By Thomas Welsby
What I have herein written has been with one object -a desire to gather together as much as possibly could be done of the history of Bribie Island and its surroundings. History alone has been the inducement of persuasion to action.
Queensland is still yet young. As time goes onward, it will be surely interesting to some, inclined for knowledge of that nature, to have before them something of the pioneer doings of first the Colony, then the State. Two of the islands of Moreton Bay have historical imprintings, strongly marked, some of which are worth relating. Students and writers will require some data, some facts, and some particulars to go by, and it has been my desire to place together something I trust upon which they can rely-facts and particulars conned and noted by those of much earlier birth than myself, prior to separation in 1859.
The turning up and perusal of the many pages of many books has been to me a real pleasure. I do not consider myself an author; merely a collector of occurrences and of events; such that I may have deemed worthy of recognition, also my own experiences.
Bribie Island was the first island in the Moreton Bay waters to see the impress and mark of the white man's foot. Matthew Flinders was that person; he who navigated the whole extent of the Bay, and so well charted the six islands from Bribie to Russell, near Karra Garra.
With naturally but little reference I have gone back to Captain Cook in 1770. The actual and true date of Bribie and its history making commences with Flinders, 1799 then passes on to John Oxley, 1823: the introduction of the convict settlement, 1824. Thence it proceeds to the period of Commandants and of rifle-bearing soldiers. The cessation of the convict settlement is dated 1839: the first land sales of Brisbane town were in Sydney, 1842; and finally separation from New South Wales takes place in 1859, and Sir George Bowen is Queensland's first Governor.
There is an immense amount of history hidden away during the period 1799-1859. What I have gathered of Bribie to Caloundra will, I do trust (little additional as it is indeed), be accepted as a small contribution to past events of those days.
There was much that I could have touched upon not applicable to “Bribie the Basket Maker." No doubt there have been many happenings on and about Bribie Island that, not being made aware of, or imparted to me, are not chronicled in the pages of this book. For these omissions I seek pardon, but, having done my best, can only ask that this little work may be added to the historical collections of Queensland.
“Amity," New Farm, 1937
“BRIBIE-THE BASKET MAKER"
it is of “Bribie" the Basket Maker, to whom I refer. Bribie, the merry Moreton
Bay fish-hawking convict of the time of Governor Sir George Gipps, who held
office in Sydney from the 24th February, 1838 to the 11th
July, 1846, long before Queensland was separated on the 10th
December, 1859 from that vast area of country known as New South Wales. Also
during part of the time when Commandants ruled and held sway in Brisbane in
convict settlement periods: when merciless overseers kept guard upon men and
women felons alike: when the latter toiled with pick and drill on the Hamilton
the month of March, 1842, the last of the Penal Commandants had departed from
Brisbane. His name, Lieutenant Gorman. In November of 1842 Commander John
Clements Wickham, R.N., was appointed to the position of Police Magistrate of
the Moreton Bay district, at a salary of £300 per annum. In the year 1853
Captain Wickham became Government Resident at the same salary, but later it was
raised to £500, then to £700. On the establishment of the Colony of Queensland
in 1859 the office of Resident was abolished, and Captain Wickham, after 47
years in the service of his country, 17 of which had been passed in Moreton Bay,
was thrown out of employment. He returned to England in 1860, and died suddenly
at Biarritz, in the South of France, on the 19th March, 1864.
it is of “Bribie," as indicated, I want to write about. It is my desire to tell
his story, or as much as I can of the convict man himself. For “Bribie the
Basket Maker," was, in my opinion and that of others, the person after whom
Bribie Island was named. If any one dare say me nay, let him come forward and
historically correct me: umbraged I will not be. I will be gladdened and
satisfied for, in all my humble attempts in recording early Queensland history,
or rather of Moreton Bay district my endeavours have ever been to be as correct
as possible. History of the State in which I was born is almost sacred to me.
Not so much that I am obsessed with it. I want to be reliable in that which, I
set down, and unless I touch upon events that have occurred during my own span
of life, and of which not only have I stores of my own memory, but of actual
contact, I am compelled, at times, to look up and study earlier day writers, and
from them make and give extracts. These extracts, may, to some, bear a
subjective uncertainty. That cannot be avoided, and, giving my authorities from
which they are drawn, I will allow excuses to pass their way along. The critic
must remain satisfied so far as I am personally concerned.
That Bribie was a convict there is a positive and
historical fact. Whether that was a christian or a surname I cannot tell. His
general character and behaviour may have earned him this sobriquet, given, may be by his fellow prisoners; by
the soldiers; or even by the officers who held him in surveillance. The actual
years of his incarceration are not known. I have searched The Historical Society
of Queensland for information. Have looked up the names of those unfortunates
who came to Botany Bay in the First Fleet vessels, up to the very time of the
cessation of convict importation here in 1839, and can find no name bearing
alliance with that of Bribie. It is most certain that he was not among the first
comers of 1788 under,
Captain Arthur Phillip. He
belongs to the time of events of Queensland's introduction and supply of the
convicts sent up from Sydney.
This convict system operated during a term of fifteen years, viz., from
July 1824 to the 20th May 1839. There is evidence and probability of his having arrived here
somewhere about 1830. Andrew Petrie came to the Moreton Bay Settlement in 1837,
coming from the South in the James Watt. The convict system was abandoned
in Brisbane, or rather in the settlement in the year just mentioned, 1839.
In Captain Logan's term as Commandant- 1825 to 1830- this system must
have been at its very worst, that is, if my reading of the then historical
events, is correct. Looking carefully into all surrounding facts of what I can
gather, I am inclined to say that Bribie was here during Logan's regime, and
almost coincident with the year Andrew Petrie became a resident, and these two
must have been known to each other for a lengthy period. A very significant
fact, however, comes before me.
Suppose we take the advent of Bribie here in say 1830: his becoming known
to Petrie in 1837: the cessation of convict importation to the Moreton Bay
Settlement in 1839 being also recognised, then Petrie's writings or correctly
speaking that of Constance Campbell Petrie, daughter of Thomas Petrie, of
“Murrumba," North Pine, the son of Andrew Petrie, would evidence that Bribie the
Basket Maker was living amongst the natives on that island we now call Bribie
between the years 1839 and 1842. This latter year saw him permanently there.
That being so, I take it upon myself to chronicle that “Bribie" as a name to the
present island known as such, must have been recognised as “Bribie Island" in
the year 1842, and still remains so appellated. Also this must be the year or
very near to it when the Basket Maker lived there with his lady love of more
than ruddy-brown colour.
Let me see if I can delineate this man Bribie, tell of his temptation and
capitulation, and the selection of a peaceful island home with others not of his
own nationality and colour. I can only do so taking into account the nature of
those convict days: the vigilance over the ironed men busy at road making: the
varied class of character they would reflect, and all general environment.
Blending all these with Miss Petrie's account of the man as described to her by
her father, in the words of Portia I will “level at my affection."
He could not have been in 1842 more than 40 years of age. The reader must
recollect that mere lads were sent to Botany Bay from the Thames Hulks; lads of
14 years or more, for crimes then committed that nowadays would be pardoned on
first asking. There were three terms of imprisonment, or rather banishment to
Botany given by London magistrates, viz., seven years, fourteen years and life.
This Bribie was not a lifer, of that I feel sure. That he was not in all reality
a criminal, of that I am convinced. Whether he had been in the home land a Don
Juan, or a gay Lothario, or became either one of these, or both, I leave to the
reader's own judgment.
Whilst here in the settlement, with as much freedom as a Ticket of Leave
Man, there came in his pathway a black-eyed dusky-coloured inamorata. Events
proved that she, evidently, was his downfall; if such you may designate the
manner and the ending of their novel personal introduction. Or did he, as
belonging to the stronger or superior sex, take her in true aboriginal fashion.
She belonged to the tribe of that island on which was spoken the nhulla
language-the island divided from the mainland by the Pumice Stone River of
When Surveyor-General John Oxley visited this place for the first time,
then unnamed, in December, 1823, in His Majesty's cutter Mermaid, he was
shown the Brisbane River by one Finnegan, one of the cast-a-way convicts who
were endeavouring to get to the Illawarra islands, and in an open boat were
driven northward. John Uniacke was with Oxley on the cutter, but did not join
the party in the seeking of the river. Whilst Oxley was on his way to
Termination Creek, this Uniacke remained at Pumice Stone and there awaited in
the Mermaid the return of the officer in charge. Under the shade of the
awning on the cutter he heard the full story of the privations and sufferings of
the three convicts, and wrote down in leisurely manner all that Pamphlet
imparted. Pamphlet's story is, however, not for me to record here.
Uniacke, in quieter moments and alone, had written of the coloured people
he had seen hereabouts- they had been called Indians by Captain Cook- in this
“I had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the natives, who are
both in their dispositions and manner far superior to those in the neighbourhood
of Sydney, and in any that I have seen."
