With Adrian Dalgarno

     After World War II the postal address of the Still Water side residents became known as Bongaree, aboriginal for calm waters, and the Ocean Beach became Woorim. 

     The hotel at Ocean Beach was started just before the war.  Original owners were the Goodwins, two Irish brothers, Pat and John, and their sister.  It was a fibro construction with a bar, a road separating their enterprise from the guest house of Bill Shirley.

     Adrian recalls these post war years: “Boronia grew in the middle of the island in a swampy area called the Plains, and in spring my aunt, uncle and myself used to walk miles there collecting these beautiful purple and blue wildflowers as well as wattle, white cauliflower plants etc.   We’d take huge bunches of them tied up in cellophane on the bus to the jetty and sell them to passengers returning on the “Koopa”. We could never get enough.  These days, picking wildflowers is prohibited, which is probably not a bad idea, but in those days, it was considered acceptable. 

     “The Plains were also plentiful with staghorns and elkhorns and my uncle and I would carry an extension ladder in and collect them to hang around the house.  My Uncle was a pretty keen gardener and we’d go down to the creek and collect peat, bring it home, break it up and mix with cow manure from Bestmann’s farm in a 44 gallon drum.  After fermenting for a week it would grow huge lettuce. 

     “Bribie sits on a water table, twelve to fifteen feet down (four to five metres), and they’d just use a spear hand pump to collect water in a 44 gallon drum.  As kids we used to pump like mad and if you didn’t, you’d get your backside kicked, or for a good job you’d get a penny (one cent). Eventually my uncle got a motor to pump his water.” 

     There was a fish and chips Café right on the beach next to the “Koopa”‘s jetty.  At high tide the water would come up right under the decking.  When the “Koopa” docked, old Mrs. Richardson would come out on the verandah with a large bell, ring it feverishly, and call out to the disembarking passengers about her fish and chips.  They would flock in for a fresh fish meal. They would savour big slabs of mullet or cod in thick yellow batter with a big plate of chips, while all around the walls were pictures of huge grouper which had been caught up the Passage. 

     Another enterprise profiting from the visits of the “Koopa” belonged to Ted Shields.  He had a 35 foot boat, the “Marlin”, in which he used to take fishing parties up the Passage schnappering.  He had a landing on the side of the “Koopa”‘s jetty, and many people went over on the “Koopa” specifically to go on his schnappering trips.  Taking a large catch back to Brisbane presented some difficulties as there was no refrigeration on the “Koopa”.  The catch had to be preserved by gutting the fish, rubbing salt into the backbone, then hanging them in the shade in the breeze under the afterdeck awning on hooks provided by the “Koopa” for the three and a half hour journey back to Brisbane. 

    “The “Koopa” could hold up to 1100 people on board, but the average number was about 700.  She had a large dining room which would cater for functions such as wedding breakfasts.  Captain Jones dressed formally, and we kids used to try to catch his eye on the jetty.  If we were lucky, we got a trip up to the wheel house, but if we were told to beat it, we did so quickly.” 

     After the war the “Koopa” service to Bribie was re‑commenced, but the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Co didn’t want to make a go of it so they sold it to another company. However, after four or five years the venture failed.  The “Koopa” eventually became part of the wall in Boggy creek. 

     Later, Hayles “Mirana” took over the run to Bribie as well as to Dunwich.  In the interim, however, Frank Duffield started running three boats from Scarborough, one of which was the “Tivoli”.  They were all 35 to 40 footers and ran on Friday nights.  There was also a run on Saturday and on Sunday, where it picked up what the “Koopa” and later the Hayles boats had left behind.  These Scarborough boats used the military, or army, jetty on the south end of Bribie. The Hornibrook Bus service ran a coordinated bus service to link up with them from the Sandgate station.  They were rough old boats, with just a wheel house and enough wooden seats to hold about forty people. 

     “As well as myself, one regular Friday night passenger was Father William Frawley from the De La Selle College at Redcliffe.   He had done a lot of work in the islands, and dressed in khaki padre gear.   He conducted religious services in a hut on Ocean Beach ‑ not only for Catholics but for anyone who wished to attend.  A big Alsatian dog always travelled with him which people referred to as God. 

