People of Peel Island – 6 – Elbert (‘Bert’) Cobb

Bert Cobb was an American by birth but when he was aged nine came to Australia with his parents and two sisters. During World War I he became a flying officer with in the Royal Air Force in England during which he acquired a cultured accent. Bert returned to Australia after the war and 1922 records show that he held two pastoral leases in the Northern Territory. 

Before his admission to the Channel Island Leprosarium (off Darwin) in about 1940 he had worked as a manager for a gold mine for many years in the Northern Territory.  When Darwin was bombed, the Leprosarium patients were transferred to either Peel Island or Sydney’s Little Bay Leprosarium.  Bert came to Peel Island. He kept a loaded revolver in his hut to defend himself in case the Japanese arrived on the island.

For many years Bert Cobb had been troubled with painful eyes (iritis) and failing eyesight, finally going completely blind in 1946.  His leprosy also left him with disfigured hands, which were also devoid of feeling.  His nurse Rosemary Fielding observed that when he wanted to feel something he would do so with his lips.

At Peel, after his blindness, he was cared for by an orderly, Bill Fleetwood, a quiet man (unlike some of his alcoholic comrades), who also used to write letters for him.  Bert once told Rosemary that Bill was the perfect ‘gentleman’s gentleman’.  Another letter writer for Bert was Miss Howard, a social worker who used to visit the island every two weeks.  Bert trusted her and always kept the day free for her. 

He could be a charming man, especially with the ladies, but was also very intolerant.  He was a dreadful snob, supercilious, and scathing.  He had a growl of disgust, which could be very disconcerting. He was fussy about who came into his hut.  A well-educated and intelligent man, he loved people to read to him (after he went blind). 

The other patients respected him because he had been one of the founding members of the Patients’ Committee – formed by the patients to obtain better conditions.  He was a ‘stirrer’, and his education and legal knowledge were useful when it came to partitioning the government and newspapers and anyone else (they sent hundreds of letters all bashed out on an old typewriter).

Bert guarded his past very closely and did not want to be buried with any ceremony.  However, when he did die of toxaemia on May 30, 1959 (just a month before the Leprosarium on Peel Island closed down) someone did put an Australian flag over his coffin because he had served in WWI.

Peter Ludlow

From material supplied by Rosemary Opala (nee Fielding) and Bert’s great nephew, Dudley M.Cobb

Nurse Rosemary Fielding’s painting of Bert Cobb

People of Peel Island – 5 – The Sisters of Mercy

Sr Mercia Mary, Sr M Conrad, Sr M Agnese Mater Hospital Private Pharmacy c1962

My first contact with Sister Mercia Mary was in 1986 while I was writing “Peel Island – Paradise or Prison?” – my history of the Lazaret (Leprosarium) that had been in operation in Moreton Bay between 1907 and 1959. In a pleasant and informative afternoon with her and fellow Sisters of Mercy, Sister Mary Conrad and Sister Mary St. Rita I was to learn of the Nun’s great compassion for their fellow humans.

Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) patients had been treated at the Mater Hospital and their blood smears had been processed in the Mater’s Pathology Department. It was through these contacts that the link to the patients at Peel Island was established. Not being content to treat these people as mere numbers in a waiting room or initials on a list of blood samples, the Sisters of Mercy led by Sister Mercia Mary made it their business to visit them on their island. This was a bold step because of the public neuroses that the stigma of Leprosy engendered.

The extent of such public neurosis can be gauged from Sister Mary St Rita’s account of a Hansen’s suspect in a crowded waiting room at Brisbane’s Mater Hospital in the late 1940s. The nodules had already become obvious on the man’s face when he entered the room, and one of the other patients thought he recognised the disease. Word quickly got around the waiting room, and the Sister was surprised to find when she called for the next patient that the crowded waiting room was suddenly empty – except for the Hansen’s patient who was then diagnosed and sent on to Peel Island.