Oxley himself had previously written: “The natives in the intercourse we
had with them appeared to possess a most friendly disposition. They are very
numerous and are, to a certain extent superior in their domestic habits to the
savages inhabiting the more southern coasts."
Uniacke again takes up the running and pens: “The women that I saw were
far superior in personal beauty to the men, or indeed to any natives of this
country whom I have yet seen. Many of them are tall, straight, and well formed,
and there were two in particular whose shape and features were such as no white
woman need have been ashamed of." (See Barron Field's Memoirs, etc., 1825, pages
22, 57, 66.)
So, I ask, can you wonder at the doings of Bribie as you further read.
Poor Bribie! You know the Yeoman of the Guards, do you not? And loving Jack
Point, and his companion Elsie Maynard. Just call back to memory Point's sad and
“All for the love of a
My mind, as I so write, goes back to the days of my
youth, to a poem I used to read in my school book, running somewhat in this
the Chief of Ulva's Isle
And this Lord
may be said, may it not, that Bribie ran away with his beloved lubra in similar
manner as Ullin's daughter ran away with the Chief of Ulva's Isle.
I am anticipating.
again locate myself in Brisbane in the time of Logan as Commandant, 1825-1830;
Captain Clunie, 1830-1835; Captain Fyans, 1835-1837; Major Cotton, 1837-1839,
and presume that this man Bribie, as I must still continue to pall him, was a
prisoner under all these stern officials. Andrew Petrie in 1839 had been in
Brisbane two years, and did during these two years, most undoubtedly come in
contact with the convict. Petrie, when he came here had two sons, John, and
Thomas the father of Miss Constance Campbell Petrie, from whose pen came the
volume of her parent's reminiscences. Her father, so she wrote, was a mere boy
when he came here. It was Tom who mingled with the piccaninny, and, as he grew
older, with the more mature men of the native tribes. From them he learned much
of their lore and superstitions. He too, with his older brother John must have
known and conversed with the Basket Maker.
Bribie's term of expatriation was nearly expired. He was allowed certain
freedom, not as a Ticket of Leave Man, but as one who could be well trusted, and
who so near the expiry of his sentence would not consider it worth while to go
away into the bush, like many a poor deluded soul before him. His liberty was
assured, and would indeed be welcome.
Kangaroo Point, New Farm, South Brisbane and a portion of North Brisbane
were all under cultivation in these early mentioned years, all worked under
convict labour. There were many swamps in and about the penal settlement in
which useful rushes for basket making purposes grew, all necessary for Bribie's
craft and handwork. He seems to have been a merry making soul, friendly with the
officers in command; with the white free inhabitants, and also with the dark
coloured, the true and real landowner. Alas! he held no title deed. He carried
in the freedom of liberty no hand iron, no leg chain; was allowed to move at
free will during daylight hours wheresoever he wisted. As well as basket maker
he was the sole fisherman of the settlement. When not engaged in gathering
rushes he would use fish and crab pots of his own manufacture at likely places,
chiefly at the mouth of the creek running then into the river at the end of that
street we now know as Creek Street, just adjacent where the steam ferry used to
run to Kangaroo Point. Crabs were plentiful there. I quote from Miss Petrie's
the mouth of the creek which formerly ran up Creek Street, just where the steam
ferry landing is now (written in 1904), a place was built by the prisoners for
the catching of fish and crabs. Two beams were put side by side across from bank
to bank at high water mark. They were flat on top so that one could walk upon
them. Between these beams slabs were supported which extended down into the mud.
They were close together, but in the middle an opening was left about six feet
wide, which was bound by two piles standing some nine feet above the beams.
These piles were joined across the creek with a piece of timber, and this had a
ring bolt in the centre for a block and tackle, by which a light frame work made
of wood was worked up and down. To this frame was attached a large
basket-Bribie's handwork- made so that the fish and crabs which entered were
caught. It had a square hole, with a cover, on top, by which they would be taken
out. When the water was high and just on the turn, the basket was lowered, then,
when the tide had gone down it was hoisted up level with the beams. Fish were
plentiful in the river then, there being nothing much to disturb them, and
sometimes the basket contained a great supply. Old shank bones with a little
meat attached were thrown into the creek to encourage the fish to come in, and
the basket trap was only worked two or three times a week, so that the fish did
not grow afraid, having several days of undisturbed coming and going. A prisoner
(sure to be Bribie) had charge of the working of this trap, and he took the fish
to the Commandant, to Mr. Andrew Petrie, and all the officers in turn."
Bribie did more than this. When the quantity caught was more than usual
in his own made basket, he would carry fish and crabs up Queen Street to the
Commissariat Quarters, and general police cottages, whereat, no doubt, he
received good payment in coin and in kind. To the military hospital would he
also make his way. This hospital was just around the corner, near the present
Victoria Bridge, in Queen Street, leading to the North Quay. If his supply
lasted he would visit other areas where business he thought might be done -and
finally he would proceed to the Reservoir, where the City Hall now stands, and
there gather rushes for his evening work. He seems to have been well liked, his
cheerfulness being a pleasant break amongst the general sad surroundings.
alone did he make baskets for fishing and other purposes. At this time-1839-the
Brisbane River was shallow in many places from the Hamilton to Luggage Point,
notably at the entrance from the Bay. Long poles or tea tree saplings were
erected in these places right up to Breakfast Creek. They were marked with
letters and figures denoting the state of the tide, and the depth of the
Something more serviceable and practicable was required. Bribie hit on
the idea of making a light cane globe, with a fairly wide hole A in the middle,
a light piece of wood being interwoven in the bottom of these floatable
makeshifts. Then over these figured posts denoting a fair way and safe passage
these cane contraptions were placed, light enough to float with the rise and
fall of the tide. Naturally there were no lamps or lights supplied, shipping was
not so plentiful as to require that. These wicker work contrivances were more
observable on a dull and cloudy day than were the bare sticks. For this simple
and serviceable arrangement Bribie received much praise. Even long after the
cessation of the convict system, even up to the time of separation in 1859 these
wicker globes were in use.
We here leave
Bribie and his inventions and come to the time of his love adventures and
escapades. In and around Brisbane in those early days and during our hero's
compulsory residence there, were hundreds of natives from all places. From the
plains: from the near and far away hills: from the islands of the bay, they
wandered and made their land and waters voyages to “Meginchin," their native
name for Brisbane. The gay-coated soldiers and men, in arms were a novelty and
an attraction. From Amity; from Dunwich; from Nerang Creek they came; men, women and
children, and many dogs, the companion of the black and bed mate for
From Maroochy and Bribie they
came, that unnamed place as yet, some by the calling of Pumice Stone.
us see what Oxley and Uniacke had written of this Pumice Stone tribe as far back
women were far superior to the men," wrote the one ... and the other said: “Many
of them are tall and straight and well formed . . . whose shape and features
were such as no white woman need have been ashamed of."
Alas!! Our good friend, the genial Bribie, Bribie the Basket
it did actually occur no one ever knew, but many suspected. This Cleopatra had
come from Pumice Stone with many of her tribe, and had marked Antony as her own.
Her tribe made their gunyahs in the Valley, and wandered at will through the
Settlement. They lived well, for they had their towrows with them, likewise the
circling boomerang for the kangaroo and wallaby; their dogs for iguanas and
possum; their spears for protection, likewise their shields. One can visualise
this fair to look upon, dark and dusky lady with her dilly bag and blankets
thrown over her shoulders, and. loosely carried at that. Surely we cannot see
her with clay pipe in heavily lipped mouth, asking “gib it bacca?"
must have had her early morning bathe in the creek, and. was donned in all her
native robing when first she had come, with searching eye, upon the basket maker
as he made his way through the tree-lined streets.
Whatever it may have been- they met, and that was the beginning- but not
the ending- yet. Again they meet on Bribie's return from Mr. Petrie. Looks were
exchanged, and a smile returned. Were these, may I ask, amorous, or libidinous?
Did these fitful glances cause a disturbance of their hidden innermost feelings?
