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My father, Mark Brown

My grandfather, George Brown, was a descendant of Fernandez Gonzales, a ‘Manila man’ who Tom Welsby once described as ‘the Patriarch of Moreton Bay’. George married Granny Mubue, an Aborigine from the mainland, and their children included my father, Markwell “Mark” George Brown, and my five aunts Daisy Campbell, Tilly Martin, Ethel Close, Vera Perry, and Mabel Brown (she remained unmarried). Our family lived at the Two Mile, which as the name implies was a community situated two miles north of Dunwich. Mark Brown, my father, worked at the old people’s institution at Dunwich as an engineer. He looked after the gas and steam engines there.

Apart from fishing and oystering, the old people’s Institution was the only source of employment for the people of Stradbroke Island. So, when it closed down in about 1947, my father worked at the Lazaret (leprosarium) on Peel Island just across the water from Dunwich. He remained working there until the sand mining started up on Stradbroke Island. At this stage our family moved from the Two Mile to Dunwich. My father worked for the mining in the carpenters’ shop until he retired and went to live at Southport.

Noel Brown

I went to school in Dunwich and when I left, I worked with Bonty Dickson, one of the personalities of Stradbroke and who later became its first Councillor. I worked with him on his oyster leases, then started boat building with him. One of the things I remember about Bonty was that he rode a three-wheeled bike.

Bonty Dickson’s store at Dunwich (photo courtesy Ray Cowie)

When the sand mines started up, I worked on the dredge on Main Beach. The dredge was used to pump the sand mix into the separating towers where the heavy mineral sands were separated from ordinary sand by centrifugal force. Then I helped put through the ropeway from Main Beach to Dunwich, via the Blue Lake and the 18 Mile Swamp. This ropeway (wire) was to transport the mineral sand in buckets across Stradbroke Island to Dunwich from where it was taken by barge to Brisbane and thence overseas.

The company mining the mineral sands then was called Tazi, which was located at Tazitown on the 18-mile swamp. This is now called Con Rutile. Now (1996) there are two sand companies, one at Dunwich (Con [Consolidated] Rutile) and the other at Amity Point.

 (Editor: Consolidated Rutile was a fixed mining operation on North Stradbroke Island with a workforce of up to 150 men housed in accommodation centered at Dunwich. The mineral concentrates were barged to Meeandah near Brisbane airport for separation into heavy mineral components.)

D9 Bulldozers hitched up to move a section of the plant on N.Stradbroke c.1976 (Photo courtesy Felix Fries)

Noel Brown, Southport, 1996

(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)

(Editor: Sand mining ceased on Stradbroke Island in 2019).