There’s a little-known history of wild performing animals and zoological creatures roaming George Street in Brisbane’s CBD.
Less than a kilometre from Queensland’s Parliament House, an Irishman by the name of Charles Higgins set up a tent at the intersection of George and Turbot streets, featuring the “finest and largest collection of living wild animals ever brought together in Australia”, boasting Russian bears, leopards, panthers, cheetahs, monkeys, snakes and the “great performing Toombul Tigers”.
It had been less than a decade since Higgins purchased a large block of land next to the Toombul Train Station, but he’d already gained infamy as the owner of Jimmy and Sammy the “Toombul Tigers”, who were often spotted following their owner around his scrubby property or on a chain in his paddock.
It only took a few months for Higgins’ George Street menagerie to descend into chaos, with one of his employees seen rushing out of the tent, under the pursuit of Jimmy the tiger.
Jimmy seized the man in his mouth before Higgins forced his own arm into the tiger’s mouth to help his employee escape.
The tiger was eventually restrained, however, Higgins was wounded with a deep gash on his arm and his employee suffered severe lacerations.
While the tigers were saved from the authorities, the bite on Higgins arm became infected and required hospitalisation.
Of course, the ‘Toombul Tigers’ still needed someone to look after them, however, the man hired was a heavy drinker and began terrorising neighbours with threats of letting the tigers loose.
A petition was quickly filed with Council and Higgins’ property was put under police guard until the menagerie was no longer a public nuisance.
Unfortunately a nervous neighbour applied for a Supreme Court injunction, revealing a tiger had previously wandered into his workshop and a monkey had invaded his bedroom.
As a result, Higgins relocated his menagerie to the Queensport Aquarium at Hemmant until he was tragically killed in a traffic accident and became part of Brisbane folklore.