Queensland's quest to preserve backyard dunnies

AUSSIE ICON: Graeme Neilson with one of Laidley's last outhouses.
AUSSIE ICON: Graeme Neilson with one of Laidley's last outhouses. Melanie Keyte

ONCE ubiquitous across Queensland, the humble outhouse has largely disappeared from Aussie backyards, but Queensland Urban Utilities are making sure they won't vanish from our memories.

They're collecting memories, stories and photos of outdoor loos from around the state to showcase in Brisbane's first "Pooseum” and spokesperson Michelle Cull said they had found some interesting examples in the Lockyer Valley already.

"I think they hold a place in people's hearts and it wasn't that long ago that we had thunderboxes, so I guess they're a quirky reminder of the times past,” she said.

One of which is a still-functioning outhouse at attached to Lowood's St James' Anglican Church.

"It was, up until recently, our only dunny,” said church member Sandy Vigar.

"We're keeping it too, it was sewered in 1974 and it's a good spare for us.”

AUSSIE ICON: Sandy Vigar with Lowood's last functioning outhouse.
AUSSIE ICON: Sandy Vigar with Lowood's last functioning outhouse. Melanie Keyte

Ms Vigar said though the plumbing has been upgraded, there were still some signs of old age.

"We had a bloke in there one day start singing, because it's old and the door doesn't close, and he didn't want anyone to walk in!”

Two more were found at the Laidley Pioneer Village Museum, where Graeme Neilson said he "felt like a boy again” perched atop the wooden throne.

Laidley Pioneer Village vice-president John Barwell said he clearly recalled the long walks down the backyard in the middle of the night.

"For a short period, we had a man who came at midnight and took the full can away, known as the 'night man' or 'night soil man',” he said.

"It was the most aromatic job you could ever imagine.

AUSSIE ICON: Laidley's first 'air-conditioned toilet'.
AUSSIE ICON: Laidley's first 'air-conditioned toilet'. Melanie Keyte

"It was especially interesting if you happened to be on the throne when he would go and pull the can out.

"He'd open the back door and have to say 'Oh, hello Mr or Mrs Jones.'

"It's one of those things that you've gotta live through to understand.”

QUU are collecting material for the "Pooseum” until November 16. To make a contribution, visit the website

Topics:  brisbane brisbane valley laidley pioneer village museum lockyer valley outhouse queensland urban utilities quu

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