The Lady Mary statue unveiled in Mary St today.
The Lady Mary statue unveiled in Mary St today.

The REAL story about Mary's Gympie connection

IN VIEW of some negative reactions to the Lady of the Mary statue, I'd like to clarify her connection to Gympie.

If you grew up in Maryborough, you'd know that the city and its river were named by the Governor, Sir Charles Fitzroy, after his wife, Lady Mary.

READ MORE: On the build-up to the unveiling

This couple were aristocrats: Charles was a grandson of the Duke of Grafton and Mary was a daughter of the Duke of Richmond.

By all accounts, Lady Mary was charming, capable and popular, and the naming was seen as an honour.

READ MORE: Who was Mary?

If you grew up in Gympie, you'd be aware that there's something special about the name Mary.

The Mary River is the lifeblood of the district, Gympie's main street is Mary Street, and Lady Mary Terrace reminds us of the goldfield's first reef, the Lady Mary.

These names are connected to the tragic story of the governor's lady.

In 1847, Governor Fitzroy instructed surveyor James Burnett to trace two unsurveyed rivers north of Brisbane, where squatters and settlers were moving in.

The coastal river was called the Wide Bay River and the inland river was incorrectly thought to be the Boyne.

When Burnett reported a successful expedition, Fitzroy decided to re-name the coastal river Mary and the inland river Burnett.

On 7 December 1847, not long after this decision, Lady Mary was killed when a carriage driven by her husband overturned. She had been a loyal wife and mother, and her death left him devastated.

Twenty years later, prospector James Nash discovered alluvial gold in a gully off the Mary River. His find was proclaimed in Maryborough on 16 October 1867.

In the first month of the gold rush that followed, the township, 'by the intuitive will of the people', was named Nashville, and its main street, parallel to the river, was named Mary Street. (A year later, after James Nash had taken his new wife back to England to meet his family, the government changed Nashville to Gympie.)

Diggers were keen to find the source of the alluvial gold, and by the end of October newspapers were reporting the discovery of the first reef.

The Lady Mary Prospector's Claim was registered on 8 November by Franklin Lawrence, Alexander Pollock and Robert Pollock, and the shaft they sank in the gully between Lady Mary Terrace and Pollock Street proved to be fabulously rich.

There is no record of why these men chose the name Lady Mary, but it certainly reflects the times they lived in. The Lady Mary reef, over three kilometres long, trended towards the river and supported many other Lady Mary mines.

The enterprising Pollock brothers migrated from Scotland in the 1850s and experienced reef mining in New South Wales.

Before coming to Gympie, they operated a butcher's shop in South Brisbane and became insolvent in the 1866 depression. They remained in Gympie as wealthy men, contributing to its social, political and economic development.

Alexander Pollock and his family lived on the corner of Lady Mary Terrace and Alma Street.

Robert Pollock bought much of the top of Calton Hill, and his family home was in Church Street.

Gympie Times


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