With Adrian Dalgarno

     Hayles did very well on the Bribie run until the barges began running from Toorbul Point. The first had commenced just after the war.  It was an old army landing barge skippered by Bill Woods, a huge fellow whose standard working attire was a blue or once‑white Jackie Howe singlet, a filthy pair of shorts, and bare feet.  His barge didn’t run to a particular timetable (on the hour every two hours) because not much traffic used it then.  One day, Adrian arrived at Toorbul Point to find the barge beached on Bribie.  Bill had had too many drinks at the bowls club and the tide had gone out! 

     The service gradually extended to three barges as the amount of road traffic increased.   With the increased traffic the Council upgraded the road to Toorbul Point from Caboolture, firstly from sand and metal to all metal and then bitumen.  Alec Thornley started the Bribie Bus service not long after the war.  He ran the Brisbane to Bribie service for years, relying on the barges to take him over.  Snowy Drennan, a school teacher, a pawn broker et al. Bought the barge service from Bill Woods and did extremely well until the opening of the Bribie bridge in 1963. 

            “Jim Murray was an old dero who used to dress in an army greatcoat, had long white hair and beard and wore a balaclava rolled up on top of his head.  He was always barefoot and his feet were always dirty.  Every now and then he would shuffle off down to the shop to get his supplies. He rarely went out otherwise but contented himself with sitting outside his house smoking a pipe.  The story went that in his younger days he had been a very well respected barrister, a Pom, but had gone off the rails and had settled at Bribie.  He lived cheaply, and did not look after himself, and kids would scamper to other side of the track when they saw him coming.  He was known as the birdman because he had set bird baths all around his house. 

     “Another personality was Tex Parcell. Tex was the only butcher on Bribie immediately after WWII.  He was as thick as your little finger, about 5’10” tall, and was never out of a filthy pair of old denims, filthy riding boots and spurs, and a huge ten gallon hat.  He kept a magnificent pair of horses just behind his shop, and he had a slaughterhouse up about where Solander Lakes now are, and about 1 km in from the Passage.  Here he used to shoot all his own beef.  He had an old meat sulky pulled by an old mare which he used to transport his slaughtered meat to his shop.  Unfortunately, all the gauze was missing from the sides of the sulky, so that by the time the meat reached the shop, it was covered in a million flies. 

    “There was no refrigeration then and the shop’s cooler room was kept cool by circulating water evaporating from hessian bags hanging from ceiling.  Like all butcher shops at that time, the floor was covered with sawdust. The local kids, myself included, used to go up with Tex to his slaughterhouse to see him kill the cow! 

     “Then there was Hughie Doss, an American who came out on a merchant ship during the war, married an Australian girl, and settled at Bribie.  Hughie had a casual approach to work but always liked to faze people with his stories of big bulldozing projects out west for the government ‑ he was obsessed with tractors.  He bought an old Bedford truck to pull Cyprus pines from people’s properties.  Perhaps it was due to his tree‑felling exploits that he discovered that miles of copper cables had been laid under Bribie’s streets during the war for the communications network.   With copper securing good prices, Dossie got plans for the cable junction points dug down at night to find them then traced the wires out from them.  Then he would shackle the Marmon to them and go like mad down the road pulling miles of cable up.  Next morning the residents would have to fill in the miles of indentations left in the sandy tracks after the copper had been pulled

     “He also bought an old Hudson Terraplane to take people from Ocean Beach across to the pictures in the church hall at Bongaree.  These were run on Saturday nights by Ivan Tesch and his two pretty daughters who acted as usherettes.   The catch was that he would go home to bed during the show, and his passengers would have to walk back when the show was over. 

     “Brennan’s was a well respected store at Bongaree at that time, but Winston’s was the big store and it sold everything.  It also marked the terminus for the bus from Brisbane.  Outside was a huge old fig tree under which all the old people used to sit for a talk.  When the bus came in they would point out any unfamiliar faces disembarking. 

     “Bribie was originally all old pensioners.  Because of its isolation, it was a good place to drop out of society. It was also a bit of a refuge for eccentrics. 

     “On one occasion I spent a camp at Bribie with the Sandgate Senior Scouts and Rovers, during which time we constructed, as an exercise, several grass huts in the bush at Bongaree.  We left them there at the end of our camp and they were later taken over by the artist Ian Fairweather and used as his first home on Bribie.  He was later to become famous throughout Australia’s art world, but at that stage he was just another dero as far as I was concerned.” 

     With the opening of the bridge to the mainland, Bribie gradually ceased to become a refuge for the misfits of city life.  Slowly more and more people settled there, content to spend their retirement enjoying the peace that Bribie could still offer. 

     As suburbia encroached on the bush, the nature of the place subtly changed, but as Adrian still notes: “It’s still possible to walk along the Ocean Beach at dusk on a perfect summer day and see … only two people!” 

