The naming of our streets: Archer Street


Archer Street is named after Alexander Archer (1828-1890), manager of the Bank of New South Wales in Brisbane and a member of the Queensland pioneering Archer family. His wife was Mary Louisa, a daughter of Sir Robert Ramsay Mackenzie, 10th Baronet (1811-1873), a Queensland Premier (1867-68). The Archer residence, ‘Arley’, sat on the river bank at Toowong high above the flood zone of the Brisbane River.

The Archer brothers were explorers and pastoralists and were among the earliest European settlers in Queensland. Seven sons of William Archer, a Scottish timber mer- chant, they spent varying amounts of time in the colony of New South Wales, mainly in parts of what later became Queensland. A substantial number of locations in Queensland were either named by or for them. The first of the Archer brothers to settle in Australia was David, who arrived in Sydney in 1834. He was joined by William and Thomas in 1838. In 1841 David and Thomas, joined by their brother, John, travelled to the upper reaches of the Stanley River, an eastern tributary of the Brisbane River. There, near present-day Woodford, they established Durundur Station, a holding of 200 square miles (520 km2), which is equal to 128,000 acres (51,800 ha). Charles Archer arrived in Australia in 1841, and joined his brothers at Durundur in 1843.

Alexander Archer and his wife were aboard the R.M.S. Quetta, bound for England from Queensland, when on Friday, 28th February 1890, the ship foundered without any warning on a calm moonlight night within a few miles of Albany Island, at the entrance to the Torres Straits. Of the 293 people board, no fewer than 133 persons were drowned. The ship’s master was Captain Sanders, and with Captain Keatinge aboard, was piloting the ship through the Torres Strait. Destined for Thursday Island, the ship turned into the Adolphus Channel to round the Cape York Peninsula. The pilot was experienced, the weather fine and visibility good, but at 9:14pm the ship struck an uncharted rock in the middle of the channel near Albany Island. The rock ripped a hole through the plates from the bow to the engine room amidships, four to 12 feet wide, sinking Quetta in 5 minutes and sending 134 of her passengers to their deaths. When the disaster struck the Quetta had 292 people aboard: a crew of 121, comprising 15 European officers, 14 from other trades and 92 lascars from India; 70 Javanese in temporary deck houses, travelling to Batavia after working in the cane fields; and 101 other passengers. At the time, Quetta’s loss was thought to be the worst maritime disaster of Queensland.

The Quetta now lies on her port side in 18 metres (59ft) of water and is a protected historic shipwreck under A ustralia’s His- toric Shipwrecks Act 1976. As a memorial to the lives lost on the Quetta, the Quetta Memorial Precinct was established on Thursday Island, comprising a church (later a cathedral) a rectory and a Church Hall.