     “As we got older (I was about 18) my mother had returned to Bribie to live. I, my best friend and my fiancee, went down to Bribie every weekend.  They were student teachers, & I was a clerk.  None of us had much money & we used to jump on the “Mirimar” at North Quay, buy a bag of fresh cooked prawns or if the money didn’t run to prawns, some cut ham and rolls, at 6 pm on a Friday after work and at 9.30 on the dot, she’d get to Bribie.  Sometimes it would call to the Redcliffe Jetty. 

     “At Bribie, the buses would be waiting ‑ one did a run around the streets on the Passage side and the other on the Ocean Beach side.  The Friday night regulars on the “Mirimar” religiously kept to their own groups: there was our group, the bowlers’ group, the life‑savers group, the fishing club’s group, then there was the odds and sods’ group and each group all had their particular place on the boat ‑ except at holiday times.” 

Bribie Jetty & Moyles 1920 (photo courtesy J.Foote)


With Adrian Dalgarno

            During the 1930s, Bribie was becoming a holiday area for people from the country.  A lot went to Redcliffe for their holidays and thence to Bribie via the “Koopa” which berthed at Redcliffe jetty en route from Brisbane.   The “Koopa” was the only way to reach Bribie in those days.  Quite a tourist industry became associated with the visits of the “Koopa” just prior to WWII.When booking a ticket on the “Koopa” at Brisbane’s Petrie Bight, there were two choices: to Bribie, meaning the Still Water side, or to the Ocean Beach, which entitled the visitor to a trip across the island in an old grandma vehicle, a converted International truck with solid rubber tyres.  The road across the island varied between sand and very coarse metal and the resulting ride to the Ocean Beach was a very bumpy affair. 

Send off for Lindsay North from Tennis Club at Bribie Jetty, Bongaree, 1929. Hall & Bestmann’s store can be seen in background above the jetty roof.  Photo courtesy Jan Burge

     Cyprus (or Bribie island) pine trees were grown by Bribie locals and many used hedges of them instead of wooden fences.  They were also of use commercially, and a  lot of Cyprus was milled in these early days, especially by Norm Thurechts’ mills at Redcliffe & Caboolture.  He had the license to cut it from Bribie, and had it rafted across to the mainland.  After a tree had been cut, a crown stamp was put on the remaining butt so that every so often, inspectors could come to count the crowns, measure the butts, and thus calculate the royalty due. 

     There were a couple of big dairy farms on Bribie in these days and they supplied milk to the mainland.  As well as the Bestmann’s, another belonged to the Freemans, being known to the local children as Bessie’s dairy or Free’s dairy.  The dividing line between the two dairies was the road from the Still Water side to the Ocean Beach. 

     Near Poverty Creek, just across from Donneybrook, was an area known as The Stockyards, appropriately, because a lot of fat cattle were run there in the early days.  It is here, too, that the cattle were swum across to the mainland markets at low tide.  Up until about 1980, a lot of the old stockyard fences and slides were still in existence, but erosion has since disposed of the remains. 

     With the commencement of World War II in 1939, Fort Bribie was established on the Ocean Beach side and two 6 inch naval guns were installed to protect the entrance to Moreton Bay.  The area also served as an important Australian communications base.  Gates were erected about a third of the way across the island, and admission was impossible without an official pass.  Naturally, such a set up necessitated all civilians leaving the Ocean Beach.   

     It is not generally realized that during the war Bribie was also a large base for both American and Australian small ships, such as antisubmarine vessels and gunboats.  The channel at Toorbul Point had been dredged to accommodate such vessels.  Although there was an American base and an Australian base at Toorbul point, the majority of ships were American. 

     During these war years, Adrian Dalgarno spent his childhood, moving between Sandgate and, whenever the opportunity arose, visits to his grandparents on the Still Water side of Bribie.  Adrian can remember seeing three big American destroyers in the Pumicestone Passage.  He also remembers seeing an American escort vessel beached on Skirmish Point for several weeks. 

     Adrian recalls: “We used to go over to Bribie at every opportunity, and being a kid I used to like getting a ride on a Jeep.  There was a big American presence on Bribie: a lot of blasting in the Passage to provide accommodation for thirty or forty boats. 

     “The “Koopa”  had been slipped at Toorbul Point for conversion to war service, and Terry Green, a spirited local of Irish extract, used to walk along the beach each day and abuse the Americans for converting the “Koopa”: “Leave the old girl alone!” he would threaten, and of course the yanks would bait him. 