The beach at Woorim (Ocean Beach) Bribie Island

            And on the sea breeze, still moaning through the banksias, it’s still just possible to catch that faint childhood memory … that Bribie feeling. 

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.


With Adrian Dalgarno

     After World War II the postal address of the Still Water side residents became known as Bongaree, aboriginal for calm waters, and the Ocean Beach became Woorim. 

     The hotel at Ocean Beach was started just before the war.  Original owners were the Goodwins, two Irish brothers, Pat and John, and their sister.  It was a fibro construction with a bar, a road separating their enterprise from the guest house of Bill Shirley.

     Adrian recalls these post war years: “Boronia grew in the middle of the island in a swampy area called the Plains, and in spring my aunt, uncle and myself used to walk miles there collecting these beautiful purple and blue wildflowers as well as wattle, white cauliflower plants etc.   We’d take huge bunches of them tied up in cellophane on the bus to the jetty and sell them to passengers returning on the “Koopa”. We could never get enough.  These days, picking wildflowers is prohibited, which is probably not a bad idea, but in those days, it was considered acceptable. 

     “The Plains were also plentiful with staghorns and elkhorns and my uncle and I would carry an extension ladder in and collect them to hang around the house.  My Uncle was a pretty keen gardener and we’d go down to the creek and collect peat, bring it home, break it up and mix with cow manure from Bestmann’s farm in a 44 gallon drum.  After fermenting for a week it would grow huge lettuce. 

     “Bribie sits on a water table, twelve to fifteen feet down (four to five metres), and they’d just use a spear hand pump to collect water in a 44 gallon drum.  As kids we used to pump like mad and if you didn’t, you’d get your backside kicked, or for a good job you’d get a penny (one cent). Eventually my uncle got a motor to pump his water.” 

     There was a fish and chips Café right on the beach next to the “Koopa”‘s jetty.  At high tide the water would come up right under the decking.  When the “Koopa” docked, old Mrs. Richardson would come out on the verandah with a large bell, ring it feverishly, and call out to the disembarking passengers about her fish and chips.  They would flock in for a fresh fish meal. They would savour big slabs of mullet or cod in thick yellow batter with a big plate of chips, while all around the walls were pictures of huge grouper which had been caught up the Passage. 

     Another enterprise profiting from the visits of the “Koopa” belonged to Ted Shields.  He had a 35 foot boat, the “Marlin”, in which he used to take fishing parties up the Passage schnappering.  He had a landing on the side of the “Koopa”‘s jetty, and many people went over on the “Koopa” specifically to go on his schnappering trips.  Taking a large catch back to Brisbane presented some difficulties as there was no refrigeration on the “Koopa”.  The catch had to be preserved by gutting the fish, rubbing salt into the backbone, then hanging them in the shade in the breeze under the afterdeck awning on hooks provided by the “Koopa” for the three and a half hour journey back to Brisbane. 

    “The “Koopa” could hold up to 1100 people on board, but the average number was about 700.  She had a large dining room which would cater for functions such as wedding breakfasts.  Captain Jones dressed formally, and we kids used to try to catch his eye on the jetty.  If we were lucky, we got a trip up to the wheel house, but if we were told to beat it, we did so quickly.” 

     After the war the “Koopa” service to Bribie was re‑commenced, but the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Co didn’t want to make a go of it so they sold it to another company. However, after four or five years the venture failed.  The “Koopa” eventually became part of the wall in Boggy creek. 

     Later, Hayles “Mirana” took over the run to Bribie as well as to Dunwich.  In the interim, however, Frank Duffield started running three boats from Scarborough, one of which was the “Tivoli”.  They were all 35 to 40 footers and ran on Friday nights.  There was also a run on Saturday and on Sunday, where it picked up what the “Koopa” and later the Hayles boats had left behind.  These Scarborough boats used the military, or army, jetty on the south end of Bribie. The Hornibrook Bus service ran a coordinated bus service to link up with them from the Sandgate station.  They were rough old boats, with just a wheel house and enough wooden seats to hold about forty people. 

     “As well as myself, one regular Friday night passenger was Father William Frawley from the De La Selle College at Redcliffe.   He had done a lot of work in the islands, and dressed in khaki padre gear.   He conducted religious services in a hut on Ocean Beach ‑ not only for Catholics but for anyone who wished to attend.  A big Alsatian dog always travelled with him which people referred to as God. 

     “As we got older (I was about 18) my mother had returned to Bribie to live. I, my best friend and my fiancee, went down to Bribie every weekend.  They were student teachers, & I was a clerk.  None of us had much money & we used to jump on the “Mirimar” at North Quay, buy a bag of fresh cooked prawns or if the money didn’t run to prawns, some cut ham and rolls, at 6 pm on a Friday after work and at 9.30 on the dot, she’d get to Bribie.  Sometimes it would call to the Redcliffe Jetty. 

