Stories from Mud Island – 2

The beach at Mud Island Could this be the grave site?
The beach at Mud Island
Could this be the grave site?

Sarah Mills

(Norma Morse, whom I met on a “Friends of Peel Island” boat cruise, has kindly supplied me with this extract taken from her family history compiled by Irene Smith in June 1985. I have included a little of the history of the family prior to migration because it highlights an important reason why so many people chose to make the difficult and hazardous voyage to Australia – unemployment due to the industrial revolution then taking place in the UK and Europe):

Irene Smith: There are many descendants of my Great, Great Grandparents, Joseph and Sarah Mills (nee Small) who lived in Coventry, England. Joseph (senior) had a hand weaving Mill in Well Street, Coventry. This is all that has been obtained of the early history of the Mills family, as all records were destroyed during the bombing raids over Coventry, of the War in 1939-45.

Both Great, Great-Grandparents are buried in the Coventry Cemetery. One of the younger descendants in Australia, Lyle Ford, visited Coventry Cemetery recently, and found their graves, and attended to them. As far as is known of their family, they had a son, Joseph, born at Cromton, England, in the year 1816.

Later he-attended the Bablake school at Coventry. Joseph left school at the age of twelve.  After school years, Joseph worked at his father’s weaving Mill. When he completed his apprenticeship, he was admitted to the freedom of the City, Coventry, in June 1835.  At the age of nineteen years he married Sarah Hill, who was eighteen years of age, born in the year 1819. They were married in the Holy Trinity Church of England, Coventry, England, on the 24th. March I834.

As power machines were developed, and brought into existence for many business firms, the hand weaving mills gradually closed down.

Joseph and Sarah had eight children, two of the older children died from cold and sickness in England.  So they decided to move to a warmer climate. The deaths of the two children, and the mill closing down, was the cause of the family deciding to migrate to Australia, hoping for a better life for all the family.

So the decision was made and they planned to go to Queensland, Australia. In the year 1865, on March 10th, they left England on the Boat “LOBILIA”, from Plymouth, arriving in Morton Bay, Queensland, 2nd.July 1865. While anchored at Morton Bay, Sarah Mills became ill, and passed away on 6th July 1865. So, early on the 7th, July, Sarah’s body was taken ashore by some of the crew, and by order of the Ship’s Captain, was buried on Mud Island in Moreton Bay, Queensland, at the age of 46 years.

What a sad ending to their journey for Joseph and his family, to arrive in Brisbane and to begin a new life, in a new country, without their mother’s care.(3)


(1) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay People-The Complete Collection. privately published, Stones Corner, 2000

(2) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Letters. privately published, Stones Corner, 2003

(3) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Reflections. privately published, Stones Corner, 2007

(4) Ludlow, Peter. The Port of Brisbane, Its People and Its Personalities, published by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd, 2013

Stories From Mud Island – 1

Mud Island Graves - Sunday Sun September 16 1990
Mud Island Graves – Sunday Sun September 16 1990

SUNDAY SUN, September 16 1990:

Top Queensland medics have given up hope of ever solving the Mud Island body-in-the-box riddle.

For the past two years doctors and police have been trying to identify the skeleton, found in a makeshift wooden coffin in April 1988 on the foreshore of Mud Island.

According to Government pathologist Doctor Tony Ansford: “We simply have no idea who it is.”

Exhaustive tests by Dr Ansford and other Queensland scientists have failed to uncover the burial date of the skeleton or the cause of death.

“We believe the skeleton is of a male person, possibly part Aborigine, aged between 26 and 31 and about 172 cm tall,” he said.

“The rest is a total mystery…it’s extremely bizarre.”

Detective Senior Constable Col Pass of the Brisbane Homicide squad is just as puzzled.

He said only one person had inquired about the skeleton when it was first discovered by a fisherman.

“A woman thought it might have been her husband who was washed off the rocks in northern New South Wales. But she was at a loss to explain how the body had found its way into a coffin.”

