Visitor from the past – on two wheels around Brisbane

Bicycle teacher Brett Richardson visiting the Commissariat Store

In June 2019 Brett Richardson visited the Commissariat Store on his vintage bike to post on cyclingbrisbane. Let’s extend the story further!

1829 in Brisbane, convict labour was constructing the Commissariat Store in William Street.10 years later in Dumfriesshires, Scotland, Kirkpatrick Macmillan was fitting treadles to his bicycle. Kirkpatrick Macmillan was born in 1812 in Dumfriesshire and was the son of a Blacksmith. During his time working for his father he had become intrigued by the hobby horse, a two wheeled vehicle that was propelled by pushing your feet on the ground. He decided to make himself one but very quickly realised that this could be improved further if he could find some way to propel this mode of transport without actually putting his feet on the ground.

 By 1839 he had completed his machine and had in effect created the first pedal bicycle. Although this invention was extremely heavy and would have taken considerable physical effort to propel it Kirkpatrick Macmillan had very quickly figured out how to ride his invention and it was not long before he was making the 14 mile journey into Dumfries. A well known story also tells of Macmillan making the 68 mile journey on his bicycle to Glasgow which was said to have taken him two days. During this journey he was said to have run over a little girl while cycling through the Gorbals in Glasgow and he was subsequently fined five shillings. Legend suggests that the magistrate was so impressed with his invention that he asked for a demonstration of how it worked and that he infact paid his fine for him.


Brett Richardson commenced his time in the bicycle industry in 1976 where he worked for a subsidiary of The Phillips group of companies trading as ‘General accessories’.  Brett participated in all assembly procedures within the manufacturing process where he learnt wheel building and all mechanical aspects of the bicycle. In 1977 with minimal frame repair experience he was poached by another Brisbane based bicycle manufacturing company. After a few years with Cycles Australia he ventured out into Retail bicycles sales and in 1981 commenced producing his own brand “Berretto”. With the introduction of firstly Japanese and then Taiwanese product entering the high end bicycle market and the introduction of exquisite materials of Aluminium and Carbon fibre, saw the local handmade steel bicycle frame market became obsolete with many builders fading away into non-existence. Brett sold off the retail side of the business but retained the frame tooling. His interest in historic bicycles influenced Brett to adapt his skills to ‘Vintage style ‘steel bicycles and produced Penny Farthings and vintage style bicycles and tricycles for enthusiasts. Brett has for the last 17 years worked for TAFE Queensland as Australia’s only Bicycle teacher passing on his skills and experience to the Bicycle retail industry.

2019 John Douglas Kerr medal of distinction goes to Dr Margaret Kowald

At the medal presentation L-R: Ruth Kerr, Stephen Sheaffe, His Excellency the Honourable Paul de Jersey AC, Governor of Queensland, Margaret Kowald, Timothy Roberts

The Royal Historical Society of Queensland and the Professional Historians Association (Qld) Inc are pleased to award the 2019 John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction to Dr Margaret Kowald.

Dr Kowald has demonstrated an enthusiastic and rigorous approach to preserving Queensland’s history, most notably in the areas of organizational, environmental and pastoral history. Kowald’s first major work The Queensland Police Force 1895-1910, a thesis prepared for the University of Queensland’s Master of Arts program, awarded in 1989, demonstrated Kowald’s assiduous research techniques and excellent skill for identifying appropriate primary source information. In 1992, Kowald collaborated with Professor W. Ross Johnston on You Can’t Make It Rain: the story of the North Australian Pastoral Company, an expanded version of which is to be published later this year. In 1993, Kowald and Helen Gregory published Women on the Course: the McLeod Country Gold Club 1968-1993, before embarking on several research projects connected to environmental history, the most significant of which, the Historical Overview of the South East Queensland Biogeographic Region with particular reference to forested areas, provided a contextual basis for cultural heritage assessment of forested lands. In a career spanning over 30 years, Kowald has authored dozens of research papers, conference presentations and published articles. She has worked as an oral historian for the Northern Territory Archives Service, a Cultural Heritage Assessor, a lecturer and tutor for tertiary students, and a consultant historian.

Dr Kowald is an ardent advocate for academic rigor and critical analysis within the history profession. Her thoughtful paper, Commissioned History: is there a future?, published in the Queensland History Journal in 1993, reflected on challenges and opportunities facing historians in contemporary society. Other seminar papers, including Archivists and Historians, presented in 1991 and Local History Societies and the Historian, presented in 1993, highlight Kowald’s keen interest in examining the history profession and identifying opportunities that further the voice of historians in the wider community.

In 1990, Dr Kowald joined the newly incorporated Professional Historians Association (Qld), and has remained a member of the organisation to the present. She was the first editor of the Association’s newsletter, and served as President of the Association 1997 to 1999. She is highly regarded among her peers for her conscientiousness, analytical skills, and project management acumen. This is demonstrated most effectively in her leadership of the research and editing team for two publications, Lost Brisbane and Surrounding Areas 1860-1960, published in 2014, and Lost Brisbane 2 and Surrounding Areas: the later years, published in 2016, and in her service as Honorary Editor of the Queensland History Journal since 2008, regarded as the most authoritative journal on Queensland history. She was awarded The Royal Historical Society of Queensland’s Centenary Medal in 2013, and was appointed a Fellow of The Royal Historical Society of Queensland in 2016.

Throughout her career, Margaret has always brought her approachable and collegiate personality to her work. She freely shares information with fellow historians; and in various professional roles as editor, project manager, and academic lecturer and supervisor, has supported professional development and cross-generational learning by providing constructive insights to her colleagues. Testament to her many valued relationships within Queensland and Australia’s community of historians, Margaret presented a eulogy for John Douglas Kerr – this award’s namesake – at his funeral in 2003.

The John Douglas Kerr Medal of Distinction acknowledges excellence in historiography, historical research and writing. Dr Margaret Kowald is indeed a most deserving recipient of this year’s award.