Early Residents of Cleveland – George and Robert Burns

William Edward Burns (Senior) was born in Stockport, England in 1858, and at the age of 16 he migrated to Australia. He later married Elizabeth Caroline Shire and they settled on a farm at Burns Flat, Mount Cotton. (This is just down the opposite side of the road from where the Sirromet winery is presently situated).

Much later, they moved to live at Cleveland (opposite the present Star of the Sea Church). They had nine children, two girls, Elizabeth and Florence, and seven sons, three of whom – Fred, Bob, and Sam – were described as having a ‘larrikin’ streak in them, while their other brothers were very ‘straight laced’. 2

The Burns Family Back row: on left Bob, on right Frederick Middle row: from left 1st Charles, 5th George (Identified only by age and appearance)
The Cleveland Farm of William Edward Burns (Junior)

Of the Burns brothers, George William, a carpenter then aged 29, and Robert Wallace, a farmer aged 21, enlisted for service in the AIF on 24 January 1916 and they were given the service numbers of 5303 and 5304 respectively. Their rate of pay was then 5/- (50 cents) per day. Both enrolled as Privates in the 25th Battalion and embarked for active service from Brisbane aboard HMAT ‘Itonus’ A50 on 8 August 1916.

The last time his father saw George was when he was driven on his brother’s bicycle down to the Cleveland Central train station to join the AIF, for George died on 11 March 1917 of wounds received in action while fighting on the Western Front in France and is buried in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, Dernancourt, Picardie, France. He posthumously received the British War Medal, and Victory Medal.

Robert’s fate was more fortunate. After serving in France and Belgium, he returned to Australia 1 July 1919 and settled back to life as a farmer. Bob’s farm was situated in Cleveland between Queen, Middle, and Island Streets).

Sources of information:

(1) National Archives of Australia

(2) Keith Burns (son of Sam Burns)

(3) Betty Burns (wife of Doug Burns, one of William Burns Senior’s grandchildren)


Recalled by Ian Hall

The partnership of Hall and Bestmann then constructed a small butcher shop on the allotment behind their grocery store.  This they leased out, the first butcher being Bill Friese.  Naturally, he was obliged to purchase his meat from the Hall and Bestmann slaughterhouse which they had also constructed on their grazing land. The increasing demands of the store at Bribie coupled with several school age children and a grocery store in Brisbane often necessitated that Alfred Hall remain at Bribie while his wife, Emily, remained in Brisbane.  Eventually, in 1924 Alfred sold the grocery business in Brisbane to concentrate his business interests at Bribie. 

The kind of fish caught at Bribie in 1925. Tom Whinney (left) and Tom Stone (right). (Photo courtesy Jan Burge.)

The arrival of the “Koopa” was a big event at Bribie and all the locals turned out in force to greet her.  At this stage there were three walkways onto the jetty to handle the large number of passengers using the steamships.  Indeed, so large were the crowds at the jetty, that the Tug Company was forced to construct gates across the walkways to protect the public from injury during berthing operations.  Bill Freeman was the first caretaker for the Tug Co and part of his job involved tying up the “Koopa” when she berthed.  His house was situated beside the jetty, and, soon after its establishment in 1913, the first Post Office was moved there.  His wife operated the PO under their house. Later, in 1922, when telephones first came to island ‑ there were about six of them ‑ she was in charge of switchboard.   The phone came by overland wires to Toorbul Point on the mainland, and then by undersea cable to Bribie. Much of the construction work was performed by the Campbells, but the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Company assisted by transporting poles, men and materials to Bribie free of charge. 

  “One of the Bribie identities at that time,” Ian Hall recalls.” Was Jimmy Hagen.  Perhaps due to gangrene in the first World War, Jimmy had been unfortunate enough to have both legs amputated just below the knees.  With the locals’ penchant for imparting nicknames to well-known figures, Jimmy was not unkindly referred to as “Jimmy‑No‑Legs”.   The disability did not prevent his mobility, however, and he got around with thick pads on his knees.  He lived down beside the creek in a little shack and had a dinghy which he used to row up to meet the “Koopa” when she berthed.  There was no pub on the island then, and the bar of the “Koopa” was the only place available to have a few ales.  Jimmy would be very merry after drinking for the full three hours of the “Koopa”‘s berthing, and I often used to wonder how he managed to row home after his binges, but he always seemed to make it!” 

