“For about seven weeks (during the Depression) I was shovelling black mineral sands at Tug Creek on the east side (of Moreton); not for money, for tucker.  It must have been the first sand mining in Queensland and I don’t think anybody really knew about it.  The only trouble was the stuff had to go to America to be electronically separated.”

                                                                                    Harry Wadsworth, “King” of Moreton.

            “In 1969, I was working for Bruce Hope doing offshore drilling for mineral sands in Moreton Bay.  We were camped at Cowan on a concrete block beside the house of Harry and Jessie Wadsworth.  We had a big diesel generator (ex army) which we used to run for our refrigerators etc.  Harry had been having trouble starting his clanky old generator, so we offered them our electricity.  We got very friendly with them and Jess was always bringing us fish cakes and other culinary delights.  Harry had a lawn out the front of their house on which he used to play bowls.  He used to challenge us to a game, and always won because he knew every bump!”

                                                                        Jason Hassard, Offshore Driller.

            “Australia is such a vast continent, and the mineral wealth in Queensland is so great, why can’t they leave a little island like Moreton for the people to enjoy?  If they have granted 90 percent of it as National Park, why not the lot?  We don’t want it mined, but if it’s going to go ahead we will just have to put up with it, I suppose.”

                                                            Jessie Wadsworth, “Queen” of Moreton, conversation 1981.  

Harry and Jessie Wadsworth in 1978

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.



 with “Snow” Port, Wynnum North

Whale on the flensing deck at Tangalooma (Photo Stan Kenwrick)

            “I worked for six months at Tangalooma Whaling Station on the flensing deck where the whale carcasses were cut up into chunks of blubber ready for boiling.  As you can imagine, the smell was horrendous.  After the whales had been killed, their carcasses were towed into the Bay to the whaling station at Tangalooma.  Large sharks would follow them in. When the carcasses were winched up onto the flensing deck ready to be cut up by me and my mate, there would sometimes still be a huge shark still attached to the flesh on which it had been feeding.  When it did finally let go, it would thrash around on the flensing deck with its teeth snapping.  We made sure we kept well clear of it!”


‘Snow’ Port with jaws taken from a shark at Tangalooma

Bob Emmett adds: ‘Whales were everywhere round Moreton.  Once in the “Heath” we had to heave to between Comboyuro Point and Tangalooma because the water was so thick with them.  Also, the chasers sometimes didn’t have to go even as far as North Point before catching their full complement of whales.  They wouldn’t even get outside the bay. I’ve seen the whaling station break down, and 16 whales left rotting.  They were absolutely putrid, and they had to tow them out to sea and blow them up. When the station was operational, the smell was pretty bad anyway, and if you walked along the beach near Tangalooma, the water’s edge was always oily.’ 

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.


 Moreton Island has always been the least accessible of Moreton Bay’s treasures.  It’s furtherest from the mainland, and has no developed road system. It is largely still unspoiled by civilization.  Even today it still has a frontier feel about it.  Even so, it has had to weather the effects of a garrison during WWII, a whale station in the 1950s, and threats of extensive mineral sand mining.  Here are some snippets from Moreton Island People …. 


         “I joined the Royal Australian Engineers during the Depression in 1932 and was stationed at Fort Lytton at the mouth of the Brisbane River.  It was an active garrison then and its six inch guns commanded a view of the entrance to Moreton Bay right up to Caloundra.  I remember there was a moat of water round the guns so that they couldn’t be taken from behind.  The ground was very swampy and the mosquitoes were bad – so bad, in fact, that the horses would drag their tethering pegs right out of the ground.  In 1939 when war was imminent, I was sent with the Engineers over to Cowan Cowan to build facilities for a garrison to be stationed there.  We firstly cut our own timber to build a bridge over the swamp behind Cowan, then constructed a rifle range where the land begins to rise to Mount Tempest.  I’ll bet it’s still there today because we made it out of ironbark.  It was backbreaking work shovelling sand.

         “Next we sank a well on the Cowan side of the swamp.  Up until then we depended for our fresh water on supplies brought down on the “Grazier”.  Washing was done in the bay with the sharks!  Then we constructed wooden towers to hold the corrugated iron tanks for the water, then ablution blocks for the showers.  We then cut stumps and had them sunk and levelled ready for pre-cut huts brought down on the “Grazier”.

         “Then the artillery and foot soldiers moved in to join us 120 engineers.  I remember we had Church Parade on Sundays conducted by Padre St.George from Sherwood.  Sickness was the only exemption, but one Sunday a few of us buzzed off and went for a walk along the beach.  We saw a lot of sharks in the water nearby and one of my mates fired off three quick shots at them.  The parade heard this and thought the island was being attacked.  The alarm was raised.  Needless to say, we were not very popular!

