Under the Boardwalk

‘Snow’ Portone told me this story…

Manly Jetty on Regatta Day 1914 (Photo courtesy State Library of Queensland)

When the Port family moved to the Bayside suburb of Manly, they leased, and lived in, the Kiosk on the end of the Manly jetty.  As well as fishing, the family was also heavily involved in sailing 18 footer skiffs, and it was not unusual on a Sunday night for skipper Bert Port to generously invite home his entire crew for dinner. This would naturally throw his wife into a panic trying to roust up an impromptu meal for an extra dozen or so mouths.  However, she knew she could always depend on her youngest son, ‘Snow’, to come up with a haul of fish at short notice.

You see, ‘Snow’ had this secret fishing spot where he knew he could land a good haul of Bream whenever he wanted.  However, he kept its location a secret from the rest of the family, and, being a fishing family, they respected his right to secrecy for his ‘good spot’. 

For years ‘Snow’ kept the location of his fishing spot a secret from his mother, but perhaps his reasons were more than for mere professional secrecy.

It was before the days of sewerage, and the plumbing for the men’s public toilet at the end of the jetty was just a short pipe above the water, and, yes, you guessed it, all ‘Snow’ had to do was lower his line through the urinal pipe and down into the water below. The pipe was just wide enough to pull up a decent sized Bream through it, and there always seemed to be a school of fish there!  The burly must have been good!

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

Three Generations of Auctioneers – 3 – Anthony (‘Tony’) Love

Compiled from family history material supplied by Judy Noble (nee Love)

Nim’s son, Tony, has also joined the firm founded by his grandfather, now trading as McGees National Property Consultants. From his grandfather, he has also inherited a love of boats, with his own yacht “Sweetheart” recalling the name of his family’s pride. Also following his grandfather, he has served as Commodore of the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, and President of the Brisbane Club.

Nim had always mentioned to Tony that following the passing of ‘The Skipper’ he spread his ashes in his favourite place in the Bay – Myora, and expressed the wish that when his time came, he would like the same resting place. Upon Nim’s death in 1999, Tony was able to fulfil his father’s wish.

As a result of submissions made by the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron, the Department of Transport renamed the Port Lateral Beacon immediately to the south of Myora ‘The Nim Love Beacon’ in memory of one of its longest serving members who spent a lifetime of recreation in nearby waters.

Tony Love at the Nim Love beacon

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

Three Generations of Auctioneers – 2 – James Peile (‘Nim’) Love

Compiled from family history material supplied by Judy Noble (nee Love)

Born in 1906, the youngest of ‘The Skipper’’s five children, Nim acquired his nickname because from infancy he could not pronounce the word James (Jim) – a nickname that stuck to him for all of his 92 years.

It was from his brother, Russell, that Nim developed his interest in mechanical things, and so he soon found himself in the role of ship’s engineer, responsible for maintaining and operating the machinery aboard “Sweetheart” whose Brooke petrol engine was always kept spotlessly clean and all brass and copper pipes were highly polished during each trip.

Sweetheart at Dunwich jetty (Photo courtesy Antony Love)

As a young boy, Nim remembered seeing the capture of a shark (pictured below) which when opened up was found to contain a young girl’s head. (Editor’s note: Although it is known that this incident followed the wreck of a vessel, the name of the vessel has not been recorded. Could this have been the girl that Captain Dudley Scott heard was taken by a shark at the wreck of the “St Paul” in 1914? Nim would have been 8 years old then. I am inclined to think it was). 

Getting jaws Tangaluma 1914

At the age of 17 in 1923 he joined Isles Love and Co. as an office boy learning his way around the growing town of Brisbane and his trade as an Auctioneer. One anecdote Nim passed on about finding his way about town was that his father had always told him that if in doubt, ask a policeman. When given a delivery to the office of Nicol Robinson Fox and Edwards and being unable to find them, he asked the policeman on point duty at the corner of Queen and Creek Street, to which was the reply “Gees son, do you want the whole of Queen Street!”

In 1958, Nim Love was to purchase own his own boat “Mollie II” which he, his family and his friends used as a pleasure and fishing craft for many years. 

Nim Love aboard ‘Mollie II’

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

Three Generations of Auctioneers – 1 – James Love

Compiled from family history material supplied by Judy Noble (nee Love)

In October 1889, James Love, then a clerk with the Queensland National Bank, was spending the weekend with his friend James Thomas Isles (of Finney Isles and Co). Both were dissatisfied with their prospects so James suggested that they both resign and go into partnership as Auctioneers. This they did and with each aged 23, they formed the firm of Isles Love and Co. The business prospered and was soon joined by James Isles’ brother, F.A.J. Isles. 

