(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)
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).
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)
At the September 2005 meeting of the Redcliffe Historical Society, I listened to the lecture by Peter Ludlow on Peel Island. It brought back memories to me of some of the Bay islands, when I was a very young boy, about seven or eight years old. I was born in 1910, so this would have been around 1918. By then, the Otter, the Government vessel, took supplies over to the three islands, St. Helena, which was the penal settlement; Peel Island, the lazaret; and to Stradbroke Island, at Dunwich, where there was a home for the elderly.
In those days you had to obtain a permit from the relevant department to travel on the Otter. I think if you had relatives at Dunwich you could travel more often, but other people were limited to visiting there once a year. I distinctly remember going there one day with my grandmother. We sailed firstly to St Helena where a trolley was rolled out along the jetty by men who I take it were the ‘residents’. The supplies were loaded onto this trolley. Then we proceeded on to Peel Island where the same procedure was followed, the trolley perhaps rolled out by the healthier patients, or possibly staff. Then the boat sailed on to Dunwich where I think we stayed for about two hours. This gave you time to visit residents or walk around the area. Then of course the Otter returned to Brisbane at North Quay. I understand that it made this trip about twice a week.
It’s marvellous how listening to Peter’s lecture has revived my memories about these events. Also, referring to old memories, I think it must have been in late 1914 or early 1915 that my father took me to Redcliffe. I would have been four or five. I remember going there on the Koopa. Now the Koopa, to us young boys, was the pride of the Brisbane River. It had to be because it had two funnels, and any ship with two funnels was marvellous, you know! I remember pulling in to the old Redcliffe Jetty, walking along this long jetty and coming to this house in the middle – I think we called it the halfway house – then stepping ashore at Redcliffe. That was my first visit.
The second visit to this area was landing at Woody Point, on the Lucinda. This boat used to bring the children of the State Schools there, for a picnic once a year. Once again, I was with my grandmother. We left Queen’s Wharf to sail down the Brisbane River, and then cross Bramble Bay to Woody Point. We never came to Redcliffe for these picnics, just Woody Point. I remember doing this trip a couple of times. They were my early memories of Moreton Bay.
My memories of Bribie Island were when the Brisbane Tug Company who owned the Koopa and the Beaver had a lease of the island. There was a caretaker there, and little huts on the Passage side. I remember staying there with my grandmother. The huts were simple, one room, with beds, a wood stove and a sink. There was no running water. You had to use the pump at the caretaker’s house and carry the water in a kerosene tin back to your hut. I think the rent was two shillings and sixpence (25 cents) a week. That’s all there was at Bribie. There was nothing over at the main beach. We walked across, about three miles, on a sandy track. I remember my mother and me doing this walk carrying drinking water in a billycan, which was always very warm on arrival! There was only one vehicle on the island, which belonged to the caretaker, who was the only permanent resident. It used to be amusing. We’d sail to Bribie on the Koopa, which was equipped with a bar. The people holidaying on the island would be waiting for us to tie up, then, as we went ashore, they would board the boat and enjoy the bar facilities. This procedure was reversed when we were about to leave in the afternoon. In later years, when people came to live on Bribie, a bowling club was formed. In those days, Brisbane had no hotels open on a Sunday. The bowling club had a liquor license, but could sell alcohol to members only. This resulted in many Brisbane people joining the club, which was reputed to have the largest membership of any bowling club in Queensland!
The old Koopa kept on running, year after year. Then the Second World War broke out in 1939. I was in the Navy, and I came across the Koopa at anchor in Milne Bay in New Guinea. She was the mother ship to the Fairmile class of small Australian patrol boats. I never heard of her after that, and don’t know what happened to her – whether she lies somewhere still or has been broken up for razor blades.
