On Friday 18 September, I was privileged to attend the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s Sail Cruising Group for a presentation for the best cruise organisers of 2019-2020. The trophy went to Warren and Debbie Kerswill, owner of the sailing catamaran Phase2.
Craig Margetts, this year’s Sail Cruise Chair relates: ‘Warren and Debbie put a tremendous effort into the organisation of this cruise, even arranging for Peter Ludlow (the Moreton Bay historian) to provide a comprehensive talk on the history of Peel Island including its use as a quarantine station and leper colony. This primed us for the visit prior to the cruise. It had taken months to get the necessary approvals from National Parks. Cruisers were greeted ashore by the Chairperson of the Friends of Peel Island Association (FOPIA), Scott Fowle and Peter Ludlow who lead us to the settlement. With over 30 in the party it was split into two groups, led by Peter Ludlow and Scott Fowle for an interesting tour around the Lazaret.’
No one there on that day was to know that this walkabout could well be the last conducted tour of Peel Island, because FOPIA, who has led many such tours over the previous two decades, closed down at the end of June this year. In 1998 the Friends of Peel Island Association was formed to assist with the maintenance and restoration work and to promote public awareness of Peel’s cultural and historic values. As well as regular work parties, the group supplied tour guides for the many organisations keen to visit and learn about the island’s history. Gradually, however, due to the lack of official manpower/money/interest in Peel, these have now finished and 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.
From when I was about two years of age, I can remember drawing – I used to draw on my mother’s walls. I have always drawn and painted – drawn more than anything. Once at school they announced they were going to have an art competition, so I got quite excited and went straight home and did my drawing that night. When I took it to the school next morning, they laughed at me and said that they hadn’t even made any plans yet. So, entering art competitions must have been in my blood even at that age – I must have been 6 or 7. Later, as a young mother, when I working, I went to different people for training. I used to paint under the mango tree at Bribie. This was in my mother’s yard, but I was painting the world.
When I was about 25 I was going to an artist for classes. That tutor would have liked me to go to university to study art, but I put my art career on hold until I was 44 when I had raised my kids – although I was still painting at home in the more traditional style. When I did commence my university degree (B.A. in Visual Arts), I wanted to understand modern art concepts, and art history. I came out of university in 1994, but didn’t find my real creative direction until 2005 when I began to relate once again to the land. The work that I do now in the contemporary art world could be considered old fashioned.
The movements in modern art have been more biased towards conceptual photographic and video work than painting the spirituality of the land as I do. I feel my passion is manipulating paint and depicting the lighter side of life but having said that I feel the stirrings for change that may see me head in a new direction. I always paint in the studio for the process rather than the commercial side of it all. I feel that will always takes care of itself later. This is one reason why I am happy to have my work out into travelling shows, because I can think ‘Well it’s now serving its purpose, so now I can get back into doing what I want to do, and we’ll worry about what happens to that work afterwards.’
There’s a difference between a painter and an artist. As an artist your work is about finding your creative direction through who you really are, whereas a painter just paints. Art is a journey, and I always think you should go back to your early childhood memories. Our personalities as children and the things we did are the true ‘us’. The personality might seem like it changes but it never does, it just grows stronger with age.
There was that little child in me that loved the freedom of running down the beach, and I used to read a lot. I loved nature and the way water was always eroding the beaches and the patterns the tides formed. When I was at University studying art, it was suggested by a tutor that I draw on my nursing background, and as I was still nursing, that did seem to be who I was then. Nurses work with people so I started painting figures rather than landscapes and it took me another ten years to get this out of my painting.
In nursing I was healing through the use of my hands. Now I want my paintings to have that same effect, heal by giving a sense of contemplation and peace and have the viewer get in touch with who they are. I think I was lost for many years and my art really began to take shape when I went back to landscapes. I had been playing with different things but it wasn’t until I went to organic sources that I found myself.
Suddenly I was painting the horizons and skies that I had grown up with. And it was the skies that I had always known as a child as Bribie is a little flat island, with all horizons and sky. The Glasshouse Mountains were also an influence. I’d seen them from the Bribie Passage for so long, so, in spite of the Aboriginal legend forbidding women to venture close, I had to go and explore them. I think that suddenly when I began painting the landscapes with the water and the eroding sands, I was home again on my beloved Bribie. Here at Tallegalla I sometimes feel like I am still on an island when first thing in the morning the mist has filled the valley and we look out over it to the mountaintops sticking out like islands through the low cloud. But then Bribie has changed. It’s so contained now they have concreted in the foreshore for example. But people love it. It’s a great family place. You don’t get loads of young people with their surfboards going there because Bribie doesn’t offer that kind of surf. But just getting there can be a problem with all the traffic congestion going north out of Brisbane in the holiday seasons.
