The Bells of Eventide

 The casual visitor to Eventide Aged People’s Home at Sandgate may wonder at the connection of the two bells now on permanent display in the grounds near the main entrance. In fact, they represent a tangible link with the institutions past.


  Older of the two is that of the Queensland Government Steamer “Otter'”.

The Otter at Dunwich Jetty (Photo courtesy Ossie Fischer)


            Twin screw steamer.               271 tons gross 

            Hull construction:                               steel

            Length                                                                         128.6ft (39.2 m) 

            Beam                                                                           21.2 ft (6.46m) 

            Depth                                                              10.1 ft (3.08m) 

            speed                                                                           12 knots

            In 1884 the “Otter” arrived in Brisbane. It was built by Messrs.Ramage and Ferguson of Leith, Scotland, for Websters and Co of Brisbane for excursion and tugboat service of that company. In 1885, however, it was purchased by the Queensland Government’s Marine Defence Force for ₤15, 000 ( $30, 000) and was overhauled and armed because of the threat of a Russian invasion. The arms took the form of a ’64 pounder’ mounted on a race forward. This muzzle loading cannon had belonged to the sailing ship “Young Australia” and fired chain shot. Thus the “Otter” became a unit of the Queensland fleet which at that time consisted of the “Gayundah” and “Paluma”. In World War I it was requisitioned for the RAN and posted as an examination ship in Moreton Bay, and in 1939 she again saw RAN for about two years.

            However the “Otter” was better known as a means of transporting passengers and stores to the prison St Helena, the Leprosarium at Peel Island, and the Benevolent Asylum at Dunwich.

            By 1945, after sixty years of service she still had the original engines which delivered a top speed of 11 knots. Like her engines, her crew was also long serving, R. R. Robinson being her steward from 1911 until 1945+ (the year of this reference); her captains being Page, Henderson, Junner (1898 – 1932), Jack (1932 – 1934), and Thrower (1934- 1945+).

            In 1946 the condition of the “Otter” had deteriorated: water was leaking onto the crew’s bunks so that they could not be used.

            Government inaction about repairs to the vessel resulted in strike action by the crew. Premier Ned Hanlon was so incensed by this work stoppage that he set about buying the old RAAF Sandgate Station that was on the market for the ridiculous price of £25, 000 ($50,000). The quoted price to replace the steamer “Otter'” was in the vicinity of ₤200, 000 ($400,000).

            Rather than replace the ailing “Otter”, the Government shifted the Benevolent Asylum from Dunwich to Eventide at Sandgate, thus rendering the “Otter” superfluous. She later became a timber dumb barge on the Frazer Island – Maryborough run.

            In 1969, the Hervey Bay Artificial Reef Committee retrieved her hulk from a sandbank at South White Cliffs on Frazer Island, towed it to a point just off Big Woody Island in the Great Sandy Strait and sank her to form part of the Roy Rufus Artificial Reef. Today she is visited by many scuba divers to view the rich profusion of marine fauna and flora which have made the “Otter” and her sister wrecks, ” Pelican”‘ and ” Lass O’Gowrie”, their home.


            During WWII a RAAF base was built on the present site of  “Eventide” at Sandgate, and a bell served this establishment. When in 1946 the Dunwich Benevolent Institution was transferred to the site, the bell served for a further 35 years as a dinner bell.

            On completion of the re-development of Eventide in 1985, both bells were put on permanent display. For the curious, the RAAF bell has the higher pitch.

The bell of the ‘Otter’ at Eventide, Sandgate (photo Peter Ludlow)

The bell of the “Otter”, long time supply vessel to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum and which ceased operations when the institution was transferred to Eventide at Sandgate. It was used as a dinner bell there for many years.

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.

The Day We Went to Sandgate (Part 2)


Originally it cost 3d for adults to get onto the pier and 1d for children, then it was broken down to 1d because people wouldn’t pay.  An Englishman named Wakefield and a fellow we called “Possum” a bald chap whose remaining hair jutted out, collected the money for entrance to the pier. The amusement arcade was in a kiosk on the other side of the pier from the dance floor.  Admittance to the amusement arcade and to the change rooms was free. There were separate swimming enclosures attached to the pier for the ladies and the gentlemen. The Sandgate Swimming Club commenced in 1924 in the Men’s Swimming Enclosure on the Sandgate Pier.  Meets were held fortnightly, during full tide.  No women swam in the swimming club for quite a long time.

A picture screen was erected to view open air films.  A fellow named Amies used to run the generator for the projector.  In the very early 1920s cinematographs were still a novelty.  People would bring their own seating rather than hire deck chairs.