Later when I was about fourteen, I sailed the bay with my family and friends. I remember that we always skirted around Peel Island, afraid that we might get washed up there. Then we sailed on to Dunwich, where we would get lovely fresh bread and stores. We would travel down the Canaipa Passage, on to the Broadwater and Southport, where we anchored. Altogether we spent a lovely two weeks around the southern part of the bay. We lived on the boat, but went ashore for events such as the New Year’s Eve festivities at Southport. Unlike some events today, with young people running wild, these were orderly yet enjoyable occasions. In those days, too, the waters were quiet, not crowded with the shipping that there is today. There were no ‘tinnies’ with outboard motors, no jet-skis. The Bay was peaceful as you sailed across, and plenty of fish for dinner!
Anyway, these are memories I like to think back on, and when you hear a lecture, someone else talking about these items, it brings back more recollections. So to have people such as Peter Ludlow revive these memories for me is indeed a real pleasure.
Redcliffe Historical Society
Editor: Like my lecture to the Redcliffe Historical Society, I hope this blog will invoke many such memories of our Moreton Bay for you, my reader. But if you have none to invoke, then I hope my words will stimulate you go down to the bay and collect some of your own.
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)
(Evelyn was a relative of Jim2, a former patient at Peel Island Lazaret)
What the HD1 patients hated most about their Lazaret at Peel Island, and what was the worst thing was their segregation away from their families, which were broken up – not just for months but for years – and in many cases the other spouse went their own way. Probably under the circumstances you couldn’t blame them. To be sent to Peel Island was virtually a lifetime sentence in the early days.
I could never understand why segregation was imposed because there were people living and working there amongst the patients, without any ill effect – and the conditions weren’t hygienic by any means. They used to boil the instruments on a primus (kerosene) stove in a dish. Can you call that hygiene?
A Relative’s Visit
One of my first visits to Peel Island as a patient’s relative was on board the Otter – the Government steamer that used to service the island. It cost us a shilling (10 cents), which probably was quite cheap, really. To catch the boat, we used to leave home at about 6.30 in the morning. It used to depart from William Street in the city and then travel down the Brisbane River. Then, when we got to Moreton Bay, we’d call into St Helena to deliver the stores to the prison that was still operating there. Then we’d sail across to a point just off Peel Island, and they’d bring out the launch Karboora. We’d be transferred onto that, and many a time then have to be transferred again onto a dinghy because the tide was too low. Sometimes it was very rough, so that we really and truly knew that we were in a boat.
We took our own lunch down with us, so when we met our patient relative at the jetty, we could sit down under a tree and have lunch with them. We’d stay there until the boat came to pick us up in about an hour. We weren’t allowed to go up to the hospital section on the island.
Then, of course, we’d have the same procedure coming home. If it were really rough, we’d have to have the dinghy to get to the Karboora, but if it was good they could get the Karboora right into the jetty. Of course, this was the old stone jetty on the eastern end of the island. Later they did build a new jetty on the western side of the island, which was a lot better.
The Otter returned to Brisbane about 6 pm, and by the time we got home it was 6.30. It was a lot of travel just to spend one hour with our relative on Peel Island. It was worse for people who had to travel all the way from the country, just for an hour. It was especially tiring for elderly people.
This was in the 1930s, and we were allowed two visits per month. In later years they gave us extra visitation rights, and we then were allowed two passes a week. No kiddies under 14 were allowed to go down, so therefore a lot of the patients never saw their children.
To get a pass we had to apply to the Health Office in William Street. We couldn’t go without one; nor could we land on the island. The Superintendent there would collect the passes when we went ashore. It was thought that the passes were one way of controlling the patients’ behaviour – if the patient misbehaved, his relative wouldn’t be given a pass. On top of their segregation, that there were a lot of rules and regulations that the patients didn’t like either, and of course they used to renege against it, and because they did that, the authorities would say, “Well, you’re not getting visitors,” you know.
So they were kept on Peel under these circumstances like little children to a lot of extent until the latter years.
