On a site at the tip of Cleveland Point stood the original Cleveland light. Originally placed there in 1847, it was little more than a wooden pole holding a kerosene lamp. The pole was erected at the expense of Francis Bigge on the understanding that the Government would provide the oil and a person to look after the light. This job fell to the local police constable who looked after it, cleaned the lamp, lit it every night, took it down every morning, and stored it by day in a small sentry box at the base of the pole. To do this, he had to walk half a mile (0.8 k.) each morning and night. However primitive this may have seemed, the light served its purpose of guiding rafters and sailors moving between Brisbane and the Logan Rivers for 17 years.
This light was replaced in 1864 by the more substantial wooden tower (now relocated, as a memorial, to the SW corner of the Cleveland Point reserve). Alfred Winship, the local Customs House officer and first postmaster at Cleveland, was appointed the first keeper of the new lighthouse. He was replaced by James Troy in 1877. Troy was a carpenter and had been employed at Francis Bigge’s sawmill on Cleveland Point. When the mill was demolished in 1867, he had used some of the bricks to construct a new home for himself and his family midway along Cleveland Point. From here, he and his family tended the light at Cleveland lighthouse, morning and evening, from1877 until 1926, thus creating an Australian record in lighthouse keeping for one family. During this period, the illuminant was changed from kerosene to acetylene gas.
From 1927 until 1951 the lighthouse was tended by Charles Klemm. The illuminant was changed to electricity in1934. The wooden lighthouse remained in use until the laser light was commissioned in 1976.
The wooden lighthouse remained in use until the laser light was commissioned on the same spot in 1976. The wooden lighthouse was moved to its present site.
Perhaps, by 2009, and due to bay craft having their own navigation systems, a working lighthouse on Cleveland Point was deemed unnecessary, for in that year it was removed to make way for a movie set, the third in the Narnia series, ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’. Watching the filming was a great interest to locals.
‘Dawn Treader’ at Cleveland Point 2009
After the removal of the ‘Dawn Treader’ at the end of filming, the Point was relanscaped and the old lighthouse renovated as a tourist attraction. The only working lighthouse today remains the Lighthouse Restaurant – where locals and patrons come from all over Brisbane and beyond to enjoy a cup of coffee or a seafood meal.
During the 1920s, Bribie’s first lawn bowling green was constructed near the dance hall, which in about 1929 was to be taken off its stumps and moved down the hill to become the club’s first clubhouse. Alfred Hall took a keen interest in the sport and in the bowling club’s formation. He was to become its second President.
Boarding Houses sprang up in the street along from the Hall and Bestmann store. These included the Davis’, the Davies’, and the Stones’. All were popular with the weekend bowlers because of their home cooked meals. Most noteworthy was that run by Bob Davies and his two sisters, Lilly and Rosie. As a further attraction and mealstop for the passengers of the “Koopa”, Bob had trimmed his Bribie Island Pines into the shape of Kangaroos, Emus etc. He called his enterprise The Novelty Gardens.
The Tug Company also had a boarding house and luncheon rooms just to the north of its jetty. When these were leased to the Moyles, they became famous for their lovely fish meals.
The scheduled discharge of passengers from the “Koopa” and “Doomba” also provided a market for other enterprising locals. Harry Freeman, a fisherman who lived at Ninghi Creek on the mainland would come over to the Bribie jetty and sell crabs and fish to passengers. Ned Bishop in his launch “Wisper” did the same for fruit and vegetables, and sometimes a goat which he called lamb or mutton. Joe Campbell and Pat Levinge also traded their produce with the tourists.
During the 1920s, other shops were established at Bribie’s Still Water side: Kerr’s bakery, Jim Ormiston’s boat hire. The first school was commenced in 1924, and the first Church of England in 1928.
The Government even showed enterprise at Bribie when it started an experimental farm in 1922. Tom Mitchell was the manager and grew banana suckers and avocado pears. However, because of poor soil and a lack of water, it was closed in 1929.
