In October, after the all-too-familiar uncertainty about the weather, I accompanied the Sailing Cruising Group from the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron to Peel Island to assist as a tour guide of the former Lazaret buildings. It was only my second visit to the island this year (the first was to conduct Paul Smith’s small family group in May as they researched their ancestor, Paulus Fredrick Schwarz, the Lazaret’s Assistant Caretaker there in 1908.) It was good to be back on the island, and I was even given a ride from the beach, thus bypassing the 40-minute trek that the rest of the 36 members of the group had to make.
So, I was dropped off at the former Nurses’ Quarters and while waiting for the walking group to arrive, was left to contemplate my 30+ year’s association with the island: the exciting times in the early 1990’s when the Cowie’s were caretakers and who enthusiastically cleared the bush that had covered most of the buildings for 30 years. They were happy to greet all and sundry who cared to visit. My wife and I had many a memorable sing-song with them…
Later in 1998 I helped establish the Friends of Peel Island Association (FOPIA), a group formed to assist with the maintenance and restoration work and to promote public awareness of Peel’s cultural and historic values. Our regular work parties were well supported and have continued, albeit in a now diminished form, to this day. A beach party at the end of the day’s work was always a highlight for me…
Now the first of the sailing group have arrived and I show them around the Lazaret buildings. Unfortunately, their stay must be very short due to the dependence on the tides. It would have been nice for them to rest on the verandah and soak up the atmosphere of the place, but time and tide wait for no one.
For an hour we tramped around the buildings and then it was straight off down the track to their boats at Horseshoe Bay: for me a visit of unsatisfying brevity. I’d love to have had more time with this enthusiastic group of boaties. Time, too, is catching up with my body, and my aches and pains protest at my big day out. But there is something else missing: my hopes for the future of the island as a tourist destination. Gradually due to the lack of official manpower/money/interest, the island seems destined to be reclaimed by Nature. With the channeling of funds into the development of tourism at nearby Stradbroke, but not Peel, an opportunity has been missed.
‘Caroline’, immigrant ship, from London, via Plymouth, was refused pratique (permission granted to a ship to have dealings with a port, given after quarantine or on showing a clean bill of health) yesterday in consequence of fever having broken out amongst the passengers during the voyage. She will probably be towed to the quarantine station to-day.
The Brisbane Telegraph, Wednesday 3 May 1882:
In Quarantine.— A Government Gazette Extraordinary was issued yesterday afternoon, containing a proclamation to the effect that;— ‘ Where it has been reporter to the Governor in Council that the infectious disease called scarlet fever exists on board the ship “Caroline,” lately arrived from Plymouth, at the Port of Moreton Bay, and now lying at anchor in that port: Now, therefore, His Excellency the Governor, by and with the advice of the Executive Council, and in pursuance and exercise of the authority vested in him by the said Act, doth order, and it is hereby ordered, that the said ship, and all the crew and passengers thereof, together with all the persons now on board, be placed in quarantine, at the Quarantine Station, Peel Island, and so continue until other order shall be made in that behalf.’
Brisbane Courier, Friday 5 May 1882:
THE Under Colonial Secretary received a telegram yesterday from Mr. J. Hamilton, superintendent at Dunwich, giving the names of the persons who died on board the immigrant ship Caroline during her voyage out.
They are :-
Hugh Elliott, infant, who died of the 2nd February, from convulsions resulting from diarrhea (diarrhoea).
Mary Hay Elliott, 2 years old, on the 3rd February, of marasmus (undernourishment) and bronchitis.
Eliza Dinein, infant, on the 2nd February, of diarrhea.
Edward Floyd, infant, on the 25th February, of hydrocephalus (a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain, typically in young children, enlarging the head and sometimes causing brain damage) and diarrhea.
William Henry Oliver, 5 years old, on the 9th March, of scarlatina fever (or scarlet fever, an infectious bacterial disease affecting especially children, and causing fever and a scarlet rash. It is caused by streptococci).
Charlotte Oliver, 2 years old, on the 10th March, of gastric fever.
Ellen Jones, 2 years old, on the 24th March, of gastric fever.
William Jones, infant, on the 21st April, of scarlatina fever.
Ellen Mears, infant, on 24th April, of scarlatina fever.
The Brisbane Telegraph, Wednesday 10 May 1882: RELEASE OF THE CAROLINE. AN order of Council appeared in a Government Gazette Extraordinary issued yesterday afternoon, releasing the ship ‘Caroline’ from quarantine, the health officer having certified that no contagious or infectious sickness exists amongst the crew.