The Patients’ Committee
Then a Patients’ Committee got together, and they stirred things up quite well. They formed a big committee down there amongst themselves and laid the law down implacably to the Government. They hadn’t been allowed to have anything of their own on the island, but then the Health Department under Dr Fryberg, did give them quite a few things that they wanted. They were allowed to have chooks or ducks or whatever. This was a really good help for them, because it gave them something to do.
Originally the patients weren’t allowed boats, but they eventually did allow them a boat amongst themselves. They were only supposed to be small boats or rowing boats – but the Health Department relaxed the conditions a bit towards the end. The boats were difficult to police all the time, because there was no one there to do it. The patients weren’t allowed to leave the island. They could go out fishing on the reefs, but they weren’t supposed to go onto the mainland. Some did, though. They had quite a few parties away from the island. You’d meet them all at the Exhibition (Brisbane’s Royal National Association show held annually in August), where they had quite a good time, and then they’d go back to the island. I don’t think the authorities ever knew, or if they did, they didn’t say anything.
The Patients Committee used to write letters to various people. They even got in touch with the Carville Clinic in Louisiana, America, who gave them all the particulars about the discovery of the new sulphone drugs, and that’s where they all started on the new treatment. It was through Carville, and through the patients getting in touch with the patients there, that they got the idea of this new treatment. In fact, I don’t know that it was even known to the authorities today, but at that time there were patients at Peel who were having the treatment from Carville. They bought it themselves – it was by injection, and they were doing their own injections, unbeknownst to the Health Department here at that stage.
Up until that time they didn’t have any variety of treatment. They just gave them the same old chaulmoogra oil and all those sort of things, but I know for a fact that three of the patients on Peel were on the new treatment, and they leapt ahead in health. The authorities here couldn’t understand that all of a sudden they were doing so well. It was the start of the cure, because after that the Government got onto the new drugs and they brought them into the place. That’s when the patients started to get their ‘clean’ monthly blood smears. It was a wonderful feeling to realise that there was finally a cure for our relative.
There was a big problem with drinking down there on Peel Island. It wasn’t only the patients who were drinking. The staff were every bit as bad. I have been on the boats with them, coming back from leave so drunk that you would wonder how they could get off the boat. However, when the Patients’ Committee was formed, they demanded that the problem be attended to. They brought down staff from the Head Office at the Health Department, and from the newspapers, and something was done.
It did seem to be the turning point, and I suppose the new treatments did come about this time, or just after. It gave them a new hope.
Supplies and Pilferage
Maybe they say it was shortage of supplies. That could have been right, but a lot of the supplies that probably should have been down there and were probably billed for being down there, let’s face it, three parts of them probably never got there – or they might have got there, but they went away again.
Pilferage was always a problem – and don’t say it was the patients, because they couldn’t even get them – although I’ll admit some of the patients used to abuse the privileges, too. They were allowed so much toothpaste and so much soap, so much this and that. They’d maybe go over to the store today and get a tube of toothpaste, and the next day go again and get another tube of toothpaste because they’d thrown the one away or dropped it or something. But sometimes the goods didn’t even get to the store. Of course, after the patients formed their committee at Peel they got a lot of things then, and as I said, things didn’t go so bad after that. They were more accountable.
I have heard of some of the patients’ relatives experiencing ostracism from their neighbours – not myself personally, I never felt anything at all about that, but others had reported that they wouldn’t let their children play with a relative’s children, if they knew the patient was on Peel Island, or they would call out to them, “Leprosy! Leprosy!” That has been said, I believe, but as far as I’m concerned they never said anything to me, and I never worried.
I think probably when you look around it’s like TB. If a patient knew he had TB, he didn’t like it to be known everywhere because the simple reason was that they wouldn’t let their children play with fathers and mothers that had TB.
But that’s few and far between, thank God. There was always that fear, though. Well, I don’t think any patient on Peel Island was ever sent a letter in their right name. They would have been all under a nom de plume of some description, and more so in the country where a lot of them came from, or up the North, where the postman knew everybody.
