Tucked away near the Master’s chair in chapel is a small cabinet organ or harmonium. A little the worse for wear, but still boasting its decorative fretwork and patented “mouse proof pedals” the organ is an intriguing link to one of Victorian Methodism’s shadier characters.
The harmonium, built by W. Bell & Co in Guelph, Canada, was purchased by the Rev. Ralph Brown for £50 and donated in 1888 to Queen’s College for use in its first chapel. Brown was a larger than life character who, in addition to his duties as a Methodist minister, made a name for himself as a mesmerist and lecturer in phrenology. For a fee of five shillings, Brown prepared character charts, which, a bit like modern-day psychometric tests, could be used to help select trades and professions for children, or to choose marriage partners.
He was also in great demand as a public speaker; his talks on “Heads and Faces” and “My trip round the world on 6s 6d and how I did It” were particularly popular.  By the mid 1890s, however, Brown’s career had begun to unravel.  In 1893 he was charged with the indecent assault of a young girl. Although the charges were dismissed by the magistrate, the whiff of scandal lingered, and in 1895, when the collapse of the land boom left him facing financial ruin, Brown was left with no alternative but to resign from the ministry.  Brown subsequently went into the real estate business, while continuing to lecture in phrenology. He died in 1903, just a few months after moving to Tasmania to set up an estate agency.
The harmonium, meanwhile, continued to serve the college well, both in the chapel, and at official occasions such as the laying of the Tweddle Foundation Stone. Superseded by the magnificent pipe organ commissioned for the new chapel in 1923, the little harmonium now sits silent, its story, and that of its donor, largely forgotten.
The harmonium was wheeled outside to accompany hymn singing at the laying of the Tweddle Foundation Stone in 1920.

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