Frederic Charles Urquhart (1858-1921), a Midshipman, Line Repairer, Police Commissioner and Administrator, was born on 27th October, 1858 at St. Leonard’s-on-Sea, Sussex, England, son of Frederic Day Urquhart, a Major with the Bengal Army and his wife Charlotte, nee Goldie. Urquhart was educated at the All Saints School in Bloxham, Oxfordshire, and Felsted Military School, Essex. Before Urquhart migrated to Queensland in 1875 to join his godfather, General Fielding, he was a midshipman on a sailing vessel called the ‘Essex’ which sailed between England and Australia. When he arrived in Queensland he first worked in the cattle and sugar industries for three years, before becoming a Telegraph Line Repairer with the Electric Telegraph Department in 1878 at Normanton. When Urquhart was faced with an automatic promotion in a clerical capacity he resigned and joined the police force.
Urquhart joined the Queensland Native Mounted Police Force on 27th April, 1882 as a Cadet Sub-Inspector and was put in charge of the Native Mounted Police. During his seven years with the Native Mounted Police, Urquhart was wounded twice, having been speared in the groin and in the thigh by a tomahawk and had to travel 270 kilometres to receive medical treatment. He eventually transferred to the general police in 1889. During his time with the Queensland Police he was stationed in several places which included Carl Creek, Dunrobin, Cloncurry, Coreela, Maytown, Thursday Island and Brisbane and found himself involved in some interesting events.
In 1890, Urquhart was the first on scene to search for survivors and the bodies from the wreck R.M.S.S. Quetta, a Royal Mail Steamer, en route from Australia to England. In 1901, during the visit of His Gracious Majesty the King, Urquhart was put in charge of the Royal trains and Government House. When Urquhart was promoted to Second Class Inspector in 1898, Urquhart was in charge of the Criminal Investigation Branch and was eventually at the centre of a controversy in 1899 involving the handling of the investigation into the famous Gatton triple murders. However, Urquhart survived the enquiry and was eventually promoted to Chief Inspector in 1905.
Urquhart was Chief Inspector during Brisbane’s most tumultuous times, when in 1912 Brisbane came to a standstill which was the result of unionists from the Brisbane Tramways Company going on strike. Urquhart and the then Commissioner Cahill were part of the 3000 police in force during the illegal march attended by thousands in Market Street, which finally collapsed and the strike ending due to the police’s baton charge. He then went on to become our fourth Commissioner in 1917 on January 1st and was the first to rise to a commissioned rank from an officer to the top position.
Apart from being the Commissioner of the Queensland Police, Urquhart was an accomplished writer of poetry that were published as books and some of his works were ‘Camp Canzonettes’, ‘An Ocean Ghost’ and ‘Legends of the Blacks’. He was also noted for being an early explorer of Queensland having charted Albatross Bay, Emberley and Hay Rivers in Far North Queensland.
Urquhart retired from the Police Force in 1921 and was appointed as an Administrator of Northern Territory by the Commonwealth Government and he held this position until 1925. He eventually settled in Clayfield, Brisbane and he died on 2nd December, 1935 at St. Helen’s Private Hospital, aged 77 and is buried at the Toowong Cemetery.
This article was written by Librarian, Records and Archival university student Genevieve Green, and supplied by the Queensland Police Museum from the best resources available. The Police Museum is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Thursday and 10am to 3pm on the last Sunday of the month (Feb-Nov) and is located on the Ground Floor of Police Headquarters at 200 Roma Street, Brisbane. Contact: E: [email protected]
“FROM the VAULT – CoP Frederic Charles Urquhart” by the Queensland Police Service is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (BY) 2.5 Australia Licence. Permissions may be available beyond the scope of this licence. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/au/legalcode