She thought, no doubt, that this basket-of-fish carrier was a "turrwan," a great
man, for a "kippa," a young man, would be passed by unnoticed by her. For was
she not herself a woman, a “jundal," and had she not the years before her to
become a “puddang"- a mother. Bribie was to be hers and no one of her own tribe
would possess her. She would again meet her Antony and in time they would
depart- not to the banks of the Nile, but to the shores and waters of Pumice
Another day they met and passed each other with encouraging looks. Their
“mil" (eyes) beamed satisfactorily and returned pure love.
days sped quickly, and the intimacy of meeting and sending side glances to each
other continued. Then came a gentle stoppage and a converse. This continued now
almost daily, and Bribie was chaffed at by the soldiers, whilst even some of the
working convicts sniggered as he passed them by at their work.
there came a time when he missed his fair one in the streets. The tribe had
departed quietly one morning, and she- his lady love- must perforce accompany
them back to their tribal haunts and grounds at Pumice Stone. Bribie lamented,
and was sure of her return. And when early summer set in she and her companions
were back at Meginchin. Again the lovers gave glances of fidelity, and many were
the talkings together in town and Valley. For a while these natives were in and
around the Settlement with their customary beggings from the whites. Their
camping near the main offices did not, this time, last long. A very animated and
lengthy conversation was one morning seen being held by the now determined
couple, and much comment made. How it was; what had caused it, when the sun was
just over the horizon the dark lubra and her companions had gone.
morning's tide was at the full. The fish baskets had been down- for three days,
and it was time they were hauled up and emptied of their contents. They were
Bribie's baskets, and no one but he should take them from out the creek. His
name was called at the barracks- no reply. His room was looked into. No one
there, and above all the bed had never been rested upon since the previous
evening. Yes. He was absent from his fish pots, there was no round to the
officers' quarters; Petrie had not seen him, and gradually it dawned upon those
so concerned that Bribie the Basket Maker had levanted.
fuss was made. The Commandant took no action- for the time of the now known
missing convict had but a week to run, and there was nothing to be gained by
finding and bringing him back to justice. Now where had he really gone to. The
gardener of Fyans alone knew, for Bribie had made him his Fidus Achates,
and had been advised and urged by him to accompany the lubra back with her
companions to Pumice Stone. Bribie complied with the instructions of his mate,
had fled in the darkness of the night and was by now nearing the home of his
desire, and where he now would forever remain.
He returned to Brisbane in a month's time, and with just a little inkling
of fear faced the Commandant. Fyans understood human nature, gently admonished,
and then terrified, the love sick runaway, next returned to calmer mood, called
in an official and bade him write out such release as he was empowered to for a
prisoner convict, a release from his London sentence, and Bribie the Basket
Maker walked out into the clear sunshine- and- Liberty. His stay was brief in
the Settlement. Then away to Pumice Stone. His visits to the town became
irregular, then they ceased altogether.
There came a day that the gardener was missing.
Search was made. He had followed in the footsteps of his mate, and was welcomed
by the tribe who had made Bribie
their chief. Later another man was missing from the Settlement. He, too, had
gone down to the pleasant haunts of clear and running waters. This disappearing
lulled for a while, but occasionally as men became free they followed where
When some of the tribe came up for a visit, and staying only a few days a
native would ask, “Wunnar inter Yurranyah?" and the reply would come in broken
English: “Alonga Turrwan Bribie," meaning that they were going back to Pumice
Stone where Bribie held command. The repeated asking and answering of this
question became wearisome to many. Should an one be on holiday or absent in
Thus, my dear reader- did the island receive its name as you now know it.
But I cannot tell you how the convict basket maker received his name, whether by
and at birth, or by any other means. What I have written of the man is true.
There is nothing on record to tell how long he lived, on the island; whether he
attended the Bunya feastings in their periodical recurrences; whether he met his
death in tribal warfare; nor can I say where his bones are resting. He may be at
peace near where some tall cypress pine spreads its ever green branches; or near
some spotted gum. Maybe he sleeps under the shadows of the Glass Houses, as
lonely there as all his
BRIBIE AND SKIRMISH POINT
that I have dealt with “Bribie the Basket Maker," whose cognomen has been lured
into and linked with the island itself for all time, I want to deal with “Bribie
the island and Skirmish Point" as we know the island today, the island of twenty
miles in length, whose first white man's tread was that of Matthew Flinders on
the 16th July, 1799. With him on that memorable occasion was a native
named Bongaree, born on the north side of Broken Bay, possessed of a kindly
disposition combined with open and manly conduct. This manner of the spelling of
his name is by Lt. Colonel Collins. Flinders proclaimed and published it as
Bongaree. Other writers of many years afterwards, copyists only, have merged the
spelling into Bungaree. I have mentioned that I like history to be correct as
possible, so therefore accept the Bongaree of Flinders himself. This man
Bongaree accompanied Flinders in many navigations after this year of 1799.
Flinders had a wonderful confidence in and appreciation of the services of this
New South Wales native, for in all navigating and exploring voyages he was
accompanied by this individual.
From reading Flinders' journal there is positive evidence of his having been on the Porpoise, when in company with the Cato, Sydney Harbour was left in August 1803 for the homeward journey in quest of a newer and better craft than was the Investigator. The Porpoise and Cato and came to grief on Wreck Island on Wednesday, the 17th August 1803. I regret that this melancholy story cannot be told here. It will be remembered that after days of anxiety on Wreck Reef, Flinders left that lonely sandy island to proceed in the cutter Hope, to Sydney, some 750 miles away southward. Bongaree had left with Flinders in August, and no doubt may have accompanied him to London in the Cumberland. And when the Hope was making this voyage for aid the name of the faithful Bongaree is mentioned. See Flinders Journal, volume 2, page 319.
I really do think that he was in the Cumberland when Flinders sailed on his last and sadly eventful trip to England, the day of leaving Sydney being Wednesday, 21st September 1803. Flinders was imprisoned at Mauritius for six and a half years.
After reaching London he commenced the re-writing of his diary, and even
as it was completed and published he died on the 19th July, 1814. 1
can find no mention of Bongaree's name, except with the admission herein given,
but feel certain he reached the Old Country, as the first mention of his name
again is not dated until he settled at George's Head, the year given as
Ernest Scott, in his life of Flinders- published 1914- uses this native's
name on page 159, as having been in the Norfolk. Then again in the same volume,
on page 266, we read: “Flinders also took with him his old friend Bongaree," who
had accompanied him in the Norfolk's voyage in 1799. He, Scott, is here
referring to the Investigator in the circumnavigation of Australia.
Bongaree, the dark-coloured faithful friend of Flinders, as was
Jackey-Jackey immortalised in connection with the Kennedy exploring trips of
1848! We take off our hats to both of these faithful souls.
Bongaree and his actions are missing from 1803. Certain faith he must have been in the Cumberland, for from the wreck of the Porpoise in this year, 1803, there is no trace or tidings until we find him settled at George's Head, near Sydney, and that was in the year 1815, a year after Flinders' demise. Bongaree died in November 1830, and on the 24th of that month was laid to rest on Garden Island, Sydney Harbour.
it not a pleasant feature to acknowledge that the little group of houses on
Bribie, just ashore from the jetty of the Tug Company, is built upon and about a
plot of ground, named, charted, and known as Bongaree? It takes away the taste
of atrocities committed on the island, and leaves pleasing memories.
Archibald Meston, in a work published by him in the year 1895, states
that Bribie Island is about 20 miles long, and from one to three miles wide,
consisting chiefly of ti-tree swamps, salt flats, low sea sand ridges, and
slightly raised patches timbered by bloodwood, gray gums, and turpentine. There
is not an acre of good soil on the island. He gives the native name of the White
Patch as Taranggeer. Tom Petrie gives it Tarranggiri. May I say that I prefer
and accept this latter spelling. Its meaning is “leg."
I am about to write of something that may perhaps cause a storm of argument
about my ears. May I enquire of old Bribie-ites on what portion of the southern
end of Bribie, is “Bribie Nose"; and where is “Point Skirmish" to be found?
little time back whilst in the Koopa when entering Pumice Stone passage,
I very quietly and gently asked a friend standing by my side . . . asked him for
a reason. “Where is your best summer whiting ground?" The steamer was then just
at the moment coming abeam of the extreme end-southern-of the island. His reply
was, “Skirmish Point."
“Over there," I queried, pointing to this near side, southerly end. “Oh,
no," he retorted, apparently amazed at my ignorance, “the point away round on
the ocean side." ‘And where is Bribie Nose?" “Just yonder," he said, denoting
the sandy foreshore a little below The Amateur Fishing Association's home- the
Douglas Ogilby hut. I didn’t pursue the conversation further…but…I ruminated,
was just wise enough to know that when in Rome one should do as Rome does.
Besides, he was a much younger and heavier man than I was.
think that I had better deal with the island proper in another chapter, and
confine my writing now to the settling, I hope, of the real location of Bribie
Nose and Point Skirmish. I say that Skirmish Point is the inner extension just
as you enter Pumice Stone, and that the Nose is on the outside beach, looking
No navigator, or cartographer, to my knowledge has ever recorded in his diary or chart, or log book, such a place name as Bribie Nose.
me deal with Flinders and his visit here in 1799. In the published report
mentioned at length in Collins' edition of 1804, Flinders distinctly says that
on the 15th July he hauled in his vessel, the Norfolk, round
Cape Moreton to go into Glass House Bay. This Glass House Bay was pricked on
Captain James Cook's chart on the 17th May 1770, he showing the bay
in question a little to the westward of what is now Bribie, and over towards
Naturally he could know nothing of Skirmish Point, as that place was
named years afterwards, and when Cook was not alive; twenty-nine years after he
had passed along the eastern side of Australia. Let us look at Flinders' chart.