Sen. Const Pass said there was nothing to indicate the person died a violent death.

“Tests and x-rays of the bones reveal the person had not suffered any serious illness” he said.

Police have examined the possibility the skeleton was a leprosy sufferer, who in the past lived in exile on St.Helena Island.

Sen. Const Pass said evidence indicated the skeleton was moved from its original resting place and carefully transferred to the hand-made box which had a stake to indicate the burial spot. He said if police failed to uncover any new leads within the next few months, the matter would be referred to the coroner.

Dr Ansford said slabs of mud on top of the wooden box had prevented marine biologists from matching marine growth on the skeleton, allowing an estimate of the age.

“We have checked with various ethnic groups and it doesn’t appear to be a normal burial rite,” he said.

In a last ditch plea to solve the mystery, Sen. Const Pass said anyone who might have information can contact him on 364-6505.

(Editor: Well, that doesn’t tell us too much. Dr Ansford has no idea of the identity, and Detective Senior Constable Pass is just as puzzled. The reporter, Warren Gibbs, also had the wrong island for the Leprosy sufferers – they were on Peel Island; St Helena had the prison. The photo of the grave is more interesting. By the reflections of the marker and an image of someone standing behind it, the grave at the time of taking the photo is on the water’s edge. What was the tide at this time, because if it was low water, then the grave would have been submerged when we walked along the beach? Maybe we should return at low tide next time.)

The Cameron Brothers

The Brisbane Arcade, Queen Street (photo courtesy Laserforce)
The Brisbane Arcade, Queen Street (photo courtesy Laserforce)

The Cameron Family has a long history in Australia, beginning with the arrival of Samson Cameron in Tasmania in the early 1800s. One of their children, John, moved to Brisbane in March 1861. In October 1864 John Cameron began the firm of Cameron Brothers, which would become a Brisbane icon. He introduced the concept into Queensland of subdividing large blocks of land into smaller allotments. Their first land subdivision in the Redlands was at Redland Bay.

 John’s association with Brisbane butcher, Patrick Mayne, began early in his career and the firm negotiated many property deals for the Mayne family. The Brisbane Arcade is still owned by the Mayne Estate and was managed by the Cameron Brothers for 60 years.

The Cameron family has also been involved in the Redlands for many generations. In 1884 John Cameron built the iconic ‘Doobawah’ on a ten acre block of land at Ormiston on the corner of Wellington and Eckersley Streets, with water frontage to Moreton Bay and Raby Bay. (Doobawah is the Aboriginal name for Raby Bay). The house had two wings, and in 1902, the family sold these two wings: one becoming the Holyrood Hospital on Gregory Terrace (later the Country Women’s Hostel) and the other part of St John’s College in Kangaroo Point.

Doobawah residence at Ormiston ca. 1900 (State Library of Queensland)
Doobawah residence at Ormiston ca. 1900 (State Library of Queensland)

Stories from Cribb Island – 2

Cribb Island sales (Cameron Brothers)
Cribb Island sales (Cameron Brothers)

From Ron Farry:

‘I attended the Cribb Island School from 1924 to 1927. The teachers were “Hoffie” Hoffman and “Spud” Murphy. It was built out on the marsh and at high tide we walked up to our knees in water to get there. In 1927, there was great excitement when solo flyer, Bert Hinkler, flew over Cribb Island in his monoplane. This was also the year that Kingsford Smith also flew over in his “Southern Cross”.

‘At that time we lived on the Jackson’s estate. There was a shop and a dance hall, both owned by a man called Burgess. There was no police station, so if required, Policeman Long had to ride a horse from Nundah Police Station. There were about 150 houses on the Jackson’s Estate then and they were available for rental at 5/- a week. A lot were empty. There were also about 150 houses up the top end of Cribb Island. The Slade’s who ran the buses lived there, and also the Leo’s.

