Two rivermen are remembered by Mabel Persson -2- Ted Humphreys


            As a youngster I lived at Wynnum, and used to love going over to Myora at The One Mile with my Uncle Ted Humphreys and his wife in their boat, “Mersey”.  This was in the 1920s and it was mostly sailing boats then, and on the Christmas and Easter holidays about a hundred of them would sail to the One Mile and anchor there.  At night it became a tradition for them to have hurricane lamps alight all the way up their stays and on their masts.  We used to call this the Lantern Festival and the scene was like a small town with all the boats anchored together.  It was never rough there and the boats were tied onto each other so that we could walk from one to another.  The boats were mostly small, and Ted’s “Mersey” was the biggest at 36 foot.  There were plenty of fish in the Rainbow Channel then and Ted had another little boat which he used to sail up and down the Channel with three people fishing from her.  They caught enough whiting and squire to supply all the boats with fresh fish.

            Uncle Ted was a shopfitter and did a lot of the Queen Street Department Stores.  It was fashionable then for the wealthy store families to own boats, and it was probably this that influenced Uncle Ted to buy the “Mersey”.  Ted Humphreys was a man who owned a boat because he could AFFORD a boat, not because he was a boating man.  In this respect he was the opposite of Charlie Persson.  Ted was a big man who used to panic when he couldn’t get the engine started.  He also had trouble managing the sails.  Fortunately, his wife, Kate, a tiny little thing, was wonderful with the boat and used to bail him out of trouble.

            For example, one night we were anchored at the Horseshoe on Peel Island when a South Easter sprang up at midnight.  The boat began dragging her anchor and we were heading towards the rocks.  Ted could never get the engine going, and half the time it was because he’d forgotten to turn the petrol on.  True to his form, Ted could not get the engine started on this occasion either, but when I suggested that he check that the petrol was turned on, I got into trouble for my impudence – even when it turned out my diagnosis was correct!

Coming ashore at Horseshoe Bay

            On another occasion I was sent below and told not to move, but I opened the porthole and looked out.  However just at that moment the “Mersey” rolled and I took all the skin off my nose.  Then to add insult to injury, Uncle Ted reprimanded me for not doing as I was told.

            However, the most memorable occasion occurred just off St Helena when the island was still being used as a prison.  Once again, Ted was having trouble starting the motor, and the boat was drifting in towards the island.  Now it was a rule that the Warders on the island would fire warning shots over approaching boat’s bows to shoo them away from their prohibited waters.  Sure enough, bullets soon began to whistle across our bow, and Ted got very excited.  Still he couldn’t get the motor started and the boat kept drifting in.  As usual, though, his wife calmly got the sails up so we could get away!

            “Mersey” was a beautiful, two masted boat and Ted had his own slip at Wynnum.  Once, he was offered £1000 ($2000) for her but refused.  Next morning “Mersey” went missing.  She was seen up at Bribie, but when the thieves saw the Water Police coming, they set fire to the boat and she was burnt to the waterline. 

 Mabel Persson, July 1997

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.