John Cassim was a Mauritian Indian, whom it appears was transported to Moreton Bay in 1840. He had received a seven-year sentence, and was amongst a group of Mauritian convicts who were transported to Sydney via the Layton early in 1840 (Mauritius had been occupied by the British since 1810). In April 1840 fifteen of these men, including Cassim, were sent on to Moreton Bay, which was soon to be opened for free settlement, apparently to conduct experiments in sugar growing. Sugar was the principal Mauritian cash crop at this period, and was exported regularly to New South Wales. Presumably, the Mauritian convicts were considered to have had some experience in the sugar industry.
Cassim received a ticket-of-leave (conditional pardon) at Moreton Bay in February 1844. By 1851, John and his wife, Mary, were operating a boarding house at Kangaroo Point, which they maintained until late 1855. Then From late 1855 to mid-1860 the Cassims leased Cleveland House (now the Grandview Hotel), and an adjacent dwelling, from pastoralist Francis Edward Bigge. These buildings had been erected at Cleveland in the early 1850s as part of Bigge’s unsuccessful push to establish Cleveland as the principal port of the Moreton Bay region.
About 1860, Cassim erected his Cleveland Hotel on an allotment adjacent to Cleveland House (now the Grand View).
The Cassims were well-known and respected Cleveland identities and devout Catholics, whose hotel not only was synonymous with Cleveland as a seaside resort, but also served as a mass centre from the early 1860s until the construction of the first Catholic church at Cleveland in 1877. John was a trustee of the local church in the 1870s and 1880s, and would not accept payment from any priest staying at the hotel. Cassim’s Island, in Moreton Bay, is named after him.
As a member of the Probus Club of Toondah, this is the first question I am asked when people see the name on my lapel badge. The name “Toondah” was derived from nearby Toondah Harbour which has been in the news again recently, with another feverish round of debate on whether we should develop the area into a modern water-front precinct featuring high-rise buildings etc. or leave it and its surrounding park-land, mangroves etc. in their present peaceful state.
What started all this was when the Government in 1881, on the advice of the Port Master of Queensland, decided to have constructed in Brisbane a steam launch 40ft. in length with a beam of 9 feet and 6 inches – powered by a wood/coal fired Willins steam engine. His recommendation was that “advantages would be gained by having a small steam launch with which to look after the fisheries in Moreton Bay, indeed as those working on the oyster-beds do not in any assist in the seeing that the law is put in force. The only way is to have them visited unexpectedly from time to time and thus keep a general supervision over them.”
And so, the Steam Vessel “Toondah” was born and put into service. Cecil Shuttleworth Fison, Inspector of Fisheries at the time, used the vessel to expand the fishery industry of Moreton Bay and its value expanded from 780 pounds in 1879 to 4560 pounds in 1890. In 1890 the “Toondah” had her cabin enlarged as a considerable amount of ‘official business’ was being done on board when she was ‘on service down the bay’.
As well as her duties in the fishing industry, the “Toondah” was used to carry out extensive survey work around the Bay under Mr. Fison’s captaincy and many of the existing beacons in the area were established during these times. The Fison Channel leading into Toondah Harbour was later named in his honour. Sadly, Mr Fison died suddenly after returning from a trip down the bay in December 1899 whilst waiting for a train on Cleveland station platform. The “Toondah” was taken out of service shortly after the turn of the century and finally laid to rest on Cassim Island which lies directly in front of the harbour. Her rusting hulk is still visible amongst the mangroves.
The Redland Museum now has a very interesting display featuring a model of the “Toondah” which was constructed in recent times. Much of this research was done by a team of interested people led by Alan Rogers during the 1990s culminating in the building of the model and the setting up of a temporary display at Cleveland Library which was later transferred to its permanent home at the Museum.
(The word “Toondah” comes from the local Aboriginal language meaning ‘any piece of wood’.)
The Burgess Farm at Russell Island 1920s and 1930s
Gary Day has contributed photos and a scrapbook of his mother, Esther Burgess who was born in 1919 and lived her first 19 years on Russell Island. She hated its isolation. Her parents (and Gary’s grandparents) were Ernest and Alice Burgess. It is their farm that features in the photos and scrapbook.