For several years at Christmas, the Sisters of Mercy from the Mater Hospital visited the Lazaret on Peel Island and distributed presents. These included Sister Mercia Mary, and Sister Mary St Rita. Their main fear was not of contracting Hansen’s Disease but of getting their cloaks wet as they stepped off the boat.

I am told by one of the patients that they would often forsake lunch with the other staff on the verandah and spend the time talking with a patient, Bert Cobb, in his hut. Bert was a well educated man, an atheist, but always ready for a discussion. The Sisters of Mercy were always ready to oblige.

Most recently just before Christmas 2005, at a book-signing in the city for my re-release of “Peel Island – Paradise or Prison?” a former Mater Pathology Scientist told me more about Sister Mercia Mary’s devotion to the Hansen’s Disease patients. For the matter didn’t end in 1959 when the Peel Island Lazaret was closed down and the remaining dozen patients were transferred to Ward S12 at the South Brisbane Hospital (now the Princess Alexandra Hospital). It would have been easy to forget the patients now that they were no longer isolated, but each Christmas Sister Mercia Mary would still make up a Christmas Hamper for each of the Hansen’s patients and would personally deliver them to Ward S12. 

Another story about Sister Mercia Mary that I really like, and which illustrates her practical devotion to humanity through the philosophy of the Sisters of Mercy, is supplied by Ron Pope. In Mercia’s time before a Blood Bank had been set up, doctors were not nearly as readily available around any hospital as they are today. In order to fill a small part of that vacuum, Mercia trained in venipuncture and then could always be called upon to take blood from a donor. One of her early nursing associates recalls, with some humour, accompanying Mercia to Boggo Road jail with her trusty sterile flask, stirring rod and other paraphernalia, relieving a jail warder of the required amount of blood and bringing it back for a Mater patient!  

Pro Deo et Humanitate!

Peter Ludlow

March 2006

(Extract from Mater Scripts by Peter Ludlow)

Peel Island – White Leprosy Patients’Huts

The Peel Island Lazaret was the only purpose-built Lazaret in Australia: the others were modifications or add-ons to existing institutions e.g. at Dunwich, it was an add-on to the Benevolent Asylum; at Little Bay in Sydney as part of an infectious disease unit; at Fantome Island it was a former Lock Hspital.

This site plan shows the relative areas of Peel’s Lazaret. 

Notes to the plan’s labels: 

The Female Compound was for white females (one patient per cabin).

The Male Compound was for white males (one patient per cabin)

The Coloured Compound consisted of galvanised iron huts for the coloured male patients (four patients per cabin) and wooden huts similar to the white female huts (but accommodating six patients per cabin).

The Peel Island site plan as drawn up in the 1950s
Peel Island Lazaret – white male patients huts when it opened in 1907

Initially the male patients huts were constructed as a square wooden box like structure, but later on, a verandah was added to the design. The white femals huts were similar but with the addition of a kitchenette with a combustion stove.

Floor plan of the white male patients’ Hut
Floor plan of the white female patients’ Hut

The following aerial photo shows the Peel Island Lazaret institution as it appeared in the 1930s:

Lazaret from the air 1930s

Peel Island – Coloured Leprosy Patients’ Huts

By 1908 there were 40 coloured patients and 17 white patients at the Peel Island Lazaret. 

In the book Moreton Bay Matters Chapter 9 The Leper Shall Dwell Alone, historian Thom Blake mentions ‘the huts for the coloured patients were erected by Aboriginal workers from Myora on Stradbroke Island and from Barambah (now Cherbourg).’ He describes the huts for the coloured patients as ‘being framed with bush timber, clad with cypress pine slab, roofed with tea-tree bark, and simply provided with an earth floor. The cost of each coloured hut was Pound3/-/- (three pounds) verses Pound55/-/- (fifty-five pounds) for each white patient’s hut’.

