St John's Anglican Church

Lake Street, Cairns

Whitehouse Bros, Brisbane, 1927
1 manual, 3 speaking stops, tubular-peumatic action, no pedals.
Removed c.1950s Robert Simpson, Cairns

St John's Anglican Church, Cairns
[Photograph by Geoffrey Cox (July 2018)]


Historical and Technical Documentation by Geoffrey Cox1
© OHTA 2007, 2011, 2018 (last updated July 2018)

The first St John's Church, a timber structure in Abbott Street, was opened in 1884, and destroyed in a cyclone in 1920. The foundation stone of the present concrete church was laid in June 1926, and the building was dedicated on 23 January 1927.2

St John's Church of England, Cairns, in 1926
[Photograph: John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland]

The organ installed in St John's Church in January 1927 was the first pipe organ in Cairns. It was built by Whitehouse Bros of Brisbane at a cost of £175.3 According to Mr Joe Whitehouse, the St John's organ had tubular-pneumatic action, and comprised just one manual and no pedals, with three stops (16 melodic.8.8) and an octave coupler.4

This was one of at least four similar instruments built by the Whitehouse firm, all with one manual and no pedals, and comprising three stops (including a melodic bass), and an octave coupler. The earliest two, for St Augustine's Anglican Church, Hamilton (1918) and St Mark's Anglican Church, Albion (1920), had a manual compass of four octaves (F-F). The last of the four is the one at Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church, Minden (1931), which has a 58-note compass (C-A) and employs slightly different stop nomenclature from the earlier two. Given that the firm often built instruments in pairs, it is likely that the specification of the Cairns instrument was identical to that at Minden.

Regulation, tuning and replacement of puffers at Cairns are noted in the records of Whitehouse Bros for October 1937, February 1938 and February 1941.5 There appears to be no record of the removal of the organ, although it had certainly disappeared by the 1960s.6

In 2007, the present author conjectured that parts of the Cairns organ may have found their way into other organs with which Noel Ferguson of Cairns was involved in the 1950s,7 but it has since emerged that the instrument was purchased by Robert Simpson of Cairns, who installed it under his mother's house. Simpson was a onetime associate of Noel Ferguson, and he is reported subsequently to have sold the instrument to the Cairns agent of W.H. Paling & Co.8


1 An earlier version of the historical documentation presented here appeared in 2007 as: Geoffrey Cox, 'Lost in Far North Queensland: A Case of Two Disappearances,' OHTA News, vol. 31, no. 3 (July 2007), pp. 12-18.

2 C.F. Cusson, St John's Church, Cairns: Golden Jubilee, 1927-1977 (Cairns, 1977); Cairns Post (26 June 1926), p. 4.

3 Whitehouse Bros Ledger (1922-1940), p. 250.

4 Personal communication to G. Cox from Mr Joe Whitehouse, c.1974.

5 Whitehouse Bros Ledger (1922-1940), p. 250; Whitehouse Bros Ledger (1940-1954), p. 295.

6 Personal communication to G. Cox from David Molloy, August 2007.

7 Geoffrey Cox, op. cit.

8 Personal communication to G. Cox from David Cahill, April 2011.