A similar fate also befell a tobacco farm which was started in the depression years by Arthur and Eddy Winston. They built a curing shed on the Still Water side and had some good crops but abandoned the undertaking because of poor soil & lack of water.
During the early 1920s, all activity on the south end of Bribie had been concentrated on the Still Water,or Pumicestone Passage, side. However, the Halls had cut a walking track across the island to the Ocean Beach side, and this had been later widened to allow a horse and cart to pass. On the Ocean Beach, waves were of sufficient size to allow body surfing, a pleasure not possible on the Still Water side of the island. As a further incentive for tourists to visit the island, it was decided to construct a road to the Ocean Beach side in 1923. A contract was let and won by Bill Shirley, one of Bribie’s residents, and with the cooperation of the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company, a gang completed the task in that year.
After the road was finished, Bill Shirley converted the construction trucks into buses in which he collected the passengers from the “Koopa” and took them across to the Ocean Beach. These trucks‑turned‑buses had solid rubber tyres, so the trip along the gravel road must have been quite a bumpy affair. Later, Bill Shirley was to become Bribie’s first councillor on the Caboolture Shire Council.
With the road now completed to the Ocean Beach side of Bribie, and with Bill Shirley running regular convoys of visitors there, Alfred Hall thought it time to open a shop there. As he and Artie Bestmann were totally occupied with their store on the Still Water side, Alfred brought out his niece, Lily, from England with her husband, Wilfred Cotterill, and eight year old daughter, Muriel. Within weeks of his arrival at Bribie in 1924, Wilf Cotterill constructed a combined residence and kiosk on the Ocean Beach side, the area’s first building. It was made from corrugated iron and sported a rustic tea garden alongside. Here, visitors could enjoy tea, soft drinks and sandwiches. However, the trade proved to be very seasonal and confined mainly to weekends, and Wilf Cotterill was forced to close down his enterprise. Wilf was then engaged to manage the Hall and Bestmann dairy farm on the Still Water side.
Alfred Hall retired about 1926/7 and the Hall‑Bestmann business was divided. Artie Bestmann kept the shop and the surrounding land, while Alfred Hall kept the 321 acres dairy farm. Later, because Alfred’s sons were not interested, the farm was given to Wilf Cotterill, who retired a wealthy man. The Winstons (of the failed tobacco company) later bought Artie Bestmann’s shop and carried on the business until after World War II.
With the advent of the family car after World War II, the demand for excursion vessels such as the “Koopa” and “Doomba” fell off. The completion of the bridge to Bribie in 1963 sealed their fate.
“I had been a passenger in the first car to make the trip from Brisbane to Bribie, ” remembers Ian Hall. “This was in 1919, and the car, a two-cylinder 1913 Talbot, was driven by Artie Bestmann. The trip took two days, and the final crossing of the Pumicestone Passage to Bribie was accomplished on the family’s cattle pontoon.
“When the bridge to Bribie was finally completed in 1963, it was fitting that Artie Bestmann was the first to drive across.”
The partnership of Hall and Bestmann then constructed a small butcher shop on the allotment behind their grocery store. This they leased out, the first butcher being Bill Friese. Naturally, he was obliged to purchase his meat from the Hall and Bestmann slaughterhouse which they had also constructed on their grazing land. The increasing demands of the store at Bribie coupled with several school age children and a grocery store in Brisbane often necessitated that Alfred Hall remain at Bribie while his wife, Emily, remained in Brisbane. Eventually, in 1924 Alfred sold the grocery business in Brisbane to concentrate his business interests at Bribie.
The arrival of the “Koopa” was a big event at Bribie and all the locals turned out in force to greet her. At this stage there were three walkways onto the jetty to handle the large number of passengers using the steamships. Indeed, so large were the crowds at the jetty, that the Tug Company was forced to construct gates across the walkways to protect the public from injury during berthing operations. Bill Freeman was the first caretaker for the Tug Co and part of his job involved tying up the “Koopa” when she berthed. His house was situated beside the jetty, and, soon after its establishment in 1913, the first Post Office was moved there. His wife operated the PO under their house. Later, in 1922, when telephones first came to island ‑ there were about six of them ‑ she was in charge of switchboard. The phone came by overland wires to Toorbul Point on the mainland, and then by undersea cable to Bribie. Much of the construction work was performed by the Campbells, but the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company assisted by transporting poles, men and materials to Bribie free of charge.