The image below shows a group of coloured patients (all South Sea Islanders) posing in front of a typical coloured dwelling. Also with them is the Lazaret’s Assistant Caretaker, Paulus Friedrich Schwarz:

Paulus Friedrich Schwarz with South Sea Islander patients, Peel Island Lazaret c.1908 (photo supplied by Paul Smith/Dr John Schwarz)

Paulus Friedrich Schwarz from Vienna, born of Jewish parents, and came to Australia as a Christian Evangelist, he only spent a few months on Peel but was so appalled by the conditions of the coloured patients that he sent an urgent letter to the Home Secretary in July 1908.

In the letter, Paulus reported serious deficiencies in the provision for the coloured lepers: open drains, huts structurally incapable of being fumigated or properly cleaned, having earthen floors and thatched roofs which let in the rain. Patients having to get up and sit round the fire when it rains at night. Many of the huts were in a bad state of repair. There was no dining room, no hospital, and a day surgery without either hot or cold-water supply. The blankets the coloured lepers received at the beginning or winter, were only half of one double blanket each. No sheets or pillow slips, which he was told were always supplied to them on Friday Island.

In reply to his letter, Paulus was told that his proper channel of communication was through the Medical Superintendent (Dr Rowe in the Benevolent Asylum).

Paulus & Phiebie Schwarz and their 11 Children in 1923

Happily, soon after leaving Peel, he met and married Phiebie. They were married for 62 years and had 11 children.

Peel’s Galvanized Huts

Later, at an undetermined time, the Queensland Government DID replace the coloured patients’ huts with those made of corrugated galvanised iron on wooden frames. Initially they still had dirt floors, but the patients themselves were able to line them with cement laced with shells from the many middens remaining on the island – the refuse heaps from countless Aboriginal feasts remaining from unknown eons.

Recently, while I was guiding a tour group around the Lazaret buildings, I was told by one of the group that the galvanized iron huts used by the ‘coloured’ patients were common among Queensland’s poorer outback pioneers. He told me that railway gangers used them because they were easily dismantled and transported. It would be interesting to follow up with the Ipswich Railway Museum if they have any photos.

Peter Ludlow

16.1.2010

Peel Island Lazaret’s coloured patients’ huts

Prelude to Peel Island’s Lazaret

In Queensland, the first case recording symptoms resembling those of Leprosy was in 1855, a Chinaman, Oun Tsar, at the Brisbane Hospital.  He was to die in 1859 ‑ undiagnosed. At this time, too, the hospital was recording many cases of Islander “Toe Disease”.  Leprosy once again diagnosed incorrectly. 

 For the next 35 years there was a steady increase in the number of reported Leprosy cases, all confined to Chinese and Islander immigrants, and the aborigines who “caught anything”. By 1889, although the public at large still thought Leprosy to be a “foreigner’s disease”, the Government deemed it prudent to segregate some Chinese cases at Cooktown.  The following year, an official Leper Station was established there. 

     The notion of Leprosy as purely a foreigner’s disease was dispelled in 1892 when a Queensland born white by the name of Quigley contracted the disease.  After being kept in forced isolation in a tent for six months at the Brisbane Hospital, the Government sought to legalize such segregation by passing the Queensland Leprosy Act of 1892. This Act formalized the detention and segregation of all those suffering from Leprosy in special areas known as lazarets or Leprosariums.  Coloured patients were sent to Friday Island in the Thursday Island Group.  White patients went to Dunwich on Stradbroke Island. 

Queensland Lazarets (The coloured patients were transferred from Peel Island to Fantome Island in 1940)

The following article from The Week newspaper of 4 November 1904 reflects the terms and thinking of that era:

Lepers Going to Friday Island

General Clearing Up

Recently the Home Department felt that owing to the slight increase in leprosy among the kanakas of the State, it was desirable to collect the patients and send them to Friday Island, where the lazarette for coloured races has long been established. There were two coloured lepers at Dunwich, two came from Bundaberg on Monday, three from remote parts of the State, and there are three yet to be brought down from the northern coast. So far all those who have arrived in Brisbane have been placed on board the auxiliary schooner Rio Loge, where they will be kept until the remaining patients arrive before being taken to the lazarette on Friday Island. The official number of black lepers are set down as males, 9; females, 1.

