With the corona virus still keeping us in lockdown, this is an ideal time to catch up on some Moreton Bay podcasts.
A year ago, I was interviewed by Katie Walters, who was then a PhD candidate at Griffith University. Katie has created a series of podcasts in which she interviews people who live around Moreton Bay to discover what they love about it, how they came to be here, and how they interact with it.
Katie says: ‘Moreton Bay is special to all of us, for a huge number of reasons, and sharing those reasons with each other is one way we can build community and coastal capacity – and promote custodianship so that our bay stays beautiful and productive for the generations to come.’
From Moreton Bay’s beginning as a penal settlement in 1824, the authorities intended to use it as a base for missionary work among the aborigines. The Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, intimated through the Attorney General, Mr. Saxe Banister, to a deputation from the London Missionary Society, a wish that something might he attempted on behalf of the aborigines.
In his book Cooksland Dr. John Dunmore Lang describes the genesis of the German Lutheran Mission he was instrumental in founding at Nundah: “My attention,” he writes, “was strongly directed to the subject of establishing a mission to the aborigines of Australia so early as the year 1831, and during that year, and in the year 1834 I made three successive attempts to establish such a mission by means of Scotch missionaries, but without success.
The difficulty of securing Scottish missionaries was probably due to the fact that at the time there was an exodus of Scottish peasants to Canada, and that the Scottish clergy preferred to follow their own flocks to minister to their spiritual needs in the new home they sought beyond the seas. 1
In 1837 Dr Lang had been in Great Britain in search of missionaries to evangelise the Aborigines in the Moreton Bay area. He had been about to return to Australia without any success when he heard of Pastor Johannes Evangelista Gossner and his lay-missionary training centre at the Bethlehem Evangelical Church in Berlin. Dr Lang travelled to Berlin and enthusiastically outlined his plans to Pastor Gossner and his students, saying he felt Moreton Bay was ideally suited to a mission station. 2
A knowledge of Australia was widespread throughout German-speaking Europe: Yde T’Jercxzoon Holman, or Holleman, was second in command of the Heemskerk on Tasman’s second voyage, and on Cook’s second voyage he was accompanied by two German scientists, Johann Reinhold Forster and his son, Johann Georg Adam. The son’s work in particular, with its account of the Great Barrier Reef, was widely read. A German account of’ the third voyage was also published. Flinders on his voyage in the Investigator (1801-1803) had with him an Austrian, Ferdinand Bauer, whose account of the voyage was embellished with 1400 illustrations of Australian botanical specimens. 3
This is an image of Doryanthes excelsa from Ferdinand Bauer’s ‘Illustrationes Florae Novae Hollandiae’.
1. Sparks, H.J.J.; Queensland’s First Free Settlement 1838–1938.
‘To finance my medical studies, I helped a restaurant. I had left home when I was about sixteen, and teamed up with a Russian friend Kyrill Wypow who was 15 years older than I was. I had put together a bit of money from building fishing rods, and screen printing, and all sorts of other things: I was a bit of an entrepreneur. We started a restaurant called ‘The Pelican Tavern’ down on St Paul’s Terrace. It was a tricky life because I had often went to the markets at 5 in the morning, help with the business, go to lectures, and study at night. I’ve never slept more than about 5 hours a night all my life. (It’s still a misery for my wife, Eileen, at times!)
‘Carl was my elder brother: he was eight years older than I was. He was a boating man always. Carl and I both went to an auction of land at Kooringal on Moreton Island. The prices were so good that we bought two blocks there. I urged Carl to set up his medical practice there, so he paid $1800 for one block and $1670 for the other. He started a practice there, and I started going back seeing people at Amity again, but only at the weekends, and that lasted for years and years. In our spare time we’d visit each other and go fishing. There were a lot of kerosene fridges at Amity after the electricity arrived, and standing on the foreshore was an old windmill which I had rigged up with an old International truck generator and that sent a bit of power into the place to recharge the batteries. Once the power came on at Amity the fridges and the windmill went over to Kooringal. I had a big punt and as long as people gave me enough money for fuel, I’d bring the fridges over for them. Carl’s son, Peter, put in a nice generator there. Carl did a couple of amazing saves of people’s lives by being able to call up the helicopter. By that time, I was only seeing the odd patients at Amity or those occasionally coming in from Dunwich. I was still claimed as a fellow soul by the Aboriginal families such as the Coolwells, and some of the Ruskas. Every time I was in town my good friend of many years Emma Coolwell would rush up to me and give me a kiss and a hug – much to some people’s amazement.