Another of the Tug Company’s community services was to transport drinking water to the island from Brisbane.  Swamp water on Bribie was brackish and unsuitable for drinking, and as there was no reticulated water then, residents were forced to rely on tanks. Houses had their own tanks which were refilled by rainwater.  However, the campers were so numerous that the “Koopa” and “Doomba” used to fill their 5 or 6 tanks each time they visited the island. 

About 1918, just after the war, the Tug Company constructed twelve huts on their foreshore leasehold just behind the Bribie jetty. The aim was to provide cheap holiday accommodation for visitors who did not wish to camp. In later years, these “Twelve Apostles” as they became popularly known were to provide more permanent accommodation to the island’s pensioners. 

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.

Redlands Before the War

On April 19, 2018, Redlands Library published a book entitled Remembering Them to which I was a contributor. It’s a tribute the Redlanders who volunteered to serve in WWI and it’s still available as a free download at:


It includes much of what I had written but omits the following piece, which I now include as a reminder of that far away era:

‘We, therefore, by and with the advice of Our Privy Council, have thought fit to issue this Our Royal Proclamation, and We do hereby declare that on and after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and one, the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia shall be united in a Federal Commonwealth under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia.’

and so, with these words, Queen Victoria in England issued her Proclamation of Federation of Britain’s former Australian colonies to become the Commonwealth of Australia. 

Although now independent of Westminster’s rule, Australia chose to remain within the British Empire, and retained a direct link to the Monarch through its Governor General and its individual State Governors. Australia also retained its strong ties with Britain both economically and emotionally, and for the majority of Australians coming from British stock, ‘home’ was still Great Britain.

Crowds gather to listen to his Excellency the Governor reading the Queen’s proclamation on Federation from the balcony of the Treasury Building in Queen Street, Brisbane in 1901. (State Library of Qld 2 202947)

After Federation, the following factors were to affect the average Australian’s outlook, and, in some cases, more so the people of the Redlands:

  • In 1901 the Australian Government passed a range of legislation, which marked out the racial boundaries of the nation. The Immigration Restriction Act restricted the entry of non-Europeans by means of a dictation test, which could be given in any language. People suffering physical or mental diseases, convicted criminals, prostitutes and those reliant on charity were also refused entry. The Pacific Islands Labourers Act, 1901, enabled the deportation of over 9,000 Pacific Islander labourers, who had been working in the sugar cane fields of Queensland and northern New South Wales. In 1903, the Commonwealth Naturalization Act excluded all non-Europeans from becoming naturalized and severely restricted their ability to bring spouses and children to Australia.1
  • Australia was fast becoming a homogenous people. The ideal of the white, egalitarian Australian became increasingly widespread around the time of Federation. Publications such as the Bulletin, and organisations such as the Australian Natives’ Association, fostered this identity, contrasting it with Great Britain’s ‘old world’, class-based society. Yet Australian nationalism and loyalty to the Empire went hand-in-hand.1
  • Ideas about racial superiority dominated the development of policy. Prime Minister Edmund Barton, 1901-03 was to state: ‘The doctrine of the equality of man was never intended to apply to the equality of the Englishman and the Chinaman. There is a deep-set difference, and we see no prospect and no promise of its ever being effaced. Nothing in their world can put these two races upon an equality.’ Unions had long argued against the influx of immigrant workers, particularly Chinese, fearing an erosion of jobs and pay. The Labor Party won control of the House of Representatives in 1910 after and election run on an explicitly racist platform.1
  • The new Constitution gave the Commonwealth Government power to legislate on matters relating to migration, naturalisation and aliens, but not Aborigines.1
  • The White Australia Policy was born from such policies.

So, with these factors influencing their outlook, just what was life like for the Redlanders in the pre World War 1 era?

The Redlands was then basically a series of isolated fishing, oystering and farming communities connected by the waters of Moreton Bay and on the mainland by a series of dirt tracks encompassing tiny settlements from Wellington Point in the north, to Stradbroke Island in the east, to Mount Cotton in the west, and south to Redland Bay and the Southern Moreton Bay islands. If Australia felt isolated from Europe and the rest of the world then Redlanders must have felt more isolated not just from the rest of the world, but also from the rest of Australia.

