The Road to Cudgera

Hastings Point lies at the mouth of Cudgera Creek, just a few km south of Kingscliff on the far north NSW coast. It’s still a quiet respite from the housing developments that are constantly moving towards it. However, it was once a focus for (mainly Queensland) fishermen in the post WW2 years, with its foreshore camping area invariably crowded with their tents every Christmas and Easter holidays. Our family was just one of the many to spend its holidays there. It was known to us then as Cudgera. Just getting there then by the sand track from Kingscliff or by the narrow winding dirt Round Mountain road was a feat in itself, but made the reward of arrival all the more worthwhile. 

The old bridge at Hastings Point (Cudgera)

Invariably, dad chose the sandtrack and our overloaded Zephyr Six was always in imminent danger of getting bogged. So it always a relief when we finally trundled over the rickety bridge and set up camp (usually in the middle of the night).

I am told the bridge had been constructed by a Mineral Sand Mining Company, the beaches having had their wealth extracted and sent to US markets. In building the bridge, the abutments filled up half the creek and in doing so created a deep hole which abounded in fish. The Black Bream were so thick in number that they could be easily jagged by pulling a three barbed hook through their shoal (illegal of course).

Dad fishing at Hastings Point (Cudgera) from the old bridge

The alternative to fishing the creek was the beach, and my father would spend hours casting all along the beach. He was nothing if not persistent. No wonder his favourite book was Ernest Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’. Yes he really was a Santiago at heart.

Strangely, when the coast road and the bridge at Hastings Point were upgraded, the campers went elsewhere. Today, though, visiting this unspoiled area still holds many happy memories for me.

Cudgera Creek in 2020

A Fisherman’s Daughter (Lyne Marshall) – Part 1

My Father’s Family (Crouch)

My parents were Fred and Eileen Crouch. There were also other branches of the Crouch family on Bribie – George Shillington Crouch, and Edgar Crouch. Dad’s father was Charles Frederick who they called Charles (‘Tiff’ or ‘Tiffie’). Dad was also Charles Frederick but they called him Fred. Charles’ brothers were Edgar and George.

My Grandfathers head stone (Photo courtesy Lyne Marshall)

Dad’s father died of peritonitis while fishing. This was in 1915. They got him into shore but there was not a lot they could have done at that time because this was before the time of penicillin here. Dad was born in 1904 and he left home when he was about 14. He was always involved with the sea. He joined the Navy and became a marine engineer on the HMAS Penguin and as such travelled the world.  When he left the Navy, he went to Bribie, where he married my mother. He was 29 then, and she was 17. This would have been in 1933. When World War II broke out in 1939, dad joined up again. This time it was in the Army. When the war finished, he came back to Bribie and recommenced fishing. The sea was always in dad’s blood, and he was only happy when he was there. He always said that people underestimate the sea, so they do silly things and they die. You can’t underestimate the sea.

Dad worked with the Leo Brothers, from Scarborough. They went to sea in their little inboard motorboats. On their homeward journey they dropped dad off at Bribie before continuing on to Scarborough. Dad then rowed home across the Pumicestone Passage.  One of my memories was watching this little dot in the distance getting bigger and bigger as he drew closer. He stood up to row – he was only very short, about 5’7” but very nuggety. He had what we called punts – grey boats, very solid, with nets in the back. I don’t think he ever used outboard motors – he always rowed.

When the men were fishing, they followed the mullet so we went to Scarborough for three months of the year, which was pretty traumatic because mum put us in a school there. This is when I was in primary school. I was born in 1948 so this would have been in the 1950s. This was a Catholic school and the nuns caned me because I couldn’t hear the bell, which was a tiny hand bell that had to be heard by the whole school. It was all so foreign, the whole thing. 

So for these three months of the year, they fished for mullet off Scarborough, but for the rest of the time they fished from Red Beach on Bribie.

At weekends we used to walk around from our house at Bongaree to Red Beach. It was quite a long hike. It was winter then, and by the time we got there – it was probably just gone daybreak – dad would had already been in the water twice up to his waist to pull in the nets because the fish would run early. He’d have all his wet flannels hanging up to dry.

My mother also went fishing on her own and she’d bring home buckets of whiting, but then dad would come in with his fish, and when they were fishing around Red Beach, they piled them all up on our front yard. They had these old army Blitzes – snub-nosed trucks left over from the war. They brought all their fish in, dumped it on our front yard, and then cased it in wooden cases. They were primarily mullet, which they sent off whole – no gutting. The fish were grouped according to size, and then sent to the Brisbane Fish Markets by boat.  They left some for us and we ate a lot of fish and their roe (eggs) – white and yellow roe. When the trawlers were in, dad also swapped some of his fish for prawns and crabs so we got a bit of everything. It was a good diet for growing kids.

Hauling in the Mullet (colourised) (Photo courtesy Lyne Marshall)

Dad would be away for weeks at a time and the bread he took with him would go mouldy, but when he came home, it was a big event, and if I was at school at the time, I was allowed home for lunch with him and mum. He’d pick us up at school and we’d have our roast dinner, then he’d take us back to school. We fishing family kids were the only ones that did it. The others had to sit and eat their sandwiches at school. I always thought it was lovely to be included in our family’s homecoming meals, because it could be that he would be off again straight away, and if I were at school, I would miss out on seeing him.

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