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The Portrait of James Mayne: A Short History

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 February 2016

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Two of the most significant donors to the University of Queensland were Mary Emelia Mayne and James Mayne, the last surviving children of Irish immigrants Patrick and Mary Mayne. They provided the funds to purchase the university's St Lucia site, donated rural land at Moggill, and left their estates to fund Chairs of Medicine and Surgery at the university. Whether the university has sufficiently acknowledged their philanthropy has been the subject of comment in recent years. Unfortunately, the work of Malcolm Thomis — which traces how and when the university acknowledged the Maynes and why it was not until 1973 that Mayne Hall was opened — is not generally known, so public misunderstanding continues. Entwined with this is a perception that the 1936 portrait of James Mayne has not been displayed in a place of honour. Although the university endeavoured to ensure that the portrait of James Mayne was displayed in the most appropriate place possible, in the earlier years the embryonic development at the St Lucia campus resulted in its being sent to the Queensland National Art Gallery (now the Queensland Art Gallery). Since 1945, it has been on display in key university buildings, and today is prominently displayed in the James and Mary Emelia Mayne Centre.

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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 

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1 Thomis, Malcolm I., A Place of Light and Learning: The University of Queensland's First Seventy Five Years (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1985), 157–58, 171, 229.Google Scholar

2 Siemon, Rosamond has argued that: ‘Over the years the force of the Maynes’ unsavoury reputation appeared to pose a difficulty for the University of Queensland in the matter of adequately honouring them.’ Rosamond Siemon, The Mayne Inheritance (St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1997), 201.Google Scholar

3 University of Queensland Archives [hereafter UQA], S804; Malcolm I. Thomis, ‘The Maynes: Benefactors Supreme’, in The Inaugural Book of Benefactors, Development Office, University of Queensland, 1993, 4–19.Google Scholar

4 Siemon, The Mayne Inheritance, 190–91.Google Scholar

5 Courier-Mail, 1 February 1939: 4, 6; 2 February 1939: 9; 3 February 1939: 4; and 13 February 1939.Google Scholar

6 Courier-Mail, 2 February 1939: 9. James’ father, Patrick Mayne, also tried to ensure that bis assistance to others was carried out very quietly. Cameron, J., ‘Reminiscences of an Auctioneer’, Telegraph, 13 March 1895: 6 and ‘Bygone Brisbane: The Paddington Cemetery’, Truth, 29 December 1907: 7.Google Scholar

7 UQA, S130, Box 65, ‘Ceremonies — Laying of Foundation Stone — St Lucia’, Invitation from the Chancellor to James and Mary Emelia Mayne, 4 March 1937. A photograph of both at the ceremony is held at UQA S533 [16]:[1].Google Scholar

8 UQA, S130, Box 339, ‘Photographs and Portraits — Dr Mayne’, J.H. Lalor to the Registrar of the University of Queensland, 21 June 1939.Google Scholar

9 UQA, S276, Box 3, Courier-Mail, 13 February 1939.Google Scholar

10 QA, S130, Box 339, ‘Photographs and Portraits — Dr Mayne’, J.H. Lalor to the Registrar of the University of Queensland, 21 June 1939; UQFL 51, Melville Haysom Mss, newspaper clipping dated 6 October 1936. The Queensland National Art Gallery was opened in 1895. In the 1930s, the collection was housed in the former Exhibition Building Concert Hall at Gregory Terrace.Google Scholar

11 UQA, S130, Box 339, ‘Photographs and Portraits — Dr Mayne’, J.H. Lalor to the Registrar of the University of Queensland, 21 June 1939.Google Scholar

12 UQA, S130, Box 339, ‘Photographs and Portraits — Dr Mayne’, Registrar to Miss M.E. Mayne, 10 July 1939. Under the terms of James Mayne's will, his belongings were to remain at Moorlands until after the death of Mary Emelia. Even if the portrait had not been considered to belong to the university in 1939, it would eventually have formed part of the art collection which the university received from the estates of James and Mary Emelia.Google Scholar

13 Siemon, The Mayne Inheritance, 190.Google Scholar

14 Queensland Annual, 1 November 1937: 35.Google Scholar

15 In 1931, the university had received a bequest of £18.870 from the estate of John Darnell to endow a chair in English. Thomis, A Place of Light and Learning, 122.Google Scholar

16 UQA, S130, Box 191, ‘Exhibitions — Art — Darnell Fine Arts Committee’, (11 April) 1945–(23 May) 1956.Google Scholar

17 Accommodation for the gallery was completed in 1952, Thomis, A Place of Light and Learning, 212.Google Scholar

18 UQA, S130, Box 339, ‘Photographs & Portraits — Dr Mayne’, H. Bryan to the Registrar, 19 December 1960 and the Registrar's reply appended to the letter.Google Scholar

19 It is possible that Mary Emelia declined to have a portrait done at the same time as the 1936 portrait of James. When she gave an interview to the Brisbane Courier in 1926 following public discovery that she and James were to provide the money to purchase the St Lucia site, she provided a photograph of herself as a young woman. Perhaps, like many, she wished to be remembered at her most attractive. Brisbane Courier, 21 October 1926: 17.Google Scholar

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21 The University of Queensland received $10 million from Atlantic Philanthropies: ‘Queensland Research Powerhouse Unveiled’, UQ News Online, 21 May 2003,, and ‘Mayne Centre Opening Marks Launch of Significant Cultural Asset’, UQ News Online, 15 April 2004,, and ‘Mayne Centre Opening Marks Launch of Significant Cultural Asset’, UQ News Online, 15 April 2004, Scholar

22 Message from the CEO’, Atlantic Philanthropies, Scholar