(All entries in italics are explanations inserted by this editor, Peter Ludlow)
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.’
The quarantine station stood atop The Bluff on Peel’s south-east corner from the early 1870s until 1910. Then from 1910 until 1916 its empty buildings housed the Home for Inebriates. In 1916 its wooden buildings were demolished. Today, the area is now thickly wooded, with the only remnants of the station being the so called ‘jail’ and the former well.
A former lazaret patient recalls that there was no roof or partition remaining in the ‘jail’ during his stay on the island (1940s). These must have been put in later as a holiday house for a patient (or by a boatie). The iron door was there, however. (It was later taken by QPWS rangers to St Helena Island in about 1990). Also there were no trees around the ‘jail’, only grass, yellow flowers, and daisies. The shape of the previous quarantine gardens could still be seen from the position of the flowers.
The well is bottle shaped with a narrow opening at the top. It seems to be lined with bricks and may have been constructed by prison labour.
In 2019 it appears to have been dry, but in 1991, Ray Cowie, the then ranger for the Redland Shire Council attempted to pump it out with a portable petrol driven pump – without succeeding to dry it out. Its water content may depend on the current level of the island’s water table.
In July 1991, I measured the distance between the remaining cement slabs (still to be found under all the leaves and undergrowth) and the ‘jail’ at the old quarantine site. (See plan). By comparison with the sketch plan of 1893, the cellblock proved to be the former oven rooms (#12 on the sketch above), which were attached to the bakehouse (#13). The term ‘jail’ may have originated when prisoners from nearby St Helena Island were housed there for their overnight detention whilst they worked on the completion of the Quarantine Station’s stone jetty. The building may also have served as a ‘jail’ for isolating obstreperous inmates from the Inebriate home when it operated on the former Quarantine site from 1910 until 1916.
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’
There was a time in the world when it was usual to segregate people with leprosy in remote places, especially islands. In Queensland, Moreton Bay’s Peel Island housed our leprosy patients from 1907 to 1959. Fortunately, the cure was discovered in 1943, and such segregation was soon to pass into our history.
It was interesting, then, to read this small article that appeared in the London Evening Standard of Tuesday 9 July 2019:
PAYOUTS FOR LEPROSY FAMILIES
Prime minister Shinzo Abe today said the government would compensate the families of former leprosy patients over its segregation policy that caused long-lasting prejudice. He announced it will not challenge a court decision awarding 2.7 million (Pounds Sterling) in damages to 541 families for financial and psychological suffering.
Compensation for the families of leprosy patients? I am not aware that such families in Queensland had received any such payout resulting from our segregation policy here. Perhaps there is a case.
The other interesting point of the above article is “Why now?” It’s been over 75 years since the cure was discovered and 60 years since segregation was discontinued.
Ben Hills writing in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1995 provided a clue:
“The white-painted arched span, like a miniature version of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, is barely 100 metres long – but it took more than half a century to get it built. This highly symbolic bridge links Japan’s mainland with a tiny, mountainous island called Nagashima which juts out of the warm, grey waters of the Seto Inland Sea, surrounded by a cobweb of oyster-beds. Since 1930, when the first settlers came to Nagashima, the only way to reach the island was by ferry or by swimming across the fast-flowing straits in which many people drowned. And that was the way most Japanese wanted it to stay, because Nagashima is one of the country’s most shameful secrets – an island of the damned, where people were exiled, never to return.
“The outcasts were not criminals or psychopaths who posed a danger to society, though that’s how they still are treated by the law. Their only crime is that they suffer from Hansen’s disease, leprosy, a disfiguring but not fatal and relatively non-contagious infection, for which a cure has been known for 50 years.
“After decades of opposition, the bridge was finally finished in 1988 …”
If the bridge was to be the first symbolic span towards integrating Japan’s leprosy patients, then surely the Government’s current compensation to be paid to their families will be the final span across the breach that has divided the country for so long.
The Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes (RAOB) is a fraternal organisation started in the United Kingdom in 1822 and is known as the Buffs to members. The RAOB organisation aids members, their families, dependents of former members and other charitable organisations. The Order’s motto is “No Man Is at all times wise” (Latin: Nemo Mortalium Omnibus Horis Sapit) and it has the maxim of “Justice, Truth and Philanthropy”. The Order has a Rule Book, Manual of Instruction and Ceremony Lectures issued and revised by the Grand Lodge of England. The ‘lodge’ description for branch organisation and headquarters was adopted in imitation of Freemasonry. (Source: Wikipedia)
Peel’s Buffalo Lodge – Bayview 99 – was consecrated on the third of April 1950, by Bro. E.Franklin, ROH, W.G.P. who was also a founder of the lodge. The man behind the formation of the lodge was Bro. Frank Bennett. He was the live wire, spurred on with enthusiasm to get the lodge started, and to give the male inmates of the institution another avenue of enjoyment to break the monotony of life on the island.Bayview Lodge 99 used to hold their meetings in the old billiard room at the settlement, after the billiard table had been removed to another location in the new recreation hall. On large occasions the recreation hall had to be used and this was often filled to capacity.