“One of the Bribie identities at that time,” Ian Hall recalls.” Was Jimmy Hagen. Perhaps due to gangrene in the first World War, Jimmy had been unfortunate enough to have both legs amputated just below the knees. With the locals’ penchant for imparting nicknames to well-known figures, Jimmy was not unkindly referred to as “Jimmy‑No‑Legs”. The disability did not prevent his mobility, however, and he got around with thick pads on his knees. He lived down beside the creek in a little shack and had a dinghy which he used to row up to meet the “Koopa” when she berthed. There was no pub on the island then, and the bar of the “Koopa” was the only place available to have a few ales. Jimmy would be very merry after drinking for the full three hours of the “Koopa”‘s berthing, and I often used to wonder how he managed to row home after his binges, but he always seemed to make it!”
Another of the Tug Company’s community services was to transport drinking water to the island from Brisbane. Swamp water on Bribie was brackish and unsuitable for drinking, and as there was no reticulated water then, residents were forced to rely on tanks. Houses had their own tanks which were refilled by rainwater. However, the campers were so numerous that the “Koopa” and “Doomba” used to fill their 5 or 6 tanks each time they visited the island.
About 1918, just after the war, the Tug Company constructed twelve huts on their foreshore leasehold just behind the Bribie jetty. The aim was to provide cheap holiday accommodation for visitors who did not wish to camp. In later years, these “Twelve Apostles” as they became popularly known were to provide more permanent accommodation to the island’s pensioners.
Although he lost his original customers with the closure of the cannery, Alfred Hall’s business was booming from a new source ‑ the holidaymaker. Large numbers had begun arriving at the island with the instigation of regular passenger runs from Brisbane by the S.S.”Koopa”. Built in 1911 by Ramage and Ferguson in Scotland and capable of carrying up to 1600 passengers, she was soon to become a favourite with holidaymakers on the Brisbane‑Redcliffe‑Bribie run. Her owners, the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company, constructed the first jetty on the Still Water side of Bribie in 1912. In addition, they leased a long strip of land on the foreshore behind the jetty, which except for a caretaker’s house and a guest house, has never been built on, even to this day. It was here, under the Bribie Island Pines that the holidaymakers camped. At Christmas and Easter holiday periods up to a thousand tents bore witness to the lure of Bribie Island: mullet splashing against the backdrop of the Glasshouse mountains thrusting their strange peaks into the sunset billows… brolgas summoning the salt and eucalypt breeze… pine scented smoke curling from a lazy campfire…
Ian Hall, one of Alfred’s sons, was a young lad in the early 1920s and vividly recalls those early years of the Hall and Bestmann store:
“The “Koopa” had become so popular that often its services had to be supplemented by another Tug and Steamship vessel, the “Beaver”. Eventually, in 1919, the Company was obliged to purchase the “Doomba” to run as a sister ship to the “Koopa”. Captain Johnson, skipper of the “Koopa” was transferred to the “Doomba”, his replacement being Captain Gibson, previously of the “Beaver”.
“Holidaymakers’ tents were supported by a framework of poles cut from the surrounding bush. Father and Artie Bestmann collected a large supply of Ti Tree poles which they hired out to the campers who brought only their tents with them. Often, they would have their tents sent on beforehand so that we could have them erected ready for their arrival.
“All the store’s provisions had to be sent on the “Koopa” which came to Bribie four times a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Of course, we had no refrigeration then, but ice was brought down packed in sawdust and hessian bags to delay melting. Even so, half of it had gone by the time it arrived, but it was useful for keeping the butter and soft drinks cold for the campers.