The Relatives and Friends of Peel Island
One day quite a few of us had been visiting patients, who at this time were very aggressive about something, and we were just about sick of having to get onto boats and get onto dinghies. A couple of times when the weather was rough we had to stay there at Peel. So we decided we’d all get together and we met down at the Botanical Gardens, where we formed our committee, which we called the Relatives and Friends of Peel Island.
We were quite an active committee. I was secretary in the latter part, but in the first stage the secretary used to write to every Leprosarium practising in the world, and got all the different data from the different places to find out how they were, and how they were on the treatment and everything else like this.
At one stage just after World War II we even got a chap from down in Sydney, and he just about blew the place wide open. He had the newspapers, the editors down there, Lord knows what – but we had to get it across to the public, and get it across to the Health Department that the patients needed attention.
We also organised parties for the patients on Peel, and we used to run a Christmas Appeal. That Christmas Appeal was well organised, and it was very well received. We got a terrific amount of money from different people who used to send in for the Christmas Appeal. We used to take down our Christmas parties to the island, and we used to give the patients a Christmas party that they never forgot.
Of course, we all put in a certain amount of money ourselves. We had a lot of people in our organisation who were not relatives of patients. They used to come in, just as friends, and they’d help out in lots of ways. It was really good.
I think we did get a lot of privileges for the patients: importantly, they were finally allowed their own access to a phone. Before that they used to write to the Health Department, and probably when the Department did get the letters, they tore them up.
Then the patients were allowed to have their own things – well, one chap had ducks. Another bloke had goats. They used to do fishing. Then we were allowed to take the concert parties down to Peel, which the patients used to look forward to. We took them down a couple of times a year besides the Christmas.
After the Lazaret was closed and they shifted the remaining patients from Peel to the PA Hospital, the organisation broke up because we had done our part by this time.
1. Because of its stigma, the name Leprosy has now been replaced with the term Hansen’s Disease, or just HD.
2. Because of the stigma that surrounded Leprosy and to which some family members are still sensitive, I have used the pseudonym ‘Jim’ to denote this patient – the same one that I had used previously to record some of his reminiscences in my 1987 book “Peel Island – Paradise or Prison”.
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)
Raising the “Maid of Sker”. (photo courtesy Frank Willoughby)
Further to my previous post of 28.04.2018‘Kleinschmidt’s Depot at Grey Street’, Frank Willoughby had also given me the above photo.
The Kleinschmidt’s vessels had long been transporting sand from Stradbroke Island for the Brisbane Glassworks at South Brisbane/West End. Eventually some of their boats such as the “Maid of Sker” and the “S’port” were converted to gravel barges working the Brisbane River. In the above photo, the “Maid of Sker” had sunk where the Merivale Street rail bridge is now situated.The vessels from left are: “Regina”, “26”, “Maid of Sker” (underwater), and a barge “Glen Iris”.In the background (from left) are Carmichael’s sawmill, Foggitt Jones (meatworks), and QGM Glassworks.
Frank Willoughby had also supplied the following photo of the “S’Port” (a shortened form of Southport, where the Kleinschmidt’s depot was situated in the south of Moreton Bay.)
“S’port” at Depot under Grey Street Bridge (photo courtesy Frank Willoughby)
and of the “Maid of Sker” in more happy circumstances above the surface of the water:
“Maid of Sker” loading sand at Canaipa (photo courtesy Frank Willoughby)
Kleinschmidt’s depot at Grey Street (photo courtesy Graham Day)
Robin Kleinschmidt writes:
The wharf, office and a house were on the upstream site of where the William Jolly Bridge is now. This photo is of the bins and storage areas of Moreton Sand and Gravel approximately where the Kurilpa Bridge enters the parkland today. It was the secondary part of their operations, but when the shipping on the bay began to lose out to the road and rail transport, this became their mainstay. They acquired it from a consortium of hardware retailers whose building company customers wanted a one stop shop which including the sand and gravel for their concreting. It was run poorly and without enthusiasm until Uncle Ted and his son Ray bought it. They had long been transporting sand from Stradbroke Island for the Brisbane Glassworks at South Brisbane/West End, and eventually some of their boats such as The Maid of Sker and the S’port were converted to gravel barges working the Brisbane River.