Before the war, Redlanders travelled by horse and cart, or walked. The farmers rose early with the sun and after dark they lit their houses with candles or hurricane (kerosene) lanterns. On Sundays they dressed up to go to church, not just to worship their Maker, but to socialise and break the monotony and isolated life on the farm. Then the hot roast Sunday lunch would be the highlight of the family’s week. Their families tended to be large and they stayed together, often labouring together in the family livelihood. They made their own entertainment, often with a sing-song around the piano. Or they made their own music on the violin, harmonica or accordion. They could borrow books from the library of their local School of Arts. The men could quench their thirst at their local hotel after a hard day’s work in their fields, and while there, swap stories on farming problems such as the epidemics of the flying fox and the dingo, the drought, the incessant rain, or just gossip. Sometimes a travelling entertainer, singer, or band would put on a performance for them at the School of Arts, or they would present an amateur play production themselves. Then of course were the dances in the local hall. They could contact others living further afield by using a communal telephone often situated in a store, post office, or railway station. To communicate even further afield they could write letters or, if urgent, send telegrams. Life then was uncomplicated and predictable.

From 1885 the area from Tingalpa Creek, Capalaba, to Eprapah Creek, Victoria Point, and north of Boundary Rd, had come under the control of the Cleveland Divisional Board. Previously, it had been administered by the Tingalpa Divisional Board.

Cleveland Central railway station 1890 (photo Qld Govt Railways)

The railway line to Cleveland, opened in 1889, led to the development of urban areas along its length, as it became possible for commuters to live some distance from Brisbane. The railway line also meant that the district’s farmers were more easily able to transport their produce to the Brisbane markets. Other users included day trippers and others visiting the area for its fresh sea air. Train Stations then were Birkdale, Ormiston, Barinia Siding, Raby Bay (where present Cleveland station is situated), Cleveland Central (down the hill from the present RSL), and Cleveland (Paxton Street). In 1906 special fruit excursion trains to Wellington Point, Ormiston and Cleveland were run on Saturday afternoons during the strawberry season and excursionists were encouraged to visit the fruit gardens and vineyards. Cheap excursions of one sort or another continued to draw crowds to the district throughout the early decades of the century. The Railway Department introduced rail motors or McKeen cars on the line between Manly and Cleveland, considerably improving the service.2

Cleveland Point Western Jetty

To showcase the produce of the area’s farms, the Wellington Point Agricultural Horticultural and Industrial Association’s Hall, next to the school, was used for local shows and community activities for many years.2 Cleveland, too, had its agricultural show. Its showgrounds were situated adjacent to the Cleveland Station at Paxton Street.

In 1909, residents of Capalaba and surrounds renewed their request for a railway service to the area. A line opened to Belmont and operated until 1926 when it was declared uneconomic. It never went through Capalaba, Mt Cotton and Redland Bay.3 Also, the Sunnybank-Mt Cotton Railway League and the Redland Bay Railway League were formed about 1912 to lobby the Queensland Government to establish a railway between the two centres and on to Redland Bay. This too was to no avail.3

Wilhelm Schmidt’s cab (Wilhelm Schmidt’s horse drawn cab used to take passengers from Cleveland train station to Redland Bay Hotel)

Across the waters of Moreton Bay, the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum had been set up since 1867 to house Moreton Bay’s elderly and homeless.4 In 1893 a new Aboriginal mission had been established at Myora/Moongalba, and in 1897 the Aborigines Protection Act came into being. It was effective until 1977 and was based on isolating Aborigines.4 In 1903 Billy North won a contract to supply beef to the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum. He also established a fish canning business at Two Mile near Myora. 

Land in the township of Amity, the island’s other settlement, had been proclaimed for sale at the end of 1886. The purchasers were enthusiasts, mainly bay folk and yachting men like Tom Welsby. 4

On Peel Island, situated between Cleveland on the Mainland and Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island, a lazaret (leprosarium) was established in 1907 to house and isolate Queensland’s leprosy patients. Both the Lazaret at Peel Island and the Benevolent Asylum at Dunwich were serviced from Brisbane by the Government supply vessel ‘Otter’.

