Residence of John Brooks

Malabu Avenue, Coolum Beach

FIRST ORGAN: Builder unknown (possibly Robert Mackenzie, Melbourne)
Installed second-hand 1881 at the Baptist Tabernacle, Collingwood, Vic
Installed 1963 at the Baptist Church, Middleborough Road, Burwood East, Vic
Installed c.1980 at the residence of John Brooks, View Street, Mont Albert, Vic
Removed to present location 1993, and under restoration by John Brooks until 2020.
1 manual & pedals, 6 speaking stops, 1 coupler, mechanical action

SECOND ORGAN: Whitehouse Bros, Brisbane, 1933, for the Congregational Church, South Brisbane


Historical and Technical Documentation by Geoffrey Cox
© OHTA 2013, 2020 (last updated February 2020)


John Brooks trained for around four years in the mid 1950s as an organbuilder with Whitehouse Bros of Brisbane, and subsequently lived for a time in Melbourne. He became a Pastor of the Baptist Church, and retired to Coolum Beach in 1993.1  He died in January 2020, leaving two organs under restoration at this location.

First Organ.

The builder of this instrument is unknown, though it is possibly by Robert Mackenzie of Melbourne. A single-manual organ of five stops and Pedal Bourdon, it was recorded as being installed second-hand in 1881 by George Fincham at the Baptist Tabernacle, Collingwood, Vic.2 The Tabernacle, which stood in Sackville Street, had been founded in 1874,3 and was enlarged to double its original capacity in November 1880.4 The organ was presumably added in the wake of this enlargement.

The Baptist Tabernacle, Collingwood
[Photograph courtesy of Collingwood Local History Photograph Collection]

A brass plate added to the organ after it left Collingwood suggests, however, and presumably in error, that it had been at Collingwood since 1874:

The brass plate added to the organ after 1963
[Photograph by John Brooks (November 2012)]

George Fincham releathered the feeders, and undertook restoration work on the organ in 1899.5 Hill Norman & Beard (Aust.) Pty Ltd supplied a blower and carried out cleaning, regulation and repairs in 1946.6

The organ was removed in 1963 to the Baptist Church, Middleborough Road, Burwood East, Vic.7 It was purchased by John Brooks and installed in his residence at View Street, Mont Albert, Vic., around 1980, and it has been at the present location since 1993, where it is undergoing restoration.8

It was suggested at one time by the late John Stiller that the organ may have been built by Robert Mackenzie of Melbourne. The 54-note manual compass may suggest, however, that this organ dates from the 1850s or 1860s, and Mackenzie did not arrive in Melbourne until 1871.10 On the other hand, the compass may denote nothing more than conservative practice on the part of an emigrant builder.

Lower casework of the organ, painted when installed at Burwood East in 1963,
with a drawing by John Brooks of the upper casework (currently not assembled)
[Photograph and drawing by John Brooks (November 2012)]

There is, nevertheless, strong evidence that this organ is of local manufacture. Parts of the console (including the key cheeks and music desk) are of Red Cedar, and the skirting on the inside of the casework has been made from an old staircase.11

Console details, including key cheeks and music desk of Red Cedar
[Photographs by John Brooks (November 2012)]

Inside the bass end of the case, showing apparent use of a staircase stringer;
the treble end is the same
[Photograph by John Brooks (November 2012)]

The pedalboard, partially re-capped and restored by John Brooks
[Photograph by John Brooks (November 2012)]

Bass end of the case, lacking the cornice that was discarded
when the organ was installed at Burwood East in 1963
[Photograph by John Brooks (November 2012)]

Visual similarities with the organ by Robert Mackenzie at St George's Anglican Church, Flemington, Vic, certainly serve to support John Stiller's speculation that this instrument was built by Robert Mackenzie. Its original location remains unknown.

A report by Steve Laurie on the organ in August 1976 noted that the organ appeared to have been subjected to several modifications:

It appears to have experienced a number of modifications; notably the top of the case and the Swell shutters have been removed, this depriving the instrument of expression. A Twelfth stop has been converted into a Fifteenth, which suggests that the Dulciana stop was introduced in place of the original Fifteenth stop. The hand-blowing mechanism has been removed and the casework has been modified.

… The pipework is in reasonably good condition. It is fitted with tuning slides which are now rusty … The pitch of the organ is approximately a quarter of one semitone sharp.12

The pipework is a mixture of plain and spotted metal, and the bottom seven pipes of the Open Diapason 8ft are open wood:


Open Diapason  
Stopped Diapason Bass
Stopped Diapason Treble
Manual to Pedal coupler





[12 pipes CCC-BBB,

wood bass; metal from GG
spotted metal
metal; spotted treble

the remainder borrowed from the manual; permanently on]

Compass:  54/27
2 composition pedals
Mechanical key & stop action.13

Second Organ.

The second organ at this location is the 1933 Whitehouse Bros instrument from the former Congregational Church, South Brisbane. It was acquired by John Brooks in 2002, and is being restored with a view to finding it a new home.


1 Personal communication to G. Cox from John Brooks, November 2011.

2 George Fincham Letters, 13/114, cited in Enid Noel Matthews, Colonial Organs and Organbuilders (Carlton: Melbourne Univesrity Press, 1969), p. 128.

3 [Collingwood Baptist Tabernacle] Memories 1874-1932, s.n. (Collingwood, Vic, 1932); The Argus (14 December 1936), p. 5.

4 The Argus (13 November 1880), p. 1.

5 George Fincham Letters, 11/569, cited in Matthews, op. cit., p. 128.

6 Hill, Norman and Beard Australian Orders, V187 & V193, OHTA News, vol. 12, no. 2 (April 1988), p. 18.

7 Personal communication to Enid Matthews from Mr H.J. Marriner, cited in Matthews, op. cit., p. 128. Date 1963 from plaque on the organ, as cited above.

8 Personal communication to G. Cox from John Brooks, August 2012.

9 Personal communication to G. Cox from John Brooks, August 2012.

10 David Shield, 'An Overview of the Life and Work of Robert Mackenzie,' OHTA News, vol. 36, no. 3 (July 2012), p. 20.

11 Personal communication to G. Cox from John Brooks, August 2012.

12 Steve Laurie, 'Report on the Organ in the Baptist Church, Middleborough Road, Burwood' (6 August 1976), supplied by John Brooks, November 2012.

13 Specification noted at Burwood East by John Maidment, 1967, with additional details from Steve Laurie, 'Report on the Organ,' op. cit. (6 August 1976).