Communities often choose to remember their pioneers by naming a bridge in their honour. Caboolture did this with its Captain Whish Bridge that spans the Caboolture River. I have always attributed his name to a sea captain, but further research revealed that he was a Captain in the British Army in India. Claudius Buchanan Whish was born in London in 1827 into a military family. After serving in India and Persia he travelled to NSW and SA to buy cavalry remounts for the Indian Army.
After his marriage to Anne in about 1858, Whish migrated to Queensland on the ‘Young Australia’ and began the Oaklands sugar plantation in Caboolture on 15 August 1862. He became chairman of the local planters’ association and hired Pacific islanders to work on the crop – a move that lost him favour with the people when a committee on Pacific island labour was informed that whippings had taken place on Whish’s estate. This evidence gained little credence as Whish was a justice for peace and a deeply religious man.
Whish was appointed to the Queensland Legislative Council in June 1870. Although he is known as the first successful sugar-producer in Queensland, Whish’s estate lost its worth and he resigned from the Legislative Council in March 1872, sold his machinery and became a surveyor of roads. By September 1873, Whish was bankrupt with a debt of £5598, although he was promoted to inspector of road surveys for the southern division in 1875 and for the colony in 1880.
In 1889 Whish took his leave by setting out for England. He was aboard the fated RMS Quetta on the day it sank in the Torres Strait. His wife Anne perished with him.
Drawing of ‘Quetta’ sinking in Torres Strait
There is another memorial to Captain Whish, his wife Anne and to the other 132 souls who perished with them: the Quetta Memorial Cathedral Church, Thursday Island.
When I was six, maybe even younger, my father used to take me down to the lowest deck on the SS “Koopa” to watch the two stokers at work shovelling in the coal; we would also pause further along the passage-way at the half-door which allowed a small child, partly hoisted up by their father, to peer down into the gleaming engine room. The engine was painted red and green; the brass plaque that would have said when and where the S.S. “Koopa” was built truly shone. It must be fifty years since the “Koopa” last sailed across the Bay to Bribie – after stopping at Redcliffe jetty. I can remember a Thursday trip in 1950 or 1951 which would have been close to when it stopped running, but my earliest recollections go back to before its service elsewhere during the Second World War.
However, if I shut my eyes, in my imagination I can curl my hands around the varnished, curved railings still.
‘Koopa’ at Bribie Jetty 1920s (photo courtesy Ian Hall)
What wonderful stories that “old girl” could have told! May I share a couple of stories that come to mind? First, we were told an enormous groper was supposed to have its home under the shelf just where the “Koopa” berthed at Bribie. Legend had it that once some foolhardy soul did not heed advice and dived into the water off the “Koopa”. He went straight into the jaws of the waiting groper!
There were bottles of oysters that could be purchased by passengers from a little kiosk (which was painted black and sat between the two runways that led out to the wharf) as they returned to the Koopa after their three hours’ stay on Bribie. Three short toots signalled the vessels immediate departure back to Brisbane. Life on Bribie revolved around the arrival and departure four times a week of the “Koopa”. (I think there may also have been some night trips at one time.)
One has to be a little careful here, though the lady of this story was most respected by my family. She still, I believe, would have many relatives around Moreton Bay. The lady grew carnations which she would take to the “Koopa” for them to be sold in Brisbane. She had also been left by her former employer a motor car (possibly one of the very few cars – not trucks – on the island. One needs to think “Model T” now) and driving this car she would automobile (“drive” as a word seems inadequate and there were not really roads anyway) to the jetty all dressed up in flowing white wearing a large hat and carrying her big, big bunch of carnations.
Occasionally, on her return home could one say the warmth of the day would overcome her and she would stop for a little snore!
