Geoff Ross relates…
‘One Christmas I was forced by my employers to take holidays. My boat was not yet finished, so Dick Tripcony suggested I become a deckie for his vessel’s maiden voyage from Breakfast Creek down to Southport. I gladly accepted. Dick was well into his sixties at this stage. On the trip down from Brisbane, we were approaching Canaipa Passage when suddenly Dick turned the boat due east and tied up to a small jetty on an island. We each grabbed a carton of beer and followed Dick ashore and into the bush. Soon we came to a clearing where there was a white house and some sheds, with what can only be described as a lot of character! The land and buildings belonged to Ollie Rowney (see his chapter in “Moreton Bay People – the Complete Collection”). Ollie greeted us warmly and swapped yarns and drinks with us for quite a while. This visit began my love affair with Karragarra Island.
‘Ollie Rowney was a man of many skills and experiences. He came to the Bay Islands originally to visit a former schoolmate and his family who had taken up farming on Russell Island. Things were pretty tough for a youth at that period without much work being available. Ollie had a very shallow-draught sailing dingy capable of penetrating the mangrove forests. He would sail down from Brisbane and collect branches and trunks of a specific shape from the mangroves which he knew were in great demand by the builders of wooden boats as they made the very best knees for the bow and stern posts of the boats that plied the Queensland waters. (This was long before mangroves were protected).
‘Ollie owned about 14 acres of land on Karragarra island and had lived in the sheds while building his house. The house was interesting because it measured 40 foot by 16 foot – the same dimensions as his deep-sea fishing boat, “The Roamer”. Ollie reckoned that he had got used to living in this space when he was fishing in north Queensland, so he built his house to the same dimensions!
‘Ollie was a great storyteller, and one of note concerns the “Mirimar” which began visiting Karragarra in 1934. Every Sunday, the launch would bring up to 320 passengers (at 5/- or 50 cents each) to the island where they would be treated to afternoon tea in a Polynesian style grass hut that Ollie had constructed. The afternoon tea involved the serving of a delicious fruit salad made from fruit grown on the surrounding island farms. It was delicious, but little did they know that Ollie’s wife and her nephew had collected the farmers’ over ripe fruit at greatly reduced prices!
Insert image Mirimar passengers sampling the Karragarra produce (photo courtesy Gary Day)
‘Ollie had bought his land towards the end of World War II. Some years later, he gave three-quarters of an acre to his brother who had been a fencing contractor out west, but unfortunately his brother died. Ollie decided to sell this piece of land, but wanted to sell it to someone he knew. Through working on my own boat at Dick Tripcony’s slip, I got to know about this and decided to buy it from him. This happened not long after my first visit to Karragarra and I still remembered walking up from the jetty, through the trees, to Ollie’s house, and what an impression it had made on me.’
(Extract from “Moreton Bay Reflections” by Peter Ludlow)