James Love was known to his family and close friends as Skipper, but in wider business and sporting circles as ‘Jic’. Described as a prince of good fellows, ‘The Skipper’ became a leader in his profession and in commercial circles in Brisbane. He was President of the Lawn Tennis Association in 1905; a founding member of the Brisbane Club in 1903, becoming President in 1921; Commodore of the Royal Queensland Yacht Club in 1923; President of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland and Australian in 1925 and a member of the Board of Advice of the Queensland National Bank, retiring as Chairman in 1941.

In 1899 following an interstate tennis match at rather unsatisfactory temporary tennis courts at the Brisbane Cricket Grounds, James Love, in the course of his auctioneering business, came in touch with the Dunmore estate at Auchenflower, part of which he became convinced would make an admirable tennis site. It was mainly through his efforts and those of Mr R.J.Cottell Jnr that this site was purchased and established as a centre for the Lawn Tennis Association by 1905.

James Love became the proud owner of the auxiliary ketch “Sweetheart” which was built for him by J.H.Whereat at Bulimba in 1911. 

“The Queenslander” of September 2, 1911 describes “Sweetheart” as follows: “Sweetheart” is 52 foot over all, by 10 foot 8 ½ inch beam, 4 foot 8 inch deep, and has a registered tonnage of 17.92 tons.

“She is built of full inch mountain pine planking, with yellow-wood ribs, and ironbark keel. The deckhouse is all of polished silky oak, with arctic glass windows, to each alternate one of which is fitted a moveable mosquito frame of brass gauze….

“Upon entering the saloon, which is 16 foot long, one is struck first by the beauty of the Queensland silky oak with which it is fitted throughout, and secondly by the excellent arrangements for comfort and convenience. There are four bunks, each with wire mattresses, velvet cushions, and cabinet chest of drawers beneath. There are two sideboards, an ice chest, a cabinet table with three drawers, and an airtight breadbox. The floors are covered with dark green inlaid linoleum, and the stairs are in maple, with corrugated brass treads. There is a handsome silky oak toilet cabinet against the bulkhead, similar to those in the large overseas steamers, fitted with washbasin, mirror, medicine cabinet, and cupboards. The doors are all of silky oak with satinwood panels, and on the sideboards are glass and bottle racks, and the usual fittings surrounded by a pediment of silky oak pillars….

“The engine is 45 horse-power, by Brooke, of Lowestorft, England, and is almost noiseless in action. … The lighting of the ship generally is by acetylene gas from a copper generator in the cockpit, but the engine-room is, for safety’s sake, fitted with shell electric lights, which are operated by electric batteries and accumulators….”

With his family and friends, he was to spend many happy times ‘down the Bay’. Photographic history of early days aboard “Sweetheart” show Myora anchorage and the many fine catches of fish taken from the Rainbow Channel. It was said that if you couldn’t fish you had better be able to play Bridge as ‘The Skipper’ was adept at both.

With the advent of radio telephony, “Sweetheart” became the first privately owned yacht in Australia to be equipped for transmission of voice. James’ son, Nim, operated Radio Station VK4JL from 1928 until 1939 when “Sweetheart” was requisitioned for the War effort.

James Love aboard Sweetheart off Stradbroke. (Photo courtesy Antony Love)

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

Playing the Banjo – Part 2

Frank Willoughby continues:

“I was born in 1933 but before that my brothers Tom and Bert, and my sister Gwen worked the “Regina” with dad.   Then later, my other brother, George Junior (“Nugget”), firstly on the “Regina” and later on the “S’port”.   Then I came along.  I started on the boats as a kid from when I was 6 years old.  When I got a bit more muscle, I used to work the guy which controlled the boom on the jetty at Southport.  The boats were loaded on Mondays in Brisbane and they arrived at Southport on Wednesdays. 

The trip from Brisbane

“I remember making many trips to Southport working on the “Florant” with my father, George.  Allan Thompson was the “Florant”‘s engineer because I was too young.  When we went aground, I used to have to roll all the drums on the deck aft to get over the bank.

“Florant” at Norman Wright’s boatyard (photo courtesy Graham Day)

 “Dad called me “Nap”.  On the trip down from Brisbane, when we reached Pott’s Point (we called it Pat’s Point) on Macleay Island he would flip a coin and ask me to call.  Heads we’d go through Canaipa or tails via Jacob’s Well. If we went by the Well, we’d lose a day and I’d miss out on time for sailing or going to the pictures.  If we went to Canaipa I had my sleep from Pott’s Point to Tulleen oyster banks, then dad would have his sleep while I rowed for two hours against the tide from Tulleen to Jacobs Well with the groceries.  Then if the tide was right, we got a good run to Southport and I’d have time for swimming and the pictures.