‘Although I had brought my family up to Brisbane from Amity, I never really left my medical practice on the island. I’d go back for a week sometimes, but I really felt worn out. The Tazi mine people, wanted me to be a full-time doctor there, and were going to give me a surgery at Dunwich. They wanted me to do all their staff medicals as well as being a GP. Dunwich was coming on because the barges had started, but Frank Carroll had bitten the bullet and said he would give it a go, and he was very successful. I had started the practice at the office at the Forbes’ place – Elkorn Lodge on the beach at the end of Birch Street, next to the old Post Office – I still have the sign: my brass plate and the hours. I’d go down either in my boat or on the barge on a Friday and come back on a Monday morning. Then I’d go to work (in Brisbane) Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before returning to Stradbroke on Friday. The grape vine there was absolutely phenomenal. The islanders knew exactly how long it would take me to get from Dunwich (where the barge landed) to Amity; whether I was on the barge; and they knew when the boat was late; but as soon as I got to the surgery the phone would ring ‘Hello doc. I only need a script’.
‘Our house at Amity was called ‘Didjabringabiralong’ It looked like an Aboriginal word and people would say ‘How do you pronounce it?’ It was the Gregory’s old house which they had bought in 1931. The house was built in 1926, which I bought and added to. It grew like topsy. We also owned the place behind it. I sold up both and we moved down the beach a bit to a site more protected from erosion by rocks placed on the foreshore, and now known as “shoreline armouring”. In the shoreline management plan, all those rocks are illegal under the rules of the Maritime Services (then Harbours and Marine), and EHA (Evironment and Heritage Agency). It has now been proven to work with the aid of a remarkable man called Konrad Beinssen, a very wonderful marine and littoral scientist. He is now a world authority on beach front erosion in many parts of the world. He has discovered what we call a slide-flow breach is a change in the patterning of the slope of the sand, as in the Rainbow Channel. If you dig a hole at the bottom of the slope it puts the sand at a different pitch as the sand starts falling into it, and it keeps falling into it, until it makes this enormous fan shaped hole which is pouring out into the deep water, until it hits something that stops it. The boss of littoral science from the Netherlands, called Dick Masbergen, came out and verified Konrad’s discovery. We have now stopped the erosion at Amity. We invited the whole of the Redland Council over and about 9 or 10 came. They had lunch and I said I would stand the Mayor on a rock that we had put in 42 years before. They couldn’t believe me because they’d paid $50,000 to a littoral engineer to produce a report that said Amity is doomed. This meant that if your house was so many metres near the waterfront, you either had to knock if down or take it away. Which is rubbish. Anyway the Councillors came over and wanted to know how long this thriving frontal protection had been going on! They were absolutely astounded. This is a problem with many Government Departments, who make decisions without ever having physically observed the problems themselves.’
David Cilento was a too young to ever go to Peel Island when it was in business as a leprosarium (1907 – 1959). His father, Sir Raphael Cilento, when he was Director General of Health, had removed all the Aborigines from Peel in 1940. He was away in Europe when the War ended, because he was one of the world’s top epidemiologists and he was controlling epidemics in up to 10 million displaced people in Europe. Then the cure for leprosy came in at Peel in 1947: firstly Promin which wasn’t very efficient, then Dapsone, and lastly the Triple Therapy (dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine) which is still used today.
The Aboriginal people at Peel were transferred to Fantome Island in the Palm Island Group because Peel was becoming very overcrowded by 1940. The Aborigines were a dispirited lot having been bought to Peel from such places as Cherbourg and outlying districts out west and up north. There was a pocket of leprosy north of Townsville and another at Yarrabah, which was an isolated mission then – no roads or anything. But Sir Raphael, as Director General of Health, had the power to move the Aborigines from Peel up to Fantome Island which had been a lock hospital, and had a few huts. Orpheus Island was nearby and was privately owned. Palm Island had a settlement. None of them had any water, which was a serious problem. The water table was a problem and was only about a metre below the surface. David can remember his father saying that to get water into there they had boats coming over on a weekly basis.
David continues: ‘When dad came back from overseas after working with the United Nations, he came back to a job but the Government had changed. Not only was he the Director General of Health, but he was knighted for removing malaria from Australia. What he did, of course, would have put him in jail now, because he drained a lot of wetlands! But it got rid of the anopheles mosquito. He became a barrister and he became Director General of Health and Home Affairs, which included the police, and he was always getting called into Court. He was a most interesting bloke, and was better known than my mother at that time. He was well known overseas while her star was rising here. When he came back, he thought ‘Well, I’ll become a GP again.’ So he did, and worked up on the Sunshine Coast.
