Tributes paid to 'matriarch of the Irish community' in Queensland

We all mourn the loss of someone who did so much to promote Irish culture and heritage

Jan Dooley, who died in Brisbane on Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

Jan Dooley, who died in Brisbane on Wednesday, June 27th, 2018


WITH acts such as Bob Geldof gracing her pub’s stage and Bono among her patrons, Jan Dooley (nee Evans) certainly made an impact on Brisbane’s social scene.

Known as the matriarch of the Irish community in Queensland, Jan Dooley died on Wednesday June 27th, 2018 in Brisbane surrounded by her adoring family.

Dooley, a “powerhouse” and “game-changer”, was the driving force behind the revival of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Brisbane in 1989 after the second World War led to a 50-year hiatus.

It was from her pub, Dooley’s Hotel on Brunswick St in the “Valley” (Fortitude Valley), that the parade set off every year until 2006, when the pub was sold. The parade continued thereafter, but took a different route.

Jan with her husband Dr Tom Dooley
Jan with her husband Dr Tom Dooley

Breandán Ó Caollaí, Ambassador of Ireland to Australia, said Dooley was crucial to the vitality of the Irish community in Australia.

“We all mourn the loss of someone who did so much to promote Irish culture and heritage and who was so supportive of the Irish community in Australia,” he said.

“I had the great fortune of meeting Jan at last year’s St Patrick’s Day parade and I know she was hugely important in the revival and ongoing success of the event.”

The Queensland Irish Association described Dooley as “a powerhouse in, and a wonderful supporter of, the Irish Community in Brisbane over very many years.”

That legacy began in 1988 when the Dooleys, Jan and her husband Dr Tom Dooley, took over what was a run-down premises, the Hacienda Hotel, and turned it into a thriving nightspot attracting acts such as Geldof and supporting rising acts such as Powderfinger.

The Dooley family also reported that Bono popped in for a couple of pints when he was in town.

In 2004, after helping a sleepy country town transform into the “Brisvegas’” we know today, the Dooleys sold their slice of city nightlife but they didn’t stop there.

A 2012 newspaper report described cans of Guinness being opened to mark the official launch of Dooley’s Tavern and Motel in Capella, North Queensland- a business lauded for creating local jobs and one Jan Dooley worked in until her health began to deteriorate 18 months ago.

It was one of two North Queensland taverns the Dooleys ran, the other being at Springsure.

Seamus Sullivan, Vice President of the Queensland Gaelic Football and Hurling Association, described Jan as a woman of action.

Jan was a game-changer. What she did was crucial for the Irish community

“At a time when the Irish in Australia were beginning to lose their voice, Jan made a decision to revive the parade and it gave us a new lease of life,” he said.

“Jan was a game-changer. What she did was crucial for the Irish community. The family were wonderful to work with, and it was always about just getting things done. Position meant nothing; whoever you were you got stuck in and did something.”

The determination, says Sullivan, was her trademark.

According to Jan Dooley’s family , people laughed when she revealed her plan to turn a rough pub in a bad part of town into a hotspot. But defiant, she forged ahead, painting the pub green and adorning it with authentic treasures from the family’s Irish heritage.

Being managing director didn’t excuse Dooley from hard work. She would wipe down bars, collect glasses, pull pints and chat with customers six days a week.

Long time family friend Jim Morrissey described her as “a magic sort of a lady” who “carried out great work among the Irish”.

Morrissey said Jan Dooley was extremely charitable and most Irish newcomers made Dooleys their home from home as a result.

“None of them ever felt alone,” he said, “and no matter how busy she was she had time to stop and talk.”

Born in Brisbane on January 4th, 1946 Jan Dooley was educated at Loretto Convent, Coorparoo. She completed her nursing training at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital in 1967, later becoming Sister in Charge of the Casualty Department.

On June 16th,1969 she married Dr Tom Dooley and when Siobhan, her first child, was born in March of the following year she left full-time employment but by no means stopped working.

She became a nurse in her husband’s Valley Medical Centre while juggling the new additions Thomas (1971), Kathleen (1972) and Patrick (1974).

“With four kids in tow she was rent collector, cleaner, lawn mower, gardener and even painted one set of flats inside and out,” the family obituary read, referencing Dooley’s work as a landlord to several blocks of flats the family purchased.

Dooley was the granddaughter of Colonel Evans of Evans Deakin, the builder of Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge. Her great-grandfather was Michael “Stumpy” Durack of Kings in Grass Castles fame.

Her great-grandmother was a widow from Thomastown, Co Kilkenny, who emigrated to Australia with seven children in search of a better life. The paternal side of her family emigrated from Galway during the Famine, landing in New South Wales in 1849.

In 2004 Brisbane City Council named Jan Dooley an Honorary Ambassador and this year, in recognition of the 30th anniversary of the St Patrick’s Day Parade she revived, she was made the event’s Patron.

Jan Dooley is survived by her devoted husband of 49 years, Tom, their four children and nine grandchildren.

Funeral mass will be held on Wednesday, July 3rd, at Holy Spirit Church, New Farm, Brisbane at 11.30am.