I have all his charts in my library. What do we find? Point Skirmish is mapped
on the inside of Bribie Island, not far from the present Toorbul headland, and
not on the outside Ocean Point, where it would have been charted had the
conflict with the blacks taken place there.
Seeking no further assistance from Cook, for there is none to find, or
give, we lay open fully the charts of Flinders before us and peruse the context
and writings of the latter in respect to that portion diaried when he had
entered Glass House Bay.
He wrote that having hauled in round Cape Moreton at 8 in the evening of the 16th July, he anchored about two miles from a low sandy shore on the west side of the Bay. (Please note the word “west".)
On the 17th Flinders went towards the shore taking Bongaree, the native, with him. Bongaree on the boat grounding, was the first overboard in the shallow water, and made his way to some Indians as Captain Cook had called the blacks, Flinders joining him almost immediately.
The Bribie natives were not afraid of these two men and were inclined to be familiar, and almost aggressive, too much so for Flinders' liking, so he made a retreat movement towards the beach, and his boat. One native threw a piece of firewood at him, then another followed suit. Again a native showed no fear, for rushing into the water up to his middle he hurled a spear, narrowly missing the navigator. Flinders, upon this provocation snapped at the man who had thrown the spear, but the gun missed fire. A second time he pulled the trigger again it missed fire. The third attempt was effective. Most of the natives fell with fright in the water, and hastily made for the shore.
darky walked as though he had been hurt, for his progress in the water, and on
the sand of the shore was slow, one of his hands being strongly held to his
back, Flinders concluding that he had been wounded on that part of the body. To
give these natives some idea of the wonder, to them, of firearms two shots were
fired over the heads of those on shore, no one being touched thereby.
we approach something very plain and emphatic, and making no comment thereon I
give Flinders' own words as they appear in his diary:
“From the low sandy point where this affair happened and which obtained
the name of Skirmish Point, we proceeded up the opening which proved to be the
river leading to the Glass House Peaks."
that not plain enough? Could anything be more definite and emphatic?
Flinders by this time was under the impression that he had found the
river that Captain Cook thought flowed into Moreton Bay. So on the morning of
the 21st July, he went to examine “Pumice Stone River." as he had
named it himself. He again writes on this date: “On approaching Point Skirmish,
five or six natives came down to the boat unarmed."
it is interesting to note that Flinders went up the passage- as we now know it
to be- not a river, and climbed one of the nearer and smaller Glass Houses. The
navigator then determined to put to sea, and as he got under weigh many of the
blacks followed along the shore as the Norfolk made her course in the
shallow waters towards the outer entrance. He did not get out of the “river"
that day, and had to wait another tide. The weather turned so bad that he was
compelled to anchor for a couple of days, during which delay the natives came
down both sides of the “river" and entertained the white men with singing and
dancing. Flinders by this time had passed fifteen days in Glass House Bay.
these excerpts the reader may be inclined to admit that Point Skirmish is in all
truthfulness that point immediately on the southern left of Bribie, when Pumice
Stone passage is being entered. Personally I think that it is. Is it likely that
Flinders, when making his first entrance to Glass House Bay, would deliberately
anchor his vessel near the outside ocean beach of the island? He remarks in his
“We anchored on the west side of the bay."
would show that he had left the outside waters- the Pacific Ocean- for the
calmer anchorage of the inner depths, and by so doing had found his Pumice Stone
river, and ere he had made this discovery had been engaged in conflict, or say a
skirmish at the inner point and which point he entered in his log and diary as
Let me once more refer to chart No. 7, North. At the spot I am inclined to say is Point Skirmish there on this chart is marked “South Point." But as an argument against me, the chart shows Skirmish Banks and Skirmish Pass almost directly outside the ending of the Tug Company's road on the ocean beach then away to the near southward one can observe the words “Skirmish Point," this being the spot I should name as “Bribie Nose."
Flinders' own chart shows distinctly the Skirmish Point as being on the
inside part of the island, not on the ocean, and his own descriptive writing
gives evidence that this is correct. There is a mistake somewhere, an error made
in charting by the authorities that has never been rectified.
may I ask, gave the name of Bribie Nose to any portions of the southern
Having written thus far, and still wanting a cleaning up of the place
names, I resolved to go deeper afield, and to make assurance double sure hied me
to the Survey Department.
There I had the pleasure of an interview with Mr. W. Cran, in whose careful possession are the original plans of Queensland made not very long after separation. To my surprise and pleasure, on my asking this gentleman at what part of the southern end of Bribie was to be found Skirmish Point he, without hesitation, said the inner portion leading in to Pumice Stone.
old charts were presented to me by him for examination, and there most plainly
could be seen Skirmish Point at the very spot and place I have indicated in
these writings. He, too, was aware of the wrongful location of this historic
place as shown by charts issued in later years, long before he was placed in his
present important position. He was very pleased to find me so anxious to be
correct in what I informed him was my purpose to write.
plan put before me was the first one ever made of Bribie, and although bearing-
unfortunately- no year mark, had all and every evidence of its originality. I
copied down the identification of that chart, and willingly now produce it for
those who may be interested.
following is the exact wording on this too surely original and correct
of the Colony of Queensland
Constructed by Leopold Tranz Landsborg.
Lithographed in Sydney by
There is not, and cannot be, the slightest doubt in the world of the
chart being the first one made of Bribie Island, and so lithographed. As
Separation from New South Wales by Queensland was in 1859, as repeatedly stated
by me, it is looked upon amongst the Survey Office files as Number One.
Contemporaneous writings accompanying it prove to me that the chart was
compiled in 1861.
the charts prepared by Cook and Flinders a study of them will show that all
named places marked by them on coast lines facing the ocean are given at right
angle to the sea. If any doubting or wanting to be convinced reader will examine
the chart of Flinders, 1799-1803, he will see in bold letters on the island we
now know Bribie the words, “Pt. Skirmish," running parallel with the inner
shore. Had his skirmish been on the ocean side of the land he would undoubtedly
have followed his usual custom, and have marked the name of Pt. Skirmish in his
always adopted parallel style.
In the further strengthening of my case regarding this location of Skirmish Point I now make reference to the report of John Oxley, Surveyor-General to the Territory, under date 10th January, 1824, and addressed to Frederick Goulbourn, Colonial Secretary, Sydney.
will be remembered Oxley came northwards in the Mermaid towards the end
of November and part of December 1823, was shown the Brisbane River by Finnegan,
and was for a while in Pumice Stone River. I do not intend making comment on his
report, but will give the exact wording of his writing.
“Pumice Stone River affords good anchorage for vessels not drawing more
than twelve feet of water. There is plenty of water in the vicinity of Point
Skirmish, and though the soil is poor and sandy, the country is covered with
Uniacke who was on the Mermaid with Oxley, passed in a supplementary
report, more particularly dealing with the three convicts, Parsons, Pamphlet,
and Finnegan, also tribal and native customs on the island, as well as on the
mainland of Toorbul. I quote from this report:
that at six o'clock p.m. (Nov. 29th 1823) we came to an anchor in
Pumice Stone River, Moreton Bay, within 150 yards of the shore in the very place
where Captain Flinders had anchored twenty-two (?) years before on discovering
the harbour which, I believe, has not been visited by Europeans."
the exception of another excerpt from Oxley's report I will not touch again upon
the subject, being convinced that the general context of both Oxley and Uniacke
in their writings bring to my mind a firm belief that Skirmish Point, as now
named, is wrongly situated on present-day charts and maps.
Oxley, in the Mermaid, spent some days at Port Curtis, and then made his way to
the South, and on the 29th November, 1823, passed into Cook's Glass
House Bay. Outside Bingle in the Sally this place had not been visited by
navigators since 1799. Only a little over twenty-three years had divided the
visits of Flinders and Oxley, and as it was impossible for others (seeing that
there were none) to write “Bribie" history, I am compelled to assert no errors
in historic writings could have crept in in so short a time, and am assured
Oxley wrote correctly in regard to Flinders and his naming of places. I conclude
this chapter with Oxley's own words:
therefore returned to the southward and entered Moreton Bay on the
29th November (1823), anchoring the vessel- close to Point Skirmish
at the entrance of Pumice Stone River."
BRIBIE THE ISLAND
FIRST VISIT BY WHITES
were the first white people to visit what I will from now onwards designate as
Bribie Island? I look up all records in my possession, and emulating Truthful
James, will endeavour to tell in as simple language, and as truthfully as I can
the records of the island question even from the days of Captain Cook in the
year 1770. This great navigator and recorder passed northward from Cape Moreton
on the 17th May of that year, but did not land on Bribie, nor did he
give it a name in his journal.
