Text and Images: Elisabeth Anderson
A walkway in Aldgate named Theodore Lane leads pedestrians up from the main street to Fenchurch Road. Its unobtrusive sign belies the fact that this name belongs to a family which, from humble beginnings in the 19th Century, made a considerable civic impact on both the local area and in the larger spheres of Queensland and the Federal Government.
Vasile Teodorescu, a Romanian/Greek who anglicised his name to Basil Theodore, and his wife Annie (nee Tanner), are described in historical records as poor immigrants, who initially met on board ship enroute to Australia in 1882. Annie, of Irish and English descent, is variously said to have been born in Manchester or Liverpool.
They were married in Perth and settled in Port Adelaide where their first son Stephen was born and where Basil worked around the wharves and on the tugboats. He also cultivated a small ‘unrewarding’ orchard in the Hills and, when settled in Heathfield with his family of four sons and two daughters, and still working in Port Adelaide, he often walked home and back at weekends.
Basil’s keen interest in politics and public life appeared to have rubbed off on his family in no small measure.
Locally it would be Percy, born in 1886, who became an energetic Aldgate business man and councillor and initiated the beautification of the main street of Aldgate. In 1920 he had the roadside land opposite his shops, backed by the railway embankment, cleared of blackberries and other weeds, ornamental trees from previous planting rescued, shrubs planted and seats put in place. It was his pet project and it is today known as the Percy Theodore Memorial Garden – in the care of the Adelaide Hills District Council.
During the Depression years of the 1930s Percy sometimes allowed his debtors to work off their accounts by clearing weeds from the roadside land. He also quietly performed many other acts of charity.
Percy died in 1945.
Of his siblings, it is known that three brothers and one sister moved to Queensland and another sister joined the religious congregation of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan.
Of those three brothers, probably the best known public figure was Edward, the second son, who would eventually become Premier of Queensland, a Federal Treasurer and a company director.
The Dictionary of Biography states that he was born in 1884, was educated to the age of 12 at Lefevre Peninsula Catholic School and Aldgate State School and then found jobs as a gardener, farm-hand and timber-getter. In 1900 he headed for Murchison on the Western Australian goldfields and then worked in the mines of Broken Hill and Queensland. Perceiving a lack of effective organisation among workers, he set about repairing this situation and, with others, in 1907 formed the Amalgamated Workers Association of North Queensland – becoming its first secretary at the age of 22. Eventually he embarked on a political career in which he rose swiftly and became Queensland Premier in October 1919. In 1927 he entered Federal politics and would serve as Treasurer in the Scullin Government. He died in 1950.
Sources: Australian Dictionary of Biography, “Under Mount Lofty” (1996) written by Robert Martin and published by the District Council of Stirling, “On Fertile Soil” (1987) published by the Stirling Catholic Parish, Wikipedia.
Do you have memories of the Theodore Family or the shops or gardens in Aldgate? Contact us at email@example.com or drop into the History Centre at the Coventry Library, 63 Mount Barker Road, Stirling.