“Olivene”, “Beryl” and “Emerald” were vessels owned by the Humpybong Steamship Company, and ran for a time from the pier to Woody Point.  The Redcliffe Historical Society offers the following information about the S.S.”Emerald” as she was in 1908 under Captain James Farmer: “The “Emerald” is a twin-screw steamer, with a registered tonnage of 117.  She was specially built in Sydney for the Humpybong steamship Company Limited in 1900.  The engines are compound surface condensers of over 300 i.p.h., capable of driving the vessel at 11 knots.  The vibration, which was so noticeable when the “Emerald” first arrived in Brisbane, is now reduced to a minimum through alterations affected by the present engineer, John Crawford, and the comfort of the trip is thereby considerably enhanced.  The “Emerald” is 130 feet in length, her beam being 25 feet, and she has a draught of 5 feet 3 inches.  The vessel is licensed to carry 487 passengers in the Bay, and 800 in the Brisbane River.”  

The shed on the present pier originally marked the end of the pier, but at low water no ship could berth, so they had to extend the pier a further 300 or 400 feet.  A gentleman called Street had spent a lot of money dredging Cabbage Tree Creek and extending the jetty so that boats could call in on the way from Brisbane to Redcliffe, but in 1882 they ruined things by putting the trains in and he lost a lot of money. The Penny Arcade, the kiosk, and the swimming enclosures are now long gone, but the pier remains for the area’s many enthusiastic fishermen and yachties for the start of the annual Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race.


            After a swim and picnic lunch, a visit to the pier’s penny arcade would round off the day.  Here, in the days before electronic gadgetry, manually operated fun machines dispensed entertainment to fun seekers.  Arthur Hancock owned the arcade machines. George Hancock, his father, ran the theatres in Sandgate.  For 1d or 3d, one could become a peeping Tom and view flickering card “movies” of beach belles undressing, play cricket with a team of tin men in their Victorian glass house, or operate a claw for trinkets.  Another popular arcade item was the Electric Volt Machine where young kids would all throw in 3d and clasp hands in a line and see how much electric current they could take.  Once the current started flowing people could not let go anyway.  If someone walked by you didn’t like, you could grab him and they would be stuck too. 

A Moving picture machine


A walk runs along the foreshore from Cabbage Tree Creek to the Baptist Church.  It was originally called Dover’s Walk, after one of the engineers associated with the Sandgate Town Council. Sometime between 1910 and 1920 an English company came out and took photographs around Brisbane to make Post Cards.  Dover’s Walk, was one of them.  As a joke, the young blokes in the firm covered part of the “D” up to make it an “L” and the cards came out from England as Lovers Walk.  It has remained that ever since.


Changing into one’s swimming gear was a more private affair than we are accustomed to today, and for the procedure, individual bathing boxes, both for private and for public use, had been erected along the foreshore.  The private boxes, such as those owned by the Allen family, the Lack family, and the Nuns of the Sacred Heart Convent, were built against the sea wall and gave more sheltered access to the water than the public ones that were built over the sea and linked by a concrete bridgeway. Between the Wars, day trippers would come to picnic at Sandgate through Easter, Christmas, New Year, and even the June weekend if the weather was fine, though people didn’t swim in the winter.  However, all this changed after WWII with the advent of the family car when the North and South Coast beaches became day trips rather than weekend outings.                                                                       

Lovers Walk circa 1920

Ray Robinson

                                                                        January 1995

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.

The Day We Went to Sandgate (Part 1)

(Ray Robinson, Taigum)

Ray Robinson has been a resident of the Sandgate area for 72 of his 75 years.  A retired hairdresser, his fascination for the district and its people is mirrored in his thorough knowledge of its history.  His photographic collection would do justice to any museum.  Here, perhaps as he did in his hairdressing days, Ray shuffles his photos and revisits in memory at least…


Sandgate in the early days was quite a well-to-do place.  It had better sand than Wynnum, and was a favourite picnic spot for Brisbane’s society where a lot of wealthy people retired.  Governors added their Vice Regal endorsement by holidaying here. In the time before Brisbane had its own city hall, the Town Hall at Sandgate was a mecca for opera and classical music presentations. Brisbane’s music lovers would travel here by train.  This imposed a 10 o’clock curfew on musical presentations so that the audience could catch the last train back to town at 10.20 pm.

Shorncliffe was then the busy part of Sandgate.  The shops in Sandgate Central were very quiet and had dwellings behind them so that wives could look after shop while husbands worked elsewhere.