The idea is to rid the State of this collection of leprosy in one shipload instead of segregating the patients at different towns. If is likely that the Rio Loge will be ready to sail for Friday Island at an early date.

Doctor Horace Tozer, Superintendent of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum, was placed in charge of both Leprosariums.

By 1906 there were 21 inmates at the Dunwich lazaret which was housed in buildings adjacent to the Asylum’s Men’s Quarters to the south.  As had been the practice for some years, the dull lives of the Asylum’s inmates had been brightened by the theatrical performances of the Postmaster, a certain Mr Agnew and his son Noel (“Laddie”).  The lazaret patients were also allowed to attend.  Little heed was paid to the close contact between the Leprosy patients and the old folk until Noel Agnew contracted the disease.  It was then that the Government decided on total segregation of the Hansen’s patients and they were moved to a new lazaret in the north western corner of nearby Peel Island.

The Peel Island lazaret opened in 1907 with the segregation of 17 white patients.  Not only were they segregated from society but also from each other according to sex, race, and form of the disease.  Later in the year, their number was swelled by the transfer of the 40 coloured patients from the Friday Island lazaret after its closure.

(Extract from ‘Peel Island History – A Personal Quest)

People of Peel Island – 4 – Biochemist, Dorothy Herbert 

In January 1947 Promin therapy was introduced to treat the leprosy patients at Peel Island lazaret. Its daily intravenous administration necessitated Doctor Eric Reye remaining full time on the island. Thus, he became Peel’s first Resident Medical Officer, and his wife, Mardi, was appointed a temporary laboratory assistant, because no one was available at the time, and because the nurses were fully occupied. By the end of 1947, the services of a science graduate, Miss Dorothy Herbert, had been obtained, and Mardi was no longer needed. 

Because of the possible haematological effects of the sulphones on the body, a laboratory was set up on Peel for blood counting and urine examination

For a start, the laboratory was set up in a disused hut down in the bush, but because of its distance, dilapidation, and lack of water, Dr Reye asked the Padre if he could use the Church as a laboratory.  All would have been well but for the Roman Catholic patients who refused to enter the church because it had been consecrated “Anglican”. The best Dr Reye could do was to coax them into the church’s tiny vestibule where staff took the necessary samples from them. Clearly, this was not a satisfactory arrangement, and new premises again had to be found for the laboratory. The choice fell to the library cum billiard room, which belonged to the male patients. 1

Dorothy Herbert outside the laboratory at Peel Island lazaret in 1948

Dorothy worked as a biochemist at the Peel Island lazaret during 1948. She then moved to Tasmania in 1949 and worked as a biochemist at Royal Hobart Hospital.

After a year in the United Kingdom, she returned to Brisbane to study medicine at the University of Queensland. After graduating in 1958, she spent 2 years as a resident medical officer at Brisbane General Hospital.

In 1961, she moved to Charleville to work as a locum for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) for 3 months. She remained in Charleville in private practice until 1981.

In 1963, Dorothy bought her first aircraft — a 1957 single-engine Cessna, which she used to fly to emergencies of her own patients, medical conferences and remote properties. She was a member of a flying surgeon team and would stand in for the flying doctor as required. At a time when there were few women doctors and fewer women pilots, Dorothy made quite an impression flying to remote communities with her three corgis in tow.

Cessna 172 of a type similar to Dorothy’s plane

In 1981, Dorothy left Charleville and semiretired to the Sunshine Coast (with her Major Mitchell cockatoo, Linda). She continued to work in general practice, specialising in acupuncture and aviation medicine. She fully retired in 1996, when she also flew her final flight. Her flying record at this time totalled 2200 hours.