‘When the treatment for Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease or simply HD as it became known) became available in 1947 after the second world war, my dad was overseas. But he was still smart enough to make a diagnosis of HD in a patient at Royal Brisbane in about 1955. He asked the doctors what tests they had done: pauci bacteria or multi bacteria but they had already lost their diagnostic skills for HD. He wrote the book ‘Treatment of Tropical Diseases’ in the 1930s, which was used by the Americans and the Japanese, but the Australians decided that they would use something else at first, but later they decided that they woulduse it. There is an old saying One is rarely a prophet in one’s own backyard.He also wrote the book ‘Triumph in the Tropics’ with Clem Lake for the Queensland Centenary in 1959.
‘I was born in Australia as was my father, Raphael. I was fourth generation Australian. My great grandfather was Salvatore and he was then the Prince of Naples and the two Sicilies. This was the time when the civil war was on and Ferdinand and Victor Emmanuel wanted to unite all of Italy and make the one king over the lot My great great great grandfather was the king of Naples and the two Siciles, the “Sicily the first” being part of the boot and “Sicily the second” being the island.’
Recently at our Toondah Probus Club our guest speaker was Peter Rothlisberg whose topic was ‘Wading and Shore Birds of Moreton Bay’. Peter is the current secretary of the Queensland Waders Study Group (www.waders.org.au). He has now retired from CSIRO which he joined in 1975, but still works at the University of Queensland campus. The Queensland Wader Study Group (QWSG) was established in 1992 as a special interest group within Birds Queensland, to monitor wader populations in Queensland and to work towards their conservation. The term waders is used in the UK, and shorebirds is used in the US. In Australia we use both terms to denote such species as Plovers, Lapwings, Curlews, and Sandpipers. The survival of all of which are in trouble in Moreton Bay because of the following issues:
• Coastal development (e.g. Raby Bay, Toondah Harbour)
• Port development (e.g Wavebreak Island cruise ship terminal on the Gold Coast)
• Mangrove incursion
• Feral plants and animals
Human disturbance – recreation
• Dogs off leash
• Beach traffic (4WDs)
• Bait harvesting (birds vs humans)
• Kite surfing (birds mistake kites for predators such as hawks)
In short, it all comes down to competition between humans and the birds – and its we humans who are winning unless we become more mindful of the other animals with which we share our world.
Since 1993 Moreton Bay has been named as an important Ramsar Wetland for wading birds and their habitat is designated by the blue sections of our bay. But we cannot consider our bay in isolation because it forms an integral part of the East Asian – Australasian Flyway. Waders that live in Moreton Bay fly as far afield as Russia and Alaska to breed before returning home to Moreton Bay – distances of up to 17,000km to and from their breeding grounds!
A major concern of any Government is to protect the health of its citizens. Of most concern, perhaps, is an outbreak of infectious disease amongst its general populace. When the colony of Moreton Bay ceased to be used for penal purposes in 1839 and was subsequently thrown open for free settlement, foreign immigrants flooded in. With them came their families, their possessions, their skills, their hopes…and their diseases. Many of these, such as cholera, typhus, smallpox, scarlet fever, consumption, measles, and whooping cough were highly infectious, and an outbreak of any could decimate whole communities. The decision to place a ship in quarantine was not an easy one to make. It was an exercise in expense and inconvenience to the ship’s owners, the ship’s passengers, and to the community in general. However, such costs were justifiable when weighed against those which could occur should a serious infection be introduced into the community. When a vessel made port, a ship’s medical officer had first to furnish a medical report to the Health Officer of that port. If everything was in order, pratique would be granted and the vessel would be allowed to berth. If, on the other hand, a case of serious infection was present, the Health Officer could order the vessel and her passengers and crew into quarantine until the danger was over. 2
Such was the case with the iron clipper ship Gauntletof 677 tons which left England from Gravesend on 18 September 1875 with 272 passengers. During the voyage of three months enteric (typhoid) fever had broken out on board. The first case of fever had broken out about forty days out of London, a boy being the first noticeable case. There were twelve deaths up to 21 December. The Gauntletarrived at Cape Moreton on 20 December, and remained there a day (Ed.to take the pilot aboard). It arrived at the Bar at the mouth of the Brisbane River on 21 December and remained there two days while the ship’s medical officer reported to the Port’s Health Officer. Because of the contagious nature of enteric fever aboard, the ship, was placed under quarantine and on 23 December it was towed to Peel Island by the Government tug Kate.
