Playing the Banjo – Part 3

Frank Willoughby continues:

Other Ventures, Other Families

 “In the sugar season which started in the first week in August, they used to run sugar from Steiglitz.  The cane was equally divided between Jimmy Gibson who owned the fruit boats and the Kleinschmidt’s.  Jimmy had the run up the Albert and Logan Rivers to get the rum in the “Ivanhoe” and the “Roo”.  The old “Ivanhoe” had been requisitioned by the military during WWII and was subsequently blown up.  After the war, Jimmy bought the “Brither” which became the new “Ivanhoe”.  He was later killed in the vessel in an accident while loading cargo.

Mineral Deposits Limited sand mining plant on Brighton Parade circa 1952 (photo Jim Yuke)

“A depot was built by Scott Moffatt just before WWII alongside the Kleinschmidt’s at Southport to handle the mineral sand mined on the beaches from Broadbeach to Fingal.  The depot was called MDS (Mineral Deposits Southport).  They used to separate all their sand there.  They had massive vibrating tables to separate out the sand and you couldn’t sit at the table in our house next door while they were working.  Just after the war, Kleinschmidt’s started transporting mineral sand in bags from Dunwich to Southport using the “S’port”.  After separation, the sand was sent back to Brisbane and over to Yankiland.  The crew on the “S’port” was dad, Dot and Nancy Mackie.  When this folded the MDS barge (owned by Riverside Coal) took over and this was towed by the “Ena” but it took too long and used to run aground.  The channels used to change.

Huth’s jetty at Jacobs Well (photo Graham Day)

“After WWII the “Florant” came back from war service at Thursday Island.  The two Huth boys and Rudi were still working her for a couple of years from 1947 until 1949.  Then the Huth’s sold out and the firm became the “Kleinschmidt Brothers”.  Then in 1950 we came into the picture and Kleinschmidt put it to dad we go 60/40, so the firm became Willoughby and Company, the Willoughby’s being George Senior, Tom, George Junior, and with myself on the payroll as a deckhand.  They’d taken the “S’port” off the Southport run in about 1948/49 and had her towing the “Stockton”, an ex-refrigeration barge from the war.  The “Florant” was left on the Southport run.  This finished in 1952 when we gave it away and Kleinschmidt sold out to Bay Transport which was owned by Aubrey Matthews.  After 1952 I spent 39 years in gravel on the Brisbane River, mainly on the “Maid of Sker” from 1952 to 1975.”

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People, The Complete Collection’)

Playing the Banjo – Part 2

Frank Willoughby continues:

“I was born in 1933 but before that my brothers Tom and Bert, and my sister Gwen worked the “Regina” with dad.   Then later, my other brother, George Junior (“Nugget”), firstly on the “Regina” and later on the “S’port”.   Then I came along.  I started on the boats as a kid from when I was 6 years old.  When I got a bit more muscle, I used to work the guy which controlled the boom on the jetty at Southport.  The boats were loaded on Mondays in Brisbane and they arrived at Southport on Wednesdays. 

The trip from Brisbane

“I remember making many trips to Southport working on the “Florant” with my father, George.  Allan Thompson was the “Florant”‘s engineer because I was too young.  When we went aground, I used to have to roll all the drums on the deck aft to get over the bank.

“Florant” at Norman Wright’s boatyard (photo courtesy Graham Day)

 “Dad called me “Nap”.  On the trip down from Brisbane, when we reached Pott’s Point (we called it Pat’s Point) on Macleay Island he would flip a coin and ask me to call.  Heads we’d go through Canaipa or tails via Jacob’s Well. If we went by the Well, we’d lose a day and I’d miss out on time for sailing or going to the pictures.  If we went to Canaipa I had my sleep from Pott’s Point to Tulleen oyster banks, then dad would have his sleep while I rowed for two hours against the tide from Tulleen to Jacobs Well with the groceries.  Then if the tide was right, we got a good run to Southport and I’d have time for swimming and the pictures.

“We’d also call in to Bill Doberleen where Couran Cove now is.  Also, Bob and Mrs Latter used to live there, and the Fishers. To go there by boat was 7/6 but dad would waive the fee in exchange for fruit or crabs.  We also got oysters from Currigee.  If we arrived too early for them, I used to help them bag them.  

            “On the Broadwater as we approached Southport, our vessel would pass the Deep Hole, round the first buoy to Biggera Creek, pass the Grand Hotel, then fisherman’s wharf at Marine Parade.  Then came Mitchell’s wharf, and we’d swing to a set of butterfly leads that took you to Parrot Rock where Tuesley’s had an oyster bank and where they used to pump yabbies.  Then we’d round the beacon, pass the Pier Theatre, pass the buoy in front of the Civic Hotel, then swing to port and up towards the Basin and the old “Mawonda”.  Then we had to stop and lower the mast to get under the old Jubilee Bridge.   In the old days the bridge had a lift span which had to be raised by hand.  I think Harry Crompton used to do this.  Then the authorities put a hump in the bridge so the Kleinschmidt’s could get their boat under.

“On the return trips, the boats called into the White Cliffs on Stradbroke Island to load sand for the glassworks, Queensland Glass Manufacturers (QGM) in Brisbane.  We also supplied sand to Silso Sand Soap, Sargeant’s Foundy, and children’s playgrounds.

Playing the Banjo 

This was the term used for shovelling sand onto the “Florant” at the White Cliffs in the Canaipa Passage on Stradbroke Island.  All the work was done by hand, even at night by the light of paint pots filled with burning dieseline.  An added bonus for working at night was that the smoke kept the mossies away.  The “Florant”‘s days were to end at the White Cliffs when she caught fire and burnt there.