At Mount Cotton, a large German community was busy farming the area. They had been recruited by Johann Christian Heussler who had been appointed by the new Queensland Government in 1859 to recruit German settlers for the new colony. In the following years, many Germans settled in Queensland, including at Mt Cotton. Chinese farmers also began taking up land at Mt Cotton in the early 1880s. By the turn of the century, dingoes and flying foxes had become a perceived pest in the Mount Cotton and Redland Bay area.5

In the early 1900s Mr Henry Heinemann worked to secure a telephone service from Cleveland to Redland Bay, which he later had extended to Mount Cotton in 1910. He ran the Post Office from his home and also the telegram service. This was a popular means of communication for the Mount Cotton settlers from 1900 onwards.5,6 (In the latter part of World War 1this war the Post Office was to be transferred from Henry Heinemann to the home of Dennis O’Hara Burke for ‘security’ reasons.) 6

At Redland Bay by the turn of the century, at the sugar plantation established in 1870 fruit had almost replaced sugar as the main crop in the district.7 Farmers, too, began to move to the islands in the 1860s. At first, they grew cotton and sugar but these crops were not very successful so they started growing fruit instead. Later on, they grew vegetables. Some farmers swam cattle across to the islands and tried to set up herds. One of the early fruit crops was mangoes. Later on, pineapples and bananas were very popular.

Butcher’s cart (John Dawson with Tom Cross’ butcher’s cart, Cleveland)

Sources of Information:

  • Immigration Museum, Melbourne
  • Redland City Council – Wellington Point Timeline
  • Redland City Council – Capalaba Timeline
  • Redland City Council – North Stradbroke Island Timeline
  • Redland City Council – Mount Cotton Timeline
  • Deutsche Auswanderer – Hope and Reality
  • Redland City Council – Redland Bay

Stories from Cleveland (New exhibits at the Redlands RSL Library and Museum)

The Redlands RSL Library and Museum

For anyone visiting Cleveland who is interested in war memorabilia, the Redlands RSL Library and Museum is well worth a look (even if you have just lost all your money at their ‘pokies’ across the road).

There are several new exhibits if you haven’t called in recently:

Just inside the entrance, is a cabinet that contains the memorabilia of Kevin George Conway, Sergeant Temporary Warrant Officer Class 2, 13097 – Australian Army Training Team (RAINF), who was killed in action 6 July 1964. Kevin was the first Australian killed in the Vietnam War. 52 years after his death he was returned to the Redlands and buried in an official service at the Cleveland Cemetery in front of family, friends, Federal and State Government, Redland City Council, Redlands RSL, and Vietnam Veterans representatives.

It was the fourth and final resting place for Warrant Officer Conway whose body was previously exhumed in Vietnam and then twice in Singapore.

Warrant Officer Conway was the only Australian serviceman attached to a United States Special Forces team A-726 at Camp McBride in Nam Dong.

The contents of the cabinet have now been donated by his niece Kathy Woodford

The Memorial cabinet to Kevin Conway

The museum also now contains a dedicated WWI room. Its newest exhibits are devoted to animals who served in the war:

‘Medical Dog’ mock up in the Museum’s WWI Room

‘Gas Mask Dog’ mock up in the Museum’s WWI Room

The mask shown here is only one of two still remaining in the world.

‘Tank Dog’ mock up in the Museum’s WWI Room

The Russians had trained their dogs, which were fitted with explosives, to hide under the enemy’s tanks whereupon they would be detonated. They had trained the dogs on their tanks which were diesel driven. However, the German tanks were petrol driven, and the dogs preferred the smell of diesel to petrol. The experiment literally backfired!

Remembering Them

“Remembering Them” – Cleveland Library’s book commemorating Redlanders who fought in World War I

Part of the centenary commemoration of the First World War, this book brings together photographs and biographical information of those listed on Redland’s cenotaphs.