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)
Editor: In 2020 Lyne relocated her home and art studio to Ningi, a small township adjacent to her original home on Bribie Island. Further details can be found at:
My grandmother, Elsie Rose O’Sullivan, was just 14 when she married my grandfather, Jim Ormiston, who was then 25. Jim Ormiston had one of the first shops on Bribie. My mother, Eileen, was one of their five children. Her sister, Mavis, married Fred King, the baker. Jimmy, Eric, and Gordon Ormiston were her brothers. All the kids did it pretty rough because the father left and the mother raised them. They were often hungry and the kids would raid his farm for food.
I grew up in Hall Avenue, but at some stage someone swapped the street signs over and I spent the rest of my time in Cottrell Avenue. No one ever changed them back. This is something that seems to follow me because since we came to live up here at Tallegalla, our address has changed six times and we have never moved!
My Early Life
I went to the Bribie Island State School. Mum put me in there when I was only four years old so I had finished primary school when I was barely twelve. I used to top the class. There was no High School at Bribie then, so the kids used to go by bus to Caboolture. Although it was illegal to finish school before the age of 14, I was never sent on to High School. However, it didn’t hold me back in the long run, because now I have two university degrees and three nursing qualifications. In that educational side of my life, I have always come in the back door, so to speak.
So, after I left the Bribie School, I had several jobs on Bribie, and at 17, I moved to Brisbane and worked for Coles/Pennies. After I left the island – it was after the bridge was opened – I was very homesick for Bribie, and I would go home every weekend until I got married. My wage wasn’t wonderful but I’d have enough to get my bus ticket and go down to Bribie every weekend that I didn’t have to work on the Saturday morning. I never caught the Koopa to Bribie, but as a kid, I remember we used to meet it when it berthed at the jetty.
When I married someone from the air force, I lived interstate a bit. The marriage lasted nine years and I never got to live on Bribie during that time. Later I lived with the kids in Brisbane until I met and married Peter, my present husband. He always wanted to live in the country so we came up here to Tallegalla (not far from Rosewood). In a way, life at Tallegalla now is similar to the way Bribie was in the old days – no power (we now have solar power) and no water (we have to rely on tank water).
My brother died in a car accident on Bribie in 1975 and I did get home to visit my mother there until my father’s death in 1977. After dad’s death, my mother left Bribie and often followed my sister Pam around to country towns where she and husband John Smith bought and managed pubs. Mum died at Beachmere just as Pam retired and would have now been living with them on Bribie Island in Cummings Street had she still been alive.
Life at Bribie
A student of one of my classes also remembers her visits to Bribie as very beautiful and free times. And that’s just how I feel about Bribie. I don’t think we Bribie kids were doing anything different from kids everywhere in those times. Kids from that era were freer. Looking at some of the things the kids have been doing in the floods today may seem crazy, but then we remember we used to do the same things in our younger days. Perhaps we are too over regimented today, but we do have a responsibility as parents now. So, we were just like kids everywhere at that time, except that when other kids from the mainland came to Bribie, they’d think we were so lucky because they had their bitumen covered playgrounds at school whereas we could walk around barefoot because our play area was just a big paddock.
A lot of holidaymakers used to stay in tents then along the waterfront on the Passage, and we kids used to like walking along at night and say hello to them and look at the canvas lit up with their lights. Of course, other visitors stayed in holiday houses or in huts left over from the war such as the Visitors’ Centre. We kids actually resented their intrusion into OUR island during holiday times, but we had the island to ourselves for the rest of the year. Of course, many of the locals depended on the visitors for their livelihood. For a number of years, the local ambulance used to put up a stage at Christmas near where the library is now at Bongaree and held a Christmas pageant there.
Another thing we kids used to do was to play sport against other schools, such as Humpybong, Caboolture, and Dayboro. It was always a big event when we met all these schools together at Caboolture. We had about a hundred kids at our school then and the whole school would climb aboard buses and go across on the barge to Caboolture for this big event. It would have required a lot of organizing for all the different grades involved. It was an athletics day and each school had its own colours. Bribie’s was a red top with a white skirt and it was tied up with a gold sash.
The locals were very ‘anti’ the bridge being built, and when they got it they were then ‘anti’ the toll. They said that it should only be visitors and not locals who should pay. However, the bridge gave us young people a lot more freedom. We could go off the island into Caboolture, which although it was a very small town then, was our ‘big city’. For our big night out we used to go to the Milky Way – a milk bar attached to a service station! Bribie did have a hall, which is still there today. It’s only small, but to me as a child it seemed huge. It served as a dance hall on Friday nights, where we’d do all the old fashioned dances such as the Pride of Erin. On Saturday nights it was the movie show, and on Sundays it was church. The hall was everything. The movies were shown by Ivan Tesch who lived in a circular house, which is still there today. It was at Bongaree and was very innovative for Bribie when it was built.