Clippings from the Russell Island Scrap book of Lorna Burgess:
From August 9, 1938:
John Willes’son, Frederick J. Willes, retires as Russell Island postmaster after more than 50 years. He used to collect and deliver mail from the surrounding islands and take it to and from the mainland in his motor launch twice a week. His father John Willes settled from the English Midlands to Russell Island as its first European resident in 1886.
Post office destroyed by fire. It is thought to be the first building fire on Russell Island.
From August 10, 1938:
10/1/1938 Aboriginal skull and part skeleton found on Stradbroke Island
4/2/1938 Cyclonic storm strikes Russell Island and overturns 30-foot launch. A man was trapped inside for some time
11/2/1938 350 lb shark landed. Mr. Albert Raddon of Lamb Island, fishing from a punt a few yards away from the jetty, hooked an eight feet grey nurse shark, following which he experienced an exciting half hour. The punt was towed across the channel (by the shark) to Karragarra Island and from there along the whole length of the channel between the two islands in the direction of Stradbroke Island. The shark was finally landed on the Lamb Island beach. The shark was finally landed on the Lamb Island beach and was estimated to weigh about 350 lb. A little later a 4-foot shark was caught in the same vicinity. Fishing is becoming increasingly popular round the islands and is attracting Brisbane club fishermen, who are holding a competition here during weekend.
Residents at Canaipa Point, Russell Island, are still thrilled at the visit of Richard Tauber, who visited that beauty spot in the Atlanta, and sang for the island people.
Gary Day 2010
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)russ
The Williams’ family was local to the Redlands area for many years. In 1955 my father, John McGinnis Williams, bought a house on the Esplanade at Redland Bay opposite the barge ramp (next to the house that had a rounded nautical front). He also had a boat shed down on Weinam Creek on Auster Street. As a child I remember someone putting up the sign “Ruster Street”, named after Rusters (fishermen) who also had a boat shed beside the creek. But something happened to the “R” and it became “A”.
When my father died the shed was sold and bought years ago by Roger Moore. In 2009 I went to the Redland Bay State School Reunion and visited Roger and Cheryl at their house on the Esplanade. Roger produced some large photos of speedboats (from my father’s races in 1925) that he had found in the roof of the shed. Apparently, my father had stored them up there and forgotten about them. A bit of red soil on them after 80 years but still in good nick! I have included these images on my website: www.tropikkal.com
I have many good memories of my childhood at the Bay. Vaguely remember a paddle steamer going past Redland Bay – must have been just after 1955. My father had quite a few boats in Weinam Creek. He employed Ricky Watts as his labourer. Poor Ricky had the job of working in the mud digging out new slips (dad usually had about 3 boats on the slips or in the creek at a time). Ricky was very good with boats. His father, the corpulent (as I remember) Dick Watts was very good on propellers. My father was very keen that I was a good boatie as early as possible. I still remember the cheers from the other boat-shed owners as I rowed a dinghy solo to the mouth of Weinam Creek when I was about 7 years old. High tide of course. On low tide you had to get out in the middle of the creek and push the dinghy over the mud banks. Yuk. Thank goodness I was a “tomboy” and didn’t mind getting dirty.
Around 1960 my father bought a property at Victoria Point. Stretching from Colburn Avenue to the water, there were two houses. The top house had been originally owned by Dr. Ernest Sandford Jackson. History. The bottom huts were haunted by a little black boy. But that’s another story….