A night at lodge was something to be enjoyed and remembered. Membership at the lodge peaked at about 15-20 per meeting on a fortnightly basis. Visitations from city lodges and also from Stradbroke Lodge from Dunwich, was always a highlight. Not only were patients members, but a large proportion of the staff were active Buffs, especially during the latter days of the institution’s existence, and these staff brothers were the ones who actually kept the lodge going as patients were systematically transferred to the mainland, pending the closure of the institution. Lodge meetings were well conducted, and played an important part in the social life of the island.
Bayview 99 was indeed a unique lodge, formed under never to be repeated circumstances. It may go down in history as the only lodge ever to operate or be constituted within the precincts of a Lazaret. May the memory and the achievements of Bayview Lodge, No. 99, remain an integral and vital part of the history of the Buffalo Order in Queensland. Bayview 99… a unique lodge in a unique situation!.
01.04.2019 – Moreton Bay Mysteries – 6 – Just who was the Lover of Hilda Finger?
In my previous blog of 23.04.2019 (Moreton Bay Mysteries – 5 – Inebriate Inmate’s lost paintings.) I made reference to Ivy Rowell’s beloved beach and rock pool. In 1911 Ivy, a five-year-old toddler, was playing on the beach with her brother and sisters when a young woman was rowed ashore from a steamer that had hove to off the island. The woman, a leprosy patient by the name of Hilda Finger, had been brought down as deck cargo on the steamer from up north and was to be admitted to the Lazaret (Leprosarium) on the other end of the island. On the steamer she had been housed in a wooden box affair, which was also rowed ashore in a dinghy and dumped on the beach where Ivy was playing. It was then burned, the memory of which was to remain in Ivy’s mind’s eye for the rest of her life
When Hilda had been offloaded onto the beach at Peel Island in 1911 she would have been met by the Superintendent of the Lazaret, which institution was located diagonally across on the other side of the island. A horse and dray would have taken them on this final leg of her last journey. Would it have paused at the top of the Bluff to watch the fire on the beach below? Would it burn in Hilda’s memory as it did in that of the young Ivy Rowell? What could Hilda’s thoughts have been as the dray headed off into the bush for the dreaded Lazaret?
Hilda Finger died on November 22nd, 1916 and was buried in Peel Island’s cemetery on the same day. Her Death Certificate states the cause as due to: 1 Cardiac Failure (of one hour duration), 2 Leprosy (years). Family lore as reported by Hilda’s next younger sister, Mina, attributes the death to be due to an incorrect drug being injected by a doctor in Mackay. The doctor was reported to be so upset that he ceased practising. There was no mention of Leprosy or Peel Island, or of Hilda’s removal there. Was Mina reporting facts or was it just her way of dealing with curious questions?
The other report of Hilda’s death is given by Ivy Rowell, the (by then) ten-year-old eye-witness who tells that Hilda and a male patient were lovers at Peel, but when he died, she was so stricken that, in Ivy’s words she “let out a squawk” and died too. Does such death by mortification occur in real life? Certainly it is common for an individual to lose the will to live after losing a loved partner, but does it occur within an hour as in Hilda’s case? Opera lovers, especially Wagnerians, would say “yes”. Take “Tristan and Isolde” for example. Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet also died in such a manner, admittedly with the help of a little poison, which leads one to wonder if the rumour of death by an incorrect injection may have taken place on Peel itself.
Whatever its cause, by love lost or clinical misadventure, the death of Hilda Finger was a tragic affair of the heart.
In 1989 while Ray Cowie was Redland Shire Council Ranger and living on The Bluff at Peel Island, he was contacted by an elderly lady by the name of Ivy Rowell. She had some information for him about her involvement with Peel Island. I think she had reached that age where she was reviewing her life before she died (much as I am now!)
