Early Days at Bribie Island

Editor’s note: This article was given to me many years ago.  It appeared in a 1963 souvenir issue of the now defunct “Bribie Star” newspaper.  I am reprinting portion of it here because of its historical significance. 

Reg Campbellwrites…

In the year 1905 our family set sail in the cutter “Salina” from Hayes Inlet, just up from Clontarf, for our new home at the mouth of Ninghi Creek, Pumicestone Channel.

My father, the late Joe Campbell, came to take charge of Mr J. Clark’s extensive oyster farming operations. The oyster leases and dredge sections extended as far up the channel as Donnybrook, and some of them went up as far up as Mission Point, which is about 10 miles north of Toorbul Point.

Our near neighbours were Mr C. Dean and Mr Fred Turner. Other families in the area were the Days, Bestmanns, Bastins, and still further up Ninghi Creek were the families Freeman, Davis, Dux, and Bishop. Mr Harry Wright lived on Bribie Island and Mr W. Mohr and J. Gallagher lived at Whitepatch. Mr H. Bowles lived at Mission Point, and a little further up the Passage was Mr T. Tripcony. Mr August Wilson and Mr C. Bardon were at Donnybrook.


Oystering was the foremost industry carried on in those days, and the main oyster lesees were James Clark, Moreton Bay Oyster Company, J. Markwell, and T. Tripcony.  Apart from oystering, there was also dairy farming, and a good deal of log timber was handled in and around Toorbul and Bribie Island. 

All goods from Bribie Island were carried by J. Clark’s SS “Sunset” and later the SS “Sunrise”, the Moreton Bay Oyster Company’s schooner, “Sir Arthur”, and later still by the auxiliary cutters “Result” and “Caloola”.

The log timbers for James Campbell’s mills at Brisbane was shipped by the paddle-wheelers “Lintrose” and “Bell” from the rafting grounds at Ninghi Creek, Donnybrook and Coochin Creek.

Mr T. Tripcony ran a service with his motor auxiliary to and from Caloundra and Brisbane, carrying Government stores to Bribie and “lead lights” to the northern end of the Island and Caloundra. On the return trips he carried shell-grit, oysters, citrus fruits and also pineapples from Westaway’s orchard near Caloundra.


The only school was on Toorbul Road, not far from Elimbah Creek, and as this was too far for us to attend we did not receive any schooling until 1908 when Mr James Clark built a small provisional school at Toorbul Point.  This building still stands there but during the last war some additions were made to it. Miss Eustace was the first school teacher and there were only 14 pupils.

            In 1910 Mrs Sarah Ball established a fish cannery on Bribie Island, and the building stood opposite to where “Shady Glen” now stands.  The cannery operated until 1914 when it was forced to close down because of a shortage of tin plate which occurred just after the war began.  The building was sold to a Brisbane jam factory and it was removed to the city on the SS “Porpoise” owned by Burke and Sons.

            In 1911 the E. and A. liner SS “Eastern” ran aground on Salamander Reef off the southern end of Bribie Island. After unsuccessfully trying for some days to refloat the vessel it was decided to jettison some of the cargo, after which the liner was freed from the reef.

            The jettisoned cargo, which included bags of rice, canned foods, cases of petrol in 4-gallon drums, shark oil and bags of peanuts, was washed up on Ocean Beach. The bags of peanuts burst and loose nuts were blown from one end of the Island to the other. Eventually there were peanuts growing on many parts of the Island.


            It was not long before customs officers were sent from Brisbane to inspect and destroy the cargo washed ashore on Ocean Beach. The officers rode along the beach on bicycles and cut holes with hatchets on all the tinned goods that could be found.

            Some of the cases of petrol (it was called benzine in those days) were salvaged at the Caloundra end of Bribie, and Mr Charles Godwin was engaged to ship it to Brisbane in his auxiliary launch “Victory”. Returning from the second trip, Mr Godwin was accidentally drowned after being hit by the sail of the “Victory” and thrown overboard into the Passage. The body was found several days later floating near the fish cannery jetty.

            From 1906 to 1911 the Royal Australian Naval Reserve carried out annual gunnery practice in H.M.A.S. “Gayundah” off Bribie Island.  The targets were erected in Horseshoe Bay, just opposite where Mr Gazzard’s home now stands in Webster Street, and the “Gayundah” anchored near the Deception Bay beacon.

            During these same years, 1906 to 1911, the Brisbane Tug Company sent their tugs, “Greyhound” and “Beaver”, which had been fitted up to carry passengers, to Bribie Island on holidays such as Easter, King’s Birthday etc.  A square-end punt with seats all around was used to take passengers ashore. A rope was tied to a tree and to the boat, and the punt was hauled to and from the bank just opposite the Bongaree water tower near the Bribie Island Bowling Club.

            Other visitors to the island in their sailing yachts in those days were Messrs. T.Welsby, I.Bond, J.Plumridge, B.Fox, the Ruddles and many others.


            About this time a building was brought over from South Passage, Moreton Island, erected just about where the Bongaree water tower now stands, and used as a dance hall. It was in this hall that the first Bribie Island school was conducted under the guidance of Mr L.Diplock, Bribie’s first school teacher. There were about 16 to 20 pupils attending when the school first started. Later the building was sold to the Bongaree Bowling Club and it now forms the main portion of the present club house.

Bribie Island – Bathers at Bongaree, showing also the dance hall and Twelve Apostles, 1920s (Photo courtesy Jan Burge)

            Sometime in 1914 A.Tripcony and Son began a motor-launch service which connected with the “Koopa” and ran from Bribie to Caloundra.

            In 1915 the “Avon”, now referred to as “the wreck” on Blackbuoy Bank, near the mouth of Dux Creek, was placed in its present position to form a breakwater to protect the oysters on the bank from heavy southerly weather. The “Avon” was a condemned coal hulk which, in earlier days, had been a schooner engaged in bringing South Sea Islanders to Queensland to work the canefields.

© Ludlow, Peter, Moreton Bay Letters, 2003