Just before the final journey of the “Koopa” to Bribie, Bribie’s Lady of the Carnations made her last trip as well. She had passed away and the captain of the “Koopa” had the task of the dispersal of her ashes from the “Koopa”’s deck. Now, I only heard this story but it goes like this: there was a sudden wind change at the critical moment of the dispersal ceremony. Bribie’s Lady of the Carnations did not return immediately to the Bay but to the “Koopa”’s decks! Her spirit furious, that was the end of the “Koopa”!
‘I was on the fishing boat that towed the hulk of the ‘Cormorant’ to its final resting place on Bribie Island. The ‘Cormorant’ had been purchased by Bribie resident, George Sharp, with the object of using it to stop the erosion of Bongaree foreshore frontages. As planned we arrived at Bribie at 5:00pm at the top of the tide. Arrangements had been made to meet up with Council employees, who would help put the hull in place, but there was no sign of anyone from Council, after a short time, we decided to go ahead and beach the ‘Cormorant’ ourselves. We fitted ropes to the shore, attaching one to a tree and the fishing boat guided the hull into position. The ‘Cormorant’ rested on the bottom about half way up the beach. Billy Woods had been engaged for the following morning to blow a hole in the hull, ensuring it was stay where it was placed. He arrived as planned and assuming the hull was where the Council put it, proceeded to place the explosives in the hull and detonate them. The ‘Cormorant’ would remain exactly where me and my mate, Ron Duell, had beached her until 1990 when its remains were removed for safety reasons.’
‘I was four years old in 1919 and my family lived in Terrace Street, New Farm. It was just after WWI and Brisbane was in the grip of the Bubonic Plague. So bad was it that the authorities had a horse and wagon which used to go round the suburbs to collect the dead. It was reminiscent of the Black Plague in Europe centuries earlier.
‘One morning dad heard the wagon in the street outside our house and the call of “Bring out your dead.” When he looked out the window he saw four bodies from the house next door being loaded on the wagon. It was all he needed to make up his mind and he called to my mother, Elsie, to pack a port. Then our family caught the S.S. “Koopa” down to Bribie Island.
‘We had no money and nowhere to live, so we went up about a mile south of the jetty where the RSL Club now is. It was all bush then and dad had packed a small tomahawk in the port which he used to strip bark from the pine trees and build a little humpy for shelter. Fortunately food was plentiful. We’d put a lasso out with food to attract goannas, which we’d skin, fillet and cook. Or we would boil up a bucket of yabbies. Fish were also plentiful which we caught using bent pins on a line.’
‘I visited Bribie’s reclusive artist, Ian Fairweather’s hut many times. If we happened to meet at the shops, I would have a cup of tea with him at Joe’s Jetty Café. Fairweather was then heavily involved with his translations of ancient Chinese novels, a task which required enormous concentration and perseverance.
‘So fine were his translations that the Buddhist Society of America, of which he was a member, honoured him by sending him an exquisite rectangular seal. Although Fairweather was not a man to receive honours gladly, But I remember that he was especially pleased with this seal, and the recognition of his Buddhist peers.
‘Best known of these translations was THE DRUNKEN BUDDHA, which had been accepted by University of Queensland Press for publication. Fairweather needed a typist and approached me to do the job for him. Although I couldn’t type myself, I did refer him to another resident of the island who proceeded with the task. However, as the work progressed the woman’s husband became alarmed with Fairweather’s accounts of the main character’s somewhat unorthodox personal habits and thought it best if his wife passed on the task to someone else. As Fairweather himself was a bit of a mystery to the other residents on Bribie, the typist’s husband was probably equating Fairweather’s habits with those of the drunken buddha!
‘Another typist was duly found.’