She was awarded the Nancy Bird Walton Trophy for services to aviation in Australasia in 1972. In 1997, she was made an honorary life member of the Aviation Medicine Society of Australia and New Zealand for her contribution as a designated examiner for 35 years. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 1999 for her service to rural medicine through the RFDS and to aviation through the AWPA. She also received a Centenary Medal in 2001 for her distinguished service to the RFDS.2

References: 1. Peel Island History – A Personal Quest

                     2. Medical Journal of Australia, vol 202, no 7, 2015, p 391

People of Peel Island – 3 – Doctor Morgan Gabriel 

Morgan Gabriel’s school education had been completed at Brisbane Grammar, which he left after completing his Junior Certificate. For a time, he had worked in the Taxation Department which he disliked, and then as a Cadet in the Laboratory of the State Health Department. He remained there for some eleven years as a Government Analyst, and it was during this time that he also resumed his schooling and, by studying at night, finally obtained his Senior School Certificate. This was followed by study for a Science Degree, which he obtained as an external student studying over six years. In 1944 he was one of a group of students to be awarded the first State Government Bonded Fellowships to the University of Queensland. Thus, he was finally able to afford a long-held ambition to study for his Degree in Medicine which he finally obtained in 1950. His aim was to specialize in Gynaecology but part of his Fellowship Bond was that he had to repay the years spent in study with an equal time in an area of the Government’s choosing. To Dr Fryberg’s mind, he was the answer to Peel’s problems, and Dr Gabriel was duly appointed the island’s first Resident Medical Superintendent, having full control over the island’s affairs. 

Dr Morgan Gabriel and Matron Marie Ahlberg at Peel Island

Peel Island could not have been further from Dr Gabriel’s plans, especially when he was also planning to marry, and he hated the whole idea, but because of his contract with the Government, he could do little but accept. His first months there were stormy, and he clashed with both staff and patients to enforce both more responsible policies for the running of the settlement. Firstly, he reduced alcohol consumption on the island by limiting its consumption to one bottle of beer per week. Any staff members found drunk on duty would be immediately sent to the Health Department for dismissal. As can be expected his popularity was not high amongst the inhabitants of Peel. 

It says much for Dr Gabriel that he weathered the storm, for his character was of such strength that he would not compromise a principle he believed in. As well as his strength, he was also fortunate in being a caring and kind-hearted man who could sympathize with the patients’ condition. These two qualities were to prove ideal and necessary for the newly created position.

One of the first improvements he made at Peel was that of the meals, and it was one to which the patients responded readily. Many more were to follow, and when it became obvious that the new doctor had their welfare at heart, the patients quickly warmed to him and it wasn’t long before they were to look on him as a true friend and confidant to whom they could turn and discuss their problems. Indeed, for Dr Gabriel’s wedding, the patients all chipped in and bought a present for him and his new wife, soon to be affectionately known by all as “Johnny”.  With Peel’s past reputation, it must have been difficult for her to set up house there, but she settled into her new surroundings and quickly made friends with the patients. When their two children, Bill and Ruth, were born, they, too, lived with their parents in the doctor’s residence to the east of the men’s compound. This fact alone would have done much to dispel the stigma associated with the dangers of Hansen’s Disease and young children.

Doctor’s house at the Lazaret in 1950s (Photo courtesy Dr Morgan Gabriel)

When Morgan Gabriel first arrived at Peel, he knew little about Hansen’s Disease. But because he was not the sort of man to engage in any activity without a thorough knowledge of his subject, he set about learning as much as possible about the latest developments in Hansen’s Disease and its treatment. This knowledge he also passed on to the many of his patients who were interested in new treatments for their disease, and over the next decade, he would introduce many new drugs at Peel in a constant search for more effective results. 

As well as educating himself and the patients about Hansen’s Disease, Dr Gabriel also missed no opportunity in encouraging medical students to visit Peel and familiarise themselves with the disease and its early symptoms. 