To cater for Brisbane’s picnickers, special trains ran at the weekends and on public holidays.  On Sundays between 4 pm and 6.30 pm, there would be 5 or 6 extra trains scheduled to return the day-trippers to Brisbane.  Indeed, large organisations such as the Railway Institute and the Ipswich Coalminers would hire special trains for their Annual Picnics on the Shorncliffe foreshore. After disembarking at the Shorncliffe railway station, the picnickers would crowd off over the hill, past the clifftop boarding houses, and down onto the esplanade at Moora Park.  There was no fresh water available there so supplies had to be obtained from a local shop (now St. Pats) en route.  Each family had previously brought with them their empty 7 lb treacle tin which the shopkeeper would fill with fresh water for a fee of 3d or 6d.

Holidaymakers at Sandgate ca. 1920-1930 (photo State Library of Qyeensland)


            The kiosk was situated on the hill up from the pier at Moora Park, and there were Tea Rooms there and an open part where you could purchase ice creams for 3d each.  The kiosk was demolished in the late 1970s.  Below the kiosk was a dance floor built by the Sandgate Swimming Club in the late 20s into the early 1930s.  Dances were held every holiday time. They ran all day and the music was supplied by 78″ records.  For a fee of 3d. each, couples could dance to the music played from each side of one record (or from 5 records for 1/-).  Each side played for about a minute and a half.


            Access to the pier cost 1d. and a fence was built to stop people getting onto the pier at low water. This fence was later demolished to make way for the shark-proof enclosure which was erected during the Depression Years (early 1930s).

            During holiday periods, there was a chair-o-plane, and a tent which the Ambulance always had.  The carnival atmosphere was also enhanced by a variety of side show tents.  There was also a boatshed on the foreshore where a gent hired out flat bottomed wooden boats.

The Kiosk at Moora Park, Sandgate

Ray Robinson

January 1995

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.


(Memories of Sandgate recalled by John McCallum)

The present Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane’s Performing Arts Centre is the namesake of the well-known theatre which stood in Stanley Street, South Brisbane. Founded by John N. McCallum, the original Cremorne theatre was destroyed by fire in 1952. The visitor to the Esplanade at Sandgate will note a large rambling home with a cupola on its corner, and also named Cremorne.

Cremorne house at Sandgate

John McCallum, actor/producer son of John N. McCallum explains the relationship.

“I was born in March 1918 in the Brisbane suburb of New Farm – my parents had a home called Duddingstone in Brunswick Street. At this time my father was running the Cremorne Theatre at South Brisbane. He decided to build the house at Sandgate in about 1920/21 because he found it difficult to “unwind” after spending every night in the theatre. He thought the drive to Sandgate and the sea air might help him to sleep better – and that it would be a pleasant place for my younger brother (born 1919) and myself to grow up in – as it was.

“He had a faithful “handy man” at the theatre called Joe, and he and his wife, Annie, came to Sandgate to live in the house and to help my mother with entertaining (of which they did a lot) and to look after us. I remember John Fuller from New Zealand of the famous theatrical family (the founder of it) often came to stay as did a lot of other artists – Billy Moloney, Gus Bluett and his father, Dan, Maud Fane, Claude Dampier, Harry Borradale, Arthur Aldridge, and others. Dr Paul, Health Officer of Brisbane, his wife and daughter Gwenda often stayed as did Fred Gilbert, the Brisbane tailor. Other great friends were the Stewarts, owners of the Criterion Hotel, Brisbane, and Jimmy Blair, later Sir James Blair, Chief Justice. Local friends were the McMenamins, who lived at Shorncliffe .

“My memories of the days at Sandgate were those of a very young child: the soldier crabs. .

playing in the pools left behind by the tide. . .

Arthur Mailey, the cricketer’s comment: “Sandgate is 12 miles from Brisbane and 13 when the tide is out” . . .

a house, pulled by a steamroller, being moved from one street to another . .

the ice cream bicycle man (best tasting ice cream ever.) . . .

bumping about in the car on the corrugated dirt roads. . .

the chickens we kept. . .

terrible thunderstorms. . .

raining tiny green frogs. . .

mosquitoes and joss sticks. . .

the piano at night, my father playing and the artistes singing. . .

the big verandah, since closed in. . .

the paradise under the house – toy motor cars and playthings. . .

my brother getting his finger caught in the mangle (turned by me) and taken off to hospital. . .

the billiard table and cigars. . .

heat and dust. . .

water fowl in the lagoon. . .

lots of swamps. . .

a butcher with initials I. B. – I B Best Butcher. . .

“We lived there until 1924, when we went to Sydney. However, in 1930 we returned to Brisbane and lived at Shorncliffe next to the McMenamins, and were there for about three years. Being much older by this stage, I remember far more, of course. Shorncliffe was a wonderful place for school holidays – I was a boarder at CEGS, Churchie, with my two brothers – swimming, fishing from the jetty and in the creek by the golf club, bicycling, driving (we all drove cars then – aged 12 and 13 and motor bikes).