Buildings on Peel Island were provided for single women capable of accommodating one hundred, but which contained ‘no beds or other convenience’. There was a hospital for females and another for males. There was also ‘a small shed for the quarters of the Surgeon-Superintendent’. Male immigrants and families were compelled by the shortage of shelter to live in tents. However, within a few days of the arrival of the Gauntlet the first instalment of beds arrived.
An enquiry was set up to investigate complaints from those quarantined at Peel Island: many concerned the issuing of rations. It was, however, not the quantity or quality of the rations, but the lateness of the issuing on some days. There were also complaints regarding accommodation on Peel Island. Immigrants were placed under canvas, which proved to be inadequate to protect them from the sun or from rain.
Fresh provisions, including live sheep to provide fresh meat, were sent to Peel Island on 21 December and on the following two days. The Gauntletremained in quarantine for forty days. There were some complaints about the distribution of food on Christmas Day, though there was a view that some complaints were not justified. There were some men who were too lazy to do any necessary work regarding the tents. Two hospitals were established on Peel Island, one for males and the other for females. There were up to ten patients in each.
On 4 February 1976 the Brisbane Courier published a letter to the Editor from the ship’s Medical Officer, Dr J.A. Hearne, in which he challenged some aspects of the enquiry into the condition of the Gauntletimmigrants during the voyage and while in quarantine on Peel Island. In particular he challenged Brisbane’s Health Officer, Dr O’Doherty’s view that he (Dr Hearne) was incapable of preserving order amongst his people. Dr Hearne claimed that order and discipline on the Gauntletwere as well preserved as on any immigrant ship to Queensland. He also objected to the arrival of two officers of the law, an implication that Dr Hearne needed their presence to maintain order, and to ‘save us from annihilating one another’. Dr Hearne enclosed two letters he had received from agents for whom he had worked previously, verifying that he had ‘performed his responsible duties to our satisfaction’, including occasions when he had ‘repeatedly over 1000 immigrants under my charge’.
The passengers were taken to Brisbane on 7 February 1876.
The enquiry continued spasmodically until mid-March.
A brief extract from material supplied by Brian Hedges who writes that ‘most of this information has been gleaned from Pennie Manderson and Colleen Bosel, The Voyages to Queensland of the Gauntlet, Maryborough, c.1997, and from the newspaper editions of the Brisbane Courier.’
2 Ludlow, Peter ‘Exiles of Peel Island – Quarantine’
Like Peel Island’s ‘Hole in the Wall’ Russell Island’s ‘Giant’s Grave’ has long been an easily designated favourite haunt for the fishermen of Moreton Bay.
David Willes, a descendant of John Willes the original European pioneer of Russell Island writes: ‘The Giant’s Grave used to be quite a landmark for the old mariners. Situated on the western side of Russell, just north of Brown’s Bay, this large mound of tree covered earth bore resemblance to the grave of an imagined giant.’
Of the Giant’s Grave Joshua Peter Bell writes in his book ‘Moreton Bay and .How to Fathom It’ : ‘This is simply a large, grave-like mound of earth and rock rising somewhat surprisingly from the partial swamp around it. Doubtless of natural origin.’
Steamboat Ken (alias Ken Goodman) writes in his monthly column for the Bay Island News of September 2016: Fellow Islanders, how many of you have heard of or visited the Giant’s Grave on Russell Island? It has intrigued people ever since being reported by Moreton Bay historian Thomas Welsby in 1907. An old oyster gatherer Jack Wall had a camp at the spot for many moons, but I’ll let Tom Welsby do the talking. In his book ‘Schnappering’. Tom says that 30 or 40 feet (9 to 12 metres) above Wall’s camp ‘there rises a curious lengthened mound or knoll. Standing on the southern end, one looks across from Little Rocky to Big Rocky…all appearing to run in the same direction, almost due south or a little west of south. The Giant’s Grave is a some 10 to 12 feet (3 to 3.6 metres) in height, about 20 feet (6 metres) or a little more across, and maybe 80 or 90 yards (73 or 82 metres) in length. The surface consists of pale red-coloured pebbles, with vines and small shrubs growing profusely. Towards the end, dipping in towards the island, there are a few fair-sized trees – the extreme part giving a view of lagoonish-watery country, that might grow something other than mosquitoes and flies, but I think not. One might pass this grave formation and take no heed. Nature’s formation of the mound is indeed curious, yet there it stands in summer boating days and winter’s silence.’
