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’)

2 thoughts on “Playing the Banjo – Part 2

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