“My father was also very interested in Sandgate (and Redcliffe) and thought they would develop as the seaside resorts of Brisbane. He took an interest in local affairs and became Mayor of Sandgate. He was keen on golf, and helped found the Sandgate Golf Course. He was the club’s first President.

“My father invested in land at Sandgate believing in its future. Ironically, when Surfers Paradise was “discovered” during and after the Second World War, one of the prominent “discoverers” was Bob Gerahty, manager at the Cremorne Theatre for Will Mahoney who rented the theatre during the war years. People wanted the surf, and Sandgate and Redcliffe lost out. My father sold the Shorncliffe house in 1933 and all his land – there used to be a hill he mostly owned just south of the town called “McCallum’s Hill”.

“The Cremorne Theatre was rebuilt as a cinema and leased to MGM in 1935, and I left Brisbane in 1936. Three years ago, while in Brisbane with a play, I revisited Sandgate’s Cremorne with my wife, the well-known actress, Googie Withers. The visit brought back a host of memories – all of them happy ones – of my early days there.

“While we were there, a rather eerie thing happened. The old house had been converted into three or four flats. The tenant of the largest flat told us that he had discovered an old oil painting in a cupboard, which she brought out and showed to us. My wife looked at it and said, astonished, ‘That is the view from Studland in Dorset overlooking Poole Harbour, and I lived in Studland from the age of seven to fourteen.’ And so when I looked at the picture in the billiard room at Cremorne in Sandgate aged seven, Googie was looking at the same, real view in Dorset.”

The house has changed little, like Sandgate itself. It’s still 12 miles from Brisbane, or 13 when the tide is out. . . . but perhaps we should be talking in kilometers now.

John McCallum

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.

Wartime Aircraft Events at Sandgate

A Dialogue from Material provided by Ross Cameron at the Sandgate Historical Society

Imagine if you will that night is falling and we Ghosts of the Past are huddled round a campfire on the foreshore at Brighton. We gaze into the primeval fire and our memories of these events so long ago in our so short lives are stirring:

The American’s 80th Fighter Squadron is formed at Mitchell Field, New York, in January 1942, and by May 10th, it moves to Petrie Aerodrome, just outside Brisbane. There, for two months, the squadron trains and prepares for combat.4

There are nine aircraft accidents in the short period the Squadron is at Petrie. In mitigation, it can be said that they are a young bunch of pilots straight out of flying school.5

Those killed in air crashes in the vicinity of the RAAF base at Sandgate are:

2nd Lt Max Jones      on        May 26, 1942

1st Lt George Austin  on        July 2,   1942

1st Lt Joseph Cole      on        July 15, 1942

2nd Lt Trevis Ferguson on     July 15, 1942 1

Lieutenant Max Jones

Killed instantly when his plane hits a tree while landing at Petrie Aerodrome1

Lieutenant George Austin

 Killed instantly when his plane collides with another 80 Squadron plane while flying in formation over Redcliffe 1

“Lt Austin is the flight leader, I, Lieutenant Malcolm Sponenburgh, am his wingman. We are returning from gunnery practice, flying at about 1000 feet. He gives me the standard signal to close up the formation. I move into the spot he requires I always fly – a little below but close in. We fly along for a couple of minutes. He never looks in my direction nor can I detect any motion on his part. Then he slumps over the stick and the airplane turns into me and starts diving. I close the throttle and try to turn and dive with him. Seeing that he will soon be in a vertical dive with little altitude I try to break off, but I am not quite clear of him and we collide.”5 …

After the collision, Lieutenant George Austin tries to reach the sea, but goes into a dive. Without enough altitude to bale out, he is killed as he crashes into Charles Rossiter’s market garden situated between Josephine and Sylvester Streets. Bullets are exploding all around Mr. Rossiter when the aircraft crashes 14

Sponenbergh ditches in Moreton Bay to avoid crashing on Redcliffe. He is rescued by Mr. Larkin and his two sons who are fishing in a rowboat. Marie Mole (Moreton), who has seen the plane crash, is on the shore with a flask of tea and a blanket for the pilot 9

Lieutenant Joseph Cole

It’s winter, the sea is a beautiful pale blue with hardly a ripple. An American Airacobra fighter plane appears. The pilot really knows how to handle his plane. He runs a slalom course between the power poles and the lines. He turns seaward and then flies very low to the water as though strafing. Lifting sharply over the Shorncliffe Pier, he rolls over and flies back north belly up, and still very low over the Bay. When he goes to roll right way up, one wing tip touches the water. What happens now is incredibly graceful. The plane continues for some distance standing on its wingtip, which slides very slowly deeper into the water. Then the plane loses balance, tips over, and slides almost without a splash under the very still sea 6