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)
Editor’s note: Here is a photo of a section of Rusters’ boat yard taken by myself in about 1990. I had been interviewing Eric Reye from whose vessel, this photo was taken:
After dad’s accident, I became literally dad’s ‘right hand man’. Of an afternoon, I used to have to go up on my pushbike to Raby Bay train station, which was situated down a little dirt road that went down towards the water from where the Sands Hotel is now. I used to meet the rail motor from Manly, which used to get in about 5.15 in the afternoon, and pick up the bundle of “Telegraph” newspapers. Then I’d have to do a paper run on my bike to deliver them. One of my first deliveries was to the Sands Hotel, which at that stage was under Thurhect’s management. I used to take the paper in to the hotel and front up to the bar for a ‘double sars’. After I’d had my drink at the bar, I’d get on my bike and do the paper run which went all around the Raby Bay area, then down Middle Street, Oyster Point, and then along Cleveland Point. I’d always end the run in the darkness of night. All I had for a light was a battery-operated torch that fitted in a holder between the handlebars. On one occasion, near the Police Station that was then situated near the Cenotaph, I was riding up towards Oyster Point and passed a beautiful old Queenslander home that belonged to the Ramsey family. The house was next door to the bakery of G.W.Walters – where all our bread came from. Actually all the houses in that area were owned by G.W.Walters and were used by the employees of his bakery. In those days, Cleveland was owned by virtually just a couple of people.
Just up from the bakery was the Hospital where, much later in my life, I was to give birth to three of my children. It was a private hospital that handled general patients as well as maternity cases. I remember the Matron during my time because her name was Ray Rae. Sister Hutton was the Sister there. My youngest son, Anthony, was born in 1952 at Whepstead Manor at Wellington Point, which at that stage was a Convalescent Home. Doctor Foxton delivered Anthony there.
Now in those days, cattle were free to roam the streets, and the Wallace family-owned cows near where our shop was. There was a well in a fenced off area near our shop just off Shore Street, which had a hand pump on it so that water could be pumped up for the cattle to drink from. Anyway, on this particular night, just near the Church of England, I was pedalling along like mad with my head down, and with only this little feeble light to guide me, when ‘Bang!’ I ran into a cow. The light went one way, the bike went one way, the cow went one way, and I sat there bellowing in the middle of the road. Nobody came to rescue me, but it was something I never forgot.
Right next door to our house was the show grounds. Every July there was an annual show there, and all the farmers in the district would bring along their agricultural produce, and they also had the dog show, and chooks. It was at this time too that the schools’ sports were held. The hall from the old show ground was later moved to its new site in the present showground in Smith Street.
During World War II, members of the VDF (Volunteer Defence Force) used to meet at our shop and practice their Morse Code, with dad sitting at the head of the table. Some of them had been issued with rifles, but there were not enough to go round. When the Centaur was sunk, some of our fishermen went over to Moreton Island to help.
After the war, the Robinson family started a Devonshire teahouse at what is now the Old Courthouse Restaurant. They had a house next door that was right on the water and had a shark proof bathing enclosure where people could go and swim. The Old Courthouse was also used for accommodation and one family who stayed there was the Dingles. However, during the war one of its occupants was a lady who, while her husband was away in the war, had local tongues wagging when she entertained the American soldiers on leave.
Bobby Fitzjohn used to bring his boat, the Karboora, across from Stradbroke Island. Alfie Martin was the engineer. Many of the Stradbroke Islanders used to catch the Karboora over to Paxton Street, and then get the train up to Brisbane. They used to call into our shop, which was next to the station. Dad had a lot of dealings with the Perry Brothers who were Aboriginal oysterers on Stradbroke who would put them through the Fish market opposite the Old Court House. Dad used to get orders for the oysters that they supplied. These had to be filled at particular times, but for one reason or another, supplies were not always available on time.
Originally, there was no jetty at Paxton Street, and before the Fish market was built there, the fisherman would bring their catches to dad at the shop and he would take them up to the Fish Markets in Stanley Street in Brisbane.
When dad had his accident and lost his arm, the people in the district took up a collection for him, and with the money, dad built a trailer that he took up to the markets in Brisbane.
When the Cleveland fish depot was completed, dad went in to manage it. We had sold the shop by this stage, and had built a house in Paxton Street where we then lived. They built the condenser tower at the side towards the back. At the back of the cold room were the tanks where dad would make large blocks of ice. In between the cold room and the front office was ‘Leaping Leena’- the machine that kept the cold room and everything going. Dad used to have to top it up every now and then with ammonia. When it was time for dad to have a holiday, it was difficult to find someone to take his place because dad knew ‘Leaping Leena’ like the back of his hand, and he could do anything with it to keep it going – even though he had never any experience in refrigeration!
