Peel’s Last Walkabout? By Peter Ludlow

            On Friday 18 September, I was privileged to attend the Royal Queensland Yacht Squadron’s Sail Cruising Group for a presentation for the best cruise organisers of 2019-2020. The trophy went to Warren and Debbie Kerswill, owner of the sailing catamaran Phase2.

L to R Warren Kerswill (holding the trophy), Peel historian, Peter Ludlow, Debbie Kerswill, and Peter Shepherd the Sail Cruising Chairperson in 2019 (photo courtesy RQYS Sail Cruising Group)

Craig Margetts, this year’s Sail Cruise Chair relates: ‘Warren and Debbie put a tremendous effort into the organisation of this cruise, even arranging for Peter Ludlow (the Moreton Bay historian) to provide a comprehensive talk on the history of Peel Island including its use as a quarantine station and leper colony.  This primed us for the visit prior to the cruise.  It had taken months to get the necessary approvals from National Parks. Cruisers were greeted ashore by the Chairperson of the Friends of Peel Island Association (FOPIA), Scott Fowle and Peter Ludlow who lead us to the settlement. With over 30 in the party it was split into two groups, led by Peter Ludlow and Scott Fowle for an interesting tour around the Lazaret.’

Heading up the track towards the Lazaret (photo courtesy RQYS Sail Cruising Group)


No one there on that day was to know that this walkabout could well be the last conducted tour of Peel Island, because FOPIA, who has led many such tours over the previous two decades, closed down at the end of June this year. In 1998 the Friends of Peel Island Association was formed to assist with the maintenance and restoration work and to promote public awareness of Peel’s cultural and historic values. As well as regular work parties, the group supplied tour guides for the many organisations keen to visit and learn about the island’s history. Gradually, however, due to the lack of official manpower/money/interest in Peel, these have now finished and 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.  

Inside the Recreation Hall (photo courtesy RQYS Sail Cruising Group)

See also Peel Island in Retrospect (07.12.2019)