Captain James Cook, or rather to give him his proper title in the Endeavour as Lieutenant Cook, Commander of his Majesty’s Bark Endeavour, only landed on the shores of Queensland twice viz., Bustard Head on the 24th May, 1770, and Cooktown on the 17th June of the same year.
monument to Captain Cook was erected many years ago - at Cooktown, and it is
pleasing to record that mainly through the efforts and instrumentality of The
Historical Society of Queensland and certain influential gentlemen at Bundaberg,
an obelisk was built and unveiled at Round Hill Head in Bustard Bay, the first
landing place of the British on the Queensland coast, on the 12th
June, 1926. Arrangements had been with the Naval Authorities for the unveiling
of the memorial by Commodore George F. Hyde, commanding His Majesty's Australian
Fleet. This gentleman in H.M.A.S. Sydney, anchored in Bustard Bay on
Friday, 11th June, 1926. On the following morning Commodore Hyde drew
the lines which secured the Union Jack covering the cairn. The cairn, or
obelisk, is made of concrete, having a base six feet square. It is four sided,
and is eight feet six inches in height. On the seaward side is a bronze tablet
bearing the following inscription:
“Under the lee of this Point Lieutenant James Cook landed on the
24th May, 1770."
it will be seen that Lieutenant Cook bad nothing to do with Bribie Island beyond
making coastal lines for his chart, showing Cape Moreton and Glass House Bay.
The merest school boy knows that he named the Glass Houses.
We now return briefly to Matthew Flinders. There is little, if any need for me to enlarge upon what I have already written re this navigator- a navigator whom I do not even rank second to Captain Cook. Had Flinders been allowed the same attractions, and unknown waters to explore, as did his predecessor, even on the Queensland coast, he would have been equally successful. When Flinders left Bribie and proceeded up Glass House Bay in the direction of what we now know as Deception Bay, he anchored the Norfolk about half past ten on the morning of Wednesday the 17th July 1799, a mile and a half from a fairly prominent point with red cliffs. This place he named and charted as Red Cliff Point- now known as Redcliffe.
then proceeded on his southern bay voyage, reaching Karra Garra, between McLeay
and Russell Islands. On the 22nd July he returned to Pumice Stone
Here we leave Flinders, recognising him as the man who first sailed over that large expanse of water named Moreton Bay. May I be allowed to add that, Redcliffe was known in native lingo as Gowan Gowan.
After the departure of Flinders, Pumice Stone waters and the adjacent
land, both main and island, remained entirely in the possession of the natives,
undisturbed until another white man visited them, in 1822. The Norfolk of
Flinders was merely a small decked boat put together at Norfolk Island by one
Captain Townson of that place, and was built of local pine. I cannot find any
particulars regarding her dimensions.
Lest I forget, the native tribe of Bribie were, cannibals, and were known by the title of “Joondoobarrie."
Twenty-three years do these natives remain unvisited by white men. Sir Thomas
Brisbane wants more information re Cook's Moreton Bay, and in April 1822 the
sloop Sally, under the command of John Bingle, of Sydney, enters the
still named Pumice Stone River. His commission was dated 2nd January
1822, issued from the Colonial Secretary's Office, Sydney. On his return South
Bingle sent in his report to the Chief Secretary's Office. The papers were duly
recorded but unfortunately when looked for in later years, this report, together
with records, maps, and charts could neither be traced nor found nor have they,
so far as I know, ever come to light. Private papers, when examined show but a
meagre account of this visit to Pumice Stone. An old manuscript was unearthed
some years ago, containing a very brief account of Bingle's visit to Moreton
Bay, and a little fresh account of the natives there.
Sally came through the South Passage-the first ever to pass these waters.
This passage was really not known as a passage until 1824 when the brig
Amity sailed through it seaward on her return voyage to Sydney. Captain
Penson was in charge.
There is nothing of any particular interest in this manuscript to dwell upon. It deals chiefly with the natives of Pumice Stone, their habits and their customs. Captain John Bingle being the first man to pass through the surf breaking waters dividing Moreton Island from Stradbroke Island I think that he is deserving some little mention. He was born in Gillingham, Kent, England on the 15th May 1776 and became in after years an officer in the East India Company's service; and was afterwards in the Navy.
On his arrival in Sydney, Sir Thomas Brisbane commissioned him to take command of H.M.S. cutter Sally, and survey the Eastern Coast. She arrived in Moreton Bay in January, 1822.
Hence Bingle's visit to Bribie. He next became a squatter at Scone, New
South Wales, and was instrumental in bringing bushrangers to justice. He claimed
to have been the foremost white man on Liverpool Plains. He sold out his station
property and started business as a merchant and tug owner at Newcastle. He
remained in Newcastle until his death at the age of 86, and was buried in the
Cathedral graveyard. Scores of his descendants are scattered all over Australia,
many holding high positions in trade, banking and commerce. A grand-daughter is
Mrs. Hugonin, of Raby Bay, near Cleveland.
Surveyor-General John Oxley next appears on the scene of Bribie events. Oxley was born in England in 1781, entered the Navy as a youth, was appointed Surveyor-General of New South Wales on January 1st 1812, became a member of the Legislative Council on the 11th August, 1824, and died on the 25th May 1828. (Vide Henniker Heaton).
His visit to Moreton Bay was in pursuance of the recommendation of the Commissioner of Enquiry in the Colony of New South Wales, with a view of forming a convict penal establishment; the commission being dated 19th September, 1823. He left Sydney on the 21st October 1823. With Lieutenant Stirling of the Buffs on board the colonial cutter Mermaid, Charles Penson, master, he first went northward to Port Curtis and Bowen.
left Port Curtis on the 15th November, and on the 29th
November he came to anchor at six in the evening in Pumice Stone River. It was
here that he encountered the three castaways, Parsons, Pamphlet and Finnegan.
Correctly speaking Parsons was not at Bribie when Oxley arrived there. He was
away at the feast of the Bunyas, in the Mary River district. He returned to
Bribie after his two companions had left and eventually made his way back to
Oxley was taken to, and up the river as shown him, by Finnegan, and on
the 3rd December, 1823 he named the stream the “Brisbane" in honour
of His Excellency Sir Thomas Brisbane, Governor of New South Wales. Oxley had
seen the Red Cliff of Flinders on his way towards the entrance, to the river he
was in quest of, and being satisfied with his findings left for Sydney on the
6th December. Full and deeply interesting particulars of this voyage,
together with the story of the three convicts- the real discoverers of the
Brisbane River- may be found in Barron Field's Geographical Memoirs of New South
Wales, published in 1825.
With Flinders in 1799: Bingle in 1822: and Oxley in 1823, is here recorded by me as the first of the white men to visit Bribie Island, and to become associated and acquainted with the black race there. It is not necessary to refer to John Oxley's return, and speak of it at length.
September of 1824 he sailed from Sydney in the brig Amity with a civil
establishment, prisoners, and stores to plant a new settlement somewhere in
Moreton Bay. (I am quoting from Henry Stuart Russell, and his Genesis of
Queensland, 1888, page 26). The King's botanist, Cunningham, accompanied him.
Upon John Oxley was placed all the responsibility of fixing upon a site most
eligible for this new dependency- in other words a convict settlement. This new
settlement was for a while on the very shores of Moreton Bay at a spot called
Red Cliff Point. It had been deemed suitable although it had its drawbacks from
want of a safe anchorage.
The Amity returned through the south passage, hence the name of Amity Point. It is an old story, repeatedly told, so why should I dwell upon it?
Red-Cliff or Humpy Bong, whatever name you select as your choice now was
not the proper and orthodox place for a convict settlement. And in November of
1824 this unsatisfactory selected place was abandoned. All the staff, with
prisoners, etc., were removed to Edenglassie or Brisbane as it was eventually
Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane made a visit to this new selected site in
the November of 1824.
Bribie Island became historically noted, and partially charted by
Flinders: then came Bingle in the Sally with a brief description of the coloured
inhabitants. Next in train we have Oxley who rescues castaways, and of whom
Uniacke wrote a deeply interesting account of their wanderings and of their
sufferings. Oxley, who came along in 1823, and names a river, which he by his
silence in his report to
From now onward until the tribe of Joondoobarrie welcome the white man’s
civilisation, and his rum, and gradually pass away westward, and the sound of
their voices is no longer heard, and the feasts have faded-never again to
return, this is what I have called upon myself to write. The island becomes, for
a while, the place of rest and peaceful existence for our friend the Basket
Maker. Who knows? There are scenes of murder, and of the dark man hiding from
the hands of the law. These have I to chronicle from the scattered sources of
information at my command.
I commence such notings with the run away convict James Davis, if you
want his aboriginal name “Duramboi"-the “Kangaroo Rat."
This James Davis was the son of a Scotch blacksmith, was transported to Botany Bay per ship Minstrel in the year 1824, being then only sixteen years of age. For some minor offence in Sydney he was sent to the Moreton Bay Settlement. Shortly after his arrival here he made his escape from the vigilance of Captain Logan's 57th Regiment, and took to the bush. After living with the Mary River blacks for fourteen years, he was found by Mr. Andrew Petrie, and was returned to civilisation in 1842.