It is just another routine day on the Sandgate Base, squads of WAAAF rookies marching up and down the parade ground, and RAAF personnel coming and going. Down in Headquarters orderly room, based on the foreshore of the Bay, we go about our daily duties. Suddenly the air is rent by the sound of low flying aircraft. We have become accustomed to this since our American Air Force friends had moved onto the Strathpine airfield and use the Sandgate camp as a ‘target’ for shooting up the enemy. On this occasion the pilot does a couple of low runs across the base. Coming in from the west, very low across the parade ground, making a turn out over the water and coming at us again. However, on one of these turns he is so low that when he banks to come round, the wing hits the mud, the tide being out. There before our very eyes his plane nose dives into the mud, killing the pilot 8

Len de Vene and I wade out – we dive a number of times attempting to open the submerged cockpit cowling but it could not be opened. The young pilot is still strapped in his harness, but there is no sign of life 7

In the afternoon, the Yanks have several big trucks out across the low tide sandbanks, with miles of heavy wire mesh for traction. Yanks are everywhere and armed. They are searching all the pools for wreckage, and are recovering the bigger pieces out beyond the low tide mark. They are able to recover the pilot’s body, but nobody is allowed to stand by the seawall to watch 6

Lieutenant Trevis Ferguson

We are all still in a state of unrest from this event (the Airacobra crash in the morning) and are trying to carry on with our work, when around 1600 hours, a drone is heard out to sea, immediately in front of the HQ orderly room. We all wait and watch with disbelief as a plane nose dives from a great height straight into the sea. We all hold our breath, willing the pilot to pull out of the dive, but he seems to make no attempt to do so. Speculation or rumour at the time is that he is a buddy of the pilot killed earlier in the day, the truth of which I suppose we will never know 8

It appears as though it could have been a suicide pact. Pilot Officer Don Case and other airmen swim out to the crash but cannot release the pilot; he is jammed in the cockpit and can not be extricated. It is the opinion of P/O Case that the pilot could have been alive 2… 

It is later rumoured that this pilot is the twin brother of the pilot in the first Airacobra 7

No, Ferguson and Cole were not brothers, not related in any way. I doubt they even knew one another well. Ferguson was one of the group that arrived with me, Cole had not been with the squadron very long. I haven’t the slightest idea of what caused either accident. But I can assure you that Cole wasn’t the type of person to deliberately crash, for any reason.5

Sponenburgh was appointed summary courts officer by the USAF to investigate these two incidents. Satisfying himself after investigation that the two men killed had no close association, he despatched Lt Cole’s property to his next of kin 10

The Squadron leaves piece-meal bound for Port Moresby, New Guinea, shortly after the latter two accidents 5


In 1947, five year old Mary Mateer is paddling on the Sandgate foreshore with her family. On her toe, she digs out of the mud a gold ring which Lt Cole had been wearing…with the inscription: Joseph P Cole, Kingstree, South Carolina,USA. Mary’s mother writes to the address, returning the ring. She receives a grateful reply from Lt Cole’s mother, who says it was his college ring, “which his sweetheart placed on his finger at the Christmas dance (called the Ring Dance) in his senior year at the Citadel Military College.”10

Flying Fortress:

Flying Fortress beached at Brighton Beach (Photo courtesy Albert Jeays)

The largest aircraft to come down near the Redcliffe Peninsula is an American B-17 Flying Fortress, which is heading for Amberley when it narrowly escapes disaster.

It is one of six planes flying from New Caledonia or thereabouts, which strikes heavy rain and a severe tropical thunderstorm well off the coast. In zero visibility and unable to maintain contact, the six split up, hoping to find a landing ground. One reaches Amberley, the others land along the coast as far south as Coffs Harbour. At 5.45pm on April 18, 1942, one of the six aircraft mistakes the Hornibrook Bridge lights for runway lights. After circling several times, the aircraft comes in over reclaimed land, making a forced landing on what is now Decker Park, just off the Houghton Highway Bridge 10

The area has recently been reclaimed with red soil: with heavy rain over the previous days, the ground is a real quagmire. 12

The crew of the circling Bomber recognise by the buildings that it is some kind of a Camp, and decide that they had enough room to put the plane down on the waste land, provided that the high barbed wire fence at the north west of the camp is taken down to extend the length of the landing field. So messages are flashed to the Camp from the Bomber, and the Airforce boys set to with a will, and dig out the fence, and remove it out of the way. Then, as the evening starts to close in, the Bomber heads out behind the Redcliffe Peninsula, and starts to come in low just south of Hayes Inlet. By skimming the mangroves beside the Pine Rivers mouth, and hurdling the concrete pillars at the end of the highway bridge, the pilot puts the Bomber down, and starts to rush towards the Air Force Station. As its speed decreases, it starts to sink into the soft ground, but it keeps going until it crosses the fence line of the Camp. Luckily for the plane and its crew, there is a ‘Bull Ring’ there, where the airmen drill, so the bomber trundles onto this, and looks like colliding with the row of buildings on the other side, but now, its wheels are well and truly in the grip of the soft ground, and, with a screeching crunch, the plane comes to rest with its wings flat on the ground, and its four propellers bent out of shape. Thankfully, the crew members scramble out of the plane and surveyed the damage 11

