In it’s early days – before the bridge was built – Bribie was a haven from the rat race of civilization. Its lifestyle was simple and close to Nature, where people could be themselves without undue interference. Personalities flourished and eccentrics were accepted as the norm. Bribie’s best-known eccentric was the reclusive artist, Ian Fairweather. At age 60 he went to Bribie and took up residence in a grass hut in the bush at Bongaree so that he could paint undisturbed.
It paid dividends and his art flourished to the point where he started winning prizes and he gained national attention from the galleries, from the newspapers, and from the general public. His grass hut became a bit of a tourist attraction and he was constantly visited by curious onlookers. Paradoxically, his success destroyed the very reason why he went to Bribie – to find a bit of peace and quiet!
Of course, when they built the bridge, that was the beginning of the end for his Eden. People visited the island in droves and neighbours began to encroach on his hut in the bush. There were complaints about rats and the Caboolture Shire Council was forced to intervene.
Eventually, Fairweather was forced to build a fibro hut on a cement base next door to his grass hut that he had occupied for so long. It was harsh and cold. He missed the sand between his toes, the smell of the thatching and the warmth of his kerosene lanterns. His art production all but stopped.
When he died, the grass hut was demolished amongst much controversy, and the fibro house was moved. Today the cement slab still remains in the pine grove where he once lived and worked. A large stone has been placed on the slab and an inscription reminding us that Ian Fairweather once lived there.
Johann Carl Gustav Dux, known as “Gus”, was born in West Prussia, on 1st June 1852. Johann worked as a seaman, jumped ship in Cooktown, N.Q., and then worked his way down the coast until he arrived at German Station, now known as Nundah (a suburb of Brisbane).
Johann married at the age of 20 to Wilhemine Rose, 24 Years, from Grunhage, West Prussia. When she died at the age of 28, he married Bertha Lange, age 17 years, from Weinsdorf, West Prussia. Their first child, Friedrich Carl August Dux, known as “Augie”, was born on 2nd August 1878.
Dux Creek on Bribie Island was named after Gus, who eventually settled in what is now known as Dux Street, Caboolture. At the time, Dux Street ran right down to the Caboolture River, and it was from here that Gus did his fishing, crabbing and oystering, culling oysters from oyster banks at Pumistone Passage, north of the Caboolture River, and on Bribie Island. It was a long hard pull by rowboat from Caboolture down the Caboolture River to Bribie Island for Gus, so he would camp overnight when he worked his oyster banks.
William, another of Gus’s sons, carried on his father’s business, and was known locally as Billy, the crabman.
A family dynasty is another way we can remember our early settlers. Such is the case with Honorah Doyle who migrated to Australia from Glengariff, a coastal dairy town in Co Cork, Ireland. It was her second husband, a Mr Mullins, who accompanied her to Australia on the ship “Ramsay” in 1875. They settled in Oxley and then moved up to King’s Scrub in the Dayboro Valley where they established the family dairy farm in 1876. It remained as a dairy farm for over 100 years, before becoming a vineyard and winery in 1999, and evolving once more into the award winning Function venue it is today hosting events and weddings from all over the world.
Honorah, herself, was to live to be 114 and even at the age of 95 years she was still milking a herd of 40 cows by hand.
Glengariff Historic Estate is still owned and operated by the sixth generation of her descendants.
Communities often choose to remember their pioneers by naming a bridge in their honour. Caboolture did this with its Captain Whish Bridge that spans the Caboolture River. I have always attributed his name to a sea captain, but further research revealed that he was a Captain in the British Army in India. Claudius Buchanan Whish was born in London in 1827 into a military family. After serving in India and Persia he travelled to NSW and SA to buy cavalry remounts for the Indian Army.
After his marriage to Anne in about 1858, Whish migrated to Queensland on the ‘Young Australia’ and began the Oaklands sugar plantation in Caboolture on 15 August 1862. He became chairman of the local planters’ association and hired Pacific islanders to work on the crop – a move that lost him favour with the people when a committee on Pacific island labour was informed that whippings had taken place on Whish’s estate. This evidence gained little credence as Whish was a justice for peace and a deeply religious man.
Whish was appointed to the Queensland Legislative Council in June 1870. Although he is known as the first successful sugar-producer in Queensland, Whish’s estate lost its worth and he resigned from the Legislative Council in March 1872, sold his machinery and became a surveyor of roads. By September 1873, Whish was bankrupt with a debt of £5598, although he was promoted to inspector of road surveys for the southern division in 1875 and for the colony in 1880.
