Coun­try meets city for nup­tials

Old-and-new 1950s wed­ding of Tom and Dorothy Cook

Daily Mercury - - LIFE HISTORY - Vicky Bow­den Friends of Green­mount Homestead Green­mount Homestead (5km west of Walk­er­ston) is one of Mackay’s most val­ued his­toric at­trac­tions. Green­mount is open from 9.30am to 12.30pm, Sun­day to Fri­day (closed on Satur­days). Tours are avail­able at oth

THESE days, wed­dings are of­ten years in the plan­ning. The grounds of Green­mount Homestead make for a pop­u­lar wed­ding venue; our brides book their wed­ding some­times over two years in ad­vance as they save and plan for their spe­cial day.

When Tom Cook mar­ried Dorothy Drys­dale they didn’t choose Green­mount for their wed­ding but nei­ther did they spend two years on prepa­ra­tions.

Their en­gage­ment was an­nounced on Novem­ber 8, 1949, and later that month Dorothy was in the early stages of ar­rang­ing their 1950 Bris­bane wed­ding from her home, the Can­berra Ho­tel in Bris­bane.

The Can­berra was a Tem­per­ance es­tab­lish­ment – built by the Bris­bane Pro­hi­bi­tion League – which meant that it was com­pletely al­co­hol free. The Lamp­light Bar at the Can­berra was the first non-al­co­holic bar in Queens­land and was claimed to have the widest range of non-al­co­holic bev­er­ages in Aus­tralia.

As it did not serve al­co­hol, it was a pop­u­lar choice for school for­mals and Methodist wed­dings. The wed­ding of Joh and Flo Bjelke-Petersen was held at the Can­berra in 1952.

When Dorothy lived there it was just over 20 years old; the orig­i­nal 1927 five-storey build­ing hav­ing been ex­tended twice to add a fur­ther five storeys by 1934 – mak­ing it at that time the largest ho­tel in Aus­tralia.

Be­tween 1930 and 1935 it wel­comed 445,001 guests through its doors.

Like many mil­len­nial brides Dorothy was a work­ing woman, in fact, she ran her own busi­ness – a ladies’ sa­lon called Nanette where she worked along­side her sis­ter Ol­wyn and their mother Han­nah.

With no com­put­ers, smart phones, in­ter­net or other mod­ern means to com­mu­ni­cate, Dorothy and Tom re­lied very much on let­ters to make their ar­range­ments and Dorothy was a pro­lific let­ter writer – her cor­re­spon­dence to her hus­band-to-be was at least weekly and some­times more fre­quent than that.

These weren’t short let­ters either – of­ten nine or 10 pages of her close and loop­ing hand­writ­ing, de­tail­ing her ac­tive so­cial and work life in Bris­bane, and her on­go­ing ar­range­ments for their wed­ding.

Mov­ing from city life in Bris­bane to a very dif­fer­ent ex­is­tence in ru­ral Queens­land was doubt­less a chal­lenge for Dorothy.

Con­cerned that Tom might be spend­ing too much money on the re­quests of his city-side wife-to-be, Dorothy writes: “there are only three things that I would re­ally like, and that is firstly my own lit­tle bath­room, com­plete with bath, sep­tic and basin, and if pos­si­ble, our own bed­room suite and car­pet, and the Aga stove”.

Tom con­ceded to all three re­quests, although the orig­i­nal 1915 bath­room was re­fur­bished rather than re­placed, with a new, more mod­ern bath re­plac­ing the old free-stand­ing one.

The wed­ding venue was cho­sen as St John’s Cathe­dral in Bris­bane – be­lieved to be the last Gothic cathe­dral in the world to be com­pleted – with work still on­go­ing in 2008, 100 years af­ter it was de­signed by ar­chi­tect John Pear­son.

On Novem­ber 29, 1949 Dorothy writes “by now you will have re­ceived my wire (telegram) re def­i­nite wed­ding date Tues­day 31st Jan­uary 1950” she con­tin­ues “I am en­clos­ing the form (from the church) that has to be filled in by both of us”.

