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Vintage machines connect to past

The Maryborough office of John Willett Lawyers is on Queensland's Heritage Register. Photos: Supplied

Walking through Maryborough’s Portside Heritage Precinct is almost like stepping back in time as historic buildings such as the Bond Store, Waterside Workers Hall, Customs House and Post Office abound.

And a stone’s throw from the historic and distinctive Court House is 134 Wharf Street – Maryborough’s oldest working shop which now houses John Willett Lawyers.

Number 134 has a long history dating back to 1869 and in keeping with the vintage theme, John has an interesting office foyer.


The items on display in the foyer.

“Our Maryborough office was entered into the State Heritage Register on 21 October, 1992, for its historical, cultural and aesthetic significance,” John said.

“The building proudly boasts a brass plaque to the right of the front entrance door denoting it as Maryborough’s Oldest Working Shop.

“In the almost five years our office has been located here, we have observed that tourists and Maryborough locals alike regularly stop, admire and photograph this and other heritage buildings.”

And some of the tourists and locals may want to step inside the office to see the display of vintage dictation/transcription machines.

“My good friend and mentor Rod Suthers recalls seeing the same style of machines in use in his father’s firm in about the late 1950s when he started work as an articled clerk,” John recalled.

“In the 1990s after they had long since been retired from service, he developed an interest in them and started collecting these and other vintage items historically used in legal practice.

“When I started working out of Wharf Street, he kindly offered for me to acquire them as a fitting and complementary touch to the heritage office.”

John, who grew up in Maryborough, is not sure exactly how they work but is learning what he can about the machines.

“From what I have learnt about them, the two machines to the left are dictation machines. The person talks into the handle, pushing the button to record a message onto a roll loaded on the reel from one of the drum canisters pictured,” he said.

“When the dictation is finished, I understand the roll on the drum is then removed from the dictation machine and fitted to the transcription machine on the right. From there, I believe the message on the roll can be listened to by a transcriber and then typed out onto a typewriter.

“The transcription machine has a unique-looking set of foot valve-type pedals in which the transcriber can go back and forward to listen to different parts of the message.

“All machines were designed to either be desk mounted, or set on a freestanding trolley for ease of movement between users/areas.

“I would love to one day see if I could get these machines to work again, but that might be many years down the track.

“In the meantime, I will continue to look after them doing my bit to preserve them, until it becomes someone else’s turn.”


The building has been home to many businesses.

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