There were other churches on Bribie – a Church of England further along the same street, I think. There was also a Catholic church, the Church of the Little Flower, down near the school. We kids were allowed to go to the movies on Saturdays and we’d walk up there as a group. In those days there were a lot more trees and the roads were a lot less defined but I was surprised to see the hall still there on a recent visit to Bribie.
Ian Fairweather was living on Bribie when I was a kid but I don’t think he had much influence on my later work as an artist. I knew he was a painter who lived in a bush hut, and we’d see him walking around town. He used to come down to get his groceries and used to come into the shop where my mother worked. So she knew him. The owners of the shop had some of his paintings. I don’t think the locals really understood how important he was. There were people from city galleries visiting him, but the locals saw him as a bit of a hobo. He always looked a bit derelict, and of course he was probably not all that young when I was there. But I think in later years when I was working with figures he may have had some influence on my painting. But I didn’t go to any of his exhibitions when I was young. He didn’t have any as such on Bribie but he did donate the occasional painting to local organisations. He didn’t shun the local community.
For us, to go to Brisbane then was a major adventure. We would have to go down to the waterfront at 6 in the morning and wait for the barge. It would take us an hour to get across the Passage because the barge would have to come across and then take us back. So we never really felt as though we were off the island until the bus pulled off on the mainland. Even then it was quite a long way to Brisbane via Caboolture, so we didn’t go to town all that often. So, if Fairweather did have an exhibition in Brisbane, we kids wouldn’t have known anything about it. Then after he died, his living area wasn’t preserved, because the Council didn’t really understand, and weren’t interested.
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)
My parents were Fred and Eileen Crouch. There were also other branches of the Crouch family on Bribie – George Shillington Crouch, and Edgar Crouch. Dad’s father was Charles Frederick who they called Charles (‘Tiff’ or ‘Tiffie’). Dad was also Charles Frederick but they called him Fred. Charles’ brothers were Edgar and George.
Dad’s father died of peritonitis while fishing. This was in 1915. They got him into shore but there was not a lot they could have done at that time because this was before the time of penicillin here. Dad was born in 1904 and he left home when he was about 14. He was always involved with the sea. He joined the Navy and became a marine engineer on the HMAS Penguin and as such travelled the world. When he left the Navy, he went to Bribie, where he married my mother. He was 29 then, and she was 17. This would have been in 1933. When World War II broke out in 1939, dad joined up again. This time it was in the Army. When the war finished, he came back to Bribie and recommenced fishing. The sea was always in dad’s blood, and he was only happy when he was there. He always said that people underestimate the sea, so they do silly things and they die. You can’t underestimate the sea.
Dad worked with the Leo Brothers, from Scarborough. They went to sea in their little inboard motorboats. On their homeward journey they dropped dad off at Bribie before continuing on to Scarborough. Dad then rowed home across the Pumicestone Passage. One of my memories was watching this little dot in the distance getting bigger and bigger as he drew closer. He stood up to row – he was only very short, about 5’7” but very nuggety. He had what we called punts – grey boats, very solid, with nets in the back. I don’t think he ever used outboard motors – he always rowed.
When the men were fishing, they followed the mullet so we went to Scarborough for three months of the year, which was pretty traumatic because mum put us in a school there. This is when I was in primary school. I was born in 1948 so this would have been in the 1950s. This was a Catholic school and the nuns caned me because I couldn’t hear the bell, which was a tiny hand bell that had to be heard by the whole school. It was all so foreign, the whole thing.
So for these three months of the year, they fished for mullet off Scarborough, but for the rest of the time they fished from Red Beach on Bribie.
At weekends we used to walk around from our house at Bongaree to Red Beach. It was quite a long hike. It was winter then, and by the time we got there – it was probably just gone daybreak – dad would had already been in the water twice up to his waist to pull in the nets because the fish would run early. He’d have all his wet flannels hanging up to dry.
My mother also went fishing on her own and she’d bring home buckets of whiting, but then dad would come in with his fish, and when they were fishing around Red Beach, they piled them all up on our front yard. They had these old army Blitzes – snub-nosed trucks left over from the war. They brought all their fish in, dumped it on our front yard, and then cased it in wooden cases. They were primarily mullet, which they sent off whole – no gutting. The fish were grouped according to size, and then sent to the Brisbane Fish Markets by boat. They left some for us and we ate a lot of fish and their roe (eggs) – white and yellow roe. When the trawlers were in, dad also swapped some of his fish for prawns and crabs so we got a bit of everything. It was a good diet for growing kids.
Dad would be away for weeks at a time and the bread he took with him would go mouldy, but when he came home, it was a big event, and if I was at school at the time, I was allowed home for lunch with him and mum. He’d pick us up at school and we’d have our roast dinner, then he’d take us back to school. We fishing family kids were the only ones that did it. The others had to sit and eat their sandwiches at school. I always thought it was lovely to be included in our family’s homecoming meals, because it could be that he would be off again straight away, and if I were at school, I would miss out on seeing him.
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)