“We’d also call in to Bill Doberleen where Couran Cove now is.  Also, Bob and Mrs Latter used to live there, and the Fishers. To go there by boat was 7/6 but dad would waive the fee in exchange for fruit or crabs.  We also got oysters from Currigee.  If we arrived too early for them, I used to help them bag them.  

            “On the Broadwater as we approached Southport, our vessel would pass the Deep Hole, round the first buoy to Biggera Creek, pass the Grand Hotel, then fisherman’s wharf at Marine Parade.  Then came Mitchell’s wharf, and we’d swing to a set of butterfly leads that took you to Parrot Rock where Tuesley’s had an oyster bank and where they used to pump yabbies.  Then we’d round the beacon, pass the Pier Theatre, pass the buoy in front of the Civic Hotel, then swing to port and up towards the Basin and the old “Mawonda”.  Then we had to stop and lower the mast to get under the old Jubilee Bridge.   In the old days the bridge had a lift span which had to be raised by hand.  I think Harry Crompton used to do this.  Then the authorities put a hump in the bridge so the Kleinschmidt’s could get their boat under.

“On the return trips, the boats called into the White Cliffs on Stradbroke Island to load sand for the glassworks, Queensland Glass Manufacturers (QGM) in Brisbane.  We also supplied sand to Silso Sand Soap, Sargeant’s Foundy, and children’s playgrounds.

Playing the Banjo 

This was the term used for shovelling sand onto the “Florant” at the White Cliffs in the Canaipa Passage on Stradbroke Island.  All the work was done by hand, even at night by the light of paint pots filled with burning dieseline.  An added bonus for working at night was that the smoke kept the mossies away.  The “Florant”‘s days were to end at the White Cliffs when she caught fire and burnt there.

            Sand shovelling was back breaking work and was not for the faint hearted.  Indeed, sand shovelling championships were organised at Southport to see who could fill a truck the fastest.  Graham Dillon was one of the champs.  Best times were about twenty minutes for one man or ten minutes for a two-man team.  In original competitions, a keg of beer was the prize, but later prizes were chrome plated shovels.

“Florant” loading sand (photo Graham Day)

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People, The Complete Collection’)

Disaster ‘Down the Bay’ (contributed by Nick Moffatt)

(Editor: Moreton Bay has always been a popular boaties’ escape from the confines of life in up-river Brisbane. It was a chance to ‘get lost’ for a holiday without the cares of its business world.  To be uncontactable. It was also not without its risks, as the moods of Moreton Bay were unpredictable. Such was the experience of William Gillespie Moffat who with his brother, James Campbell Moffat, owned a Drug Store (Moffat Brothers) on Edward Street, Brisbane at the time.)

Mouth of Brisbane River 1920s (photo contributed by Tony Love)

THE LATE BOAT ACCIDENT (12 May 1882)

A MAGISTERIAL inquiry relating to the late boat accident at the mouth of the Brisbane River was commenced before Colonel Ross on Monday, and resumed yesterday. In all, four witnesses have been examined, and their testimony is to the following effect:-A party, consisting of William Gillespie Moffat and son, James Phelan, Wilfred Bartley, Robert Waine, E. S. Diggles, and Alfred Edwards, started in the Native, a boat belonging to Mr. James Edwards, of Kangaroo Point, from Mr. Edwards’s shed at 4 o clock on Saturday afternoon on a fishing excursion to Mud Island.

They reached their destination at half-past 9 o’clock on the same evening, and anchored for the night. The weather was rough, with a heavy sea during the night, and in the morning a stiff breeze was blowing from the south-east. The party fished the next morning until about half past 9 o’clock, when a start was made for home. 

When they got to the mouth of the river, near Luggage Point, Phelan, who was in charge of the boat, reefed the sails, putting two reefs in the mainsail and one in the jib, and made one tack to Fisherman’s Island, and then stood in towards Luggage Point. When within about twenty yards to the leeward of the black buoy a heavy puff struck the beat, and laid her down to the combings. Both sheets were at once slacked, and the boat partly righted, when another stronger squall struck her more abeam, and a heavy sea struck her on the weather bow at the same time. 

Although the crew were all sitting up to windward, the ballast shifted to leeward; and the craft commenced to sink immediately. Moffat’s little boy was under the deck, and Bartley pulled him out and gave him to his father, who took him. Phelan got into the dingy at once, and tried to cut the painter which secured it, to the boat, but was unable to do so, as the boat sank stern first. He went down with the dingy while endeavouring to free her, and when he came to the surface, he was exhausted and could see nobody. He struck out for the shore, but after going some little distance came up to young Edwards, who sang out for help. 