She also in­cludes the cathe­dral “reg­u­la­tions” which de­tailed the wed­ding li­cence cost – 3 pounds and 3 shillings, with an ad­di­tional 10 shillings for the verger, and 4 pounds and 4 shillings for the or­gan­ist and choir boys.

Just two months out from their wed­ding the ar­range­ments are made quickly and ef­fi­ciently by Dorothy: “The de­posit has been paid and all ar­range­ments have been made for the wed­ding re­cep­tion at Whyte­cliffe. The wed­ding cake is or­dered and to­mor­row I see the pho­tog­ra­pher – Noel Mait­land – who will come out to Whyte­cliffe and take our pho­tos”.

The newly mar­ried Cook’s re­cep­tion venue Whyte­cliffe was a beau­ti­ful homestead high on a hill in Bris­bane’s Al­bion Heights, built in 1876. Con­structed for Queens­land’s first Crown So­lic­i­tor Robert Lit­tle, the build­ing has had a long and var­ied his­tory.

Af­ter the Lit­tles va­cated the prop­erty it was used as a boarder’s res­i­dence for the Bris­bane High School for Girls; Von Koenigswerder’s Natur­opa­thy Sana­to­rium oc­cu­pied it in the early 1900s; and it was then run as Mrs Rosendorff’s guest house in the 1920s and 1930s, dur­ing which time it be­came quite the hub of so­cial ac­tiv­ity.

Whyte­cliffe was com­man­deered by the Aus­tralian Women’s Air Force (AWAF) dur­ing World War II, but be­came a pop­u­lar venue for wed­ding re­cep­tions post war and was Tom and Dorothy’s choice for theirs in 1950.

Dorothy de­scribes Whyte­cliffe in an­other of her Novem­ber let­ters to Tom: “the ap­point­ments (at Whyte­cliffe) are truly lovely. There is a lovely lounge and cock­tail bar and a sep­a­rate room for the (wed­ding) break­fast. There is a beau­ti­ful pi­ano and a pi­anist to go with it. So, of course, I have ar­ranged for this… all the lovely grounds at Whyte­cliffe will be flood-lit, so should be quite nice – don’t you think?”

Whyte­cliffe sur­vives to this day, af­ter hav­ing gone through a pe­riod of ne­glect this her­itage prop­erty has a new lease of life as part of a “gra­cious liv­ing” re­tire­ment vil­lage.

As for the bride’s dress – Dorothy makes men­tion of that – “re wed­ding gown, will know, def­i­nitely, whether this can be done on Satur­day”. The fi­nal choice of dress was a shim­mer­ing white lame cre­ation teamed with an an­tique Brus­sels lace veil, this last be­ing over 100 years old, and loaned to Dorothy by a friend.

Dorothy’s ex­pe­ri­ence in dress­ing her cus­tomers stood her in good stead with mak­ing ar­range­ments for her own wed­ding.

She writes to Tom, again in late Novem­ber, with de­tailed in­struc­tions for the mea­sure­ments she needed to have Althea Cook’s brides­maid dress made in time for the wed­ding.

No wed­ding would be com­plete with­out a honey­moon of course, so Tom sug­gested a trip to Tas­ma­nia for him­self and his new bride. Their jour­ney to Ho­bart was to take sev­eral days.

The wed­ding took place at 6pm on 31st Jan­uary as planned and Tom and Dorothy went on their honey­moon shortly af­ter­wards.

Whilst Dorothy con­tin­ued to com­mute be­tween Bris­bane and Mackay for some time af­ter her wed­ding to Tom, to as­sist in the man­age­ment of Nanette, her new home at Green­mount was to form the next large chap­ter of her full and in­ter­est­ing life.

A beau­ti­ful bride – Dorothy Cook, Jan­uary 1950.


St John’s Cathe­dral (John Ox­ley Li­brary).

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