     “At Bribie, the buses would be waiting ‑ one did a run around the streets on the Passage side and the other on the Ocean Beach side.  The Friday night regulars on the “Mirimar” religiously kept to their own groups: there was our group, the bowlers’ group, the life‑savers group, the fishing club’s group, then there was the odds and sods’ group and each group all had their particular place on the boat ‑ except at holiday times.” 

Bribie Jetty & Moyles 1920 (photo courtesy J.Foote)


With Adrian Dalgarno

            During the 1930s, Bribie was becoming a holiday area for people from the country.  A lot went to Redcliffe for their holidays and thence to Bribie via the “Koopa” which berthed at Redcliffe jetty en route from Brisbane.   The “Koopa” was the only way to reach Bribie in those days.  Quite a tourist industry became associated with the visits of the “Koopa” just prior to WWII.When booking a ticket on the “Koopa” at Brisbane’s Petrie Bight, there were two choices: to Bribie, meaning the Still Water side, or to the Ocean Beach, which entitled the visitor to a trip across the island in an old grandma vehicle, a converted International truck with solid rubber tyres.  The road across the island varied between sand and very coarse metal and the resulting ride to the Ocean Beach was a very bumpy affair. 

Send off for Lindsay North from Tennis Club at Bribie Jetty, Bongaree, 1929. Hall & Bestmann’s store can be seen in background above the jetty roof.  Photo courtesy Jan Burge

     Cyprus (or Bribie island) pine trees were grown by Bribie locals and many used hedges of them instead of wooden fences.  They were also of use commercially, and a  lot of Cyprus was milled in these early days, especially by Norm Thurechts’ mills at Redcliffe & Caboolture.  He had the license to cut it from Bribie, and had it rafted across to the mainland.  After a tree had been cut, a crown stamp was put on the remaining butt so that every so often, inspectors could come to count the crowns, measure the butts, and thus calculate the royalty due. 

     There were a couple of big dairy farms on Bribie in these days and they supplied milk to the mainland.  As well as the Bestmann’s, another belonged to the Freemans, being known to the local children as Bessie’s dairy or Free’s dairy.  The dividing line between the two dairies was the road from the Still Water side to the Ocean Beach. 

     Near Poverty Creek, just across from Donneybrook, was an area known as The Stockyards, appropriately, because a lot of fat cattle were run there in the early days.  It is here, too, that the cattle were swum across to the mainland markets at low tide.  Up until about 1980, a lot of the old stockyard fences and slides were still in existence, but erosion has since disposed of the remains. 

     With the commencement of World War II in 1939, Fort Bribie was established on the Ocean Beach side and two 6 inch naval guns were installed to protect the entrance to Moreton Bay.  The area also served as an important Australian communications base.  Gates were erected about a third of the way across the island, and admission was impossible without an official pass.  Naturally, such a set up necessitated all civilians leaving the Ocean Beach.   

     It is not generally realized that during the war Bribie was also a large base for both American and Australian small ships, such as antisubmarine vessels and gunboats.  The channel at Toorbul Point had been dredged to accommodate such vessels.  Although there was an American base and an Australian base at Toorbul point, the majority of ships were American. 

     During these war years, Adrian Dalgarno spent his childhood, moving between Sandgate and, whenever the opportunity arose, visits to his grandparents on the Still Water side of Bribie.  Adrian can remember seeing three big American destroyers in the Pumicestone Passage.  He also remembers seeing an American escort vessel beached on Skirmish Point for several weeks. 

     Adrian recalls: “We used to go over to Bribie at every opportunity, and being a kid I used to like getting a ride on a Jeep.  There was a big American presence on Bribie: a lot of blasting in the Passage to provide accommodation for thirty or forty boats. 

     “The “Koopa”  had been slipped at Toorbul Point for conversion to war service, and Terry Green, a spirited local of Irish extract, used to walk along the beach each day and abuse the Americans for converting the “Koopa”: “Leave the old girl alone!” he would threaten, and of course the yanks would bait him. 

     “With so many personnel involved, there were always incidents occurring.  Once, an American barge took an Australian tank and crew of five across from Toorbul to Bribie.  Unfortunately the tank was let off too early, and sank in thirty feet of water.  Tragically, the five crew members drowned. Only the tank’s pennant could be seen above water.  A plaque was erected to commemorate the loss, just where the fish market is now located. 

     “The “Otter” and “Doomba” used to run from Brisbane to Bribie and then Cowan with the mail.  Sometimes, I would take the trip to Cowan and back with my grandfather, Jim Holyoake. He was a huge man and had been a member of the Black Watch in India all his life. His attitude to underlings especially coloured races left a lot to be desired.  It was the same towards the Americans.  One day on our return from Cowan, the “Otter” was rammed by an American landing barge and grandfather was sprayed by a lot of softdrinks which were broken near where we were sitting.  Being a gin drinker he was further shocked at the waste, and on reaching Brisbane he went straight to the top brass and complained.  The affair continued for some time.  Such incidents were common around our crowded bay at this time.” 