When their base at Eagle Farm is notified, the suggestion is made that a team of mechanics be sent to dismantle the plane, and they take it away on a semitrailer. But the skipper of the bomber refuses to entertain the idea, and asks that four new propellers be bought out, and he will fly the plane off and land at Eagle Farm 11

The C.O. Sandgate (named Rigby as far as I recall) instructs the Americans not to take off as it is too risky. To which direction the captain of the plane is alleged to tell Rigby to look after his own ‘kindergarten’. He has no jurisdiction over the Americans and they are going to take the plane off 13

So, whilst the Australian Air Force boys set about digging the plane out of the mud and turning it around, then filling in the tracks made by the wheels as they bogged, and laying down a runway of planks and branches, the Americans strip the guns and anything else they can remove from the plane, whilst the propellers are replaced. Then the crew are offered a lift to Eagle Farm on the transport, but they refuse, saying “The skipper flew us in here, and we reckon that the skipper can fly us out, so we’re staying” 11

The incident of the landing has attracted much attention and the men from the Meteorological Bureau have predicted that the most appropriate time so far as the weather is concerned for a take-off is on Tuesday afternoon. As a result, it is decided to take off about 4pm. People gather from near and far, on all types of transport, including bicycles and pedestrian 13

The plane is lightened, and fuel drained from the tanks, leaving only sufficient to fly to its destination. The engines are started and thoroughly warmed up and checked. They are then revved up seemingly to their maximum. With the aircraft straining to go, the brakes are released, ropes holding the plane are cut (flying in all directions) and the aircraft starts to gain momentum 12

Any rumour that the plane is roped to tractors, trees or restricted by combined manpower, is not correct. The only restriction preventing the plane from take-off while under full throttle on the ground is the brakes are locked on the wheels. After what is considered sufficient time to warm up, the brakes are released, but there must be a delay in one set releasing and as the plane lunges forward at a fast rate, it slews 13

There are only three crew aboard, two pilots and the engineer. After about a hundred yards, the pilot attempts to lift the plane, but it lifts only slightly, and seems to stall. It falls back to ground, fortunately landing on to galvanised roofing iron which has been used to get the plane out of the bog. The plane now bounces back into the air, and although not really airborne, falls back and almost touches the ground. However, it gathers momentum, skimming the ground, and to everybody’s amazement and relief, becomes airborne. A great cheer rings out from the crowd assembled, but suddenly this turns to a horrified gasp. During all this time, the plane is veering to the left, and we can see that it is travelling dangerously close to the overhead electricity wires on the side of the highway. The wing of the plane misses them, but the margin must be only inches. The crew are lucky, and certainly have guts to even attempt such a dangerous take off. A tremendous cheer arises from the crowd assembled, and the aircraft makes a circuit before wending its way south west towards Amberley 12

Photographers have a field day 2

It is late. The campfire is now just glowing coals. I thank the following for sharing their yarns with us:

1. HQ of the USAF Historical Centre, Maxwell Air Force Base, Al, USA

2. Cyril Montey

3. Mary Watson

4. John Stanaway in “Hard Driving Headhunters”.

5. Lt.Col.Malcolm Sponenbergh (ret)

6. Lorna Ferguson from “At School in World War II”

7. F.W.Smith, then a medical orderly NCO.

8. Jean Craig

9. Hilltop Herald January 1994

10.Redcliffe and Bayside Herald, July 3,2002.

11.Fr Len Ridsdale

12. Jack Woodward

13. Albert Wilson

14. Enid Scarborough in Redcliffe Herald 3.7.200

Special acknowledgement must be made to Grace Beecher, who has collected much of this material for the Sandgate Historical Society.

Peter Ludlow

January 7, 2007

(Extract from “Moreton Bay Reflections” by Peter Ludlow)

The Atkin Family

Two Irish Patriots

Dr Kevin Izod O’Doherty

Kevin O’Doherty was born on 7 September 1823 into a Catholic family in Dublin.