     “With so many personnel involved, there were always incidents occurring.  Once, an American barge took an Australian tank and crew of five across from Toorbul to Bribie.  Unfortunately the tank was let off too early, and sank in thirty feet of water.  Tragically, the five crew members drowned. Only the tank’s pennant could be seen above water.  A plaque was erected to commemorate the loss, just where the fish market is now located. 

     “The “Otter” and “Doomba” used to run from Brisbane to Bribie and then Cowan with the mail.  Sometimes, I would take the trip to Cowan and back with my grandfather, Jim Holyoake. He was a huge man and had been a member of the Black Watch in India all his life. His attitude to underlings especially coloured races left a lot to be desired.  It was the same towards the Americans.  One day on our return from Cowan, the “Otter” was rammed by an American landing barge and grandfather was sprayed by a lot of softdrinks which were broken near where we were sitting.  Being a gin drinker he was further shocked at the waste, and on reaching Brisbane he went straight to the top brass and complained.  The affair continued for some time.  Such incidents were common around our crowded bay at this time.” 

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.


Recalled by Ian Hall

Although he lost his original customers with the closure of the cannery, Alfred Hall’s business was booming from a new source ‑ the holidaymaker.  Large numbers had begun arriving at the island with the instigation of regular passenger runs from Brisbane by the S.S.”Koopa”.  Built in 1911 by Ramage and Ferguson in Scotland and capable of carrying up to 1600 passengers, she was soon to become a favourite with holidaymakers on the Brisbane‑Redcliffe‑Bribie run. Her owners, the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company, constructed the first jetty on the Still Water side of Bribie in 1912.  In addition, they leased a long strip of land on the foreshore behind the jetty, which except for a caretaker’s house and a guest house, has never been built on, even to this day. It was here, under the Bribie Island Pines that the holidaymakers camped.   At Christmas and Easter holiday periods up to a thousand tents bore witness to the lure of Bribie Island:  mullet splashing against the backdrop of the Glasshouse mountains thrusting their strange peaks into the sunset billows… brolgas summoning the salt and eucalypt breeze… pine scented smoke curling from a lazy campfire… 

‘Koopa’ at Bribie Jetty 1920 (photo courtesy Ian Hall)

Ian Hall, one of Alfred’s sons, was a young lad in the early 1920s and vividly recalls those early years of the Hall and Bestmann store: 

“The “Koopa” had become so popular that often its services had to be supplemented by another Tug and Steamship vessel, the “Beaver”.  Eventually, in 1919, the Company was obliged to purchase the “Doomba” to run as a sister ship to the “Koopa”.  Captain Johnson, skipper of the “Koopa” was transferred to the “Doomba”, his replacement being Captain Gibson, previously of the “Beaver”. 

“Holidaymakers’ tents were supported by a framework of poles cut from the surrounding bush.  Father and Artie Bestmann collected a large supply of Ti Tree poles which they hired out to the campers who brought only their tents with them.  Often, they would have their tents sent on beforehand so that we could have them erected ready for their arrival. 

 “All the store’s provisions had to be sent on the “Koopa” which came to Bribie four times a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Of course, we had no refrigeration then, but ice was brought down packed in sawdust and hessian bags to delay melting.  Even so, half of it had gone by the time it arrived, but it was useful for keeping the butter and soft drinks cold for the campers. 

 “Meat was kept cool in a meat‑safe which had a trough on top filled with water.  Hessian bags dipped into the water and hung down the sides of the safe.  Breezes evaporated the moisture in the bags and kept the meat cool.  There was no electricity either, and light for the shop came from carbide lamps, one in the shop and one on the footpath.  These could be supplemented by kerosene lamps and candles.  The carbide lamps were good for keeping down the moths because they had their wings burnt in the intense heat.  Cow manure was burnt to keep mosquitoes away, though the pungent Citronella Oil was also available for rubbing on the skin for the same purpose. 

 “The store sold food and campers’ supplies, but no building materials.  These were brought from Brisbane on the “Koopa” by the builders themselves.  Artie’s father also made homemade wine which was sold in our store for 1/‑ (10 cents) a bottle.  It was very popular in the early days with the cannery workers as there was no hotel on Bribie then.

 “When I was about 12 years old, one of my jobs was to hand deliver milk to the surrounding houses from a couple of large cans I carried with me.  Our first cow was kept behind our house.  Later we kept a whole herd on 321 acres we bought across the creek in about 1920.  These cattle were ferried across from the mainland on a specially constructed pontoon.”

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.