Frederick Johnston Board, architect

Colonel Frederick Johnston Board
Colonel Frederick Johnston Board

THERE are many people who have acquired recognition in a town or city perhaps because of their achievements in a trade or profession, sport, community affairs or for bravery in war.

Few have reached high achievement in more than one sphere. One was Frederick Johnston Board, a soldier who rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, commanded the 4th Australian Light Horse in the First World War and later was the first commanding officer of our own 41st Infantry Battalion. In civilian life he was possibly Lismore's greatest architect.

Frederick Johnston Board was born in Sydney in 1878, the son of William Willmet Board and his second wife, Elizabeth (nee Maddern). Frederick's father had come from England as a young man and was a pioneer of the Manning Valley before retiring to Sydney.

Frederick apparently was not interested in the land and studied to become an architect.

In 1901 he came to Lismore and found accommodation at the Ryan Hotel. Unknown to Frederick at the time, the owner, Bridget Ryan, was planning to demolish the old hotel and build a new one.

She was impressed with the young man and admired his enthusiasm for his profession.

No doubt he was also a fine-looking, soldierly type. He had been a member of the Parramatta Lancers since 1897 and intended joining the local cavalry regiment if he could find employment in the area.

Bridget Ryan gave him the commission to build her new hotel and Lismore architectural history took a great leap forward.

Frederick joined the local regiment as a lieutenant and in 1906 was in charge of the guard of honour when the Governor-General, Lord Northcote, visited Lismore. By 1912 he was a major and had replaced Major Fanning as commanding officer of the 5th Australian Light Horse when Fanning retired.

In 1912 compulsory military training was introduced for 18-26-year-olds. This added to the responsibilities of the new CO.

Frederick had married Catherine M. Maddern in 1905 so there were also family responsibilities.

In early 1916 he enlisted in the A.I.F. with the rank of captain. Shortly after he resumed his rank of major and was put in charge of the 4th A.L.H. Later he was attached to the 41st Battalion and was at the ill-fated Messines Ridge on July 6, 1917 when a shell landed directly in the officers' mess. Most of the officers were killed or wounded. Frederick was wounded but soon returned to his command.

When the war ended he returned to Lismore but continued his association with the local militia, achieving the rank of Lt-Colonel.

While he had been away his business had continued, but it was not until after the war that any major buildings were erected.

Some Lismore buildings associated with Frederick are the Methodist (now Uniting) Church, the old Church of Christ, the War Memorial, Spinks Park walkways, the Band Rotunda, the Riviera of Second World War fame, various buildings in other centres such as Casino, Coraki and Bangalow and of course some of the most important houses, many of which are heritage listed.

Frederick had a habit of painting water colour designs of his buildings. Luckily, some of these pictures have survived. His son and brother were also architects.

Frederick died in 1942 and is buried at East Lismore.

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