(Jack Borey, Dunwich)
One of a large family of Boreys from Portuguese and Aboriginal parentage, Jack was to combine the navigational skills of his father, Johannes Borey, with his mother’s inherent Aboriginal knowledge of Moreton Bay. In the words of Ray Barrett, one of his closest friends, Jack practiced conservation in times when the word had not been popularised. Ray explains:
“Jack had a fisherman’s eye and he could see fish in what was just empty water to my untrained eye. I remember I was with Charlie Campbell at the One Mile on one occasion, when Jack predicted it was going to be an early winter. When I asked him why, he pointed out all the hardigut mullet coming in. I still couldn’t see any, but Jack estimated there were enough fish there to fill 150 cases. When I urged them to go and get them immediately, Jack merely said that they’d still be there tomorrow.”
Jack and Ray often went fishing off Peel Island. With the efficiency of a true pro, Jack would line up his marker points, drop the pick and even bait Ray’s hook, much to Ray’s disgust. However, when he immediately pulled up a huge sweetlip, Ray’s enthusiasm was ignited. When they had caught four such sweetlip, Jack thought it time to up anchor and go.
“But we’ve just got onto them,” protested Ray.
“Can you eat more than four?”
“No. I’m flat out eating one.”
“Well, leave ’em down there, they keep fresher in moisture.”
So they took the four sweetlip which Jack reckoned would feed his family and Ray, went back to the One Mile, filleted the fish and collected four or five dozen oysters. The fish-heads and backbones he would put into the cooking pot with the oysters to make a delicious soup. Jack would never waste anything.
Often, Jack would take his whitie mate, or townie, as Ray describes himself then, on his walkabouts through the bush on Stradbroke. There were no roads then, and walking on the hot sand at the back of Myora forced Ray to up the pace.
“Slooow down, Ray, sloow down,” Jack urged.
“You’ve got to come back.”
Jack was a real bushie.
On another walkabout Jack and Ray went into the scrub. They had to cross the stream coming down from the Brown Lake and Jack said, much to Ray’s puzzlement: “We’ll cross on the wallaby pads.” Apparently, the wallabies laminated the long spindly grass growing beside the creek, and by laying them one on top of the other, they were able to hop across on top of the water. Jack and Ray were able to emulate this practice by taking a run onto the pads and cross the short creek.
When townie Ray would get tired of walking, Jack would clear away the leaves to make a fire, cook up some snags, boil the billy, and tell Ray to have a sleep while he’d go off into the bush. When Jack returned, he’d pour the remainder of the now cold tea over the fire and replace the leaves which he had carefully put to one side in exactly the same way that he had found them.
“In the old days,” Ray Barrett recalls. “Jack Borey and I would swim at Myora springs which then had a waterfall from Brown Lake. Jack was able to point out the different age stratas in the Aboriginal middens there, but now, since someone built a cement causeway over the creek, it has silted up and the middens are ruined. So much for so called progress.”
At about 8.30 pm on April 1st 1961, the launch “Jennifer” with members of the Maile family aboard was anchored about 400 yards (metres) from the Ropeway Jetty at Dunwich. With little warning, a storm blew up with gale force winds of up to 50 knots. Amid heavy rain and lightning, the launch was carried towards the jetty and was damaged against a pipeline. After an unsuccessful attempt was made to get Dorothy Maile on to the jetty, Alfred (Junior) crawled along the pipeline to the shore to get assistance. At 11 pm, without regard for his own safety, Jack Borey took a small row-boat and rowed out to the “Jennifer”. Intending to try to tow the launch from its position under the pipeline, Jack tried to throw it a line but the heavy seas made this impossible. He then rowed to a diesel yacht “Patricia T” which was anchored nearby. He boarded the boat and, after explaining the situation to its occupants, was able to enlist their help. Eventually the “Patricia T” was able to attach a line to the “Jennifer” after it broke clear from the pipeline, and the drifting boat was towed into the jetty and tied up.
Recognising the risk to which Jack Borey subjected his life in the high wind and heavy seas, and the danger of his small dinghy being swamped with little chance of personal survival once being thrown into the heavy seas, a submission was made to the Royal Humane Society of Australasia that Jack’s courageous and resourceful action be recognised. In 1962, Jack Borey was awarded the Society’s Certificate of Merit.
Jack was always invited onto peoples’ boats because he knew where the fish were. He never refused, and he could never do enough to help them. On shore, Jack was a member of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes’ Bayview Lodge 99 (being its secretary from November 1952 until December 1953) then the Stradbroke Lodge 142 at Dunwich. As well as comradeship, he advanced to its highest order, the ROH.
Jack Borey died on the 28th September 1979 and is buried in the picturesque cemetery beside the water at Dunwich. “When Jack died,” recalls Ray Barrett, his lifelong friend.” he was 63, the age at which I am now, and it was a great loss to both the island and to humanity.” Just offshore from the cemetery, at the entrance to the One Mile, the Jack Borey Beacon still remains a constant memorial to the unselfish contribution to bay life of John Henry Benjamin Borey, one of Nature’s gentlemen.
Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.