In my later working life (I had my own bricklaying business), I was asked by my mate, Doug Schroder, to help him construct a dwelling at Toulkerri, which you will find on the map of Moreton Island to be just south of the Little Sand Hills on the bay side of southern Moreton Island.
Doug had an oyster lease there and made his income by supplying Tangalooma Resort with oysters. He had been a squatter at Toulkerri for some time – long enough to have worn out two tents! Desiring something more permanent, Doug asked me to help him with the brickwork. For the concrete, we were able to use sand from the Little Sand Hills because it was salt free. At Moreton I worked 10 days on and 4 days off. I did this for the ten years that the construction work continued. My wife, not liking boats at all, preferred to remain with our family in Brisbane. As one wag once said, the perfect recipe for a happy marriage!
First, we built the house, then later, just 7 foot (2 metres approx) away beside it, a two bed-roomed dwelling for Doug. Doug could lie in bed and look straight out the window onto the Bay. It was a bed with a view that you’d kill for today!
Later, another 7 foot beside Doug’s bedrooms, we built another room, which was intended to be a garage, but was never used as such. Instead it was used to house a generator for electricity. We had other mod cons as well: a gas refrigerator bought from Macleay Island, a gas deep freeze, two large baker’s ovens, and a bar, shower, and septic toilet that Hawkins had brought over on his barge. In those days, the barge used to come into Day’s Gutter but it silted up, possibly because of the mineral sand mining, so it used to come in on the surfside lagoon. We also installed a pump to get fresh water from just 12 foot (3.6 metres) below the surface, which we pumped into a tank.
All these structures were just a stone’s throw away from the beach. Later still, we built a large gazebo between the house and the water. It was literally right on the water’s edge and contained 5 or 6 Cyprus Pine tables, which Doug had constructed, using a circular saw. The gazebo also contained Doug’s pride and joy: two pianos – an upright and a baby grand! Doug played them beautifully, and loved to entertain. He used these talents with tour groups who used to visit us from Tangalooma.
A typical tour would go something like this: the group would board one of the 4WD buses at Tangalooma resort and travel south towards our settlement at Toulkerrie. Atop the Little Sand Hills, they’d stop and have a look at the magnificent view westwards across Moreton Bay to the Mainland. While there, they’d be treated to a glass of champagne. Then it would be on to Toulkerrie where we would explain oyster farming to them, have an oyster tasting, then we’d give them a BBQ lunch with some of Doug’s home-made bread (he was a baker by trade). To cap it all off, Doug would open up on his pianos! The foreign tourists were amazed at seeing a baby grand in the middle of the bush!
A lot of boaties used to call in to see us, but they had to leave before the tide went out. Because Moreton was a place away from the constraints of ‘civilization’ things used to happen which would be best not taken back to the mainland gossips or, as the saying on Moreton went, “What happens on the island stays on the island”!
Many groups visited Moreton. Billy Dewar, brother of Alex, the Member of Parliament, often brought a crowd down with him. Fishing and sightseeing clubs were able to drink without the restrictions of city life. I used to brew my own beer in 20-gallon (90 litre) kegs – and sometimes their contents didn’t last very long!
Campers needed a permit, but some camped without one. One even ‘borrowed’ an SAS tarpaulin to use as a tent but was sprung by a policeman friend of ours who was on holidays. He showed no hesitation in confiscating the tarpaulin from the protesting camper – even though it was pouring rain!
Fishing, of course, was wonderful. I was friendly with the Cape Moreton lighthouse keepers and once on a visit we passed a couple of Taylor fishermen on the beach just to the south of the lighthouse. They were pulling in the Taylor so easily that Doug and I went back to our camp 5 miles down the beach to get our own rods. We caught over one hundred Taylor that day – a fish with every cast.
Another friend of ours was less particular about the size of the fish he kept and on one occasion, while night fishing from a boat, an inspector sprang him. Knowing he had an undersized catch, he was forced to dive overboard before the inspector could board.
They were ten memorable years I spent at Moreton with my friend Doug Schroder. He loved playing the piano and he loved company but unfortunately had a heart attack and died on the job at Moreton. This was a sad end to my days at Toulkerrie.
Editor: The story of Toulkerri continues to this day under the name of the ‘Moreton Bay Rock Oysters’. To learn more, copy this web address to your browser: http://www.moretonbayrockoysters.com.au
(Extract from Peter Ludlow’s book ‘Moreton Bay People 2012’ (now out of print)