Dr Gabriel was also of the belief that it was necessary to keep his patients’ hands and muscles working and minds occupied. Towards this end he encouraged them to engage in as many activities as possible. Occupational therapy was available in the form of leather, plastic, and cane work, and many patients were put on the payroll in positions that included truck driver, barber, painter, handyman, groundsman, and seamstress. In 1952 a new patients’ dining room was constructed, mainly by the work of the patients themselves. One patient undertook the school Junior Certificate course, and one of the blind patients who retained full sensitivity in the fingertips learnt braille. In September 1956 a naturalisation ceremony was conducted at the hospital when one of the patients became an Australian citizen. 

Dr Morgan Gabriel was Peel’s last resident doctor from 1951 until the Lazaret’s closure in 1959.

(Extract from ‘Peel Island History – A Personal Quest’)

Peel Island People – 2 – Eric Reye

Eric Reye passed away peacefully on Monday night 29.1.2007 in the Beenleigh Nursing Home.  Though physically incapacitated for his last years, Eric’s mind remained keen to the end. For one so used to the outdoor life, his immobility in a nursing home must have been a great frustration, but, in typical style, he accepted his lot philosophically and without complaint.

I like to remember Eric from my times with him on his boat “Coolooloa” on the mangrove flats at Redland Bay, eating peanuts, sipping his home-made mead, surrounded by his laboratory materials and discussing Moreton Bay’s history of which, for me at least, Eric played such an important part.

Matron Ahlberg, Doctor Reye, Nurse Sharp at the Lazaret late 1940s

All his life, Eric was a lover of boats and the Bay. From those of you who have read my books, you will recall his canoe trips from Brisbane to Southport and his search for the ‘Spanish Galleon’ which in itself has inspired many others to continue. After studying medicine at the University of Queensland, he was able to combine his yachting skills with his medicine when he became the Medical Officer for the Hansen’s Disease (Leprosy) patients at Peel Island. While there he worked constantly to improve the conditions of the patients.

It was also on Peel that he was bitten by the bug – the biting midge actually – when trying to find its breeding habits. Entomology was soon to take over his whole life and he abandoned medicine in its favour, eventually becoming acknowledged as a world expert in the study of biting midges.

 He was a source of much of our knowledge of Peel Island’s Lazaret history and one of our last living links with it. 

He was always willing to impart his great knowledge to others, and I for one am especially grateful for his generosity in supporting my Moreton Bay writings.

Peter Ludlow

Doris Gabriel (wife of Doctor Morgan Gabriel, Eric’s successor) and Eric Reye at the former doctor’s Lazaret quarters, 1993

People of Peel Island – 1 – Rosemary Opala

Rosemary Opala (nee Fielding) was born in Bundaberg, Queensland in 1923. She began to study a commercial art course at the George Street Technical College (now QUT) but took up nursing at the onset of World War II because as she said: “I wanted to do something more meaningful than playing with paints, seeing as though everybody was rushing off to the war.”

After finishing her nursing training at Brisbane General Hospital, she stayed on the staff at Wattlebrae, the city’s infectious disease section.  It was here that she met a small and engaging group of Peel Island (Hansen’s Disease) patients, temporarily housed in one of the pavilion-type wards while waiting specialist consultation about eye problems. They convinced her to go to Peel as a nurse and she spent two stints there in the late 1940s and early 50s. While there and ever since, Rosemary worked tirelessly to “de-mythify” Peel Island folklore.

“It was a particularly interesting time, a time when a cure was on its way,” she said.

A young nurse Rosemary Fielding

After leaving Peel Island Lazaret, Rosemary eventually became a nursing supervisor at Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, she wrote popular magazine fiction – gaining some notoriety with the publication of various short stories in women’s magazines.  The University of Queensland Fryer Library recently accepted these and a collection of what she describes as “disrespectful cartoons”.

A stint at St Anne’s Hospital at Cleveland revealed another love – that of Coochiemudlo, which she visited by rowboat, returning that same day.  She was later to live there, exchanging nursing for “a stress-free life as farm hand cum beachcomber”.  Later she and her husband Marian built their own home on the island, at a time when the ferry only ran on weekends and public holidays.

