a revived firm continued in monumental masonry. John Petrie died on 8 December 1892.

Additional Reading

Read more about John Petrie at The Australia Dictionary of Biography