Phelan, seeing the dingy’s paddles floating some distance off, swam to them and brought them to him. He kept in company with Edwards for some time, encouraging him to keep on. After a while he lost sight of Edwards and could not turn to help him as he was quite exhausted himself, the sea being very rough. Phelan reckoned he swam about a quarter of a mile before getting ashore; he passed Bartley and Waine as he swam ashore. When near the shore he sank from exhaustion, but recovered himself sufficiently to gain the bank. Diggles reached the shore first, Phelan next, then Bartley, who was followed by Waine. 

They remained on the beach where they first landed about half-an-hour, and then walked along the beach looking out for Moffat and the others, but could see nothing of them. They picked up one of the paddles Phelan had given young Edwards to assist him in swimming, and also the rudder of the boat, and continued to walk along the beach until they came to a fire, where they remained another half-hour. After warming themselves they felt stronger, and walked to the house of a German settler, who gave them some tea. Diggles was in advance of the party. They met a fisherman, who took them to his house and gave them some refreshments. Phelan related the occurrence to the fisherman, and he went with another man to look for the bodies. 

Phelan stated he had been down the Bay in the Native several times, and considered her perfectly safe. He attributed the accident entirely to the weather. The sheets were not fast at the time of the accident. He also stated he had sailed in the Bay for several years, and was competent to sail a boat. The party were driven to town in two spring carts- Diggles arriving first and reported the occurrence to the police. The last that was seen of Moffat alive was just after the boat went down. He then struck out for the shore, with his son in his arms. George Payne, a Customs boatman, went over to Luggage Point on Sunday afternoon, and found the dead body of W. G. Moffat on the beach, in charge of a fisherman. He had the body brought to Brisbane.

(Extract from The Brisbane Courier, Wednesday 24 May 1882.)

The Powder Monkey (by Alex King)

Tangalooma Wrecks, Moreton Island (photo courtesy Ishara Udawela, Wikipedia Creative Commons)

I had a fair bit to do with the scuttling of the vessels at Tangalooma to form the artificial reef there. I was master of the Echeneis at the time and I was given the job of taking many of the old dredges and barges to Tangalooma and scuttling them. They were more or less scuttled at the same time except the Echeneis and the Groper, which were the last of them. All the dredges had reached the end of their working days and had been replaced by the Sir Thomas Hiley. When the Sir Thomas Hiley arrived on the scene, it was like a big jump forward out of the 1930s or even earlier for us, right up into the sophisticated world of dredging as it was overseas. She was built at Walkers (Maryborough) and was one of the most modern in the world. It made a lot of the other dredges redundant. I was dredging Superintendent then. We did keep the Groper on because there was always work for bucket dredges and because some work can only be done by bucket dredges. Of course, they are much more sophisticated now as far as their controls are concerned. They are still being used all over the world but not in Brisbane. They have a clam dredge that does a lot of the wharves and they have a small cutter suction dredge, but the Brisbane is the main dredge now, which took over from the Sir Thomas Hiley.

As far as the scuttling at Tangalooma went, our powder monkey was a fellow called Digger Poole. He had been in charge of the rock blasting at the Kangaroo Point quarry. He was an interesting character and had a habit of using twice the amount of charge required for a job. He was on a couple of jobs with me – at Tangalooma, at the Fisherman Islands development, and at Arcadia on Magnetic Island. His job was to make up and detonate the charges. We’d give him the OK and away he’d go. He had been in the army and came back into Harbours and Marine right after the war. When we started the development at Fisherman Islands there were a lot of old pipes left there from the old dredges and Digger blew them up too.

At Arcadia on Magnetic Island we gave him the job of blasting out the coral outcrops (bomby) to clear a boat passage. When we went down to inspect the area where the coral bomby had been, the bomby was gone and there was a crater almost as deep as the bomby had been high. How we didn’t disturb some of the large boulders that seem precariously balanced on the waterfront in that area I don’t know.

(Extract from ‘The Port of Brisbane, Its People and Its Personalities’)

Where’s Toondah? 

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’.)

Model of the Steam Launch “Toondah” in the Redlands Museum

A Little Night Navigation with my Father and Uncle Jack – by Marilyn Carr

(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.

The Simes’ boat moored in the Bribie Passage

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. 