“Building was an experience considering my husband’s previous carpentry experience was to build a bookcase,” she said. 

Rosemary had a way with words.

Rosemary and Marian moved to Caloundra, in the late 1960s and despite every intention, Rosemary’s husband was never to return to Coochiemudlo. While at Caloundra, she was very involved with the Sunshine Coast Environment Council and used to send articles and drawings for the quarterly magazine Eco Echo – her pages were a regular feature. After Marian’s death, Rosemary moved down to Victoria Point where she was to continue contributing sketches and articles to local environmental groups

“These days I leave such work to the more accomplished but still like to do a bit of illustrating if the subject appeals.  Hopefully the time is coming when I can vege out without feeling guilty and do nothing but re-read old favourite books and new best sellers,” she said. “There is more to life than just existing – more than being upright and breathing.”

As well as sketching, Rosemary also wrote non-fiction articles, with an emphasis on Queensland’s environment, botany and its history. She contributed to many groups.

From her time in Caloundra, Rosie and Kathleen MacArthur were members of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland (WPSQ). Later, when she moved back to Victoria Point about 1995, Rosie continued writing articles for the WPSQ Bayside Branch newsletter. She was also involved with the Botanical Artists Society of Queensland with her friend Louise Saunders.

Rosemary loved sketching Nature, such as these mangroves on Peel Island

From her time as an early resident of Coochiemudlo Island, she had many reminiscences of her family’s early struggles to get established there. As such, she was a member of the Coochiemudlo Historical Society. However, her art was always close to her heart and she was an active member of the Coochiemudlo Art Group. Even after her admission to the Redland Hospital just prior to her death, Rosemary’s one concern was that she would not be well enough to attend an upcoming exhibition at the Redland Council’s Art Gallery, in which she was to exhibit.

Rosemary was involved in the Friends of Peel Island Association as a foundation member, was a member of U3A, a Friend of Eprapah and was an ecological writer with Eco Echo, a tri-annual Sunshine Coast publication.  

Regarding her foundation membership of the Friends of Peel Island Association (FOPI), Rosemary once said’ “It’s just an excuse to get into the place (Peel).  I don’t really contribute.  I’m sort of the elder statesman.”

Fellow FOPI committee member Debra Henry said her involvement was far more than this. “She is a very active member.  She just plays it down.” 

But this was Rosie all over.

FOPI President Simon Baltais once said, “Rosemary Opala is a kind and generous soul, a willing listener, a provider of much humour and strength through words and art, a much-admired person, a truly living treasure,” 

Peel Island’s mangroves were a constant source of inspiration for Rosemary

Peel Island 2021- an updated talk by Peter Ludlow

Presents a talk by local historian

                                  Peter Ludlow on the

‘The History and Maintenance of Moreton Bay’s Peel Island’.

A former hospital pharmacist, Peter is now a professional researcher, biographer, and author collecting local history in the Moreton Bay area. 

This presentation will highlight Peel Island’s history including pre-European occupation, its use by Europeans as a quarantine station, inebriate home, and lazaret (leprosarium), and, in 2007, the Island’s gazettal as a National Park and Conservation Park and the Lazaret Buildings as a Heritage Site. Peter will also look at Peel’s future when the island will be placed under the full control of the Quandamooka People, under whose guidance a new era of tourism and cultural exchange holds great promise.  

General Public Welcome, booking required for entry

When:     Friday 28th May 2021 at 7.00 pm

Where:   Redland Multi Sports Centre

             Cnr. Bailey & Randall Rd,

             Birkdale QLD 4159

Enjoy the club facilities, food available.

Please click here to register for event, limited to 50 attendees.

For more information phone Steve 423036676 Or email  bayside@wildlife.org.au

A panoramic view of the Peel Island Lazaret c.1955 (photo courtesy Dr Morgan Gabriel)