            Sand shovelling was back breaking work and was not for the faint hearted.  Indeed, sand shovelling championships were organised at Southport to see who could fill a truck the fastest.  Graham Dillon was one of the champs.  Best times were about twenty minutes for one man or ten minutes for a two-man team.  In original competitions, a keg of beer was the prize, but later prizes were chrome plated shovels.

“Florant” loading sand (photo Graham Day)

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People, The Complete Collection’)

Playing the Banjo – Part 1

Frank Willoughby writes:

George Willoughby Senior was born in 1900 in Hong Kong, the son of George Richard Mayo Willoughby who was Harbour Master at Hong Kong from 1900 to 1904.  George started work in the railways, but then in the 1920s joined ‘Hub’ Tuesley building the rock walls on the Brisbane River with stone quarried from Mt Ommaney.  Later he began professional fishing with ‘Hub”s brother, Jack Tuesley on South Stradbroke Island.  George did a lot of fishing with the Tuesleys. They netted from the beach or from row boats in the surf, along with the Boyds from the Tweed who used to come up to fish the area as well.  They all had their own designated areas which they all respected.  Incidentally, the Boyd Bridge on the Tweed was named after the Boyd family.

George Willoughby and Jack Tuesley built a kiosk on South Stradbroke Island.  It was situated where Seaworld is now (the entrance has moved north).  The whole area has now changed but a few tree stumps from Tragedy Island still remain.  The Tuesleys had a jetty at Southport on the Broadwater.  They used to run fishing parties and took day trippers to their South Stradbroke kiosk to purchase worms to fish with.

The Kiosk on South Stradbroke Island 1922 (photo Frank Willoughby)

Later still, George got onto the cargo run with the Kleinschmidts in the “Maid of Sker” and gradually he worked his way up to the position of skipper.  The Kleinschmidts had started with sugar growing at Steiglitz which was then known as “Little Germany” because of the concentration of German immigrants in the area.  Then Ted Kleinschmidt started out with the firm of John Burke Ltd. Working on the “Wandana” and he made enough money there to buy the “Maid of Sker”. The Kleinschmidts started with Rudi Huth and were known as the firm “Kleinschmidt and Huth”. The crew consisted of Ted Kleinschmidt, Rudi Huth, George Willoughby, Roy Wilson, and George (“Ike”) Kleinschmidt.  They transported cargo from Brisbane to Nerang.

When the “Maid of Sker” finished her cargo carrying days, Ted Kleinschmidt purchased ground at Southport near Gardiner’s Creek adjacent to the Jubilee Bridge.  He put in a wharf and started with smaller boats, the “Florant”, “Regina”, and “S’port” (a commonly used abbreviation at that time for Southport). After WWII they got the “Bremer” from a gentleman named Manders which ran from Brisbane to Ipswich.   As vehicles became more active in the area the ground at Southport became the depot from which the cargo was distributed.  They used to carry fuel for the Nerang pumping station which supplied fresh water for Southport.  They had competition from the trains which was no worry at all.  But after the war (WWII) road transport was able to provide depot to depot service quickly and in all weathers, which gave them the advantage over the boats which were confined to “weather permitting” in the bay.  It would be nothing to get held up sheltering at Green Island in a nor’ easter or King Island in a sou’ easter.

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People, The Complete Collection’)

Memories of the Hero

David Smith writes:

I remember with great interest the many incidents which were told to me by my father, the late James Smith, who was a professional fisher, initially on the Brisbane River at Bulimba, then later, when he and his family moved to Wellington Point.  When he was a young man he worked for a time for the Moreton Bay Oyster Company and the Kleinschmidt’s.  Around the 1917 – 1920 period, he was employed to gather (oyster) culture around the Blue Hole area off Moreton Island and transfer it by boat to Tulleen Island, South Stradbroke Island, for fattening.

The oyster boat they used was called the “Hero” and it was powered by a single cylinder Wilson kerosene engine that was to be used sparingly.  The main propulsion was by sail and oars, with 16 foot (5 metre) sweeps, rowed in a standing position from a catwalk.  The oyster boat was stationed in the Blue Hole.  At low tide an area was cleared and raked then at high tide the “Hero” was anchored over the clearing, and as the tide went out it settled on the bottom, the oysters were sorted and bagged and loaded on the boat when it was high and dry.  This (process) was repeated day after day until the boat was full and the trip to Tulleen Island was made.

My father recalls the time when anchored in the Blue Hole, a loud noise like a surf beach was heard.  On going up on deck to investigate what it was, he was thrown in the water by a series of great waves.  He later was to be told that a tidal wave had smashed two professional fishing boats owned by the Crouches, at Yellow Patch, Cape Moreton.  To his recollection, he thought the boats were called the “Gee Whiz” and the “Wynnum”.

The ‘Maid of Sker’

On another occasion, when returning from Tulleen Island, they encountered the paddle wheeler “Maid of Sker” aground on a mudbank.  As the “Hero” was empty, they unloaded the cargo from the “Maid of Sker” onto the “Hero” and got her floated again.  The next time they passed one another, the “Maid of Sker”’s skipper put two £1 notes (four dollars in today’s money) into a bottle and threw it into the water, to be picked up by the oyster boat and divided amongst the crew, in appreciation by the owners of the services rendered.

George Willoughby, skipper of the ‘Maid of Sker’ at the helm

There are presently still three generations of Smiths in the fishing industry, over 80 years of professional activity, four in all with a fifth showing great interest (period 1917 – 2002).

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’)