Peel Island in Retrospect

RQYS Sailing Cruising Group at Peel Island 9.11.2019

In October, after the all-too-familiar uncertainty about the weather, I accompanied the Sailing Cruising Group from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to Peel Island to assist as a tour guide of the former Lazaret buildings. It was only my second visit to the island this year (the first was to conduct Paul Smith’s small family group in May as they researched their ancestor, Paulus Fredrick Schwarz, the Lazaret’s Assistant Caretaker there in 1908.) It was good to be back on the island, and I was even given a ride from the beach, thus bypassing the 40-minute trek that the rest of the 36 members of the group had to make. 

So, I was dropped off at the former Nurses’ Quarters and while waiting for the walking group to arrive, was left to contemplate my 30+ year’s association with the island: the exciting times in the early 1990’s when the Cowie’s were caretakers and who enthusiastically cleared the bush that had covered most of the buildings for 30 years. They were happy to greet all and sundry who cared to visit. My wife and I had many a memorable sing-song with them…

Phyllis and I sharing a sing-a-long with Ray and Nola Cowie at the former Nurses’ quarters in 1993.

Later in 1998 I helped establish the Friends of Peel Island Association (FOPIA), a group formed to assist with the maintenance and restoration work and to promote public awareness of Peel’s cultural and historic values. Our regular work parties were well supported and have continued, albeit in a now diminished form, to this day. A beach party at the end of the day’s work was always a highlight for me…

FOPIA members on the beach at Horseshoe Bay in 2004

Now the first of the sailing group have arrived and I show them around the Lazaret buildings. Unfortunately, their stay must be very short due to the dependence on the tides. It would have been nice for them to rest on the verandah and soak up the atmosphere of the place, but time and tide wait for no one. 

For an hour we tramped around the buildings and then it was straight off down the track to their boats at Horseshoe Bay: for me a visit of unsatisfying brevity. I’d love to have had more time with this enthusiastic group of boaties. Time, too, is catching up with my body, and my aches and pains protest at my big day out. But there is something else missing: my hopes for the future of the island as a tourist destination. Gradually due to the lack of official manpower/money/interest, the island seems destined to be reclaimed by Nature. With the channeling of funds into the development of tourism at nearby Stradbroke, but not Peel, an opportunity has been missed.  

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