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)
My dad was Peter Millar. He met my mother – a McQuillan – while living at Galloway’s Hill. Her father had a dairy farm at Cannon Hill, and he worked very hard to have a school established in the area. When mum was 13 her mother died and being the eldest of 8 children, she had to look after them. After their marriage and when I was 13 months old, dad and mum moved down to Cleveland. They rented a shop just near the railway station at the Paxton Street Jetty. A lot of the property down from the Grand View Hotel was owned by a Mrs. Rooney. Mum and dad eventually built on the corner of Little Shore and Paxton Street (the building is still there today).
During World War II, when many American forces were stationed in Brisbane, many American personnel used to come down to Cleveland on weekend leave. They’d arrive by train at the station at the back of our shop. The Americans would head for the Grand View Hotel, where they’d stay for the weekend and have a good time. The proprietors of the Grand View Hotel at that time were Banko and Bair.
One day, an American serviceman, George Lippencott, came into our shop and asked mum and dad if they knew of someone who would give him a bed for the weekend. George was on General Douglas Macarthur’s staff, and was based in the AMP Building in Brisbane. George, being a Christian who didn’t drink alcohol, did not wish to join his mates at the Grand View Hotel. After talking it over, my parents offered him a bed at our place. We had a newspaper run and sometimes George would go out on the run to deliver papers for dad.
George was a devout Christian and he used to attend the Methodist Church here in Cleveland. Actually, he donated a crucifix to them. I think it is still there, but no longer on display in the church. George used to attend the church every Sunday that he was able. After the war, when he was leaving to go back home to America, he told mum that he had bought himself a pair of binoculars so he could watch the coast of Queensland until it was no longer visible. Mum corresponded with him after the war. His parents had a garden cemetery in Baltimore called Sunset Memorial Park.
There was an American Army camp at Victoria Point and, praise the Lord that they were there, because when dad had an accident and lost his arm, they were there to help. Dad had a utility truck and used to go into Brisbane once a week on Thursdays to get groceries for the shop from a company called QCT (Queensland Country Traders). He also went to the markets in Roma Street to get fresh produce. However, on this particular day, he also had with him granddad and a crabber, Bill Austin. The Austin Brothers were fisherman from our district. Granddad liked to have a drink – and so did Bill Austin – but dad could take it or leave it. On the way back to Cleveland, on the old Cleveland Road where it intersects with Creek Road, dad’s utility was side swiped by another coming in the opposite direction. Dad used to drive with his arm out the window, and unfortunately it was torn off. Fortunately, though, there was an army convoy coming up from Victoria Point, and they had a doctor who was able to render immediate assistance. He was then taken to the Mater Hospital. It was late in the afternoon, and I can still see our phone in the shop (it was mounted on the wall then) – our number was Cleveland 27 – and I can still see mum in my mind’s eye standing at the phone taking the call. She was a very brave woman. When dad did come back to work in the shop again, the local kids were very intrigued by his new appearance.
“What happened to your arm, Mr. Millar?”
“Well, I was driving along, and it just fell off, so if you can find it can you let me know.”
He had all the kids in the district looking for his arm.
Hastings Point lies at the mouth of Cudgera Creek, just a few km south of Kingscliff on the far north NSW coast. It’s still a quiet respite from the housing developments that are constantly moving towards it. However, it was once a focus for (mainly Queensland) fishermen in the post WW2 years, with its foreshore camping area invariably crowded with their tents every Christmas and Easter holidays. Our family was just one of the many to spend its holidays there. It was known to us then as Cudgera. Just getting there then by the sand track from Kingscliff or by the narrow winding dirt Round Mountain road was a feat in itself, but made the reward of arrival all the more worthwhile.
