Vince Dyson and Kelli Sauer treasure City Hall history.
Vince Dyson and Kelli Sauer treasure City Hall history. Toni McRae

City hall a haunted house

OLD SECRETS hug the wide walls and tread the polished floors of Maryborough's City Hall.

And Vince Dyson knows many of them.

The council's City Hall caretaker since December 2006 will not admit to “ghosts rattling chains as I work here on nights” but Kelli Sauer from the Information Centre next door speaks reverently of former office staff fleeing from working overtime “because of the footsteps they heard going up and down the stairs”.

“They were terrified.”

“And then Carmel Murdoch, the council's Mary Heritage and Mary Poppins, told us about how she used to change in what is now the councillors' room and as she walked up the hallway the pictures on the walls moved.”

Vince Dyson manages City Hall, which was built in 1908 to replace the original 1874 timber town hall, which stood across the road in Kent Street.

That town hall building is now in Richmond Street, moved to make way for the grand new Masonic edifice.

“A local benefactor, George Ambrose White, gave $10,000 to build this and then the Masons of the day trowelled the first Meredith brick.

“They used red cedar throughout the building and that's what I look after today.

“I use a special timber polish and special mop – and, by the way, the secret of all this stays with me – and the morning after every party, or function, I look at the beautiful timber floor and my heart breaks a bit but then I just mop it right up again.”

Melbourne-born Vince was a trainer of cleaners in Mackay before he took up the job at City Hall.

He and wife Amy and their daughter Emily live in the three-bedroom house behind the hall.

“I love it here. People can just walk in and out and look around and when I get the time I chat with them and explain things.

“In 1935 the clock tower, curtain tower and stage were added and in 1990 after an arsonist set the building on fire we restored and refurbished it.”

Vince not only mops, dusts, polishes and cleans the windows, he also sets up the auditorium, reception room and committee room for functions – and councillors' meetings.

“I like to think this is my skill too. I make it look as smart as possible.”

Anyone can book a room in the hall. The debutante ball is a favourite, so too are the horticultural show, Blue Light Disco and council functions like Senior Citizens' morning teas.

“I open at 7am and close at 4pm but I'm also on call so if I ever want to take a weekend away I need to book myself out.”

The gardens are also his domain. He picks up the rubbish and chats in between to old timers in particular, who come and sit “in their spot in the sun”.

“Then there's the clock tower. Sometimes I climb the wooden steps all the way up to check out the tower and the view.

“I hear the pigeons on the roof but those ghosts? Well, I'm not too sure about that.”

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