After several holidays at Southport between 1878 and 1882, Reginald Roe, Headmaster of the Brisbane Grammar School, and two friends each bought 10 acres of land on South Stradbroke Island. They proceeded to camp there in tents on their holidays until 1885 when a permanent hut was built on Reggie’s block. It was built on a knoll overlooking the plain where the tents were erected, and which were prone to flooding in wet weather.
The hut had one large room which was a dressing room for the ladies, a large brick floored open space with a fireplace, kerosene stoves for cooking, an ice-chest for food storage, and trestle tables for eating. On the Broadwater side there was another open space – a verandah where the ladies slept. Men and boys were accommodated in the tents nearby, sleeping on home-made bunks.
Pit latrines and rubbish pits were dug well away in the surrounding bush which made a long walk on a rainy night with a kerosene lamp usually blown out in a Southeast wind.
In the days before WWI the regular visitors were generally the school boarders. Reggie and his wife, Maud, often took the maids from the School House to help with the big parties. The boys roamed the scrub, fished, sailed, swam in the ocean and in the calm Broadwater, and sat down to huge meals at the long trestle tables. Card games and sing-songs followed the energetic bustle of the day, and everyone slept soundly and long. An idyllic existence, and it set the pattern for the Kamp parties unto the present day.
In its title “Camp” became “Kamp” through an association with the first name initial of a young regular visitor Katherine Jones who was devoted to the Roe family.
Harpooning sting-rays, shovel-nose sharks and saw fish on a wide sandbank in the middle of the Broadwater was an unusual and extremely popular pastime – the fun was fast and furious, particularly when the quarry swam directly at the line of hunters, and harpoons flew through the air from all directions. On one occasion a saw-fish was disturbed and swam straight for one of the party, a young lady named Bessie. Bessie wore a two-piece swimming costume – a dark serge high-neck tunic with a long skirt and serge pants below the knees with white trimmings on all loose ends. As the saw-fish reached her, Bessie spread her legs and the fish swam through the arch, cutting the cloth on both sides.
Expeditions such as these often interfered with other more essential Kamp duties, such as rowing to the mainland for milk, bread, and other stores. Maud spent many exasperated hours on the beach watching the boat with the milk churns in it cooking in the summer sun while the boat crew chased sting-rays on the central sandbank. At least the party who remained on the island to chop wood could not slide off to fun activities ’til their task was completed to Maud’s satisfaction.
Being a resident of Lamb Island for 9 years, I thought people may appreciate this update to your blog of 10.12.2022.
Peggy Saunders, continued to live here until her death in 2002.
A reserve was donated to the Council by Peggy Saunders in memory of her late husband, and it was declared a nature reserve in 1996. Harry Brook Reserve is comprised of 2 hectares of mature bush adjacent to Harry Brook’s former house and shed. It contains examples of red gum forest, most of which was cleared from the Island during timber getting phases. The broader parcel of land that incorporates the Reserve retains a section of remnant red gum forest which is consistent with the natural habitat that existed on the island prior to settlement.
Things are still a lot slower here on the island than the mainland. Many passenger and vehicular ferries which leave from Redland Bay are available to residents and visitors to the island, these days, with brand-new jetties being built on all 4 islands at this time. A green seal road programme was completed on Lamb 5 years ago, but the roads still do not have curb and channelling. Septic is still the only option available to Lamb Island residents at this time. Only hobby farmers or those growing for themselves exist now on Lamb Island, we still have our corner store and Woolies deliveries a few times a week. We still get to enjoy our wonderful bird life, with many varieties still aplenty to this day.
When J.D.Lang set up his scheme for free settlement in Moreton Bay he personally selected proved tradesmen who would be useful in the community and who would never be a burden on the colony. Among his approved emigrants was my great-great grandfather, Thomas Sands, who arrived in the sailing ship “Chaseley” in 1849 after 5 months at sea. Included in his nuclear family was his grandson (my grandfather), John Sands.
John Sands was only 5 months when he arrived. The family settled at Bowen Hills. John Sands, like his grandfather, became a carpenter and builder who had a hand in many of the early buildings of Brisbane including Central Railway Station and Brunswick Street Railway Station.
Living at and working from Hines Street, Bowen Hills, John Sands raised a family of three boys and a girl. The eldest son, Frank, was born in Fortitude Valley.
Frank Sands (my uncle) commenced his working life at Webster’s Bonded Stores, but later was apprenticed to a cooper and gained considerable experience in this trade which, together with his family’s ‘carpenter’ background fitted him for becoming an amateur boat-builder and, I understand, he built quite a few.
Frank subsequently married Emily Clayton (distantly related to the Claytons at Point Lookout) and started farming at Hemmant near what later became known as Morgan’s Moorings (Aquarium Passage) and took part time work at the Aquarium Theme Park which was destroyed during the 1893 flood.
As a boy, Frank spent a lot of time down the southern end of Moreton Bay and was there when the great storm of 1894 caused the break through at Jumpin Pin.