Invariably, dad chose the sandtrack and our overloaded Zephyr Six was always in imminent danger of getting bogged. So it always a relief when we finally trundled over the rickety bridge and set up camp (usually in the middle of the night).
I am told the bridge had been constructed by a Mineral Sand Mining Company, the beaches having had their wealth extracted and sent to US markets. In building the bridge, the abutments filled up half the creek and in doing so created a deep hole which abounded in fish. The Black Bream were so thick in number that they could be easily jagged by pulling a three barbed hook through their shoal (illegal of course).
The alternative to fishing the creek was the beach, and my father would spend hours casting all along the beach. He was nothing if not persistent. No wonder his favourite book was Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Yes he really was a Santiago at heart.
Strangely, when the coast road and the bridge at Hastings Point were upgraded, the campers went elsewhere. Today, though, visiting this unspoiled area still holds many happy memories for me.
(This is the third article sent in by Marilyn. You can read the previous two at 03.12.2016 – Bullets and Beans and at 10.12.2016 – Koopa Memories)
My father had bought, from Army Disposals, a compass – its half-orb wobbled inside a squat, navy wooden box. I think it was a deep blue box but this is only a memory – and from over seventy years ago. Dad and Uncle Jack’s small adventure with night navigation happened on Moreton Bay on a trip down the Brisbane River and across to Bribie Island, in January, 1947. Well, I have calculated it was then. If so, I would have recently turned eleven and I became a somewhat seasick witness to their escapade.
Dad had been attending a night class in navigation and, as he was quick with numbers, he would have been keen to practice his newly-gained skill. And he had the boat! She was the “Lady Ellen” which he owned with two other members of the family. Now, do not think motor launch circa 2020 with sleek lines, running on marine diesel.
The “Ellen” was about seven metres in length, wooden, squat; it had two bunks, the engine cover acted as a table, there was a rudimentary galley, a heads – and here I have a memory of confusion with rope and anchor storage. However, the singularly most unsatisfactory circumstance about the “Ellen” was the engine. (I have had ‘phone discussions with a cousin not seen for years about this.) After the war, engines were scarce, very scarce to obtain. Evidently, the engine found for Dad’s boat was scavenged from a 1920’s car called an Essex Four. The boat was seriously underpowered, though possibly not for the time it had been built.
After the day spent organizing for the trip, Dad and I were ready to have our evening meal aboard the “Ellen”, as she was at her mooring in Breakfast Creek which runs into the Brisbane River. How many meals does one remember from one’s childhood? Well, I recall that offering from Dad. He opened a tin of Libby’s luncheon beef from a tin with a key and there were grapes. That was dinner. It grew dark and I was put to bed on one of the bunks (next to the engine). Dad was waiting for Uncle Jack to join him. I thought we were to set off down the river at first light.
Asleep on the bunk, I was unaware when Uncle Jack had joined Dad. They had decided to catch the ebbing tide, not wait for the dawn, and start down the Brisbane River. (If this was, indeed, 1947, petrol rationing was still in effect and conserving it was paramount.) Passing Bishop’s Island at the mouth of the river, with the lights across to Redcliffe enticing them on, their charts at the ready and all fair before them, rather than wait for the dawn, they sailed on to navigate to Bribie at night.
Sometime later I woke up. There were Dad and Uncle Jack in the dimly-lit cabin. We seemed to be at the heaving centre of war-time-remembered shiny, black-out darkness. The old engine grumbled at an idle. The “Ellen” rose, was slapped and dropped, ruled by the waves’ chop. We were well out into the bay; it was past midnight. But the boat was not powering forward. She was moving only at the sea’s whim. And it was getting windy.
Awake, although feeling decidedly queasy, I managed to get up and to hoist myself onto a cabin bench; I did my retching over the side! From then on, I watched what happened half asleep and wrapped in a blanket.
The “Ellen” had stopped travelling forward! The connection from the steering wheel, the helm, through to the rudder had snapped. The screws of the propellor were turning but the boat’s direction could no longer be controlled. And we were really not that very far from the main shipping channel into Brisbane.