So now we will see what I can record of this self same individual. En
passant, may I say that in his old age, I knew Davis well. In 1875 I was a
clerk in the employ of the Bank of New South Wales, holding the position of
He was then keeping a china goods shop in George Street, adjacent to Gray the bootmaker, not many feet distance from Trittons business place there now. Prior to coming there he lived in Burnett Lane, almost immediately behind the old Town Hall.
Bronzed, wrinkled, and wizened, he would sit just outside the door-way of his shop, always smoking a clay pipe, with never a word, never an acknowledgment from or to the passerby. Never a friendly bidding of the day. His wife remained. indoors in the shop doing the selling. Look up Miss Petrie's book, and on page 139 you will see his picture, a picture just as I have described him. The portrait in question was painted by Oscar Tristrom, and is exact to a degree. He died in Brisbane on the 7th May 1889, aged 81 years, and rests now in the Toowong Cemetery.
give you some idea of the man and of his character allow me to quote from Miss
Petrie's book, page 139, of an interview with this man.
show how stubborn (or had it not be better written) Davis was I said to him some
time after his return (Tom Petrie was the questioner): ‘Davis you ought to get
some one to write your life among the blacks-you could make a lot of money.'
Note the reply.
don't want money. I get enough to keep myself. If anyone wants to know about the
blacks let them go and live with them the same as I did. I'll tell you a thing
that happened the other day. A swell who lives in this town brought another
swell with him to me and said: ‘Mr. Davis, allow me to introduce you to So and
So, from Sydney. He has come all the way to see you to get some information
about the blacks.'
you know what I said to him? Do you see that door? Well the sooner you get out
of my shop the better, and if you want any information about the blacks, take
off your coat and go and live with them as I did. And off they went with their
tails between their legs, and I saw nothing more of them."
Being ledgerkeeper at the Bank of New South Wales I had occasional words
with him when he came into the offices, often would I write out a cheque for him
to sign. He could not write himself, but managed to learn how to make his own
signature. He always came to me for this cheque business. He would hand me his
cheque book, and I would ask what amount I should make out the cheque for. He
would (the written worded cheque being spoken by me) look at the figures
denoting the amount, and then with a very tremulous hand affix his signature.
Beyond a “good day," or a “thank you," he never spoke more. On one occasion when
the late Mr. Alexander Archer- drowned with his beautiful and sweet-natured wife
(she was a daughter of Sir Robert Ramsey Mackenzie, Bart.) in the Quetta
on the 28th February, 1890- was inspector of the Bank of New South
Wales, and Edward Denny Day, manager, I was requested by the former named to
interview Davis, in some matter regarding Gympie and the Mary River. I went down
George Street, and saw the old gentleman sitting in his accustomed chair, and
smoking his same old cuddie.
Politely I bade him the time of the day. He made me no reply. Standing
for some moments and gazing through the window at the merchandise displayed
therein, I casually remarked with my eyes on the window:
“Mr. Davis, Mr. Archer wants to know if you can give him particulars regarding the Mary River." He made no reply. Knowing him so well as I did, no hurry was displayed by me ere I repeated the remark. As I write I can visualise that hard, brown and wrinkled face as he sat there, with one hand on the bowl of his pipe, and staring sternly across the street, taking not the slightest notice of me, treating me with the utmost indifference.
Again was Mr. Archer's request made by me to him. Not a movement of his
lips, no sign of replying. For a while I stood by his side, then with a touch of
my hat I gave him good morning. Mr. Archer was at once informed of the result. A
smile and a “thank you, Mr. Welsby," and I returned to my desk.
so far as is known, never spoke to anyone regarding his fourteen years in the
bush. He may have imparted something to the Gray family who were his friends
throughout the remainder of his life and were with him at the end. I am not
aware of any papers, or documents left by him, in relation to his history, and
am inclined to think and say that his life's story went away, in the silence of
his living, as silent as the poor soul as he entered the gates of the Toowong
Cemetery on the 7th May, 1889.
not quite certain of the year, but it could not have been very long after Andrew
Petrie's arrival in Brisbane when a boating party was arranged to go Maryborough
way, through Bribie Passage.
had been discovered that the Pumice Stone River of Flinders was not a river,
after all, but that it was a passage running between the island and the mainland
for some twenty miles, until it debouched into the Pacific Ocean at
This party of adventurers numbered seven in all, amongst them being Andrew Petrie, and Henry Stuart Russell, their objective being to ascertain more of the wrecked Stirling Castle, also to find out if any escaped convicts were in and about the Maryborough district.
Reaching Bribie they decided to take the outside ocean waters, and not pass through the passage. On reaching Noosa they landed at the heads, and were here surrounded by a mob of blacks. These natives spoke a little English, and, after being questioned, conveyed the fact that a white man was living with a neighbouring tribe not a two days march away.
Petrie wrote a note to this white man, a darky carrying it to the distant tribe.
A few days passed and this person- Bracefield by name- came to Noosa Heads. He was a runaway convict and had been living with the coloured people who had taken a murderous part in the massacre of the crew of the Stirling Castle.
Bracefield said that he had seen Mrs. Fraser with the natives. The party endeavoured to bring this man Bracefield back to Bribie Island, thence to Brisbane. They had almost reached Bribie when more blacks were encountered, amongst them being another white man, a convict, who turned out to be James Davis, otherwise known as Duramboi.
Petrie knew that a man named James Davis had cleared out from the Convict Settlement some years before.
The two convicts then held conversation together, Davis being convinced that this boating party had been sent from Brisbane to capture him and return him to the chains. He was almost naked, his chest being all tattooed with horizontal scars parallel to each other. When spoken to he became enraged and displayed temper. Calming down on being informed that they were not seeking his apprehension, he became inclined to carry on a conversation. He had almost forgotten his native tongue, and it was some time before he became really intelligible. Petrie and his friends heard then of the poisoning of many members of the tribe, now around and about the party, at a certain cattle station. Davis describing the horrible scenes of death in a most frantic and theatrical manner. Gently they assuaged him, and learned that he had been with this tribe for nearly fourteen years. The story is too lengthy for me to continue.
On Petrie informing Duramboi that a new order of things prevailed in Brisbane since Logan's death, he agreed to return, signifying that he would look to them for protection. Davis then told his tribe that he was going away from them, but would return in three moons time. The parting of Davis, their chief, is very pathetically told in Russell's “Genesis of Queensland."
So “Wandi", Bracefield and “Duramboi" Davis were returned to Brisbane and were leniently dealt with. They came via Bribie, staying there for a few days, and here my brief account of these two unfortunate men must end. Bracefield found employment with Dr. Simpson at Goodna, and was killed by a falling tree. Davis lived in Brisbane for many years. How he received his first start in his renewed and liberty-free life is, and never will, perhaps be known, but that he made good and prospered is borne out when I tell you that he left real and personal property to the extent of £10,000. The whole of this, with the exception of £750 to the Brisbane Hospital and £500 to the Catholic Church, went to the daughter of a well-known man in George Street, not for me to name, but not very difficult to consider and locate the person.
Coming now nearer home we approach the more tragic side of the historical events of Bribie Island.
In the year 1849, there lived in Brisbane a well up in years man, named Charles Gray. Previous to the year given he had been a ferryman running his boat across to Kangaroo Point to what we now know as the Custom House ferry steps. Andrew Petrie's house in Queen Street was not very far distant. This house was a brick one and was on that portion of land adjoining Queen Street, Wharf Street, and Adelaide Street. This area, large for town property residence, was sold in the late seventies, I think that was about the time, to the late William Perry, who in turn sold to Lumley Hill for something like £80,000.
This Charles Gray was well known to the Petrie family. Gray became tired
of this continuous crossing and recrossing the Brisbane River, built himself a
small ketch which he named the Aurora. With this craft he started an oystering business, and
traded to and from Bribie, as well as other bay islands, for the succulent
bivalve. Believe me oysters were oysters in those days, and for some years
longer. For a while there had been no license fee to part up to the Government,
the banks and beds were plentiful, good business could be done in their disposal
in Brisbane. It will be remembered that I have written of the Bribie blacks as
being fine, big and strong fellows. The kippas, or young men, budding into
manhood, were active and fairly willing to work on oyster banks and fill the
bags for a very small sum. A couple of the Bribie tribe of blacks worked in this
wise for Gray at Toorbul Point.
On one of his visits from town to this place he apparently was not in the best of humours. It is a long and weary thrash from the mouth of the river to Bribie Passage against a head wind (don't I know it). Perhaps Gray had met with this opposing wind, or he might have been having a bad time in Brisbane and was suffering a recovery. Rum- Jamaica- was a fashionable and customary beverage in those days, as I believe it is today.
