St James’ Cathedral is the home of the only pipe organ in Townsville.
The original organ, built by Brindley & Foster of Sheffield England, was a gift to the Diocese of North Queensland from Miss M.E. Holland, an English friend of Bishop George Henry Stanton, the first Bishop of North Queensland. It was originally installed in St James’ Church in 1884. This was a two manual (2 keyboards) and pedal instrument of ten stops and it was installed by Mr. T. C. Christmas of Brisbane.
The organ has occupied three different positions inside the Cathedral. It was moved to the present Cathedral in 1892 where it was originally installed in the north choir ambulatory and the two arches fronting the chancel.
In 1903 the organ was enlarged to an extra 13 stops by the original builders and the instrument then occupied the North Transept. In 1956-57 Mr. Noel Ferguson, an optometrist from Cairns, rebuilt it with twenty-two speaking stops.
At this time the action was changed from mechanical to electro-pneumatic and it was moved to the organ loft in 1958.
Woodwork used in the rebuilding was never sealed against the weather, and this caused many unbidden sounds (called ‘ciphers’) that sprang forth unexpectedly. The metal pipework needed a complete overhaul as well as cleaning, revoicing and regulating. Quite a few pipes had suffered from vandalism and ‘souveniring’ and needed to be replaced, and the large wooden pipes on the East Wall (the huge 16 foot bourdon) were water damaged during cyclone Althea in 1971.
It was reconstituted by Brown and Arkley in 1991-92 for the Centenary of St James in 1992 and in its present form represents the vision and dreams of the late Frank Carroll, who was Director of Music in the Cathedral for many years.
This major project which cost in excess of $300,000 saw the instrument enlarged to four manuals and 53 stops and a new gallery was built above the North Transept (Lady Chapel) to accommodate it.
The organ was then the largest pipe organ in Queensland, outside metropolitan Brisbane. It was dedicated by the Bishop of North Queensland on the 4th October 1992 as part of the Cathedral’s Centenary Celebrations.