Checking today a map of Moreton Bay and the sea route to Bribie Island by crossing Deception Bay, the land area of around Deception Bay shows much development – it might even be referred to as an outer suburb of Brisbane, maybe. Dad’s navigation trial, though, was over seventy years ago, when there was no electricity available on from the seaside town of Scarborough until Caloundra. We were at sea, unable to control where we were going and, around us, all was new-moon darkness.
Somehow, Dad had to get the “Ellen” back on course, and sailing forward towards Bribie. I have never known if the solution Uncle Jack and Dad came to was their ingenuity, or if the solution was a standard ploy in such situations. I do know it worked. Uncle Jack crawled into the stern of the “Ellen”, after the hatch had been removed. His feet could reach the rudder control rods and he was able to command the direction the rudder – with his feet. On we went: Dad at the helm, Uncle Jack standing in the stern’s hold.
Although, we were on our way again, and hopefully not much off course, around us was the darkness.
Years after this adventure of Dad’s and Uncle Jack’s, my Father would tell how, trying to discern something ahead, he had found, far-off, one pin-prick of light. He reasoned it could be a fisherman on Bribie and steered towards this lone night beacon. He was right: it was a solitary fisherman with his lantern on the Bribie Island jetty.
They edged past the jetty and cruised close into the shore until they discerned the huge gum tree in front of “Torphins”, our seaside house on the island. The anchor was dropped. We scrambled into the dinghy we must have towed all the way, rowed ashore and amazed the family when we appeared out of the darkness.
That was Dad and Uncle Jack’s adventure in night navigation on Moreton Bay. There are many stories about the yesterdays around Moreton Bay – here has been the telling of one more.
The navigators: Peter Simes (1906 – 1974); Jack Kieseker (1914 – 1983)
Ernie Tickner, a resident of Wellington Point, was a qualified Draftsman when he migrated to Australia from the United Kingdom around 1949, and around 1952/3, he obtained employment with QANTAS. He was working at Archerfield as a draftsman, his job being to prepare drawings of aircraft components and modifications to his employer’s aircraft that were required for submission to the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) for approval.
QANTAS then decided to move the section he worked in to Sydney. Ernie and his wife Pam, who had been born at Cleveland, were building their new home at Wellington Point and Pam was a school teacher at the Wellington Point State School with no desire to forego her work there. Consequently, Ernie resigned from QANTAS rather than move to Sydney.
He was able to obtain work with Barrier Reef Airways, then a division of Ansett Airways Pty. Ltd. Flying Boat Division, who had commenced regular services through Redland Bay, then known as the Brisbane Water Airport, to and from Sydney and the Barrier Reef Islands (Hayman), Cairns and Townsville, and Gladstone to Heron Island when required. Occasionally, aircraft would stop in at Grafton in NSW when there were passengers for that region of northern NSW. For a period the Redland Bay flying boat facility was the International Airport for Brisbane, being a stop-over for the QANTAS flying boats (Sunderlands) on the Sydney to London route.
The following are some recollections of Ernie’s time spent working at the Redland Bay facility, where he found himself doing all manner of tasks associated with the operation of that facility. Barrier Reef Airways were operating two Sandringham and one Catalina aircraft (see photo), and there were some half a dozen employees responsible for all activities required including attending to the arrival and departure of aircraft, the maintenance of aircraft whilst at the facility, and the transferring of passengers to and from the aircraft. The base, along with the DCA’s Communication facility, was then at the end of Banana Street, Redland Bay. One of the other airline employees, Ewan Lahey, was in charge of Air Frames, whilst another, Leo DeGroot was an Engineer, and together with Ernie, they would usually meet at the Redland Bay Hotel a little before the scheduled time of an aircraft’s arrival, which would be telephoned through to them, be it day or night. Life then was pretty free and easy, with no requirement to clock on or off – Ernie just had to see that the work he was required to do was done, and his employer was happy.
