Where’s Toondah? 

As a member of the Probus Club of Toondah, this is the first question I am asked when people see the name on my lapel badge. The name “Toondah” was derived from nearby Toondah Harbour which has been in the news again recently, with another feverish round of debate on whether we should develop the area into a modern water-front precinct featuring high-rise buildings etc. or leave it and its surrounding park-land, mangroves etc. in their present peaceful state. 

What started all this was when the Government in 1881, on the advice of the Port Master of Queensland, decided to have constructed in Brisbane a steam launch 40ft. in length with a beam of 9 feet and 6 inches – powered by a wood/coal fired Willins steam engine. His recommendation was that “advantages would be gained by having a small steam launch with which to look after the fisheries in Moreton Bay, indeed as those working on the oyster-beds do not in any assist in the seeing that the law is put in force. The only way is to have them visited unexpectedly from time to time and thus keep a general supervision over them.”

And so, the Steam Vessel “Toondah” was born and put into service. Cecil Shuttleworth Fison, Inspector of Fisheries at the time, used the vessel to expand the fishery industry of Moreton Bay and its value expanded from 780 pounds in 1879 to 4560 pounds in 1890. In 1890 the “Toondah” had her cabin enlarged as a considerable amount of ‘official business’ was being done on board when she was ‘on service down the bay’.

As well as her duties in the fishing industry, the “Toondah” was used to carry out extensive survey work around the Bay under Mr. Fison’s captaincy and many of the existing beacons in the area were established during these times. The Fison Channel leading into Toondah Harbour was later named in his honour. Sadly, Mr Fison died suddenly after returning from a trip down the bay in December 1899 whilst waiting for a train on Cleveland station platform. The “Toondah” was taken out of service shortly after the turn of the century and finally laid to rest on Cassim Island which lies directly in front of the harbour. Her rusting hulk is still visible amongst the mangroves.

The Redland Museum now has a very interesting display featuring a model of the “Toondah” which was constructed in recent times. Much of this research was done by a team of interested people led by Alan Rogers during the 1990s culminating in the building of the model and the setting up of a temporary display at Cleveland Library which was later transferred to its permanent home at the Museum.

(The word “Toondah” comes from the local Aboriginal language meaning ‘any piece of wood’.)

Model of the Steam Launch “Toondah” in the Redlands Museum

Farm Scraps

The Burgess Farm at Russell Island 1920s and 1930s 

Gary Day has contributed photos and a scrapbook of his mother, Esther Burgess who was born in 1919 and lived her first 19 years on Russell Island. She hated its isolation.
Her parents (and Gary’s grandparents) were Ernest and Alice Burgess. It is their farm that features in the photos and scrapbook. 

Taken about 1936. Arthur Youlton – very popular teacher for 10 years – starting a sack race for, from left, Joan Thomas, Lorna Park, Joan Jackson, Clive Thomas, Jean McInnes, and Lorna Burgess.
Taken at Currigee from the top of a lookout. The larger boat is the Ivanhoe.
The Ivanhoe on loading day. Produce from some fifty farms transported to the jetty by horse and cart mostly, at that time. An overnight trip to the Brisbane River and North Quay from Russell Island.
Our farm on Russell Island. Pineapples and Mandarin trees.
Mirimar at Karragarra. Hales boat from North Quay to Karragarra via Dunwich every Thursday in the 1930s.
Passengers from the Mirimar at Karragarra jetty carrying fruit.
Visitors off Mirimar buying fruit etc at Karragarra
Lorna Burgess with beetroot Wellington Point. Good legs! Note mum on verandah
Noosa – Hastings Street
Ernest Burgess and Lady, Russell Island.
Mum (Alice Burgess) and aunty Ivy at Russell Island.

Clippings from the Russell Island Scrap book of Lorna Burgess: 

From August 9, 1938: 

John Willes’son, Frederick J. Willes, retires as Russell Island postmaster after more than 50 years. He used to collect and deliver mail from the surrounding islands and take it to and from the mainland in his motor launch twice a week. His father John Willes settled from the English Midlands to Russell Island as its first European resident in 1886. 