In 1889 Whish took his leave by setting out for England. He was aboard the fated RMS Quetta on the day it sank in the Torres Strait. His wife Anne perished with him.
There is another memorial to Captain Whish, his wife Anne and to the other 132 souls who perished with them: the Quetta Memorial Cathedral Church, Thursday Island.
Continuing this series into the people who helped form the communities that now make up our Northern Moreton Bay Region, and how we remember them, few families can have been more distinguished in the Moreton Bay Region and in the broader Queensland community at large than the Bancroft family – and few Queensland families have warranted an archaeological dig (unless they had convicts in their ancestry).
The Bancrofts were a family of scientists who lived at Deception Bay between 1881 and 1904: Joseph Bancroft, his son Thomas and Thomas’ daughter Mabel Josephine (later known as Jo Mackerras after her marriage).
This brief timeline places their years at Deception Bay into perspective:
1836 – Joseph Bancroft born in England
1859 – Joseph graduates as medical doctor
1860 – Joseph and Ann’s son Thomas born
1864 June – the Bancroft family embarks for Australia
1864 Oct 29 – they reach Brisbane
1867 – Joseph becomes visiting surgeon at Brisbane Hospital
1868 – Joseph becomes House Surgeon Brisbane Hospital
1870 – Joseph opens private practice at ‘Carlton’ on Wickham Terrace
1877 – The Bancroft family visits Britain. Thomas begins medical studies at the University of Edinburgh
1881 – Joseph buys property at Deception Bay
1894 – Joseph dies and farm at Deception Bay passes to Thomas
1895 July 10 – Thomas marries Cecilia Mary Jones
1896 August 7 – Josephine born at Deception Bay
1933 – Thomas dies
All three Bancrofts were doctors of medicine as well as being very interested in other branches of science. During the time they lived at Deception Bay they improved an age old form of food preservation. In 1890 Joseph built a meatworks at Deception Bay, which was then called Burpengary. He experimented with processing dried fish and vegetables as well as meat. In 1894 upon the death of his father, Thomas inherited the Deception Bay meatworks, and made it into a profitable business when he started to supply a product ‘Pemmican’ for use by the British War Office as emergency rations. This was ground-up beef, dried and packed into tins.
Mosquitoes were such a problem when they arrived here that the Bancrofts spent a lot of their time studying them. Specimens would have been easily obtained amongst the mangroves of Deception Bay! Joseph was one of the first to suggest that mosquitoes transmitted the disease elephantiasis. He was the first to recognize leprosy in Brisbane, although the disease had been present for at least a decade. Typhoid fever was prevalent and its prevention and treatment also engaged his attention.
Joseph became a member of the Acclimatisation society of Queensland and spent a lot of time and money on experiments. He produced new varieties of strawberries, wheat, grapes, and castor oil plants and established plots of land where he grew plants that could be tested to see how useful they were. He also experimented with growing rye, barley, cotton, sugar cane, citrus fruits, cloves, grasses, date and coconut palms, and tried arrowroot and tobacco, which didn’t grow. There was a problem with wheat at that time when it became infected by a fungal disease called ‘rust’. Joseph grew over a hundred different types, trying to find one that would not be affected by this disease, and eventually found four kinds that were successful.
When the Bancrofts lived in Deception Bay, there were still Aborigines living in their own traditional way. Thomas was interested in their lifestyle and their food plants. He was the first person to record their use of a fern called the Bungwall Fern, which was one of the Aborigines important vegetable foods.
The Bancroft’s house in Deception Bay was called ‘Thelmum’. It was Ann Bancroft’s favourite home. Joseph spent his weekends there, travelling from Brisbane to what is now Petrie by train, and then by horse and buggy to the bayside. When Ann became ill, she was told that bathing in seawater could help, so Joseph had two baths excavated out of the sandstone on the foreshore for her to use. These baths would fill with seawater as the tide came in. You can still see one of these (pictured) on the foreshore today, and which has recently been the site of an archaeological dig.
At Deception Bay, the Bancroft’s are also remembered by memorials and local streets: Bancroft Terrace and Joseph Crescent, and the park Bancroft Park. The Queensland Institute of Medical Research is today known as the Bancroft Centre.