‘Torphins’ in 1948
Peter, Allan, and Marilyn Simes with their father, Peter in 1948

 The navigators: Peter Simes (1906 – 1974); Jack Kieseker (1914 – 1983)

Writer: Marilyn Carr (nee Simes)

Ralph Munro’s Reminiscences – Part 1 – Early Days

Right from when I was just three weeks old, I have had a close association with boats and the water. Our family boat was the Seamark. Dad bought it after World War II at the Government sale of commandeered boats. For some reason all the motors had been removed and these had to be bought separately at auction. Dad had to make do with a Grant petrol motor for the first few years until he could get his hands on a Grey marine diesel. We had the fuel tank on the footpath, which we used for ball games. Dad was always paranoid about the boat catching fire from the petrol motor.

We regularly went down the Bay for weekends or weeks at a time. The 18-foot skiffs club at Bulimba now owns our former house. While I was still a baby, dad used a wooden fruit crate which he lined inside and out with canvas to swim me ashore in. Seamark was known as dad’s nappy boat because he had bought it off the NAP at auction – and because it was always festooned with my nappies. (Editor’s note: – During WWII, inspired by the British small ships evacuation of stranded troops at Dunkirk, the Naval Auxiliary Association of Queensland (NAP) was formed. Its duties in Moreton Bay were mainly civilian patrol work, but it was limited by the small number of vessels left available after most had been commandeered by the Government. It continued after the war as a ‘men only’ club and is now the Little Ships Club at Dunwich). 

NAP 582 exploding a depth charge off Mud Island (photo courtesy Ralph Munro)

My first recollection was of porpoises. We never called them dolphins then; always porpoises, and I thought a porpoise was a truck tyre with 5 or 6 fins, because this is the way they looked rolling through the water. 

About the age of three, I was diagnosed with nock knees and put in steel braces, but when dad found me hanging off the stern plate of the boat unable to clamber aboard, he took them off, never to be seen again. They’re still on the bottom off Peel Island. Dad had polio when he was four years old and had a massively built-up boot and steel leg support but he still took me sailing in a little 9 foot open dinghy then training in 20 knot breezes. If we had of capsized, the weight of his steel boot and leg would have taken him straight down to the bottom. But this didn’t stop him. Nor did it stop him taking me fishing. At Point Lookout on the south side of the gorge there was a one-inch cable strung out to the outer rock and he would go hand in hand along it with his fishing creels and me around his neck. There was also the added problem, if there was a good catch of fish, of getting them back again. Once Lennie and Wendy Goebbels caught 64 big ones and it took them all afternoon to take them back, four or five fish at a time, across the rocks and up cliffs to where they live in North Street. 

Life at Work

I started work in the family typewriter business but soon after my father died, I parted ways and went to Olivetti who sent me to North Queensland. Later I went on to Papua New Guinea and got into the prawn trawling on two American boats Bulolo I and Bulolo II. After New Guinea I moved back to North Queensland to Port Douglas then to Townsville. Then I went to the Gulf of Carpentaria prawning for three seasons where I worked on the bigger boats. That’s where they brought in skipper tickets in 1974/5. Because they couldn’t shut down the entire industry for the want of tickets, the test they brought in was originally quite simple. We all had to go into Cairns, do a one-day course, then answer a verbal questionnaire, and we got our tickets. Captain Bauer did the verbals because some of the fishermen couldn’t read or write. The forms were printed, “can/cannot read or write” and of course we all ticket “cannot” to get the easy exam. 

Most people thus employed started working in Brisbane and slowly worked their way up the coast, but I started at the top and worked down the coast. 

In the 1980s I was working a prawn trawler out of Southport when my right arm was caught in a winch and I spent the next 33 months in the Gold Coast Hospital. I was one of the first patients to get the infection Golden Staph. What an honour! While my arm was healing, I came home to Thornlands and went to work at the firm of Golden Cockerel. 

Later I helped Joe Dryberg run schools to teach people going into the fishing industry as deck hands. Joe would teach the engineering theory and I would teach the practical side such as making nets, rope splicing etc. Most of them came from CES (Commonwealth Employment Service). 

Although the trawlers where primarily prawn trawlers, they were fishing boats and prawns would be about 60% of the catch and the rest would be the off catch such as crabs, squid, fish, and returnable soft drink bottles, but politics have slowly banned the off catch. Then I got back into yacht racing in the 1986 Brisbane to Gladstone with Ron Doolan for whom I worked at Golden Cockerel. He had been desperately looking for crew and when he was told that I had the experience, he told me that I was racing for him! His yacht was the 28- foot Bolero and we were the smallest in the race. We won on handicap that year. In the five races I went on that boat, we never came in lower than sixth on handicap. 

Ralph Munro 12 January 2008 

(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)