Karragarra Coves

Geoff Ross relates…

‘One Christmas I was forced by my employers to take holidays. My boat was not yet finished, so Dick Tripcony suggested I become a deckie for his vessel’s maiden voyage from Breakfast Creek down to Southport. I gladly accepted. Dick was well into his sixties at this stage. On the trip down from Brisbane, we were approaching Canaipa Passage when suddenly Dick turned the boat due east and tied up to a small jetty on an island. We each grabbed a carton of beer and followed Dick ashore and into the bush. Soon we came to a clearing where there was a white house and some sheds, with what can only be described as a lot of character! The land and buildings belonged to Ollie Rowney (see his chapter in “Moreton Bay People – the Complete Collection”). Ollie greeted us warmly and swapped yarns and drinks with us for quite a while. This visit began my love affair with Karragarra Island.

‘Ollie Rowney was a man of many skills and experiences. He came to the Bay Islands originally to visit a former schoolmate and his family who had taken up farming on Russell Island. Things were pretty tough for a youth at that period without much work being available. Ollie had a very shallow-draught sailing dingy capable of penetrating the mangrove forests. He would sail down from Brisbane and collect branches and trunks of a specific shape from the mangroves which he knew were in great demand by the builders of wooden boats as they made the very best knees for the bow and stern posts of the boats that plied the Queensland waters. (This was long before mangroves were protected).

‘Ollie owned about 14 acres of land on Karragarra island and had lived in the sheds while building his house. The house was interesting because it measured 40 foot by 16 foot – the same dimensions as his deep-sea fishing boat, “The Roamer”. Ollie reckoned that he had got used to living in this space when he was fishing in north Queensland, so he built his house to the same dimensions!

Mirimar caling at Karragarra (photo courtesy Neil Bishop)

‘Ollie was a great storyteller, and one of note concerns the “Mirimar” which began visiting Karragarra in 1934. Every Sunday, the launch would bring up to 320 passengers (at 5/- or 50 cents each) to the island where they would be treated to afternoon tea in a Polynesian style grass hut that Ollie had constructed. The afternoon tea involved the serving of a delicious fruit salad made from fruit grown on the surrounding island farms. It was delicious, but little did they know that Ollie’s wife and her nephew had collected the farmers’ over ripe fruit at greatly reduced prices!

Mirimar passengers sampling the Karragarra produce (photo courtesy Gary Day)

Insert image Mirimar passengers sampling the Karragarra produce (photo courtesy Gary Day)

‘Ollie had bought his land towards the end of World War II. Some years later, he gave three-quarters of an acre to his brother who had been a fencing contractor out west, but unfortunately his brother died. Ollie decided to sell this piece of land, but wanted to sell it to someone he knew. Through working on my own boat at Dick Tripcony’s slip, I got to know about this and decided to buy it from him. This happened not long after my first visit to Karragarra and I still remembered walking up from the jetty, through the trees, to Ollie’s house, and what an impression it had made on me.’

(Extract from “Moreton Bay Reflections” by Peter Ludlow)

Farm Scraps

The Burgess Farm at Russell Island 1920s and 1930s 

Gary Day has contributed photos and a scrapbook of his mother, Esther Burgess who was born in 1919 and lived her first 19 years on Russell Island. She hated its isolation.
Her parents (and Gary’s grandparents) were Ernest and Alice Burgess. It is their farm that features in the photos and scrapbook. 

Taken about 1936. Arthur Youlton – very popular teacher for 10 years – starting a sack race for, from left, Joan Thomas, Lorna Park, Joan Jackson, Clive Thomas, Jean McInnes, and Lorna Burgess.
Taken at Currigee from the top of a lookout. The larger boat is the Ivanhoe.
The Ivanhoe on loading day. Produce from some fifty farms transported to the jetty by horse and cart mostly, at that time. An overnight trip to the Brisbane River and North Quay from Russell Island.
Our farm on Russell Island. Pineapples and Mandarin trees.
Mirimar at Karragarra. Hales boat from North Quay to Karragarra via Dunwich every Thursday in the 1930s.
Passengers from the Mirimar at Karragarra jetty carrying fruit.
Visitors off Mirimar buying fruit etc at Karragarra
Lorna Burgess with beetroot Wellington Point. Good legs! Note mum on verandah
Noosa – Hastings Street
Ernest Burgess and Lady, Russell Island.
Mum (Alice Burgess) and aunty Ivy at Russell Island.

Clippings from the Russell Island Scrap book of Lorna Burgess: 

From August 9, 1938: 

John Willes’son, Frederick J. Willes, retires as Russell Island postmaster after more than 50 years. He used to collect and deliver mail from the surrounding islands and take it to and from the mainland in his motor launch twice a week. His father John Willes settled from the English Midlands to Russell Island as its first European resident in 1886. 

Post office destroyed by fire. It is thought to be the first building fire on Russell Island. 

From August 10, 1938: 

Aboriginal skull and part skeleton found on Stradbroke Island 

Cyclonic storm strikes Russell Island and overturns 30-foot launch. A man was trapped inside for some time 

350 lb shark landed. Mr. Albert Raddon of Lamb Island, fishing from a punt a few yards away from the jetty, hooked an eight feet grey nurse shark, following which he experienced an exciting half hour. The punt was towed across the channel (by the shark) to Karragarra Island and from there along the whole length of the channel between the two islands in the direction of Stradbroke Island. The shark was finally landed on the Lamb Island beach. The shark was finally landed on the Lamb Island beach and was estimated to weigh about 350 lb. A little later a 4-foot shark was caught in the same vicinity. Fishing is becoming increasingly popular round the islands and is attracting Brisbane club fishermen, who are holding a competition here during weekend. 

Residents at Canaipa Point, Russell Island, are still thrilled at the visit of Richard Tauber, who visited that beauty spot in the Atlanta, and sang for the island people.

Gary Day 2010 

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