My recent visit to Peel Island was my first in several years, and certainly my first in more than 20 years where I had stayed for more than one night. After wading ashore from ‘Limosa’ through the cold winter water of Platypus Bay, the sandy beach still had that warm welcoming feeling that immediately made me feel back home. With perfect winter weather, this visit would prove to be a suitable postscript to my collected writings about the island’s history: ‘Peel Island History – A Personal Quest’.
At the former Lazaret (Leprosarium), nothing much has changed over the intervening years: the female bath house and some more male patient’s huts have been restored and painted. Inside the buildings, though, I was pleased to see that some of the internal furnishings had also been restored: a white female hut, the recreation hall, and the Catholic Church all give the visitor an idea of how the patients lived.
On Saturday, members of the Moreton Bay Trailer Boat Club came over for a tour and I was able to help out as a guide. For me, telling the stories of the patients’ daily lives provided the real flesh to the backdrop of the empty buildings. I haven’t guided a tour for some time now, but retelling the stories of Peel’s grim past, soon recaptured its emotional pull for me again.
It’s a shame that more tours cannot come to the island, but without a jetty to service the larger tour boats, groups must rely on their own transport. I would love to see the fine maintenance and restoration work done by the QPWS and Quandamooka used more by the public. One link to the outside community, though, has been established with the Cleveland Star of the Sea Church who helped restore the Catholic Church on Peel and who conduct quarterly services there. Other community groups – schools, art groups, Natural History groups etc – could also follow their example, and keep Peel Island, this gem of Moreton Bay, shining.