No single vessel had a stronger connection with Queen’s Wharf than the paddle wheel steamer Lucinda. Commissioned by the Queensland Government to a design that would serve the purpose of lighthouse tending, the steel-built Lucinda was equipped with a level of comfort the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin in February 1885 described as ‘a perfect model of a ship in which the desiderate have been strength, beauty and not simply comfort, but absolute luxury’.
The Lucinda was 172.6 feet (53 metres) in length. Her centrally located paddle wheels 12 feet (3.7 metres) in diameter were powered by a 114 nhp (nominal horse power) steam compound oscillating engine. She was an upgrade on the river steamer Kate which had conveyed immigrants from ships too large to cross the bar to the Immigration Depot and delivered stores to government institutions at Peel Island and Dunwich.
The Lucinda made passage to Queensland between January and May 1885, quickly taking up duties which included mail delivery, picnic and annual excursion cruises, and conveyance of the State’s political leaders and visiting dignitaries. It is in this last capacity that the Lucinda transported Sir Samuel Griffith and others to Sydney for the 1891 National Australasian Convention. On an Easter weekend trip to the estuary of the Hawkesbury River, Griffith and others honed a draft constitution into a document that formed the basis of Federation discussions and agreements.
Anchored in the South Brisbane Reach in 1896, the Lucinda rescued people from the sinking ferry Pearl, an event considered the worst Brisbane River disaster of the nineteenth century. The tragedy came about when the Pearl fouled Lucinda’s anchor chain while steering a quicker but less-safe course across the flooded river.
Kennedy Wharf downstream of the Customs House was chosen as the venue for the welcome reception for the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York when they concluded their ‘arrival’ cruise on the Lucinda in May 1901. The royal party had arrived earlier by train and, after a short time at Government House, boarded the Lucinda for a cruise before the welcome, her expansive upper deck providing a suitable viewing platform for the royals. Lucinda could form the backdrop to the pomp of a regal visit but also be the central, special venue for an excursion of school or church group.
In 1921, after nearly 40 years of service and with maintenance costs rising, the Lucinda was laid up. While various fittings were sold and are in private hands or museums, her hull was converted to a coal lighter for the Riverside Coal Transport Company and used to bring coal from Ipswich to Brisbane. This involved passage along the South Brisbane Reach, where she had once anchored so gracefully, to the City Electric Light Company power house in William Street. Sadly, in 1937 the Lucinda was beached to form part of a breakwater at Bishop Island near the mouth of the Brisbane River.