However Gray was not satisfied with the work done by these boys since his last visit, not enough bags picked, the culling was not up to the mark. A heated argument took place between the master and the employed boys, one lad in particular receiving the full benefit of Gray's burst of passion. From this battle of tongues came blows. One of the oyster pickers ran away leaving his companion the full brunt of the affair to get on as best he could. Gray almost maddened with rage most unmercifully thrashed the lad who had stood his ground, marked and bruised him terribly on the body, amongst other epithets calling him a nigger. That name hurt in those days equally as it does nowadays to any dark-coloured person in Moreton Bay.
The boy swam over to Bribie and informed those of his tribe then dwelling there of all that had happened. The king and many followers canoed across the passage to interview Gray and give him a belting. This individual seeing them coming, hastily put himself on board the Aurora, hoisted his sail, and made down the passage for open water and ... safety.
This made the tribe more angered and the more determined to have revenge.
So they calmly awaited the assailant's return, for return they well knew he
would. Gray did not return for a couple of months, thinking that the affair
would by that time be blown over and forgotten. Not so. Natives in those early
days, once offended or insulted rarely forgave. They wanted to get even with the
white intruders who had come in amongst them, and were taking their best hunting
grounds from them. They were determined to kill Gray. Gray came in his sailing
craft, ran up the short distance of the passage to the Toorbul oyster banks,
anchored his boat in deep water, and pulled ashore in his dinghy. All his
actions were watched from the Bribie shore. A couple of men went over to the
banks and gave Gray a hand at picking the oysters for the market. Then came
more, and more, until the town man
became suspicious. And at last came the badly-thrashed and knocked about boy. He
and all the others showed no resentment, no desire to quarrel- but they were
awaiting their opportunity. Gray, thinking that nothing was going to be said or
done about the beating of the lad, seeing them all so cheerful and pleasant, was
bending down to lift a small bag of oysters into his dinghy to take out with
other bags to the Aurora, when down came a nulla-nulla on his head
causing him to drop the bag and fall into the water himself. It did not then
take long to, in the words of the natives “finishim’." The body sank, was pushed
out in the deeper waters of the channel, then went away with the outgoing tide-
and never again was seen.
Many who took part in this murder- for murder it was- went away up the
passage to Caloundra, and with that secrecy of the tribal ways possessed by
them, their action in the killing of Gray was silenced and never referred to.
Gray was supposed to have been drowned by falling over from the Aurora.
The blacks had taken the precaution
to lift the anchor, shove the craft out into midstream, the easterly wind
however, blowing her ashore further down towards the opening.
Nothing was done by the Brisbane authorities save making a few verbal enquiries. He was supposed to have fallen overboard and with them there it ended. Missing men in the Moreton Bay Settlement and district were of no consequence, nothing new, one more man off the roll, and “missing" was placed against his name. This murder took place on the Toorbul oyster banks, the date being about the 10th July 1849.
That old time saying, “murder will out," generally comes true. Some
little remarks dropped by one of the Bribie blacks when in the town some time
after aroused a certain amount of curiosity, and cause for enquiry. The belief
then spread abroad that Gray had been
killed, not drowned, but of this more anon.
Miss Petrie in her publication of her good father's reminiscences says that the man killed was very well known to her father and all the Petrie family then existent. The younger man, Tom, on first hearing, that Gray had not returned from Bribie and was long overdue, was said to have remarked in the hearing of the Commandant: “Well well! I knew the poor old chap most intimately. He was a very cross and bad-tempered old fellow. Many a slap on the head and a kick has he given me when stealing oysters out of one of his bags on the Aurora.” He had a very good idea as to the manner in which this owner of the oyster sailing boat had departed this life- and said not one word.
There is an episode of some little interest which here might be recorded,
although I wrote about it some few years ago- as it partly concerns the island
of Bribie and Ninghi Creek. There lived at Amity Point in my early days of
sailing two very dark coloured natives, the one Toompani by name, the other
Tommie Nuggin, both of the tribe of Nooghies on Moreton Island. They have been
said to have seen the wreck of the Sovereign on the South Passage bar on
the 11th March 1847, and I can believe it. Naturally they were
fairly young at that time. They were
advanced in years when I first met them, but much of their life's history was
imparted to me, not only by the men themselves, but by their relatives. Toompani
was drowned whilst attempting the rescue of a coloured woman near the black
beacon at Myora.
It is of Nuggin that I want particularly now to write about. When Nuggin
was about getting beyond his teens, then living at times at Moreton, he became very fond of a girl named
Sarah by the white people, and he was desirous of wedding her either in native
or other fashion.
Amongst the tribes of the three bay islands Bribie, Moreton and Stradbroke. there were very strict regulations regarding matrimony, and all particulars pertaining thereto, these regulations or customs making it almost impossible that they should become man and wife.
Nuggin then joined the native police, in Brisbane, and was for some years absent from the bay. Sarah mourned the absence of lover, yet ever remained true to him.
He next returned to Amity Point and renewed his love making with this girl or woman he was determined to have as his partner in life. They defied custom, despite all conventionalities and agreeing very well, lived together in their own gunyah for a while at Moongalba- commonly and to this day termed as Myora.
Tommie was a fine type of character, for I knew him well, and can so faithfully chronicle. I had the pleasure of introducing him to Sir Hamilton John Goold-Adams during the Great War period, when a great patriotic gathering was being held in the city. Tommie came up in the Otter, and when I met him at the Queen's Wharf he was the very picture of dress etiquette in his full policeman's uniform- he held this position as the custodian of the peace at Myora- and when later on in the day he met His Excellency he was the proudest person in the whole gathering. My sorrow ever since has been that I did not have him photographed in the attire he was so fond and proud of.
He had given Sarah his own choice of native naming viz., “Kinterribah," its meaning being darling. He was again called back for police service and once more poor Sarah was nigh broken‑hearted.
In Bribie Passage in and about Ninghi-Ninghi Creek, there lived at the time of Tommie's youthful wooing and later when the Brayden family were in charge of the Cape Moreton Lighthouse (built in 1858), a certain body of dangerous warriors. known as the Ninghi tribe.
Their language was somewhat akin to that of the Bribie race. The king and leader of this Ninghi crowd was a very fierce native called Adam. The natives of Bribie and Moreton had never been on friendly terms, even from the time, so I was informed by the old hands of the bay, of Oxley in 1824. The Ninghi and Bribie people were, I am sorry to relate, cannibals. The others were not. The Ninghi-ites were good canoe men, and occasionally when good weather permitted would row over to Comboyuro on Moreton, and then from there go around past the Yellow Patch to the lighthouse.
Sarah was employed by the Braydens at the Cape. It was on one of these
visits that Adam saw Sarah, who in
his eyes “was fair to look upon," and he desired to
A month or so went along. One dark, windless night, when the ocean seas and the bay waters were in calm a canoe with four men aboard left Bribie, and arrived at Moreton unnoticed in the early dawn. They hid themselves and the canoe in the long swamp at the back of Comboyuro, remaining there for a day or more. On the second night of darkness they went inland along this swamp leading to the Yellow Patch, and amongst the hills again hid themselves awaiting their opportunity to meet and abduct Sarah. The next evening of their ambush they perceived Sarah on her way to the North Point with no companion by her side. She was “waddied," and in an insensible condition was carried back to Comboyuro, put in the canoe and taken to Bribie.
Nuggin, in town, was in due course made aware of what had happened, of her disappearance, and suspected Adam.
He went to Cape Moreton, and in a silence almost of despair waited to take action. Twice was he stopped in taking a small boat and paddling across the waters to the opposite island. Eventually he escaped from the vigilance of those at the lighthouse, and reached Bribie. Another man accompanied him, but Nuggin would never tell me who he was. They made their way along the island on the ocean side, then crossed until they could see Ninghi Ninghi Creek opposite on the mainland. The two men swam over that night and saw the Ninghi blacks around their camp fires, but neither Adam nor Sarah were amongst the number. Hearing the cry of a beaten woman they crawled back upon their hands and knees and saw Adam beating Sarah with a nulla-nulla.
What happened next, no one will ever know, for all participants have gone. One can only surmise, for up to the time of his demise Nuggin never spoke of that deed at Ninghi Creek. Personally I never had the heart to question him, friendly as we were. They returned to the passage beach, and with the help of a log managed to get Sarah away over to Bribie, and ere morning they were well on their way to Moreton, and beyond pursuit or capture.
of that silent hiatus in the life story of Nuggin and Sarah from now onwards,
and the cause so well known, never became divulged to any one. The tribes of the
three islands knew that Adam had been killed, that Sarah had departed, that the
two were living together at Amity, Nuggin and his faithful spouse. No questions
were asked. No desire to know was evinced. Greater was the respect
to Tommie, for they knew of his sorrow when Sarah had been stolen by the bad
Bribie man, and they now knew of the happiness of their sojourn and general life
on Stradbroke Island. Amongst them all the silence was held and respected; they
need ask no questions, there would be no reply. Enough for the Stradbroke and
Moreton tribes living at peace with each other at Amity and Moongalba to know
that Adam no longer lived.
