A Diggers Life at Nudgee Beach

Reg Fleming writes…

Just before the war in 1939, a meeting was held in connection with electricity for Nudgee Beach. The authorities demanded each house owner deposit £1 as a guarantee that they would have power connected. After holding this money for about four years, it was returned. The council claimed that, because of the war, the work could not go ahead.

When war was declared, many answered the call. One (resident) still remains in New Guinea and will never return. During the war, the School of Arts was taken over by the Australian Army Searchlight Division, and had about four batteries along the foreshore. Mrs Hough’s residence was used as a school. After the war was finished, the Army left and the school was returned to the School of Arts.

Building materials were scarce after the war, and the QATB building was sold and demolished, as was a pavilion on the reserve, which was used for Progress meetings. The kiosk, built in 1930, was burnt down. This was the beginning of the end for buildings on the reserve.

I was made Trustee for the School of Arts in about 1946, and held that position until the building was demolished. After the School of Arts was condemned and demolished, only the shelter shed, which was one of the first buildings on the reserve, and the toilet block were left.

The School of Arts was built in 1926 and was used for many purposes including dancing, school, voting, meetings, church, concerts, library, wedding receptions, and many other functions.

From the early 1930s until just after the war, Nudgee Beach was like Cribb Island, that is, a very close community with everyone knowing each other by their first name. About half of the population were permanent residents, and there was a percentage of “floating” population. During this time, we had cricket matches on the reserve every Saturday and Sunday throughout the summer and tennis was played all the year round. We had social evenings and dances to raise money for our clubs. Euchre tournaments were held in the School of Arts every Friday night. Table tennis was organised by the Progress Association with the proceeds going to the upkeep of the School of Arts, books for the library, and the maintenance of the buildings on the reserve. On Sunday nights, social evenings were held in private homes, where bingo and euchre were played. Profits went to the Sports Club. 

The School of Arts was taken over by the Australian Army for the duration of the war years, and the Sunday night social evenings continued throughout the war years. When the boys returned from war service (only one soldier, Harris Knight, was killed in action in New Guinea) a big Welcome Home party was arranged by the social committee and held in the School of Arts.

In 1942, I was home on leave, and Jack Cahill asked me to go net fishing at 2:30 the next morning. It was low tide with a strong northeast wind blowing; the net was about 180 yards long. Jack said that when the net was out, he would hold up the lantern. By this time, the wind had blown the lantern out, and I told my mate that we had better head for the shore. We managed to get little more than half the net out, and when we dragged the net in, the wings were loaded with big whiting. When we reached the back of the net, we found four huge sharks that were of the man-eating variety. By the time we bagged our fish and cleared the sharks out of the net, it was daylight. We put the net out again, this time the whole length of it. The same thing happened again with the whiting in the wings. But, when we reached the back of the net, the sharks had gone right through.

I have seen fishermen standing waist-deep in water, fishing for whiting, and sharks with their fins exposed swimming nearby in the channel between them and the shore. Oddly, during the time I have lived at Nudgee Beach, I can’t remember any cases of shark attack!

Nudgee Beach today has sealed roads, a reasonable bus service, a postman, water, electricity, sewerage, one shop, and some nice homes. Pre-war, we had a kiosk, School of Arts, Ambulance shed, toilets and dressing sheds, three shops, a Progress Association building, a school, a cricket ground and tennis court, a fair bus service, and butcher and baker daily deliveries.

Nudgee Beach today

(Extract from ‘Moreton Bay Letters’ Peter Ludlow 2003)