         “I was only on Moreton for 31 days after the war commenced.  The Engineers were transferred to the A.I.F. and we were mobilised to go overseas.  This involved being vaccinated with eight different needles.  However, I had an allergic reaction to one of these and contracted osteomyelitis. I was evacuated from Moreton to the Mater Hospital and then put in the Reserves.

         “During the war there was a huge camp for the American soldiers at Camp Cable near Tamborine.  I was driving cabs by then, and would charge £2 a head for the 45 minute trip to the Camp from Brisbane.  I would sleep the night in the cab outside the camp until 6 am when the next troops on leave would hire me to take them to Brisbane. It was very lucrative because the Americans gave a good tip, however in 1944 the tax office billed me for £400 being, in their estimation, the tax due on my undisclosed tips.  It took the shine off my income, but even so it helped me build my first house.”

Camp Cable Plaque

 Roy Gardner, Beachmere

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.

Early European Visitors to Quandamooka

With Peter Ludlow

My first interest in Moreton Bay’s history was aroused in the late 1940s when I came across a map published by the Shell Company of Australia. My father, a great fishing enthusiast, must have bought it with fishing in mind, but my youthful interest was triggered by just two words printed on its outline of North Stradbroke Island, just above Swan Bay: Spanish galleon.

I guess I was at the ‘playing pirates’ stage of my youth and the idea of having our own Spanish galleon here on our doorstep was very exciting.  But had there really been a Spanish galleon in Moreton Bay? The riddle just added to its mystique.

So it was with a great interest that fifty years later, I discovered that Eric Reye, who had contributed so much to my writings about Peel Island, had also been fascinated by the same map references to the galleon.  But he had gone one step further and about 1940 had paddled off in his canoe to seek it out! 

            In actual fact, the galleon was probably Portuguese and not Spanish and is thought to have been wrecked here in the early 1600s. However, although many sightings of the wreck have been recorded and there are tales of artefacts being removed, no concrete evidence has yet been found to prove its existence. 

            Of course, these European navigators were not the first humans to visit Moreton Bay, for the Aborigines have lived here for thousands of years. One can only imagine their surprise at seeing the masses of white canvas sails on these huge, square rigged ships. And when Cook sailed past in 1770 they little knew that he was giving a name to their still unwritten land: Morton Bay(after James Douglas, 14th Earl of Mortonand misspelled by later cartographers as Moreton Bay).

            Matthew Flinders in 1799 made the first recorded contact with the Bay’s indigenous people when he landed at Bribie Island and was met by a group of Aborigines.  A short attempt at trading only heightened the tension and mistrust between the two groups and ended with a spear being thrown and a musket fired in return. The spot of this encounter was named Skirmish Point by Flinders, and symbolises much of the early encounters between the indigenous people and the European newcomers.

            For come they did when John Oxley arrived in 1824 with a group of convicts to set up a settlement at Redcliffe Point.  The following year it was moved to a site on the Brisbane River and continued as a convict settlement until 1839. From 1842, when Moreton Bay was thrown open to free settlement, immigrants arrived in their droves.  Life for the indigenous people would never be the same.

Quandamooka (Moreton Bay)
Quandamooka (Moreton Bay)

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’ Peter Ludlow 2003)


Norm Davidson offers some first hand experience of his dealings with Snowy Drennan, one of the many characters mentioned in Peter Ludlow’s “Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection”. In the book, Don Shields had recalled:

“In 1946, straight after the war, at the first disposal sale of wartime equipment, we financed Gordon (Shields) to purchase the first Bribie barge.  Later in about 1950, when he had enough, Ben Tesch (Ivan’s father) took the barges over.  Then he sold out to Bill Woods, who was financed by “Snowy” Drennan. However, Woodsie defaulted on his payments and Snowy Drennan ended up with the barges.  Of course, the opening of the bridge knocked the barges on the head and I believe Drennan sold them off down around here (Cleveland).

“Drennan was quite a character – a whiz kid, a school teacher who owned houses from Charleville to Brisbane.  He was a bookmaker and he used to lend money at exorbitant rates.  He lived at Lutwyche in Brisbane.  However, he did do some good things, for example if he got a brilliant kid in his class he’d send him right through (the grades).  But that was about it.”

Norm Davidson, himself a personality in Peter Ludlow’s “Moreton Bay Reflections”, has this to say about Snowy Drennan:

“I was working as a telegram boy in Charleville at the time when Snowy Drennan was a schoolteacher there. He was well known for his ability to teach lessons to underprivileged kids. On the side, he also conducted an illegal SP bookmaking business.

“One day, the police raided all the barber shops in town and Snowy ended up in the watch house. This didn’t stop Snowy gathering last minute information from the racetrack and Norm was kept busy racing back and forth from the Post Office to the watch house next door with the latest betting prices. In all he had to deliver about 70 telegrams!

“Then the tax office conducted a tax audit on Snowy’s SP revenue. Their ruling was that Snowy was ‘guilty through ignorance’.”

The Bribie Island Barge 1958 (photo John Williamson)