‘Personalities at Cribb Island included the brothers, Eric and Mick Leo, fisherman who rowed 14 foot dinghies. My brother, Ricky, used to help them. They netted at Shark’s Gutter at the mouth of the Brisbane River at Sambo Creek (named after an Aborigine) and at Bishop Island (then called Wreck Island because of all the hulks placed there to prevent erosion from ships’ wakes).

‘Sharks were in abundance and included Grey Nurse, but not Bull Sharks as you have suggested. One shark that comes to mind was known as “Big Ben”. He used to follow the vessel “Olivene” that took workers between Woody Point and Shorncliffe Pier. He was partial to scraps of food that were thrown overboard to him. A ₤5 ($10) reward was offered to anyone who could catch him, and eventually somebody did.

‘During the 1950s, while the Tangalooma Whaling Station was in operation, a whale oil slick came right from Tangalooma into Nudgee Beach, a suburb next to Cribb Island. We used to watch the sharks fins going up and down the channel, just beyond the beach. I remember that a boy was taken at Cabbage Tree Creek near the boat ramp. There’s a deep hole there. It was late in the evening and he was being piggy backed across the Creek to Diners Island. I am not sure of the date but it may have been just before WWII. Incidentally, it was on Diners Island that some prison escapees hid out for some days before their recapture.

‘Our family used to have horses. People used to have a loan of them sometimes to ride up to T.B.Childs’ vineyards, where the Nudgee Golf Club is now. They used to make their own wine there, which they sold for 2/6 (25 cents) a bottle. Often the horse would come back riderless. Wine was the standard alcoholic beverage consumed at Cribb Island then. There was no pub there.’ (3)

From Brian McGrath:

‘During the port development days, we had a series of tide gauges near where we were doing our work, and one of them was on the jetty at Bishop Island. I was down there one day and was putting a new chart on the tide gauge and there was a dear old lady fishing there. I got talking to her and she told me how much she enjoyed coming to Bishop Island every year for her holiday. When I asked her where she came from, I was expecting her to say something like Western Queensland, but she pointed across the river and said, ‘From over there at Cribb Island.’ (4)

From Margaret Taylor:

‘Pete and I also purchased Christie’s Bait Shop, which was situated under the Victoria Bridge on the north bank of the river. We used to dig worms from Fisherman Islands and sell them as Cribb Island worms, which were much sought after by local fishermen. They were sold as 10 full worms plus 2 bits for 4/- (40 cents) a packet. They also sold mullet gut for bait. An 18-inch (45 centimetres) tube cost 4/-.’ (4)

From Jack Little:

‘Bulimba is one of Brisbane’s oldest suburbs, and in the early days, its residents were either fishermen or boat builders. However my father had a newsagency. When I was about seven, my family had a weekender at Cribb Island. We used to make the trip down there by horse and sulky. There were pineapple farms there then and mangoes.  Many Brisbane residents spent their weekends at Cribbie in huts built for that purpose.  There were also retired people there.’ (1)

From Peter Ludlow:

‘I visited Cribb Island only once. It was on a weekend drive with some friends during the 1960s when, out of curiosity, we thought we’d pay the place a visit. Although I didn’t have a camera with me at the time, a single mental image of the place has remained with me over the years. Cannery Row springs to mind to describe the collection of houses. The weathered wooden workers houses fronting the Bay were a far cry from the Bayside mansions we are becoming accustomed to seeing today.  Storm clouds were brewing over the water and on the verandah of one of the shacks the motionless figure of an old woman was gazing out to sea. She watched our car trundle past and I had the strange impression that we were intruding on the lives of this isolated community.