After leaving the farm at Hemmant he leased Garden Island as a one man’s farm for several years. Garden Island became too small for his farming operations and when Macleay Island was sub-divided he took up the first allotment. With the help of his wife Emily (who could use an axe as well as he could) he cleared it and set up a first class farm. I was always told (and I have no reason to disbelieve it) that despite the then current belief that citrus fruits could not be grown profitably on the Bay Islands, he was the first to grow them there and did so very successfully. Likewise, we were led to believe that he introduced avocadoes, and I certainly remember him on the family launch in 1930 when he was expounding their virtues to us. He marketed a lot of his crops through Sydney and his farm was the best on the island.
As Macleay Island prospered and the number of farms grew, Frank was the Postmaster, as a part-time job, but I guess Aunty Emily did most of the work. One thing I know, though, is that he had a large ship’s bell which Aunt Emily would ring exactly at 1 p.m. each day. It was heard on all the farms spread over the island. Although unofficial, it was the only recognisable time-piece on the island, and should this time signal be neglected or a few minutes late, the farmers and their hands were very upset and soon let him know about it!
As a lad I remember occasionally helping out on the farm, and welcoming a billy can of cold tea which was always on hand at the end of the fruit or vegetable row.
Uncle Frank knew every part of South Moreton Bay intimately, no doubt because he had spent so much of his time there in his youth. My grandfather owned a motor launch “Wilga” which he kept moored in the Brisbane River, but once a year he and the family took off down the bay for three weeks holiday, and as a boy of about 14 years of age I was included in the party.
With the old Wilson Marine In-board doing a maximum of 3 to 4 knots we would spend the first night in the Boat Passage and at dawn would plough our way slowly against the south easter to get past Cleveland and to the shelter of the islands.
At Macleay we would pick up Uncle Frank and Aunt Emily and start on a magnificent boat holiday. We lived and slept on board the boat and only went to the mainland once a week to renew our supplies of bread and water. This we did always at the Broadwater, Southport, and by that time the bread had a hairy blue mould about 50 mm all over it, and it had to be seriously pruned each day before it could be eaten.
Living down the bay was very basic. We lived on fish and crabs and obviously spent much of our time catching worms, fishing and crabbing. We caught all the crabs we needed by using a ‘crab-hook’ in the crab holes or by hand netting at night with a hurricane lamp on the sandbanks on the flood tide. There was never a shortage of fish, and fishing in those days was real fun.
I recall Uncle Frank taking us into Swan Bay to Duck Creek – in on the up tide and out on the down tide. I do not know what Duck Creek is like now, but in those days it was a very difficult operation to navigate a motor launch to this primitive creek.
As I said previously Uncle Frank knew the bay intimately and if at any time the weather changed suddenly he could always at a moment’s notice move to another anchorage even if it was pitch dark in the middle of the night. When I was at the tiller he would direct me with uncanny accuracy along the unbuoyed channels and across the sandbanks between Jacob’s Well and Southport. He always seemed to know just how much water he had underneath the keel and I have no doubt he could “feel” this in the way the boat reacted. On some occasions he would say “Now, slow down, Jack; we will touch here” and sure enough that was always what would happen. We would rarely be caught stuck on a bank with a receding tide.
Uncle Frank’s intimate knowledge of the Bay was well known and he was often called upon to pilot the Government launch around South Moreton Bay when important G’ment visitors were being shown around. There was no telephone to Macleay Island then but the skipper of the G’ment launch, when within a few miles of Macleay, would signal to him with a mirror. He would then have time to leave his work on the farm and be waiting for them at the jetty near the Salt Works.
Uncle Frank and Aunt Emily were pioneers of Moreton Bay and they would have died there if it had been possible. But bad health made it impossible for him to continue farming. When they retired to live at Sandgate, South Moreton Bay lost two of its real pioneers.
Peggy Saunders came to Brisbane in 1933 from ‘out west’ but the sixteen year old didn’t like city life. However, while on a visit to Karragarra Island she got a taste for island life, and was able to secure a job on nearby Russell Island doing housework – that was all that was available – for 10/- ($1) a week. She stayed there for six months, and during that time she and her other teenager friends would occupy their spare time by rowing over to Karragarra Island where there was a pleasant sandy beach for swimming. While relaxing on the sand, they would look across to Lamb Island where a bloke with a white horse would be ploughing his field in the hot sun. Peggy used to feel sorry for him having to work so hard.
Another source of amusement on Russell Island at that time were the Saturday night dances. These were attended by folk from Russell and its surrounding islands. Music was supplied by Arthur Poynton on the fiddle, while a lady accompanied him on the piano. They were typical of many country dances of the era, where the women sat round the perimeter of the hall on forms, and the men congregated in groups on the porch until the music started playing. On one such dance, Peggy went as a gypsy and was asked to dance by Harry Brook. In the course of their conversation Peggy learnt that Harry was the poor bloke toiling in the sun for whom she used to feel sorry!
