David Willes continues …

As well as the Willes’, the Jackson’s was an early family on Russell.  Their property was situated on the north-west of the island and looked out over the boat passage and down towards Southport.  The mangroves around the Jacksons place were a plentiful source of mudcrabs.  Originally the family had conducted a cannery for the pineapples grown on the island, but at the outbreak of WWI when the supply of tin became scarce, it was forced to close down.  Many other smaller canneries shared a similar fate at this time.  The family also had a sawmill with its ubiquitous mound of sawdust.  They also had a sports oval on their property for the locals to use. There was another hall on the edge of the sports ground.  This hall was used by the Protestants for their church services.  The Catholics probably held their services in private houses.

The Jacksons farm on Russell Island

The Field’s had a shop on Russell even before we had ours.  I remember Old Field had an old car.  There were several on the island in my early days.  One was memorable because it could only be driven backwards up from the jetty.  Mostly though, transport around the island was by horse and buggy.

The Salways was another early family on the island.  They had a property and jetty on the southern corner opposite Cobby Cobby Island. However, they moved off and opened a shop at Southport.  Another family from the southern end of Russell was the Fischer family.  Dave Fischer bought the “Kingurra” from Dad.  He kept it on a bit of beach at his property which my father would always point out as we sailed to Southport.

Other early identities included Dinny Hayes, an Irishman who lived near the jetty and who liked his grog; and Mrs Larsen, who rode a horse down to collect her mail.  Her son, Dick Watts, used to skipper the “Mirimar” down to Karragarra.  Dick also had his own boat, the “Mariner” which he sometimes used instead.

During the Great Depression of the early 1930s, there were a lot of young fellers on Russell who were out of work.  The Government let them squat there and they built themselves shacks from the native timber.  Food from the bay was quite plentiful, and they were able to carry on a hand to mouth existence.  Many did quite well.

All the aborigines had gone from Russell by my time.  Their remnants settled at Myora near Dunwich on Stradbroke Island.


Giant’s Grave on Russell Island (photo Ken Goodman)

The Giant’s Grave used to be quite a landmark for the old mariners.  Situated on the western side of Russell, just north of Brown’s Bay, this large mound of tree covered earth bore resemblance to the grave of an imagined giant.  Willes Island in the Canaipa Passage, Mount Willes on Stradbroke, and Willes and Alice Streets on Russell Island are the sole namesakes of the Willes family. There was also a lime kiln excavated into the cliff between our place “Tukabin” (grass spears) on Old House Point and the beach. I also remember the relics of the saltworks on Macleay Island.  There was no connection between these and my grandfather’s at Canaipa.  It is said that the Macleay saltworks folded soon after receiving an advance of money. The Willes family left Russell just before the outbreak of WWII in 1939, and the Telegraph Newspaper did quite an article about Dad at the time.  We went to live at Wellington Point then, where we carried on farming.

David Willes

August 1, 1994


1867    Messrs. Alexander and Armour commence saltworks at Canaipa Point

1868    John Willes settles at Canaipa Point and buys saltworks

                        Catherine Willes commences her 38 year duty as Lady of the Lamp

1908    Mr Atkins begins first mail boat service (sail) from Redland Bay

1912    Routledge Bros begin first weekly motor boat service Redland Bay to islands

1914    John Willes appointed first Postmaster at Russell Island

1916    Frederick Willes appointed Postmaster

1916    Russell Island school opened in centre of island – Eileen Willes first teacher

1920    sports club commenced

1923    First telephone connection to Russell Island. Fred Willes appointed operator

192?    Church of England Parish Hall opened

1926    school moved to present site

1931    school becomes RKLM Islands school

                        Sam Hall begins school boat service

1949    wireless telephone (the first in Queensland) between Russell Is and Cleveland

1950    Jackson’s picture theatre opened

1950    fire destroys Post Office and store

1954    two teachers appointed to school

196?    hall enlarged

1966    electricity connected to Russell Island

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.