“There were many flags at the lighthouse which the keepers used for signalling approaching ships. We children used to play under the flags when they were pulled down. I was never called on to help my father as there were Three Assistant Keepers to do that. During the era of 1912 – 1916 the Lighthouse staff were:
Superintendent: George P.Byrne
First Assistant: E.Harper
Oliver Birrell (later)
Second Assistant: Johnson
Third Assistant: Lockhard
“My mother worked in the office and she kept the records of the shipping. She was paid a small amount by the Marine Department. My mother always maintained high standards around the house. She always had damask tablecloth and serviettes, and for a time while she worked in the office she had a maid to help around the house.
“The keepers worked four hour shifts in the Watch House, on the lookout for approaching ships. My father, as Superintendent, always had a daytime shift. However, if a ship left a night, he was always notified by the keeper on watch by a knock on the window and the words “Steamer (NAME), departed North (or South) at (TIME)”. All this had to be recorded in the logbook in the watch house. My mother would then transcribe this into her log in the office. Also we had to give berthing instructions to the approaching ships such as “Berth at Dalgetty’s wharf or AUSN, or head upstream (or downstream) etc.” All this too had to be recorded.
“When shipping approached from south or north the Watch House at Cape Moreton would signal (with flags during the day, Morse at night) “Do you want a pilot?” If the ship required a pilot to guide it into port, we then notified them on board the pilot boat which was anchored near us at the Yellow Patch in the shelter of the island, and they went out to meet the approaching ship. The pilot would then board the ship and guide it up to Brisbane, the entrance being rather hazardous due to sand banks. After berthing he might stay in Brisbane for a few days break before rejoining the pilot boat. The pilots lived aboard, so they were always glad to visit us for a break on dry land. We used to watch them coming up the narrow track to the Cape. We always knew Captain Scott by his attire of white duck pants and a black coat. He would stay with us for a few days. We had an upright piano in our house which my father imported from America in 1900. Both my mother and Captain Scott were good pianists, and they loved playing duets together.
“The Assistant Keepers did not come to these musical evenings. In fact my father never fraternised with his men. They used to call him “boss” and he called them by their surname, that’s why I don’t know any of their given names.”
Of all Moreton Bay’s islands, the most inaccessible has always been, and still is, Moreton Island itself. For those obliged to stay there, in particular the lighthouse keepers and their families, this isolation posed its own set of problems, not the least of which was the education of their children.
At Cape Moreton, one of the sleeping quarters was converted into a school room in 1879 for the 21 children from the five families there including the Braydon, Griffin, Pascoe, and Jones families. Henry Ward was the first teacher and he remained there, popular with both his students and their parents, until his transfer in 1890.
Subsequent teachers proved less well adapted to their environment with repeated requests for transfers for reasons ranging from the isolation, poor supply of fresh produce, irregular mail communication, ill health, and the unfriendliness of the locals.
Discontent was to peak in 1912 when Mrs Harper, wife of the First Assistant Keeper, established herself as teacher for the Cape Moreton School. The Harpers proved to be socially unacceptable to the other members of the community and Mrs Harper was eventually removed from her position as school teacher.
She was followed by a succession of teachers who, although competent and on good terms with the locals, left after a short period because of the reasons already cited. Eventually, in 1926, the Cape Moreton Provisional School was closed and it was suggested that the remaining children enrol in correspondence classes.
Today, Claire Craig remembers her four years at Cape Moreton where her father George Byrne was Superintendent of the Lighthouse from 1912 until 1916….
SCHOOL DAYS AT THE CAPE
“I was seven when we went to Cape Moreton and was nearly 12 when we left. Our house was made of stone quarried locally and constructed by prison labour. It was situated on the exposed cliff near the Cape Moreton Lighthouse. The school house was a minute’s walk away down the hill which made it more protected from hurricanes than our house which was right on the top.
“I didn’t go to school for some time because my father, George P.Byrne, didn’t approve of the teacher, Mrs Harper, who was the wife of the First Assistant Keeper. During my time at home, when my mother, Elizabeth Emma Byrne, wasn’t giving me lessons, I went with my brothers to chip oysters from the rocks. We had to be very careful though because rogue waves could sweep away the unwary. One of the Harper’s sons, Vince, had been drowned off the rocks there.
“Eventually Mrs Harper resigned as the school teacher and her husband, First Assistant Harper was replaced by Oliver Birrell. From then on, the school teachers were all single women. Miss Lucie Tardent was my first teacher there. I had two brothers who went with me to school for the first year, but then had to go to the mainland school for their higher grades. There were about a dozen pupils including the three of us Byrnes, and the Henderson’s from Yellow Patch. On Saturdays, after my brothers went away, I used to walk down to the Hendersons and stay with them overnight, being watched by telescope walking down the track until I reached the turn off to Yellow Patch.