The Redland Bay Hotel was also the venue where the out-going passengers were assembled ready for departure, having travelled by company coach from Brisbane, and from there, those waiting could witness the arrival of the aircraft. All the paper work relating to the departing and arriving passengers was handled in Brisbane, so Ernie didn’t have to bother with that side of the formalities – he simply had to ensure their safe transfer between aircraft and shore.
Once the aircraft was sighted, Ernie and his fellow employees would proceed to the base jetty and take the launch out ready to service the arriving aircraft. DCA operated the launch to clear the runway of any vessels that may interfere with the safe landing of the plane, and they were also responsible for the land/air communications with all aircraft.
The operation of the service launch, INA (with a Chrysler engine) was done by Ernie and his compatriots, any of whom were expected to be able to drive it when required, as in those days there was no such thing as job demarcation – one just did what had to be done to achieve the desired result.
They would secure the plane to its mooring buoy, and then commence the transfer of passengers, crew, mail and cargo to the shore. The refuelling and any maintenance tasks were done by these men, including oil changes if necessary, whilst the aircraft was at the mooring. The boarding passengers and crew were then transferred from shore to the aircraft by the same personnel, who then attended to the departure routine for the aircraft.
In the event that an engine change was needed, the aircraft would be taken into Brisbane landing on the Hamilton Reach, and brought ashore up a ramp at Colmslie where there were workshop facilities that had been constructed during the war years to service these machines. Ernie and the other gentlemen in the team would go there to undertake this task, so he had to be quite versatile and multi-talented. Occasionally, other circumstances, including foul weather on the Bay, required the planes to land on the Brisbane River, however, this was rare as it did disrupt the then increasing river traffic, and when that did occur, then Ernie would go up there to do his usual work.
One of the ‘perks’ of the job back then, and there is no way it would be even contemplated in today’s working world, was that he could ‘hitch’ a ride on an aircraft at the discretion of the its Captain, should there be available space on the flight, and Ernie was “free to go”. One such occasion that he took up the opportunity to go on a ‘freebee’, was when the Catalina was going on a special run to Heron Island, and it was to be the last flight for the flying boats to the island. The aircraft was to pick up and return the internationally well-known underwater photographer Hans Hass and his wife Lotte who had been doing an assignment on the island, plus all their filming equipment. As a bonus, Ernie was able to take his wife Pam along for the ride, and it ended up being an adventure they’ve never forgotten.
It was found when they got to the island, that there was far more equipment to be returned than had been envisaged, so when loading was completed the aircraft was very heavily loaded and all available on-board cabin space was taken up. No way were Ernie and Pam going to be left behind, which meant that they found themselves seated in one of the aircraft’s ‘bubbles’, which during its war- time role served as a gunner/observer position, so they enjoyed a real bird’s eye view during the return trip. The loaded aircraft was also so heavy, it apparently took some time to actually get airborne and gain altitude, somewhat disconcerting for the passengers.
One significant event that Ernie recalls vividly was the loss of the Short S.25 Sandringham Mark 4, VH-BRD. It was moored on the Brisbane River, and was struck by a Riverside Coal Transport barge in July 1952, causing damage to its port wingtip, which was repaired and it returned to service. Sometime later in the year, the aircraft sank overnight at its moorings on the Brisbane River, having been struck by an unidentified boat causing damage to the port float, resulting in the flooding of the aircraft.
It was towed to Colmslie Slipway after being refloated, and declared a write-off following a detailed inspection. Following this, it was eventually sold to a Gold Coast interest who intended to convert it to a floating restaurant. Whilst on its way under tow to the Gold Coast it was swamped by waves after leaving the river and sank. Despite the size of this object, and having been under tow by a vessel which one would have presumed knew its position, the wreckage was never located.
Ernie worked at the Redland Bay facility until the flying boat services ended in 1971. He was offered the opportunity to move to Sydney with Ansett, which he, along with a couple of his other workmates from Brisbane, took up for a short while before resigning and returning together to Brisbane.
QANTAS also approached him again with an offer of work in Sydney, which he declined. Following his return home, he obtained a position with the Courier Mail newspaper in the artwork department, well before it became computerised, and went on to create many of the then well-known hand-drawn advertisements for some of Brisbane’s notable businesses.