This wasn’t quite the beginning of their romance, because Peggy left the island soon afterwards to work on a dairy farm at Burleigh for 17/6 ($1.75) a week. However, she must have made a big impression on Harry Brook because he often wrote to her and went to visit her whenever he had time for the trip. After three years on the dairy, Peggy said ‘yes’ and she and Harry were married. At the age of 20, in 1937, Peggy Brook came to live as a farmer’s wife on Lamb Island.
Harry Brook had bought the land on Lamb in 1922 in partnership with his brother Sam, and a friend, Colin Price (“Pricey”). It was 26 acres of virgin scrub and they cleared the land using gelignite and grubbers (mattocks). After they had finished the clearing, Harry bought out his two partners and commenced farming. He built himself a bag hut where he lived for three years. This consisted of a basic wooden frame over which were draped hessian bags woven together to form walls. They were sprayed with cement to give them some stability and to make them waterproof. Later, Harry had a more substantial dwelling constructed, which remains, with additions, to this day
When Peggy arrived at Lamb, there were ten farms on the island. These included those of Percy Lovell, his brother Bob, the Hines, the Robinsons, Thelma Field, the Noyes, Harry’s brother Sam Brook (whom Harry later bought out), Albert Raddon who managed for a Mr Raff, and the Barkers. There were two groups of crops farmed: spring crops (tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans) and standard crops (bananas, papaws, and pineapples). For the farmers, clearing the land of tree stumps was the first problem, and usually these were burnt out. However, one resident the habit of blowing up tree stumps with gelignite – very effective! On Guy Fawkes Night (November 5th) Albert Raddon threw it around instead of fire crackers and on one occasion managed to blow out a neighbour’s gate post.
Life on Lamb then was primitive by today’s standards: kerosene lamps inside or carbide in the shed; then kerosene pressure lamps were introduced to be followed later by 12 volt electricity generated by petrol motors, then gas, and finally electricity. Provisions were ordered by letter once a week from Strachan’s shop at Redland Bay (later Lovell’s). The farmers paid for them after the spring crops had been sold. There was also a standard meat order from Ridings at Woolloongabba which was delivered every Tuesday night on the “Roo”. Peggy had no refrigeration and no ice so she had to spend every Tuesday night cooking the fresh meat on her wood burning stove because it wouldn’t keep. The salted meat she hung in the meat safe under the house.
Mosquitoes were an ever present problem and every farm had its ‘smoke pots’ in which rotted mangrove trunks were burned in tins with holes cut in the bottom. Even the horses used to stand over the smoke tins to keep the mossies off!
Because of the shortage of water on the island, bathing was “economical”. This meant that bath water had to be recycled, with the dirtiest member of the family going last. This was usually poor old dad who had been labouring all day!
After the tomato and watermelon crops had been picked, Aborigines from Dunwich were asked to come over to Harry Brook’s farm to pick up the remnants. These Aborigines included members of the Ruska, Levinge, Borey, Iselin, and Newfong families. As “payment” the aborigines often brought with them a live pig. Peggy remembers them coming in single file up to the house, and there were so many that as the first members reached the house, the last were just coming in the Brook’s farm gate.
The Brooks’ farm had a water frontage and at their jetty they kept their two boats: “Jill”, a 16 foot shift, and “Jack” a dinghy. Harry and Peggy still attended the dances on Russell by rowing across in the dinghy. It could be very romantic in the moonlight. Between the years 1938 and 1948, Harry and Peggy had three children, Shirley, Ron, and Hazel The children all went to primary school on nearby Russell Island, but for their secondary schooling they were forced to go to the mainland. Shirley and Ron were sent to boarding school, but Hazel, the youngest, was able to attend the newly opened Cleveland High on a day student basis. This involved leaving home at 6am, catching the “Dawn” “Mist” or “Titian”, special school boats run by Lamb Island’s Ian Ward, then by bus to Cleveland. Returning home at 5 pm made a very long day.
Harry Brooks died of a coronary in 1963. It had occurred in the middle of the night. Peggy had rung the Post Office who had in turn phoned the doctor on the mainland who waited at the Redland Bay Flying Boat Base for Harry to be brought over from the island. This had been a slow trip in itself because the dinghy they had to use was sunk and first had to be raised. Had the coronary occurred on the mainland Harry might have survived, but health was a matter that had to be risked by the early settlers of the bay islands. Peggy remained on Lamb and does so to this day, a well-known and much loved pioneering personality of the island.
Pip Williams book ‘The Dictionary of Lost Words’ provides a very original slant to the early history of women’s suffrage. However, apart from all the unusable words, I was particularly taken with the cook’s response when asked why she did so much needlework (see page 41): ‘It (the needlework) proves that I exist. It is permanent whereas cleaning and cooking are temporal.
I am reminded of this recurring question when I add each week’s entry to my internet blog page: what will happen to all my words when I and the internet cease to exist? At least my books will have a more secure existence in private and public libraries.