‘I have always wanted to return, but alas Cribb Island has been swept aside by progress.’ (3)

Beach shack at Cribb Island 1928 (State Library of Queensland negative number 27.35574,153.113953)
Beach shack at Cribb Island 1928 (State Library of Queensland negative number 27.35574,153.113953)


(1) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay People-The Complete Collection. privately published, Stones Corner, 2000

(2) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Letters. privately published, Stones Corner, 2003

(3) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Reflections. privately published, Stones Corner, 2007

(4) Ludlow, Peter. The Port of Brisbane, Its People and Its Personalities, published by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd, 2013

Stories from Cribb Island – 1

Stories from Cribb Island – 1

Crib Island - Sand garden competition
Cribb Island – Sand garden competition

Cribb Island was a former small settlement on Moreton Bay, just to the north of the mouth of the Brisbane River. Today, it lies under the runway of the Brisbane Airport. Here are some of the stories of its former inhabitants:

From Bev Gant:

“Moreton Bay maps no longer carry the name of Cribb Island.  As one ex-local quipped it was “unexpectedly demolished to make way for a hyperspace bypass” (Quote from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams 1986.)

“Cribb Island was originally named after John George Cribb, a Brisbane Banker and later businessman (of Cribb and Foote fame) who in 1863 purchased 150 acres of low lying land bordering Moreton Bay just north of Serpentine Creek at the mouth of the Brisbane River.  In 1886 Cribb sold 65 acres to James Jackson who went on to grow pineapples, bananas and watermelons there.  He even had his own pineapple cannery.  Because the makeshift road to Cribb Island was submerged at high tide, James Jackson built a flat-bottomed punt “Bramble” to transport his produce to the Brisbane markets.  Fish, caught by both weekend fishermen and professionals, were also sent to market on the “Bramble”.

“Other men also farmed and ran dairy and poultry on the Cribb estate until 1913 when the remaining 80 acres were sold for subdivision into building blocks.  This area was then known as Cribb Town.

“James Jackson then subdivided his land and granted leases to 160 owners whom he allowed to build small weekenders or holiday homes of their own choice, some even from car cases.  This area was known as Jackson Town or Jackson Estate.  At holiday time, Cribby would be awash with the same revisiting families year after year.  Getting there was a bit of a problem until in 1925 Alex Gibson set up a bus service to the city (The Gibson family also operated the fruit boats to the southern Bay islands).” (2)

From Tom Gibson:

“Early in the 1920s, my brother, Alex had begun a bus service at East Brisbane, and in 1925 moved with his family to Cribb Island and commenced a bus service to Brisbane. Cribb Island was a popular fishing spot and safe swimming beach. Sculpturing competitions in the area’s black sand were a popular event. Weekend entertainment in the form of vaudeville concerts was often held on an open stage erected on Jackson’s estate.

“Eventually the Gibson’s had to move into a bigger house at Cribb Island, which also included a garage for the buses and sleeping accommodation for the drivers, myself,  Ernie Gibson and Jack Campbell, who all took our meals with the family. Known as the “Red and White Line” the service began with 2 buses and eventually expanded to 14. It ran to Nudgee railway station as well as Brisbane.

“During WWII, the Cribb Island buses could be commandeered at any time by the American Army forces, which were then billeted at Eagle Farm Racecourse. If objections were raised, the army just threatened to send out drivers and take over themselves. Alex had no option but to comply, and borrowed buses from J.T.Ford of Sandgate and Hornibrook Highway to try to get his disgruntled passengers to and from their homes.

“Alex died in February 1946 and his widow, Margaret kept the Cribb Island business running until 1953 when it was sold. After living for 28 years at Cribb Island, the remainder of Alex Gibson’s family moved to Auchenflower, a Brisbane suburb. I had driven buses with the firm for 23 years until my wife’s health forced us to move to a drier climate. We settled at Kingaroy where we operated a milk delivery service for many years.” (1)

Crib Island bus
Cribb Island bus


(1) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay People-The Complete Collection. privately published, Stones Corner, 2000

(2) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Letters. privately published, Stones Corner, 2003

(3) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Reflections. privately published, Stones Corner, 2007

(4) Ludlow, Peter. The Port of Brisbane, Its People and Its Personalities, published by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd, 2013