Always a keen artist, Ernie naturally painted things very familiar to him, and he has to this day retained some wonderful oil paintings of the aircraft with which he developed such a close association. He is pictured here at his home (February 2015), the one he and Pam were building when he resigned from QANTAS back in the early 50’s, with some of his paintings.
Originally there was just the hotel and the bakers and just one shop. Then a barber shop, which later became a hardware shop. (Koros then Burns)
Ernie built our house himself, in sections, and we camped on the floor while he completed the next section. We couldn’t do it nowadays. He’d have to be a registered owner-builder now. To get water, we had a windmill over a bore, and pumped it up to a high tank. Ernie later replaced this with a Jack pump. The water was good to drink, but when washing, every now and then there would be a spurt of iron oxide that would leave an orange stain on the sheets. We and the neighbours used to share water between our tanks whenever one of us got low.
We had a swimming pool for the children, which we gradually made bigger for the neighbours as well, on the proviso that their mums came to watch them as well. We had no fans or air conditioning then, so on a hot summer’s night, we used to have a refreshing dip before bed. When the last of our children left home, we sold off that part of our land.
That land next door used to be a road called Wort Street, but when they closed the railway line in about 1963, they tore the bridge over it as well. However, when they rebuilt the line for the electric trains, they had to have the bridge higher to allow for the overhead cables. This meant that Wort Street was then too low, so they made it into a cul-de-sac. Incidentally, the street was named Wort after one of the original families there. The family name was pronounced ‘Wirt’ but was always mispronounced by people who did not know the family. Mr. Wort’s first name was Frederick, so the street is now known as Frederick Street to save any confusion. We keep the closed off section mown and have planted bushes there as well.
Once, before the trees grew tall around here, we could see the Wellington Point jetty from our place and watch the boats coming in and out. We could also see all the way around to Peel Island, and the only thing that blocked the view was Fernbourne. This house was in a street originally known as Commercial Street, but now renamed Fernbourne Road. There also use to be a dairy down there as well. The remains of Burnett’s jetty are still there in Hilliard’s Creek. It was called the Piles.
The jetty at the Point used to be longer because the point ended at the Norfolk Pine Trees and there were mud flats beyond that, so the jetty had to extend back over them. Since then, though, there has been a lot of landfill, so it has been shortened. There were a lot of boats moored there, and the jetty has been used for fishermen, but not much else. In the steam train era, Tommy Few used to run a little bus from the railway station up to the point for the tourists. There used to be an old kiosk there, where they could have a feed, a swim, or a walk out to King Island at low tide. In the Christmas holidays, the Point became a tent city with holidaying campers. There were no caravans then. A stage would be erected and concerts given.
Another activity for the beach was the annual sand garden competition, which was held on all the beaches from Redcliffe to Wellington Point. They were very well organised: each entrant was allotted their own area on the beach and it could be decorated in a given time only with materials such as shells and seaweed. In the case of Wellington Point, the materials could be collected from the beach at Wellington Point or from the sandspit between the Point and King Island. Some entrants collected their shells early and took them home to be bleached in the sun. This made their displays stand out more.
When we were kids, sometimes we’d go for walks over to Ormiston, and take some lunch with us for a picnic. On one occasion we got hopelessly lost and ended up at Ormiston House. Whereupon an elderly lady came up to us and said, “Are you aware that you are on private property.” We apologised, so we finished up being taken on a walk through the gardens by her and being shown all the rare trees such as the Indian Plum Trees. This was our idea of fun, which contrasts with today, where none of the kids get taken on picnics. Parents don’t have time to do things like that with their children now.
When Ernie was younger, he built a boat, which was very hard to launch through the mud. There were no channels dredged and no beacons, so it was hard to navigate back to the point at night – usually by a couple of streetlights.
Another thing we did with our children was to get them into sailing. Ernie even helped organise the Hobie Cat Australian Championship in mid to late 1975-76 with competitors coming from all over Australia.
Wellington Point October 2011
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)