Alex Gow Funerals was Queensland’s very first funeral business established in 1840 by Andrew Petrie, Clerk of Works in the penal colony of Moreton Bay.
Andrew, renowned stonemason and builder who is sometimes referred to as Queensland’s first free settler, ran the funeral business which was known as Petrie’s Undertaking Establishment, from his residence and factory at what is today the northern corner of Queen and Wharf Streets, Petrie’s Bight as it was then known.
Andrew’s youngest son George Barney Petrie eventually took over from his father and ran the funeral business until shortly before his death in 1878 aged 38 years.
Walter Barrett bought the business in 1877 but it is not known from where he conducted the business. In 1878 he took out a mortgage with the Corporation of the Bank of New South Wales for £700 and established the business at 550 Queen Street, Petrie Bight. The business operated from that site for 85 years until November 1963 when it moved to its present location, 56 Breakfast Creek Road, Newstead.
In May 1884 Walter Barrett sold the business to William Henry Hancock and John Corbett who traded under the name Hancock and Corbett until the business was sold to George Sillett and Alma Adlington in 1891. After Alma Adlington died in May 1891, Sillett & Adlington continued trading until Walter S. Barrett, son of the original Walter Barrett, entered the business as partner to George Sillett.
In 1908, Alexander Gow who was then aged 47 years, joined the business of Sillett & Barrett as a third partner.
As George Sillett only had daughters, when he died in September 1908 and they decided that they did not wish to participate in the business, Alexander Gow bought their share. When Walter S. Barrett sold the remaining share of the business to Alexander Gow in 1909, Alexander Gow became the owner of the first and oldest funeral business in Queensland.
In 1865, Alexander Gow aged 3 years, sailed with his parents James and Christian from Greenock, Scotland in the sailing ship Naval Reserve. Alexander married Mary Inglis Mathewson, daughter of well known early photographer Peter Mathewson, in 1884. They resided at 160 Harcourt Street New Farm, Brisbane. They had seven children, James, Inglis, Peter, Alexander (died at 18 Months old), Christian, Grace and Robert, known as Bert.
When Alexander Gow died in 1919, Robert (Bert) and his mother ran the business until Bert’s older brother Peter joined the firm. Peter died in 1965 while Bert continued his active role until his death in 1993, aged 94. Bert’s and Peter’s sisters Grace Wise and Inglis Learoyd also worked in the family business.
The Second World War caused some interruption to the business when Peter’s sons, Roy, Bert (Jnr) and Alan (the twins) all served in the A.I.F. Later, Bert’s sons Graham and Alistair, who were too young for the war, also participated in the firm.
Graham’s children Gary and Linda and Alistair’s children Brett and Leigh have all participated in the business. At the time of publishing this history, Alistair the last of the third generation working in the firm and his children, are the only family members still active in the business.