Kevin Izod O’Doherty

O’Doherty first arrived in Australia in 1849, when he was transported to Tasmania from Ireland for advocating the cause of a free Ireland. After his pardon in 1857, O’Doherty became a doctor. Eventually he and his wife, a radical nationalist poet, Mary Eva, known as ‘Eva of The Nation’, settled in Brisbane, where he became a leading surgeon. As a Member of the Legislative Assembly, O’Doherty introduced Queensland’s first public health Act, the Health Act of 1872, and contributed to public education.

Robert Travers Atkin

Robert Atkin was born on 29 November 1841 into a Protestant family at Fernhill, near Clonakilty, County Cork, Ireland. 

After the early death of Robert’s father, his mother took the family to France where Robert was educated. Back in England, Robert was found to be suffering from early indications of consumption (tuberculosis). So, Robert, with his family, decided to emigrate to Queensland on medical advice to seek a warmer climate. They arrived in Brisbane in March 1865. Robert worked as a campaigning journalist and Member of the Legislative Assembly, and promoted the cause of liberal democracy.

Robert Travers Atkin

In Brisbane

The Fenian (Irish Nationalist) Dr O’Doherty and the Protestant Robert Atkin became friends and made common cause to make Queensland a more democratic and fairer place. Robert Atkin and Kevin O’Doherty may have had their differences over Irish independence, but as public figures and unpaid Members of Parliament, these friends had a shared vision about Queensland’s future. They and other reformers, like Charles Lilley, opposed the vested interests of the squattocracy. Robert Atkin argued for fairness towards people in the North, for new railways, and for new industries of cotton and sugar. Atkin described the Polynesian Labourers Act as a legalised system of kidnapping. He and his colleagues did not want Queensland to become a plantation state, built on slavery, like the Deep South of the United States had been.

ON 28 November 1867 in Tank Street, Brisbane the birth on Robert’s son, Richard, was attended by Dr Kevin O’Doherty. Robert Atkin’s career as a campaigning journalist, newspaper editor and MP was short. By late 1871 his health was in terminal decline, and he died at Sandgate in May 1872, aged only 30.

Robert’s widow took his son, Richard (Dick), back to Wales where he was raised in Wales by his loving mother and by his grandmother, Mary Anne Ruck. He won scholarships and was educated at Magdalen College, Oxford. Lacking connections in the law, Dick struggled financially at the junior Bar. However, his intelligence and work ethic were recognised and he became a successful barrister. In 1913, he was appointed as a judge, and shortly after was elevated to the Court of Appeal. His judgments were of exceptional quality and in 1928 this led to his appointment to the highest court in the United Kingdom – the House of Lords.

Dick Atkin

The Robert Travers Atkin Restoration Project

The original St Margaret’s church at Sandgate. Both Robert Atkin and his sister, Grace Atkin donated 50 pounds each toward the building of a church on the hill at Sandgate. The first stone was laid by Walter Barrett, the Mayor of Sandgate on 9 August 1891. In 1892 the building was rendered unsafe due to strong winds. The Atkin memorial can be seen on the right.

The original St Margaret’s Church at Sandgate

The memorial was restored in 1937 and is currently undergoing a further restoration. It is to dedicated on 29 May 2022. Full details available here

See also the Robert Travers Atkin Restoration Project on Facebook:

The Atkin Family Memorial today


A Letter from Gaill (Stevens) Macciocca

My dear friends,

It was so good to see you after all these years.  It’s funny how we can forget so many things until we start talking to old friends and family. After our chat I started reminiscing about people we knew and places which held some degree of curiosity for us as kids growing up in Sandgate. As you will recall, my dad knew everybody as a Black and White Bus driver. The old buses used to pick up all around suburban Brighton and Shorncliffe and then through Sandgate into The Valley and ‘Town’. Dad, or Jimmy Stevens as he was known to the locals, would do the school run as well and every kid would get on the bus and say “hi Jimmy” except for us kids.  As my friends, your parents would make you say “Hello Mr. Stevens” and I had to address Dad as “Dad” not “Jimmy”.

Black and White buses (photo State Library of Qld)

A couple of things I remember:

Saturday afternoons in the late 50’s were often spent meeting up at the Bonny View Hotel at Bald Hills with our uncle, aunt and cousins from Chermside.  The pub had a family afternoon in the outdoor beer garden, which had swings and a stage.  We would have Panda potato chips and a double sars.  Dad and uncle would have a beer and rum chaser and the ladies would have a shandy.  We would listen to this group of young kids play guitar and sing.  Their names were the Gibb Brothers – the Bee Gees.

Dad would always tell me that when I went to the Sandgate Beach Picture Theatre as a 13 year old going to the matinee, in 1963, I was not to sit up the back because that’s where the “lovers” sat and if he found out I was with a boy, there’d be hell to pay.  Besides the naughty kids rolled the Jaffas and Coke bottles from the back to the front and ‘bodgies and widgies’ sat up there too. I also couldn’t sit down the front ‘cause that was “bad for the eyes”.  So in the middle was the option. It was always hard to find a seat there!!!