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.


 with Kathleen McArthur

Pumicestone Passage separates Bribie Island from the Mainland

Moreton Bay’s most northerly point is the beach on the Pumicestone Passage at Caloundra.  However, for the purpose of this narrative, it begins a few hundred metres further north.  Here, amongst the high‑rise buildings of modern Caloundra, nestles a small clump of unspoiled native vegetation. 

     To the casual passerby, it’s just another block of land awaiting development ‑ the owner is probably holding out for a higher price ‑ but a closer inspection reveals a house to be already occupying the site.  What’s more, people are surprised to learn that someone actually lives there! 

     To those who know Kathleen McArthur and her passion for conservation issues, it’s no surprise to find that, when it comes to living by her beliefs, she practices what she preaches.  For indeed, this modest house with its encircling mass of native scrub, is “Midyim”, her beloved home since first coming to Caloundra with her young family in 1943.  

     Kathleen is a naturalist and has long been a vocal and erudite crusader against the damages which development so often inflicts on the environment.  For many years she has fought on a variety on such issues: to save the Bird of Paradise in New Guinea, The Great Barrier Reef, Fraser Island, as well as threatened areas as far away as Tasmania and Western Australia. 

     In the late 1970s, when the Heritage Commission was formed it advertised for submissions for the National Estate, an inventory of interesting parts of Australia.  Having supported other areas of Australia, Kathleen thought it appropriate to do something for her own area: the narrow, twisting waterway snaking southwards almost from her own front doorstep ‑ the Pumicestone Passage. 

     She first collected anything of an historical nature, an important precept to the National Estate.  There was so much and it was so interesting that she decided to go a bit further and write a book, which she put in as a final submission, on behalf of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland Inc. of which she was the Caloundra Branch’s Secretary at the time. 

     It took the Heritage Commission over ten years to decide upon the listing, but eventually the Pumicestone Passage was granted an interim listing, and then finally a permanent one. 

     Her book, Pumicestone Passage ‑ A Living Waterway, which grew out of the submission, remains as the authoritative textbook of the area. The real miracle of the Pumicestone Passage is the healthy neglect (as Kathleen so aptly puts it) which it has enjoyed up to the present day.  Its mangrove clad narrow waterways still remain as unspoiled as they did in the early days of the century. 

     One still expects, with each new turn, to chance upon Andrew Tripcony’s vessel “Grace” carrying its load of cargo from Brisbane to Caloundra through the perilously shallow waters of the Passage.  Or to hear a beckoning shout from the Tripcony home at Cowiebank.  But the engines are silent and the home in another’s hands.  Perhaps fortuitously, economics have forced man to find alternative corridors to eke out his existence. 

     Not so for the wading birds of the Northern Hemisphere for which the Pumicestone Passage is an important corridor in their annual migration northwards.  Acknowledging this, the Australian Government, with ratification from all State governments, has an agreement with Japan and China for the protection of Northern Hemisphere migratory birds and their habitats. 

     Two projects now threaten the Passage: the canal development behind Golden Beach, and the dredging for the deepening of navigation channels and boat anchorages. 

     In her book, Kathleen says: “Dredging for any purpose, not necessarily only for deepening navigational channels, is very detrimental to fisheries.  It releases sediments that create turbidity, prevent photosynthesis and smother marine grasses. Additionally, it will change the tidal flow, usually with unforeseen consequences, unless it has previously been studied on a hydrological model.” 

     But it’s in the southern section of the Passage, below The Skids where navigation becomes easier and the waterways wider that civilization and its resulting changes are most obvious. Water skis and windsurfers have replaced the rowing boats of sleepy Bribie fishermen; a modern concrete bridge has made redundant the “Koopa” and “Doomba” ‑ sedate pleasure cruisers from Brisbane; and the resulting flood of immigrants has brought suburban living to where the mangroves once ruled. 

     Kathleen concludes: “Whether or not changes are brought about will depend on the number of vocal people who believe they should.  It is an idea that needs careful consideration, to be discussed, debated, and worried into a decisive policy. What should not be forgotten is that all aspects of management of such a complicated biological entity are interdependent and the separated items cannot be looked at in isolation, for water‑quality, fishing, the supply of king‑ prawns, the honey‑flow, birds, boating, dredging, swimming, water ski‑ing, tourism; ‑ the past, the present, and the future are all inter‑related.” 

FURTHER READING:  Pumicestone Passage‑a Living Waterway 

  • by Kathleen McArthur 

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.