When the Pile Light was knocked over in 1949 the signal station was transferred to Bishop Island in about 1952 or 1953. It was only a temporary turnout there, but they still called the station at Bishop Island the Pile Light. The term ‘Pile Light’ was still in everyday use until late into the 1980s when it was finally discontinued because there was no such thing marked on the charts anymore. The signal station was at the northern end of Bishop Island, and nearby were the three signalmen’s houses – the Ford, Tottenham, and Devonshire families.
To get our tucker, we had wheelbarrows, which we used to take up to the jetty at the other end of the island. The track was all sand but when the tide was out we’d go via the mud flats because the mud was a bit harder at low tide. Every Tuesday we’d go up for our provisions. Also at the other end of the island was a kiosk and we had quite a bit to do with the people who ran that for the tourists. Harry Sullivan and his family had it when we were there. (4)
“The dance hall at Bishop Island was a popular destination for day cruise boats from Brisbane prior to and after World War II. The hall had its own electricity generator, and music was played on 78rpm records. Refreshments were available from a kiosk attached to the rear of the hall. No alcohol was served. At New Year all-night dances took place with a constant string of dad’s boats between Hamilton and the jetty at Bishop Island. As well as the day-trippers, people could stay for longer periods in cabins on the island.” (1)
“At the end of World War II in 1945, Harry Sullivan embarked on a new venture when he bought the lease from the Crouch family for Bishop Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River. His wife, Beulah, and I, had been helping with the boats (in fact we were probably the first mother and daughter team in Australia to each hold a master’s ticket). With the purchase of the Bishop Island lease, Beulah built their first holiday cabins there. They were ex-army, and could be hired for 30/- ($3) a weekend or £7 ($14) a week. (3,4)
“About 1960 my father in law, Harry Sullivan, sold the Bishop Island lease to myself and my wife, Margaret. I was incensed one day by a remark from a tourist who asked me if the cabins on Bishop Island were there when Captain Cook discovered Australia, so I set about rebuilding the place. This included a new kiosk, dance hall, cabins, shelter sheds, and the installation of 240 volt power. We built a mini golf course and had septic tanks installed. We also had Neil Todkill build us a new jetty.” (3,4)
In those days all the boating was around Bulimba, and you’d hear so-and-so’s boat was heading down to Bishop Island on Friday night, so we’d all pile on there and go down to Bishop Island and have a bit of a hoot. I remember the entertainer Norman Erskine used to play down there. He was a comedian, raconteur sort of a guy from the ‘50s. You can imagine for a lot of the young boating families this is where the first encounters with young ladies and young gentlemen happened. I would venture to say – myself included – that many a first love was requited at Bishop Island at the dance on Friday nights. Mind you, it wasn’t all romance and a lot of families went there just to have a barbie and hang out. Brisbane didn’t have nightclubs then, and it was really quite unique to go down there. (4)
In the course of time, the need to expand the port facilities of Brisbane became apparent, and in 1991 very large reclamation works were begun, causing the demise of Bishop Island, which lost its identity and the name was relegated to that of “obsolete” among official place names. However members of Captain bishop’s family approached the Port authority requesting his memory be perpetuated, and on 16th March 2000 the new bridge linking the port facilities with the mainland, over what was known as the Boat Passage, was officially named “Captain Bishop Bridge” and family members were invited guests at this unveiling ceremony.
It was not so long ago, too, that beneath where the robots now work at Wharf 9 at the Port of Brisbane, Bishop Island – itself man made – was once the popular destination for leisurely river cruises. (4)
(1) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay People-The Complete Collection. privately published, Stones Corner, 2000
(2) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Letters. privately published, Stones Corner, 2003
(3) Ludlow, Peter. Moreton Bay Reflections. privately published, Stones Corner, 2007
(4) Ludlow, Peter. The Port of Brisbane, Its People and Its Personalities, published by the Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd, 2013