Playing the Banjo – Part 1

Frank Willoughby writes:

George Willoughby Senior was born in 1900 in Hong Kong, the son of George Richard Mayo Willoughby who was Harbour Master at Hong Kong from 1900 to 1904.  George started work in the railways, but then in the 1920s joined ‘Hub’ Tuesley building the rock walls on the Brisbane River with stone quarried from Mt Ommaney.  Later he began professional fishing with ‘Hub”s brother, Jack Tuesley on South Stradbroke Island.  George did a lot of fishing with the Tuesleys. They netted from the beach or from row boats in the surf, along with the Boyds from the Tweed who used to come up to fish the area as well.  They all had their own designated areas which they all respected.  Incidentally, the Boyd Bridge on the Tweed was named after the Boyd family.

George Willoughby and Jack Tuesley built a kiosk on South Stradbroke Island.  It was situated where Seaworld is now (the entrance has moved north).  The whole area has now changed but a few tree stumps from Tragedy Island still remain.  The Tuesleys had a jetty at Southport on the Broadwater.  They used to run fishing parties and took day trippers to their South Stradbroke kiosk to purchase worms to fish with.

The Kiosk on South Stradbroke Island 1922 (photo Frank Willoughby)

Later still, George got onto the cargo run with the Kleinschmidts in the “Maid of Sker” and gradually he worked his way up to the position of skipper.  The Kleinschmidts had started with sugar growing at Steiglitz which was then known as “Little Germany” because of the concentration of German immigrants in the area.  Then Ted Kleinschmidt started out with the firm of John Burke Ltd. Working on the “Wandana” and he made enough money there to buy the “Maid of Sker”. The Kleinschmidts started with Rudi Huth and were known as the firm “Kleinschmidt and Huth”. The crew consisted of Ted Kleinschmidt, Rudi Huth, George Willoughby, Roy Wilson, and George (“Ike”) Kleinschmidt.  They transported cargo from Brisbane to Nerang.

When the “Maid of Sker” finished her cargo carrying days, Ted Kleinschmidt purchased ground at Southport near Gardiner’s Creek adjacent to the Jubilee Bridge.  He put in a wharf and started with smaller boats, the “Florant”, “Regina”, and “S’port” (a commonly used abbreviation at that time for Southport). After WWII they got the “Bremer” from a gentleman named Manders which ran from Brisbane to Ipswich.   As vehicles became more active in the area the ground at Southport became the depot from which the cargo was distributed.  They used to carry fuel for the Nerang pumping station which supplied fresh water for Southport.  They had competition from the trains which was no worry at all.  But after the war (WWII) road transport was able to provide depot to depot service quickly and in all weathers, which gave them the advantage over the boats which were confined to “weather permitting” in the bay.  It would be nothing to get held up sheltering at Green Island in a nor’ easter or King Island in a sou’ easter.

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People, The Complete Collection’)

Memories of the Hero

David Smith writes:

I remember with great interest the many incidents which were told to me by my father, the late James Smith, who was a professional fisher, initially on the Brisbane River at Bulimba, then later, when he and his family moved to Wellington Point.  When he was a young man he worked for a time for the Moreton Bay Oyster Company and the Kleinschmidt’s.  Around the 1917 – 1920 period, he was employed to gather (oyster) culture around the Blue Hole area off Moreton Island and transfer it by boat to Tulleen Island, South Stradbroke Island, for fattening.

The oyster boat they used was called the “Hero” and it was powered by a single cylinder Wilson kerosene engine that was to be used sparingly.  The main propulsion was by sail and oars, with 16 foot (5 metre) sweeps, rowed in a standing position from a catwalk.  The oyster boat was stationed in the Blue Hole.  At low tide an area was cleared and raked then at high tide the “Hero” was anchored over the clearing, and as the tide went out it settled on the bottom, the oysters were sorted and bagged and loaded on the boat when it was high and dry.  This (process) was repeated day after day until the boat was full and the trip to Tulleen Island was made.

My father recalls the time when anchored in the Blue Hole, a loud noise like a surf beach was heard.  On going up on deck to investigate what it was, he was thrown in the water by a series of great waves.  He later was to be told that a tidal wave had smashed two professional fishing boats owned by the Crouches, at Yellow Patch, Cape Moreton.  To his recollection, he thought the boats were called the “Gee Whiz” and the “Wynnum”.

The ‘Maid of Sker’

On another occasion, when returning from Tulleen Island, they encountered the paddle wheeler “Maid of Sker” aground on a mudbank.  As the “Hero” was empty, they unloaded the cargo from the “Maid of Sker” onto the “Hero” and got her floated again.  The next time they passed one another, the “Maid of Sker”’s skipper put two £1 notes (four dollars in today’s money) into a bottle and threw it into the water, to be picked up by the oyster boat and divided amongst the crew, in appreciation by the owners of the services rendered.

George Willoughby, skipper of the ‘Maid of Sker’ at the helm

There are presently still three generations of Smiths in the fishing industry, over 80 years of professional activity, four in all with a fifth showing great interest (period 1917 – 2002).

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’)