Frank Boyce – A Moreton Bay Character

After the Peel Island lazaret was closed down in 1959 and the remaining patients transferred to the South Brisbane (now PA) Hospital, the Queensland Government announced plans to have Peel Island developed. The possibilities mooted were for a tourist resort, a National Fitness site, a boating centre – or all three. So early in 1962, the Government called tenders for its lease. The only bidder was an American, Doctor Cecil Saunders, who had plans to turn Peel into a “Disneyland-by-the-sea”. Perhaps fortunately, these plans collapsed. Another proposal was to subdivide Peel for residential purposes, much as Tom Welsby had suggested way back in 1923, but this too lapsed. In all, the Government called twice for applications for the island’s development for tourist purposes but all failed to come to fruition. 

So, in 1968, the lazaret buildings were put up for sale on the condition that the purchased buildings were to be removed from the island within two years from the date of sale – otherwise the timbers would revert to the Government. 

Anglican church at Peel Island 1955 (photo courtesy Dr Morgan Gabriel)

Among the buyers was Frank Boyce who purchased Peel’s former Anglican Church, which he duly dismantled and then ferried across to Kooringal, a small township on the southern tip of Moreton Island. Keith Gurtner had it rebuilt as a private residence, which he painted blue. Keith Gurtner, was a motor cycle ace, and known to his legion of fans as ‘Little Boy Blue’ – a misleading nickname considering his fearless feats at bike racing: Gurtner having the dubious claim to be the only rider to have been catapulted over the fence at the Exhibition Speedway.

Frank Boyce was born in 1910 and at 15 was caught unawares by Bay legend, Frank Day, while having a feed on Frank’s oyster lease on Moreton Island. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship with Frank Day. When ‘Boycey’ (as he liked to be called) visited Moreton, he would always bring fruit down for the Day’s kids, there being none available on the island. It was also the beginning of a lifelong fascination with Moreton Island. Later during the Great Depression, he was to purchase land at Kooringal when it came up for sale.  A woodcarver by trade and a wheeler and dealer in second hand wares, Frank Boyce learned that the Government was scrapping thousands of old school desks and forms, so he purchased 5,000 of them cheaply and took them, 500 at a time, to Kooringal stacked on the deck of his vessel Hurry-Up, a former World War II submarine chaser he had purchased – with its armour plating – at the end of the war.

‘Boycey’s Moreton house was always a work in progress over the next fifty years, and a notable addition was its penthouse – a small bedroom perched on top of the main house that was accessed by a steep set of stairs and offered views across Moreton Bay.

He bought other houses from Peel Island and they were used in the building of many other houses at Kooringal. 

Renowned for his story telling while enjoying a cold beer, Frank would often tell of landing a giant octopus in his boat, or being chased up a tree by a crocodile in Darwin. But perhaps the most interesting of his stories concerns the boat Hurry-Up that he purchased after the war. A former crew member once told him they had rammed a submarine just off Moreton Bay, and he was sure it was the one that had sunk the hospital ship Centaur.

When Frank Boyce died in 2004, Kooringal, and indeed Moreton Bay, lost one of its last great characters.

Peel’s former Anglican church relocated as a private house at Kooringal (photo courtesy Kathy Brinckman)

Peter Ludlow and Kathy Brinckman, May 2010

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