The project was a collaborative effort from several individuals including myself, and organisations, including the North Stradbroke Island History Museum. As well as a limited hard copy run of the book, the Cleveland Library has made a PDF copy freely available on the Cleveland Library’s website at:



Sacrifice in Wartime

On Armistice Day, I attended a Symposium at the University of Queensland entitled ‘Sacrifice in Wartime’. It referred specifically to World War 1 (WWI or ‘The Great War’ as it was known at the time) during which the term ‘sacrifice’ was used a great deal by many different people in many different ways.

Dr Geoff Ginn spoke about the 57,700 Queenslanders who served in WWI, many of whom died, and of the 60,000 Australians who died. Sacrifice was imbued with Christian ideals where Christ died on the cross for our sins. There were also secular connotations. In Queensland, Archbishop Donaldson preached sacrifice as a penitential submission for Anglicanism and the British Empire, which were both very strong influences in our colonial attitude at that time. (Donaldson House at the then named Church of England Grammar School would surely been named after him.)

Geoff also mentioned the sacrifices of our troops for each other, and noted those of the stretcher-bearers bringing the wounded back from the battlefields at great personal risk. In the 1920s and 1930s memorials to the WWI dead became a preoccupation with communities throughout Australia. Inscriptions used the language of high diction, which dated back not just to WWI but the battles of the early 10th century. For example the Mosaic on floor of Horatio Nelson’s sarcophagus reads ‘England expects every man to do his duty’.

Dr Mark Cryle then spoke of sacrifice for the community back home in Australia in terms of the removal of pleasure as a performance of loyalty; the foregoing of pleasures such as sporting, gambling, and alcohol while the troops suffered overseas. It was tied to fundraising especially in schools and community groups. (An interesting contrast was with many of the troops overseas where boozing, gambling, and prostitution were indulged in during their recreation time.)

Fiona McLeod spoke about the call for mothers to encourage their sons to volunteer for service overseas. Many badges and posters were aimed at them:

WWI poster urging mothers to support the war effort
WWI poster urging mothers to support the war effort

Also wives were encouraged by State monetary aid to have children to compensate for the horrific number of deaths being incurred on the battlefields.

Dr Robert Hogg mentioned Eric Honeywood Partridge who regarded himself as unsuitable to be a soldier, but he clung to the ideals of duty and sacrifice. He joined the Australian Imperial Force in April 1915 and served in the Australian infantry during the First World War, in Egypt, Gallipoli and on the Western Front, before being wounded in the Battle of Pozières. His interest in slang and the “underside” of language is said to date from his wartime experience. Partridge wrote over forty books on the English language, including well-known works on etymology and slang. Of particular relevance, Geoffrey Serle writes in the Australian Dictionary of Biography “He eventually himself published ‘Frank Honywood, Private’, as part of Three Personal Records of the War (London, 1929), which ranks as a minor classic of war literature. He was concerned to commemorate his mate Corporal Howard Phillips who had died at Mont St Quentin, to attempt to describe the terrible battle of Pozières, to expose himself as an example of a soldier broken but somehow carrying on under appalling stress, and to write the war out of his system. Incidentally he had much illuminating to say about the men of the A.I.F. and his autobiography of one intellectual, ‘sensitive’ infantryman stands as a much-needed modification of vulgar notions of the Australian soldier.”

Then Simon Farley referred to Padre George Green of the Second Light Horse Regiment at Gallipoli. Green kept a detailed diary of his time at Gallipoli, and in eloquent and honest prose vividly described the horrors of the campaign. In the dust and heat and flies he tended his flock, providing what pastoral care he could. One of his most important and distressing tasks was burying the dead. He wrote “I remember registering the resolve to be studiously callous about funerals otherwise it was obvious I would not last another week… I was among the burial party to go over into territory between the trenches. There I beheld a sight I never shall forget and struck a smell awful beyond anything I’ve ever experienced….I said committal over about fifteen bodies most of whom were decayed beyond recognition.”

He was full of admiration for the men and wrote “The valour, spirit, patience and determination of these Australian soldiers are beyond all praise”.

Finally, Dr Susan Kellett mentioned the sacrifices made by nurses during WWI and how churches made money through church memorials of stained glass windows both to individuals and as collective memorials. This was contrasted with the war memorials erected by public subscription in the community.

Stained glass church window in memory of the fallen soldiers during WWI
Stained glass church window in memory of the fallen soldiers during WWI