“Meat was kept cool in a meat‑safe which had a trough on top filled with water. Hessian bags dipped into the water and hung down the sides of the safe. Breezes evaporated the moisture in the bags and kept the meat cool. There was no electricity either, and light for the shop came from carbide lamps, one in the shop and one on the footpath. These could be supplemented by kerosene lamps and candles. The carbide lamps were good for keeping down the moths because they had their wings burnt in the intense heat. Cow manure was burnt to keep mosquitoes away, though the pungent Citronella Oil was also available for rubbing on the skin for the same purpose.
“The store sold food and campers’ supplies, but no building materials. These were brought from Brisbane on the “Koopa” by the builders themselves. Artie’s father also made homemade wine which was sold in our store for 1/‑ (10 cents) a bottle. It was very popular in the early days with the cannery workers as there was no hotel on Bribie then.
“When I was about 12 years old, one of my jobs was to hand deliver milk to the surrounding houses from a couple of large cans I carried with me. Our first cow was kept behind our house. Later we kept a whole herd on 321 acres we bought across the creek in about 1920. These cattle were ferried across from the mainland on a specially constructed pontoon.”
When Alfred Hall first began visiting Bribie Island about 1912, there were some twenty inhabitants permanently living there. Most of these were employees of the Mullet Cannery which was then situated on the southern end of the island on the Pumicestone Passage, or “Still Water” side of the island. The cannery was then owned by Mrs. Sarah Balls, after having been moved, under a succession of owners from Toorbul Point to a northern section of Bribie Island, and then south again in 1910.
The cannery marketed under the “Anchor Brand” label and several of its employees are worthy of note. Bill Wright was the foreman, while Peter Rich gutted the fish. Many of Bribie’s early residents were labelled with nicknames befitting their occupation or physical characteristic. Thus Peter Rich became popularly known as “Peter the Gutter”. Similarly, another employee was nicknamed “Hoppy” Dixon because he had one leg shorter than the other. Another employee, by the name of Gotch, boiled down the fish heads and bones to extract the oil which was valuable. The remainder of the residue was used to make fertilizer, which was sent to Brisbane. After canning, air was expelled by steam through a hole in the lid, then the hole was sealed with a daub of solder. At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the supply of tin required for the cans became scarce and the cannery was forced to close down.
Some employees stayed on at Bribie as pensioners, while others started the island’s net fishing industry. Old Hoppy Dixon operated the wind‑up gramophone for the Saturday night dances, while Peter Rich turned his attention to Grouper catching, and became known as the Grouper King. These he caught from the jetty in the Pumicestone Passage with a large hook, chain trace, rope and a mudcrab for bait. He’d dangle the rope from the end of the jetty and when a Grouper became hooked he would land the fish on the beach. He’d cut it up and sell it for 3d a lb. Photos of Peter and his catches, some weighing as much as 500 lb, still hang in the amateur fisherman’s club at Bongaree.
Alfred Hall owned a successful grocery business in the Brisbane suburb of Toowong. He went to Bribie at weekends and for holidays to fish and relax after long hours spent working at the shop. At Bribie he soon formed a friendship with Arthur Bestmann, son of the pioneering family of the Godwin Beach area. Arthur, or Artie as he was more popularly known, had left home to raise bees at Bribie. To supplement his income, he used to bring passengers ashore from visiting vessels such as the “Sunrise”. There was no jetty, and passengers had to be taken ashore by pontoon, an awkward manoeuvre, but safely conducted by Artie Bestmann.
At first the Hall‑Bestmann friendship was restricted to fishing expeditions, but about 1913 when Bribie was first surveyed, they bought a few acres of land just back from the beach at Bongaree. There, Alfred Hall built a small shack which he used as a holiday home. There were no shops on the island, and when the cannery workers learned that he owned a grocery business in Brisbane, they persuaded him to bring some supplies down on his weekend excursions. This he did, and commenced selling tinned goods and biscuits on the verandah of his shack via the bedroom window. As business improved, he converted the entire front bedroom into a shop. In 1918 he went into partnership with Artie Bestmann and in 1921 they built a larger shop on the corner allotment next door.