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The Keeper. Local Collector Fires Up His Passion

Story: Sally Eberhardt
Apr 25, 2019
The Keeper is a diverse showcase at the Redcliffe Museum featuring fascinating local collectors but one exhibitor’s personal connection to his collection stands out.  Amidst the romance of Darren Hickmott’s Titanic, the cult classicism of Fiona Dockrill’s Star Trek accumulation, the quirkiness of Deborah Miles’ Australiana pieces and various other collections, Graham Davis’ collection of model fire engines and fire fighter memorabilia is a gritty reminder of his years as a volunteer fire fighter.

In 1972, Graham joined Illawong Bushfire Brigade (Sutherland Shire, NSW), because he owned a home on the adjoining bushland.

“It was a busy brigade with about 125 fire callouts a year,” Graham said. “I realised that the brigade needed an extra fire truck. I saw a World War II GMC petrol tanker abandoned at Sydney’s Bankstown Airport. The Illawarra Flying School kindly donated the broken-down vehicle, we refurbished it and it served us well.”

This fire truck ignited Graham’s passion for collecting fire service related items.

“I was always looking for a model similar to this truck and spotted one in the window of a toy shop near The Louvre, Paris. Needless to say that I popped in and bought it!” Graham said.

Other fire fighting memorabilia, on display within Graham’s collection, has seen plenty of action.

“When I retired from Illawong Bushfire Brigade, in 2005, and was moving to Scarborough, my brigade handed me my personal protection kit – jacket, trousers, helmet and breathing apparatus. These keepsakes are now on a mannequin in the display.”

More than 45 model fire engines and other items related to fire services can be seen in Graham’s collection in this exhibition, including an early firefighter’s helmet and a brass 1930s fire extinguisher.

There is bound to be at least one item in every collection, on display in The Keeper, that takes you on a trip down memory lane. It might be a Holden badge in Chris Rowsell’s car emblem collection or the record of Madam Butterfly in Patricia Westwick’s opera collection.

Take this opportunity to relive history and perhaps your own childhood at The Keeper. For info, go to


Until Sunday 26 May
Redcliffe Museum
75 Anzac Avenue, Redcliffe