Ian Fairweather and hut (Photo courtesy Ron Powell)
‘In 1832, on the south end of Mulgumpin (Moreton Island) at dawn, surrounding a camp of Ngugi people on the banks of a fresh water lagoon, soldiers shot down as many as twenty people. Hidden in the bushes, Winyeeaba Murriaba a child of three at this time, was one of the survivors. Winyeeaba Murriaba and the remaining Ngugi were removed from Mulgumpin to Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island). Much later she was to become my Great Grandmother.’
The ‘Sovereign’ attempting to cross the South Passage bar in 1847
‘The Sovereign went to sea on the morning of 11 March 1847 and was wrecked on the bar of the South Passage within a mile and a half of the shore and almost in a direct line with the south end of Moreton Island. Only 10 of the 54 passengers and crew were saved. Both the pilot and his assistant were absent at the time.’
The Moreton Bay Courier:
‘The steamer had still another wave to encounter before getting over the bar; and at this critical juncture, the engineer called out to Captain Cape that the framing of the engines and part of the machinery had broken down…on descending from his post on the paddle-box, he examined them, and found that the frames of both engines were broken close under the plummer boxes, which were turned upside down … the ship … was drifting on the north spit. The engineer shortly afterwards let the steam off, by order of the Captain, to prevent the vessel from being blown up. The sea at this time was making breaches over her, and the rudder chains parted … As the vessel still drifted, the lar-board anchor was let go, the starboard one having been carried away from the parted in the swell … she continued to drag on the north spit. Previously … the sails were set to provide against the danger … but all to no purpose. The rollers now broke upon the devoted vessel with great violence, carrying away bulwarks and causing the wool and billets of wood to move violently about the decks, whereby three men were killed, while several more had their arms and legs broken, or otherwise disabled. The Captain then told the passengers that he saw no hopes of saving the vessel, as she was still dragging towards the spit. He had just ceased speaking when a tremendous sea broke over the ship, and swept washed away the fore hatches. Tarpaulins were then nailed over them, but they proved of no service …. The passengers were in the utmost consternation, they set up most piteous cries for help; some ran to the side, and in the agonies of despair, plunged into the sea … [Men] … worked for some time at the pumps which, however soon got choked up, and they then assisted in heaving overboard the remainder of the deck cargo … The doors of the companion were then opened, and the females came on deck together. The dreadful moment which was to determine the on, and every one saw in the countenance of his companion the vivid expression of his own feelings …. Mr. Stubbs, who appears to have maintained his presence of mind throughout, now cried out, ‘avoid the suction’: and jumped overboard. One dreadful shriek was heard, proceeding from one of the females in the forepart of the ship, as she took one roll, heeled over and sank, and then all was still. The struggle for life then commenced; some of the passengers clung to the wool bales, some to the portions of the wreck, while others, who had been disabled on board, soon sank to rise no more alive … Mr. Stubbs … saw breakers ahead proceeding from the bar, which appeared coming towards him like and foaming, and enough to appall the stoutest heart. How he got through them he does not recollect, for he saw nothing more until he reached the shoal water of the beach, which was about four miles from the spot where he left the vessel. He had just vigor enough remaining to get out of the reach of the breakers, when a native belonging to the pilot’s crew seized him by the waist, and supported him till his strength returned … Mr. Richards and neighbourhood, rendered every assistance in their power, and aided by a prisoner of the Crown, named William Rollings, a servant of the pilot, and the native crew, by the most arduous exertions succeeded in saving the lives of six more individuals, who, but for their assistance, must have perished in the surf.’
‘The loss of the Sovereign, with the loss of 45 lives, was a disaster that shook the foundations of the young pastoral and business community.25 More than any other single event, it led to vessels using the northern entrance to Moreton Bay rather than the South Passage.’
‘The Aborigine, Toompani is said to have swam in the surf at the point and to have saved several passengers, with the assistance of his mates. The New South Wales Government gave him a brass plate on which I have read his actions anent the ‘Sovereign’, and for years that Government, and later on the Queensland Government kept him supplied with a first class boat, by which he was often enabled to make hauls of fish for either sale or for food amongst the inhabitants ashore.’