Last year I wrote two posts about James E Lyle (see James E Lyle … a lost art and James E Lyle…the stamp of approval 60 years on) They documented my limited knowledge about the man and his accomplishments and the role my great-grandmother, Anna Maria Morley (nee Weinert) (1873-1958) played in Jimmy’s life. I am finally putting together the long promised update! I will never get to the end of this I know, so be prepared for further updates as information comes to light.
A few months ago, I received an email from Ralph Walker, who had stumbled across my blog. Ralph worked with Jim in 1980 at Tell Advertising, a Sydney based advertising agency with an office in Brisbane. The agency was located on the first floor of McFarlane House, a three story building on the corner of George and Charlotte Streets. The building still stands today and was renovated in 2016.
Ralph has been able to fill in a few gaps for me for which I am very grateful. He thinks his boss may have given Jim free rent and an art board where he could do his drawings and paintings. Evidently, all the staff loved having Jim around. He had a wealth of stories, which Ralph believes were mainly true!
He also remembered Jim did a lot of watercolours and recalled that a picture of his appeared on the front of the Brisbane White Pages phone book in the 1960s. Which is true. I know Jimmy completed a number of phone book covers from the 1960s to the 1980s. A story I came across in my research at the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), stated that Jimmy went to great lengths to get the setting just right for one of the phone book covers. It included asking if he could enter a building which overlooked King George Square in order to get to the roof so he could get a better view to do some sketches. In addition, Ralph believes the “elegant logo” used in Stefan’s project, the restaurant Jo-Jo’s, which occupied the same site in the Brisbane CBD for 37 years was the creation of Jim. This well-known eatery moved to another location in 2017. It certainly stood the test of time! Ralph suspects that Jim also designed Stefan’s famous logo as well, as they were great mates. I can’t verify that, so, if you know whether that is true, I would love to hear from you. By the way, Stefan is a well-known Brisbane businessman who started his career as a hairdresser. I believe he still owns a number of salons around the country.
Jim signed a birthday card for Ralph during their time in the same office. Very clever, don’t you think?
During my research at the SLQ I came across an article by Molly Elliott (New Zealand journalist) that indicated that Jim received a medal for climbing the Matterhorn. He was the first Australian to do so. Unfortunately, I don’t have evidence for that, so if you know something, please let me know. It was a two day climb and Jim reached the summit on 28 June 1953. Quite an achievement! Ralph also confirmed that Jim had indeed climbed the Matterhorn during his travels in Europe in the early 1950s. So, those little bits of rock under the house at Kangaroo Point were really from the Matterhorn! I tried twice to contact the Swiss Alpine Club to confirm that Jim had received a medal for climbing the mountain, but to date, have not received a response. According to Ralph, by 1980 though, Jim could barely walk and needed walking sticks.
I have recently received comments on my blog posts from a great niece of Jimmy’s who also confirmed that not only was Jimmy the first Australian to climb the Matterhorn but also the first to paint it! Wow! So many firsts! What a character.
My family story is that the Lyle family lived nearby in Kangaroo Point and Granny (Anna Morley) recognised that Jimmy had an artistic bent. My understanding is that Granny encouraged his art and helped to pay for art lessons when Jimmy was a boy.
After Granny passed away in 1958, Jimmy continued to have contact with my great aunts, Elsie and Vera Morley. Their home at 40 Connor Street Kangaroo Point had a number of paintings and drawings by Jimmy and I grew up knowing the story. I have some of Jimmy’s paintings from when he was quite young.
I have also located some of Jimmy’s family via Ancestry.com and Gaile Davis, his niece, has been very helpful in providing information. Gaile advised that her elder sister who is four years her senior remembered meeting my great aunts when she was a child. She visited them with Uncle Jimmy at their home in Connor Street. She remembers being told by their father (Jimmy’s twin brother, Tommy) that when the twins were young they would be fed sandwiches by Granny. They were very poor and always hungry so Gaile is certain her kindness to them was remembered for the rest of their lives. Gaile further added, that their Uncle Jimmy was a big part of their lives so she has a lot of anecdotes to share. I look forward to hearing more from Gaile and her family and hopefully more photos!
Another reader, Jeff Hofmann, contacted me to let me know that his parents were friends with Jim and he was the best man at the their wedding. Jeff advised that Jim had painted the wedding group and that the family still had the painting. I received the photos from Jeanette Hofmann. I wish to acknowledge the kindness of the family in allowing me to use these photos below. The wedding was held at the Albert Street Methodist (now Uniting) Church, on 11 May 1946. The Groom was Clive Hofmann; Bride was Morva Hofmann (nee Harris); Bridesmaid Vivienne Thompson (nee Hofmann); James Lyle was Best Man.
The following photo, also kindly provided by the Hoffman family, is similar to the one I grew up with at the Kangaroo Point house of my great-grandmother and great aunts. The difference is that Jimmy was wearing a peaked cap and dress uniform
If anyone has or knows where some of Jimmy’s art work is located, I would love to hear from you. Jimmy was a prolific artist so someone must know where they are. My research has turned up a few photocopies of his work (below) courtesy of State Library of Queensland. There are more and they will appear in the next update. Hopefully, these will jog someone’s memory!
In addition, I came across a list of paintings for sale at an exhibition during the 1970s. I am unsure of the date and the venue but I think it could be Guv’s Restaurant which was located near Government House in Fernberg Road, Paddington. So, if you recognise these paintings, please let me know.
- Evening, Cabbage Tree Creek
- The Old Saw Mill
- The Outgoing Tide
- The Solemn Land Beetota
- Misty Morning, Wyberra
- McMasters’ Boatyard – NFS from the collection of Mr Harvey Blair
- Edge of Town – Birdsville
- Wear and Tear
- February Morning
- Rural Gothic
- Abandoned – NFS from the collection of Mr and Mrs R Tritton
- Mud Flats, Wellington Point
- Jimboomba Gums
- Stricklands’ Place – Mt Tamborine
- Christmas Creek
- Astrid and the Butterfly
- Quiet Evening – Mr Barney
- Johnsons’ Place – NFS from the collection of Lieut-Col and Mrs Morel
- The Silo, Capalaba
- Boy with Dinghy
- Ryans’ Place – Scone, New South Wales
Just to finish up, I found this postcard amongst family papers that may be of interest to you. This postcard was produced from the original watercolour, Gone to a Safe Anchorage by James Lyle. I particularly like the notes on the reverse of the postcard! Enjoy!
I trust you have enjoyed this update. Next time I will explore Jim’s time in New Zealand and his many and varied interests.
Thanks for reading!