Sandgate Beach Picture Theatre

Insert image Sandgate Beach Picture Theatre

Dad’s bus used to terminate outside the Beach Theatre and he would do up his “run sheet” there and talk to the locals wandering down to the then very sandy stretch of swimmable beach directly in front of the Theatre – between Cliff Street and Third Avenue.  There was also a covered shelter with bench seats on either side and a big wooden bench table in the centre.

Each Easter, a sand sculptor would come to Sandgate and create a full scale sand sculpture of the last supper under the shelter.  It was quite sensational and people would come down in masses to have a look at it then take a dip in the beach or at the wading pool, which was where the Swimming Pool is now.  Oh and remember the old bathing boxes that the nuns used for their dips right next door to the salt water baths which were adjacent to the beach shelter.

Bathing Box (photo Sandgate Historical Museum)

            Every Anzac Day there was the parade through Sandgate down Brighton Terrace to the Sandgate Memorial Park.  You reminded me of the old air raid shelter that was there in the park. I think it was covered with a large concrete block – not very secret- the shelter being underneath somewhere. We were kind of fascinated by it but were never able to go down to see what it looked like. Perhaps the concrete was put over it to stop curious people from going down or maybe it was covered in.

There was a rotunda there where the band would play on Sundays. They would also go up to Moore Park and play in the rotunda up there. Alternate Sundays I think.

I laughed when you told me about old Cyril who is 91 now and recalls when he worked as a boy at the food counter of the Bon Accord Theatre. That was in Rainbow Street, on the service station site now, near the old ice works, which is now Jeays Hardware site. A fire gutted the theatre in the late 50’s unfortunately.  Cyril would serve the theatregoers with their drinks and food before the picture started.  He would then race off to get his “catch of the day” down in Cabbage Tree Creek or on the beach somewhere.  Amazingly he would return in time to serve the food at interval!!!  Must have been some sort of a record!

The grandpa of one of our other friends, a well-known family identity in Sandgate, had the first horseless carriage in Sandgate. After drinking with a mate at the “Billiard Club” which I have been told is still in Sandgate opposite the Town Hall, I recall from memory, took a wrong turn on his way home in the dark and ended up in the “First Lagoon” (now ironically mostly a car park). The other irony of this story was that the next morning he had to get his mates with their horses to help him get his horseless carriage out of the lagoon!!!

One more thing I remember was the funny little arcade almost opposite the police station called “The Laurels”.  I never did find out where that name came from but they had lots of funny little shops in there and they were very dark.  The nuns would walk past the Laurels down to the shops and we would all hide in case they “grabbed us” and took us to the home for the homeless children down on the beachfront.

We also got scared off going near the First Lagoon as there was an old Aboriginal tale about the Bunyip, which lived there.  As I went to the State School we used to sneak out the back of the school, across the school grounds with the biggest Moreton Bay figs (we used their roots as caves when we played at lunch time), towards the back gates of the school over the “forbidden” section of the grounds known as “the cliff” and down to the lagoon to see if we could “catch” the bunyip taking a dip.

Oh and remember when Sandgate School had the fires?  The first one was in 1958 – I was in Grade 3.  The beautiful old main building was gutted. Some dissatisfied pupil they thought. The next year another old building went and my class had to go into a demountable building – they sadly removed our favourite Moreton Bay fig to make more room. That building was so hot.  No fans or air conditioners in those days.

Oh, how simple our lives were.  Sandgate was a great place to grow up and I thank my parents for giving me those wonderful years down at the Bay. As you will recall, on the weekends Dad would “march” all of the neighbourhood kids down to the beach for a swim.  He was so good with kids and we would all climb all over him and dive off his shoulders into the water, and he would give us “drag” rides through the “ripples”.  The water was much cleaner in those days. There were always lots of soldier crabs and those little clear jellyfish that we would throw at the boys when they teased us!  In the early sixties, when surfing became popular, Sandgate kids had their own version of “surfing”.  It was known as “skimming” and you used a “skim board” which was large and round like an oversized skimming stone. You would get on in the edge of the water and skim along. It was great fun! The boys from my class called themselves “The Sandgate Ripple Riders”.

Dad also let us put the little green frogs all over him when we played in the backyard.  Those days there were thousands of them.  Makes you wonder what we have done to the environment doesn’t it.

Well I could go on forever, reminiscing but have run out of time.

Perhaps we will catch up again soon.

Take care

Gaill (Stevens) Macciocca

Age: 53 years

A Sandgate landmark – the town hall today

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