Ken Goodman continues: You need high water to get to the Giant’s Grave by sea. Heading south from the old salt works on Macleay Island towards Rocky Point, when abreast of Brown’s Bay on Russell Island on your portside, swing in towards the northern edge of said bay. The western tip of the bay’s curve is the location of the Giant’s Grave (as marked with an arrow on the accompanying map. Since then, about 40 feet of ground has gone between high water and the grave). Have a look sometime, examine it and wonder at what’s beneath this mound. But don’t linger on your high tide because Browns Bay dries at low water.
The kegs were being loaded at Cleveland on a wet and windy Friday night onto the Flirt to be consigned to the Buffaloes’ Stradbroke Lodge. One keg had been carried down the stairs of the Paxton Street Jetty and placed on the landing prior to being loaded. The other keg was being carried down the steps when the carrier slipped in the wet conditions and the keg he was carrying knocked the first keg, so that both kegs finished in the Bay. The Lodge advertised to let it be known that finders could have the contents as long as the Lodge got the kegs back, because there was a £7 deposit on each keg. One was returned very promptly but the other remained missing for some time until a party returning from Cleveland to Dunwich found the keg embedded on Cassim Island and which had been exposed by a very low tide. The contents were said to be in good condition.
In the early years of Moreton Bay’s European settlement, it was customary for vessels to use the South Passage between Moreton and Stradbroke Islands. However, the loss of the paddle steamer Sovereignon 11 March 1847 led to the closure of the South Passage, with the shipping lane being moved to the bay’s northern entrance between Moreton and Bribie Islands. Poor visibility and rain, however, could continue to deceive ships’ masters into mistaking Point Lookout on North Stradbroke for Cape Moreton, and during 1853–1889 no less than half-a-dozen vessels came to grief on the South Passage. And it was such a fate that befell the American Liberty Ship Rufus Kingduring the night of 7/8 July 1942, as it approached Brisbane with a cargo of vital war materiel from Los Angeles.
Aboard Rufus Kingwere nine crated B-25 Mitchell bombers plus aviation fuel, and medical supplies and equipment sufficient to outfit three army field hospitals totalling more than 4,000 beds (or more than 17,000 boxes in all). At this time, the Japanese were on Australia’s doorstep to the north, and the Battle of Midway had been fought only the previous month; the Second World War still hung very much in the balance.
Captain Muller, his crew of almost 40 and vital cargo aboard a ship less than four months old, came to an abrupt halt in less than four fathoms (7m) of water, barely 18 miles (30km) from their destination. As rescuers began taking off her crew, 12 hours later the Rufus Kingbroke in two.
A 200-strong team of Australian and US Army Medical Department personnel in the recovery of the ship’s cargo, the Americans based at Amity and the Aussies on Reeder’s Point. The drifting 330ft (100m) long forward section was taken in hand for salvage; and within four months, it had been sealed, towed into the Brisbane River and converted into its surprising second life.
The Courier-Mail newspaper reported Captain Muller was taken back to America under arrest; others said he was incarcerated there for the rest of the war. Graham Mackey who had worked on the salvaged section, heard at the time: “we were told by a Yankee officer that the skipper … was a German descendant and had run her aground purposely.”
Whether the wreck of the Rufus King was just an accident or a deliberate act of war still remains a mystery. Perhaps the answer can be found the fate of Captain Muller back in America.
‘Lost’ things intrigue me. They challenge me to find them again. It may be as simple as locating my wife’s glasses (a plea always issued as I stand holding the front door open while waiting to go out) or as complex as rescuing a ‘lost’ soul for their redemption (I’m no so good at that one). But locating a ‘lost’ cellar in our local pub is a different matter altogether. That really stirs my imagination. How could this happen? How could a cellar be isolated in such a way? Was it fully stocked? If so, the whiskey must be well matured by now. And why hasn’t anyone bothered to find it?
These questions surfaced again recently when, with a tinge of nostalgia, I heard that my local pub has been sold to a ‘Southern Conglomerate’ (what a cold, unfriendly term that is). The hotel has been a venue for some of my book launches and history presentations – the last most recently as this month. The Grand View Hotel boasts the title of Queensland’s oldest licensed pub still in operation. Its long history, by Australian pub standards anyway, dates back to 1851 when it was known as the Brighton Hotel. The Brock family has owned it since 1992, when the Brocks renovated and researched its history. It was then that the tale of the ‘lost’ underground cellar emerged. The hotel was remodelled into its present form sometime before 1900. Perhaps it was then that the cellar was ‘lost’. I wonder if the new owners will renovate again. Perhaps the cellar will finally be recovered.