Post office destroyed by fire. It is thought to be the first building fire on Russell Island. 

From August 10, 1938: 

Aboriginal skull and part skeleton found on Stradbroke Island 

Cyclonic storm strikes Russell Island and overturns 30-foot launch. A man was trapped inside for some time 

350 lb shark landed. Mr. Albert Raddon of Lamb Island, fishing from a punt a few yards away from the jetty, hooked an eight feet grey nurse shark, following which he experienced an exciting half hour. The punt was towed across the channel (by the shark) to Karragarra Island and from there along the whole length of the channel between the two islands in the direction of Stradbroke Island. The shark was finally landed on the Lamb Island beach. The shark was finally landed on the Lamb Island beach and was estimated to weigh about 350 lb. A little later a 4-foot shark was caught in the same vicinity. Fishing is becoming increasingly popular round the islands and is attracting Brisbane club fishermen, who are holding a competition here during weekend. 

Residents at Canaipa Point, Russell Island, are still thrilled at the visit of Richard Tauber, who visited that beauty spot in the Atlanta, and sang for the island people.

Gary Day 2010 

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

Redland Bay Reflections with Julie Love

The Williams’ family was local to the Redlands area for many years. In 1955 my father, John McGinnis Williams, bought a house on the Esplanade at Redland Bay opposite the barge ramp (next to the house that had a rounded nautical front). He also had a boat shed down on Weinam Creek on Auster Street. As a child I remember someone putting up the sign “Ruster Street”, named after Rusters (fishermen) who also had a boat shed beside the creek. But something happened to the “R” and it became “A”. 

When my father died the shed was sold and bought years ago by Roger Moore. In 2009 I went to the Redland Bay State School Reunion and visited Roger and Cheryl at their house on the Esplanade. Roger produced some large photos of speedboats (from my father’s races in 1925) that he had found in the roof of the shed. Apparently, my father had stored them up there and forgotten about them. A bit of red soil on them after 80 years but still in good nick! I have included these images on my website: www.tropikkal.com

Miss Brisbane with Mac and the mechanic Les White on the Brisbane River at Kangaroo Point. The Botanic Gardens can be seen in the background. Photo from the Williams Collection.

I have many good memories of my childhood at the Bay. Vaguely remember a paddle steamer going past Redland Bay – must have been just after 1955. My father had quite a few boats in Weinam Creek. He employed Ricky Watts as his labourer. Poor Ricky had the job of working in the mud digging out new slips (dad usually had about 3 boats on the slips or in the creek at a time). Ricky was very good with boats. His father, the corpulent (as I remember) Dick Watts was very good on propellers. My father was very keen that I was a good boatie as early as possible. I still remember the cheers from the other boat-shed owners as I rowed a dinghy solo to the mouth of Weinam Creek when I was about 7 years old. High tide of course. On low tide you had to get out in the middle of the creek and push the dinghy over the mud banks. Yuk. Thank goodness I was a “tomboy” and didn’t mind getting dirty. 

Weinam Creek, Redland Bay in 2011

Around 1960 my father bought a property at Victoria Point. Stretching from Colburn Avenue to the water, there were two houses. The top house had been originally owned by Dr. Ernest Sandford Jackson. History. The bottom huts were haunted by a little black boy. But that’s another story…. 

Julie Love 

Cairns 2010 

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

Editor’s note: Here is a photo of a section of Rusters’ boat yard taken by myself in about 1990. I had been interviewing Eric Reye from whose vessel, this photo was taken:

Section of Rusters boat yard, Redland Bay c.1990

Kate Millar’s Cleveland – Part 2

After dad’s accident, I became literally dad’s ‘right hand man’. Of an afternoon, I used to have to go up on my pushbike to Raby Bay train station, which was situated down a little dirt road that went down towards the water from where the Sands Hotel is now. I used to meet the rail motor from Manly, which used to get in about 5.15 in the afternoon, and pick up the bundle of “Telegraph” newspapers. Then I’d have to do a paper run on my bike to deliver them. One of my first deliveries was to the Sands Hotel, which at that stage was under Thurhect’s management. I used to take the paper in to the hotel and front up to the bar for a ‘double sars’. After I’d had my drink at the bar, I’d get on my bike and do the paper run which went all around the Raby Bay area, then down Middle Street, Oyster Point, and then along Cleveland Point. I’d always end the run in the darkness of night. All I had for a light was a battery-operated torch that fitted in a holder between the handlebars. On one occasion, near the Police Station that was then situated near the Cenotaph, I was riding up towards Oyster Point and passed a beautiful old Queenslander home that belonged to the Ramsey family. The house was next door to the bakery of G.W.Walters – where all our bread came from. Actually all the houses in that area were owned by G.W.Walters and were used by the employees of his bakery. In those days, Cleveland was owned by virtually just a couple of people. 

Just up from the bakery was the Hospital where, much later in my life, I was to give birth to three of my children. It was a private hospital that handled general patients as well as maternity cases. I remember the Matron during my time because her name was Ray Rae. Sister Hutton was the Sister there. My youngest son, Anthony, was born in 1952 at Whepstead Manor at Wellington Point, which at that stage was a Convalescent Home. Doctor Foxton delivered Anthony there. 

Now in those days, cattle were free to roam the streets, and the Wallace family-owned cows near where our shop was. There was a well in a fenced off area near our shop just off Shore Street, which had a hand pump on it so that water could be pumped up for the cattle to drink from. Anyway, on this particular night, just near the Church of England, I was pedalling along like mad with my head down, and with only this little feeble light to guide me, when ‘Bang!’ I ran into a cow. The light went one way, the bike went one way, the cow went one way, and I sat there bellowing in the middle of the road. Nobody came to rescue me, but it was something I never forgot. 

Right next door to our house was the show grounds. Every July there was an annual show there, and all the farmers in the district would bring along their agricultural produce, and they also had the dog show, and chooks. It was at this time too that the schools’ sports were held. The hall from the old show ground was later moved to its new site in the present showground in Smith Street. 

During World War II, members of the VDF (Volunteer Defence Force) used to meet at our shop and practice their Morse Code, with dad sitting at the head of the table. Some of them had been issued with rifles, but there were not enough to go round. When the Centaur was sunk, some of our fishermen went over to Moreton Island to help. 

After the war, the Robinson family started a Devonshire teahouse at what is now the Old Courthouse Restaurant. They had a house next door that was right on the water and had a shark proof bathing enclosure where people could go and swim. The Old Courthouse was also used for accommodation and one family who stayed there was the Dingles. However, during the war one of its occupants was a lady who, while her husband was away in the war, had local tongues wagging when she entertained the American soldiers on leave.

Bobby Fitzjohn used to bring his boat, the Karboora, across from Stradbroke Island. Alfie Martin was the engineer. Many of the Stradbroke Islanders used to catch the Karboora over to Paxton Street, and then get the train up to Brisbane. They used to call into our shop, which was next to the station. Dad had a lot of dealings with the Perry Brothers who were Aboriginal oysterers on Stradbroke who would put them through the Fish market opposite the Old Court House. Dad used to get orders for the oysters that they supplied. These had to be filled at particular times, but for one reason or another, supplies were not always available on time. 

Originally, there was no jetty at Paxton Street, and before the Fish market was built there, the fisherman would bring their catches to dad at the shop and he would take them up to the Fish Markets in Stanley Street in Brisbane. 

When dad had his accident and lost his arm, the people in the district took up a collection for him, and with the money, dad built a trailer that he took up to the markets in Brisbane. 

When the Cleveland fish depot was completed, dad went in to manage it. We had sold the shop by this stage, and had built a house in Paxton Street where we then lived. They built the condenser tower at the side towards the back. At the back of the cold room were the tanks where dad would make large blocks of ice. In between the cold room and the front office was ‘Leaping Leena’- the machine that kept the cold room and everything going. Dad used to have to top it up every now and then with ammonia. When it was time for dad to have a holiday, it was difficult to find someone to take his place because dad knew ‘Leaping Leena’ like the back of his hand, and he could do anything with it to keep it going – even though he had never any experience in refrigeration! 

Kate Millar in later life as a school teacher in Cleveland (photo courtesy Kate Millar)

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