“Teachers only stayed for a short time. I don’t know whether it was policy for them to stay only a year, or whether they left because of loneliness. Although they stayed in a room in our house, my mother was in her thirties and Miss Tardent was only 18, so she must have missed people of her own age. Then Gladys Heaney came as teacher and she was there when war was declared in 1914. She was replaced by Miss Pocock who was quite elderly. Although I didn’t like her very much, I was obliged to go walking with her simply because she asked me and I couldn’t very well refuse.”
I’ve always been a bit of a loner and have had a go at all kinds of jobs from cane cutting to professional fishing. Prior to my coming to Moreton Island I had lived in an army bush tent at Double Island Point for three years where I fished for a living. But the Forestry Department took it over and I was forced to leave. I had been fishing off Moreton so I thought it would be a good place to go to. I chose North Point just round from the Cape Moreton light because it is the pick of the island. Ted Newman was the only other squatter at North Point when I arrived there in 1977. He was a net fisherman, unlike myself who used only a line.
I constructed a (20 foot by 20 foot) zincalume shed on a cement slab which I used as a house and fished from a 17 foot aluminium boat which I launched in the surf from a trailer towed by a Landrover 4WD. The nearby reefs – Brennan’s Shoal, Roberts’ Shoal, Deep & Shallow Tempest, Flinders, and Hutchisons Reef – yielded Schnapper, Sweet Lip, Pearl Perch, Maori Cod, and Mackerel.
I had two 5 kva diesel generators at the shed which I used to power five freezers and a fridge. I had one for ice, one for bait, and others for fish. I always kept my fish iced and not frozen because the eyes go if you freeze them.In the early days I used to take my catch in the boat to Bribie Island Fish Board, but when that closed down, I loaded them, freezer and all, in the back of the Landrover and took the barge across to Morgans at Scarborough. They always took my catch & paid well.
Harry and Jessie Wadsworth were still living at Moreton when I first moved there. Harry was a great fisherman and Jessie great at cooking them.
The squatting community at North Point continued to grow over the years and in the end there were 38 huts there. Most were weekenders and were not always occupied but about 100 people frequented the Point. The Hospital Fishing Club also had a place there. Our community held a regular darts contest against the Bulwer community and there was a 9 hole ‘course’ around Cape Moreton which also provided a golfing challenge between the two communities.
With increasing numbers of people coming to Moreton Island and more and more holiday homes being erected there, the pressure was on for us squatters to be moved on. I guess the wealthy people at Cowan objected to us living for free when they had to pay considerable rates. We formed the North Point Environmental Protection Committee and even engaged the services of a lobbyist who had done work for Keith Williams. Each hut contributed $200 on three separate occasions over a two year period, but in the end the Environment Minister wiped the lot of us. We offered to pay rates but the Department of Natural Resources gave us two months to leave. I was never one for city living and so I plan to move to Childers where I have bought 5 acres of bush.
Johann Carl Gustav Dux, known as “Gus”, was born in West Prussia, on 1st June 1852. Johann worked as a seaman, jumped ship in Cooktown, N.Q., and then worked his way down the coast until he arrived at German Station, now known as Nundah (a suburb of Brisbane).
Johann married at the age of 20 to Wilhemine Rose, 24 Years, from Grunhage, West Prussia. When she died at the age of 28, he married Bertha Lange, age 17 years, from Weinsdorf, West Prussia. Their first child, Friedrich Carl August Dux, known as “Augie”, was born on 2nd August 1878.
Dux Creek on Bribie Island was named after Gus, who eventually settled in what is now known as Dux Street, Caboolture. At the time, Dux Street ran right down to the Caboolture River, and it was from here that Gus did his fishing, crabbing and oystering, culling oysters from oyster banks at Pumicestone Passage, north of the Caboolture River, and on Bribie Island. It was a long hard pull by rowboat from Caboolture down the Caboolture River to Bribie Island for Gus, so he would camp overnight when he worked his oyster banks.
William, another of Gus’s sons, carried on his father’s business, and was known locally as Billy, the crab-man.
In the early 1900s Augie, Gus’s eldest son, moved to southern Moreton Bay where he worked as an oysterman eventually gaining employment with the Moreton Bay Oyster Company based at Currigee on South Stradbroke Island. He married Lillian O’Connell of Currigee in 1905. In 1910, Augie and his family moved to Labrador where they rented a house until he and the boys had built a bark hut from local timbers. They moved into the hut in 1918.
When this bark hut was demolished in about 1930 to make way for a more substantial house, the timber was used to construct a hut and jetty on South Stradbroke Island. This hut, with some alterations, is now Heritage Listed as Dux Hut.
The oyster bank, which Augie and some of his sons worked, still shows on some maps as Dux Oyster Bank. The family retained the licence to this bank (#122) until 1957.
At Labrador, the sports field across the road from where the bark hut and Dux family home, (still held by some of Augie’s descendants), was named Dux Oval many years ago.
“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.
“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!”
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.’
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 ….
THE MILITARY AT MORETON
“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.”
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 Morton, and 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.
(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’.”
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!”
And on the sea breeze, still moaning through the banksias, it’s still just possible to catch that faint childhood memory … that Bribie feeling.