It is fitting that we end this series by returning to whence we set out: the Redcliffe Peninsula, and to its world famous export, The Bee Gees. In recent years the Council has renamed a whole street after them and decked it out with memorabilia from their singing career.
On his most recent visit to Redcliffe, Barry Gibb, the oldest and only surviving member of the pop group, told a reporter of the life changing decision they had made as young teenagers. Like many others with too much time on their hands, the three brothers amused themselves by stealing goods from the local shops. However, Barry’s conscience got the better of him, and he took his younger siblings, Maurice and Robin, and their contraband good out to the end of the Redcliffe Jetty and announced to them that they had to make a decision: do we carry on with our stealing or do we do something useful with our lives?
They threw all their stolen goods off the end of the jetty. The rest is history…
21 years after Matthew Flinders’ journey to Moreton Bay, Surveyor John Oxley was dispatched from Sydney in the Mermaid in November 1823 to find s spot for a new penal depot. When he cast anchor at Point Skirmish on Bribie Island on 29th November, he was surprised to be met by a white man, Thomas Pamphlett, who was living with the natives there.
(With John Finnegan, Richard Parsons and John Thompson, Pamphlett had set out from Port Jackson for the Five Islands [Illawarra] to cut cedar. Blown north by a storm in which Thompson died, the boat was wrecked on the outer shore of Moreton Island. After some hardships, mitigated by help from Aborigines, they crossed to the mainland. Believing themselves south of Sydney they had sought a northward route homewards. Aborigines again helped them with food and directions during which they had crossed a large river.)
On the day following Oxley’s meeting with Thomas Pamphlett at Bribie, John Finnegan returned to Point Skirmish from a hunting trip, and on 1st December accompanied Oxley and his crew in the Mermaid when they set sail to explore Moreton Bay further. Oxley landed at Redcliffe Point on December 2nd 1823. This he chose as the site for the new penal depot as there was plenty of fresh water, fertile soil and plenty of timber for building.
Oxley also explored the inlet to the north of Redcliffe Point which he named Deception Bay (Oxley originally thought the bay was a river which he named Pumice Stone River. Later, when he discovered his mistake, he changed the name to Deception Bay.)
As well as exploring the western part of Moreton bay, Oxley sailed 80 kilometres up the river that Pamphlett had described (and which Flinders had missed). This he named the Brisbane River in honour of the NSW Governor Brisbane, who had sent him on this mission.
In the following few months, I will be looking at just a few of the people who helped form the communities that now make up our Northern Moreton Bay Region – and how we remember them today. When explorer John Oxley recommended Redcliffe Point as the site for a settlement, he ushered in a great influx of immigrants. Here, I highlight the lives and influences of those who followed him and who called the region home.
The first European to enter Moreton Bay was Lieutenant Matthew Flinders in the sloop Norfolk on Sunday 14th July 1799. He was on an expedition to explore the coast from Port Jackson (Sydney) north to Hervey Bay. At eight in the evening the anchor was dropped in seven fathoms (42 feet or 12.8 metres) at the entrance of Glass House Bay (Moreton Bay), Cape Moreton bearing ESE two or three miles (3.2 to 4.8 kilometres).
On 16 July 1799, Flinders left Glass House Bay about two miles (3.2 kilometres) east of the shore in the Norfolk. He sailed south-west between Moreton Island and the mainland parallel to the southern shore of Bribie Island until spotting an opening in the low western shore. He anchored at 8:15am and transferred to a smaller craft with a small crew and Bungaree, a Port Jackson Aborigine he had brought with him.
He landed on Bribie Island unaware that it wasn’t the mainland and met a small group of Aborigines who had gathered on the beach. Although Bungaree didn’t speak the same dialect as the local aborigines the meeting was peaceful until one attempted to remove Flinders’ hat. Flinders refused and the Europeans and Bungaree returned to their boat. As they left the man threw a spear that missed the small boat and crew. Flinders fired his musket and wounded the man. The Aborigines fled the beach. Flinders named the southern shore and site of the confrontation Point Skirmish (South Point)
Flinders needed to repair leaks in his boat and pulled it ashore some five miles (8.0 kilometres) north of the area he had the incident with the locals for those repairs. Once his boat was repaired he explored the mainland side of the passage (Pumicestone Passage) and scaled one of the Glass House Mountains (Mt. Beerburrum) to get a view of the area.
The Norfolk then sailed southwards in the bay and on Wednesday 17th July Flinders landed at what we know as Woody Point. Flinders placed the name ‘Red cliff Point’ on the south-eastern part of the Peninsula on his chart of Moreton Bay. His sloop Norfolk had been anchored 1.5 miles off that part of the Peninsula and his men had rowed him to a landing place somewhere near the present Woody Point Jetty.
From Red Cliff Point he pulled over to a green head (Clontarf Point) about two miles to the westward. There he found an aboriginal humpy, and observed tracks of dogs (dingoes) kangaroos and emus on the beach. Flinders took away with him a large aboriginal fishing net and in its place left a tomahawk.
For the next few days, Flinders and his crew sailed slowly south within the bay, exploring and charting its unknown waters. It was Flinders’ hope to discover a large navigable river that would lead to the inland. To each of the smaller islands he encountered, Flinders ascribed a number, the first being the most northerly: 1 is Mud Island, 2 St Helena, 3 Green, 4 King, 5 Peel, and 6 Coochiemudlo.