Ray contacted me and I drove him out to visit Ivy at her home. Ivy was a wealth of information. It turned out that she was the daughter of George Jackson, the Chief Attendant (Superintendent) of the Inebriate Home at Peel between 1910 and 1916. One of his patients, William Simmons, presented George with five oil paintings that he had completed while in his care. Ivy still had these paintings in her possession (see attached). As you can see from the photo, the unframed painting was very dark. Ivy told us that this was from all the smoke from mangrove leaves, which they burnt in their house to keep the mosquitoes at bay.
Ivy provided us with the information I was to later use in my “Of Drunkards and Rock Pools” chapter in my Moreton Bay People book and for an important part of the Hilda Finger chapter. Ray invited her back to Peel to revisit the site of her former home which she was very pleased to accept.
Ivy died a short time later and her son, John, scattered her ashes in Platypus Bay – a spot she had always loved since playing there as a 4 year old child. I think Ray may have had a part in this ceremony.
As a token of his respect for Ray’s help to him and to his mother, John Rowell had the five Simmons’ paintings cleaned of their soot, framed, and inscribed with a dedication. I am not sure of the inscription, but I think it mentioned Ray. Anyway, Ray always maintained that John presented them to him personally and not to any organisation. This has just been reconfirmed by his widow, Nola.
After Ray and Nola left Peel, they rented a house at Lamb Island, and throughout our many visits to them there, my wife, Phyllis, and I saw the paintings hanging on the wall. After Nola and Ray split up, I never revisited the Lamb house again, and do not know the circumstances under which Ray left. If he did leave the paintings on the wall and the house was later sold with them still on the wall, the new owner would have inherited them. Because they were not a fixture on the wall, I don’t know if they legally became theirs.
So the current ownership of the paintings is uncertain, but in my opinion, if the paintings are ever recovered, I would hope that they be presented to QPWS (as joint custodians of Peel), and to nobody else.
Recently a special Peel committee has been focusing on possible future access to the island. Its report is due out by the end of the year. It may be an appropriate time, now, to look at the history of former points of access.
The stone jetty in 1885 (photo Royal Queensland Historical Society)
During the 1870s the foundations of the stone jetty were formed on the south-east corner of the island on the beach below the Bluff at the most convenient landing place by members of the ships quarantined there. The jetty was completed by prison and Aboriginal labour in 1893 and became the main access point for the island. Later, from 1907 the jetty was used as the main access point for the island’s Lazaret.
The stone jetty c.1950 (photo Terry Gwynne Jones – State Library of Queensland)
However, vessels could not berth there at low tide, and the distance from the lazaret was also a disadvantage. So it was decided to build a jetty less remote from the lazaret and also one that could be used in all weathers and tides.
In 1948 the short version (causeway only) of the proposed western jetty was completed which enabled a much quicker access to the lazaret, but which was still not accessible at low tide. The longer (wooden) section, which straddled the sandbanks, was not completed until August 1956. From then on, this became the main access for the island. Although the lazaret was to close in 1959, the jetty was again useful when the then Church of England Grammar School (“Churchie”) took out its first lease on part of the former lazaret buildings in December 1968 for the purpose of sending their students to the island for three-day camps.
It is doubtful whether the old stone jetty on the South-East of the island would have been used, or repaired, after the opening of the western jetty in 1956.
Western Jetty, Peel Island, February 1990 (photo Peter Ludlow)
Sadly the Western Jetty had become unsafe after 40 years of inattention to its maintenance. It was demolished in late 1990s. This left Peel Island without proper access; a situation that has persisted until this day.
A third access point to Peel Island was via the patients’ jetty, which straddled the mud flats from the Lazaret Gutter right up to the embankment below the Lazaret itself. It was constructed by the patients with materials supplied by the Health Department, and was for the exclusive use of the patients and their boats.
Peel Island patients’ jetty c.1955 (photo Dr Morgan Gabriel)
As you can see from Dr Gabriel’s photo, the patients’ jetty could only be used at or near high tide. If such a jetty were contemplated today for public use, it would have to be a much more substantial affair and it would have to extend right out to the Lazaret Gutter if it were to be useable at all tides. Northerly winds would make it difficult for boats to berth, and the size of the vessel would be very limited.
The advantage in siting a jetty here would be that the visitors arriving from such a jetty would land directly at the Lazaret itself, and thus save a 40 minute walk (each way) from Horseshoe Bay, as they have to do today. Even with a much shorter jetty, the visitor’s ‘two hours before and after high tide’ time limit would be considerably extended. Maybe a landing barge, such as previously used to land tourists at Horseshoe Bay, could be employed to land at the Lazaret beach with no jetty at all being required.
Landing barge at Horseshoe Bay (Photo Friends of Peel Island Association Inc.)