(I met Michael Roache at a function of the “Friends of Peel Island”. This time it was a seminar at Fort Lytton).
Michael Roache: He tells of his great aunt, Elizabeth Roache, who was buried on Mud Island. The death was reported in the Moreton Bay Courier. The vessel “Ophelia” had arrived in Moreton Bay in August 1875 with contagion aboard, and was moored at the mouth of the Brisbane River for inspection by the health authorities before pratique could be granted.
Amongst the passengers was Elizabeth Roache who succumbed to ‘the fever’ (rheumatic fever) and died while the “Ophelia” was still moored at the mouth of the river.
Her body was rowed ashore to Mud Island by two of the ship’s crew. They ventured up a creek, and on the nearest ground above high water mark, buried Elizabeth’s body.
The next day the tug “Kate” arrived to take the “Ophelia” and her passengers to the quarantine station at Peel Island, where they remained for six weeks until all was clear. The “Ophelia” was then allowed into pratique (a) and sailed up the Brisbane River to Immigration Depot (b).
Elizabeth Roache’s four brothers survived to start off a new life in Australia.
References: (From “Exiles of Peel Island – Quarantine” by Peter Ludlow)
(a) PRATIQUE is the license for a ship to enter port. It is granted after release from quarantine or on showing a clean bill of health.
The term QUARANTINE originates from the Italian Quaranta which means 40, the duration (in days) of isolation used to help control the Plague in Europe in the fourteenth century.
(b) THE DEPOT referred to here was the Immigration Depot (later known as the old DPI building at 95 William Street, Brisbane). It was used as a hostel for newly arrived migrants while they searched for work or alternative lodgings. Many of Queensland’s major towns had their own Immigration Depots.
The Brisbane Depot was completed in 1865, but as the Colonial Architect, Charles Tiffin, noted in his Annual Report of February 28th, 1866, “until the Enoggera Waterworks are completed, the lavatory and other sanitary arrangements cannot be kept in that order which is desirable.”
Evidently conditions never improved there, for in 1884, when typhoid fever had a vicious hold on all centres of population in Queensland, the government came under attack from the Press because of its own Immigration Depot, which was labelled “a nursery for the breeding and dissemination of this most dangerous and deadly fever.”
In 1885 the William Street Depot was replaced by the Kangaroo Point Immigration Barracks. At a cost of £14,285, it could accommodate about 500 people.
There are two references to Frank Needes, both resulting from an Inquiry into the cholera aboard the SS “Dorunda” when it arrived at Moreton Bay in 1885. On December 14th there were 25 cases of diarrhoea and cholera being treated aboard the S.S “Dorunda”:
Frank Needes aged 22 years a passenger aboard S.S. “Dorunda”, after being ill for 11 hours, died of cholera on December 14, 1885 at anchorage in Moreton Bay. Buried at Mud Island.
(Appendix E of Inquiry into the alleged cases of cholera on board the S.S. “Dorunda”)
Frank Needes (2 years) presented with severe cramps at 9 am; 9.15 am collapse; pulse never returned. Died at 5.15 pm.
(Medical log of S.S. “Dorunda” kept by Thomas Hickling, Surgeon Superintendent).
The age difference is a bit of a worry. Obviously a typo there. Wouldn’t you think that an official inquiry would have ‘got things right’. Typing mistakes were not easily corrected in those days and if it had been noticed by the typist, it was let pass.
It seems doubtful whether any of these three people fit the description of the skeleton found in the wooden box on the beach. However, these three Mud Island burials span a period of 20 years and the possibility of further victims dying aboard quarantined ships at the mouth of the Brisbane River is quite probable. Just how many other people are buried on Mud Island is impossible to say.(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
(4) Ludlow, Peter. The Port of Brisbane, Its People and Its Personalities, published by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd, 2013