During the remainder of Nuggin's life on Stradbroke Island he always carried with him a flat headed waddy. It was his companion night and day, and only when on police duty was it placed on one side. When in contemplative mood sitting of an evening on the outside of their gunyah, I should write house, for the Government had provided him with such a dwelling, his waddy companion in his hand, his eyes would wander to the north-west in the direction of Bribie; he would be seen to smile just the slightest and pat his ironbark wooden friend in playful manner. Those who might be watching him knew.
He died at Myora and was buried there on the hillside. He was not confined to his bed for very long. When he became conscious that his end was not so very far away, he confided to a coloured friend that he would like Mr. Welsby to have possession of this self same waddy. He and I were always very friendly. This token of such a gift was sufficient for me to understand even if I had ever doubted that friendship. And so it came into my hands. I have it still with me at Toorbul, where I occasionally spend a week or more, and it is guarded carefully.
Adam! Yes that name comes to my pen once more …at the termination of Nuggin's existence. Sarah knew. Tommie knew. It had long been known at Bribie that Adam had mysteriously disappeared. In what manner they could only guess, and very wisely they did not want to know the manner of his disappearance.
Had Sarah, at Bribie at the time of her release from the Ninghi man's hand, signified Nuggin of her whereabouts when she so loudly cried aloud, knowing that he was at hand to rescue? Did they and the companion of Nuggin know of the waters of the passage and its strong currents from the creek, and also know that once a body was in those strong running waters it would be swept seaward never to return? Of course they did- and from that night henceward and forever their tongues were silent.
And oft-times I wonder as I handle that blackish piece of flat-topped fairly-thickish wood; wonder and almost ask for its story. I am sure it could tell a tale of victory. But it, too, is as silent as that dark old friend of mine who has gone to the kingdom of Ponemah.
I had perused in quiet and observant manner the proof slips of chapter two, and was awaiting the arrival of chapter three, when it suddenly dawned upon my mind that I had omitted mention of a very old and dark-coloured lady familiar in the streets of Brisbane in the middle seventies. There was no need for me to seek page 46 of Miss Petrie's book, for so often had I as a lad spoken to her, Catchpenny. So often had I searched my pocket for the brownie or penny, to be thrown into the huge, open almost toothless maw cavity of “Catchpenny," that I visualised her in a correctness of impression that even a camera could not have bettered.
So Catchpenny, being native born of Bribie, must be chronicled. She was of the “Gwaia” tribe on that island, and in her younger days must nave been a tall and well-developed woman, for even her broad and stooping shoulders had evidence of that. As I knew her she must have been sixty years of age, perhaps eighty for all I knew. She was generally well clad, that is her woman's garments were many, a long dress to her feet, and always a large dilly bag around her shoulders. That dilly was always full as the declining sun sent the shadows along and upon the street. And those shadows foretold the departure of all the blacks beyond the city boundary, their camping grounds being what. I remembered called “Frog's Hollow," in the gullies running towards the Exhibition buildings, and across the Breakfast Creek to a gunyah-covered place which is now a racecourse.
As they departed they were a noisy and jabbering mob, the men often with their spears and waddies; the women-kind with their dillies, and much disarranged body blankets, and the yelping mongrel dogs. But the early morning saw them back again, first loitering in the Valley, thence to Queen Street.
Catchpenny was a favourite with us all, and if her wrinkled and furrowed face was not her fortune in its entirety her mouth most certainly was. Mouth, did I say. It wasn't a mouth. It was a deep yawning rent in her frontal head structure. Not only we bank clerks, but many others, would bid her stand against the shop windows, open her mouth to its fullest extent, and standing on the kerbstone we would throw copper after copper into her facial abyss. He was a very poor thrower who missed that opening. Sometimes more than one thrower would toss the coin, and as she laid her huge tongue out over her chin to hold any coin that might fall from her mouth her eyes beamed with fun and good nature. So for further information, as they say in the classics, look up page 46, of Miss Petrie's book, and there behold Catchpenny.
Naturally it can be quite understood that in the preparation of these
writings I am compelled to publications and manuscript of those early pioneers
who possessed the forethought to record some of their experiences. What a pity
more of us do not emulate them! Tom Petrie's recollections are becoming more and
more valuable every day, and it is a blessing to those of us who may be
historically inclined to know that his daughter has placed in print her father's
telling of early days, even when the Convict Settlement besmirched this land of
Queensland. Most interesting, and to a certain extent instructive, are his
narrations of those bad old days of convict life, of anecdotes of the early and
uncultured natives, their habits, ways, and their superstitions, in those days
when his “untutor'd mind saw God in clouds, and heard him in the wind," to
slightly misquote Alexander Pope.
Unfortunately there is not too much extant for me to fall back upon, and
from which to make references, so from Tom Petrie's book I am gleaning what I
can, adding to it from other early authors and supplying a little of my own
remembrances. For I have loved history from my very boyhood, and have made diary
collections of cuttings which I am sure will prove such labour's
Bribie Island in about 1842 had very dark coloured inhabitants, ferocious to a degree, and being courageous as well as well proportioned, sought a contest when in warlike mood. Killing among themselves was not infrequent, and “long pig," though not called by that name was occasionally part of their diet.
the three year bunya feast and gathering took place up in the Mary River
district, there would always be trouble at its conclusion, and boomerang, spear,
waddy, and nulla nulla were handy weapons of combat. This feast had its one
virtue. The gathering consisted of various tribes from various districts from
Bundaberg to Bribie, and in the Bunya Mountains where hundreds of these blacks
gathered to feast and gorge themselves, there was an undeclared, but accepted
armistice during their holiday, and during which time no fighting took place. It
is not very difficult to state that generally the cause of trouble was that
related to a lubra or woman. When their tummies were full, and the bunya tree
showed signs of a scarcity of ripened nuts the tribes would begin to disperse
and return to their own particular land holding' destination. It was then the
“turrwan," the big man; the “mallard," the grown man, and even the “kippa," the
young man became bombastic and was inclined ... it was then the gin and the
“puddang," the mother, wanted the warriors to give the corroboree, so that in
the firelight darkness of the evening they could croon their voices, clap the
hollow of their thighs, as the painted and chalk-marked men made their hideous
gambols. As the hours passed on and the performers became tired and wanted rest
the lubras incited the men and youths to do battle with some distant tribe they
disliked. From this weird and uncanny dancing came much bad blood, and often
killing took place.
one occasion after a bunya feast had ended, and the tribes were on their
homeward tracks, a Mr. Andrew Gregor and a Mrs. Mary Shannon, the hired servant
of Gregor were murdered at the North Pine, on the Gympie road. The date,
20th October, 1846. Four blacks, viz., Jemmy, Millbong Jemmy, Dick
Ben and Jackey had been sent by Gregor to cut bark in the bush. Whilst these
four were away a mob of returning bunya blacks gathered around the dwelling
house, clamouring for food, and were refused. For an hour or more they insisted,
sat themselves down in angry mood, and awaited the return of the bark cutters.
On their return Mr. Gregor examined the bark they had brought in, and whilst
putting a bundle on one side, Dick Ben and Jackey dealt him heavy blows with
their waddies, killing him almost instantly. Mrs. Shannon was killed outright in
almost the same manner as Gregor, the natives who dealt her the blows being
Moggy Moggy, and Millbong Jemmy. The greatest villain of them all- so wrote J.
J. Knight in his Early Days- was Millbong Jemmy. This individual went a
few days afterwards to Doughboy Creek and attacked a sawyer who had refused him
food. The sawyer went indoors, and as the black grappled with a standing-by
bullock driver the sawyer shot Jemmy through the head. This native was then put
into a cart for conveyance to the Settlement, but died on the way in.
About this year, 1846, many murders and atrocities were committed by the
blacks, and on not being pursued for capture they gained strength in the belief
they could rob, murder and kill as they liked.
the 11th September, 1846, three sawyers named James Smith, William
Boller and William Waller were at work at the North Pine, the first two falling
timber in the scrub, Waller acting as cook. Smith and Boller were in the
saw-pit, Boller was speared and ran into his hut with five spears sticking
through his body. Smith was next attacked, he managed for a long time to dodge
the spears. Striving to make his way out of the pit a notorious native named
Dundallie hit him upon the back of the head with a waddy, and knocked him
senseless back into the pit. He managed to get up and out, and make his way to
the hut where Boller stood with pointed gun towards the molestants. Showers of
spears were thrown. Two natives made for the scrub, others followed.
Waller's lifeless body was found later on in a sitting posture in the
branches of a tree that had been felled. The two living men were taken into
Brisbane to the hospital there, Boller dying ere the town was reached.
bring to memory these terrible atrocities? As it is of Bribie I am writing, I
want it to be known most of the miscreants were from that island.
reprisal came for this killing of these men. The blacks involved in the attacks
made for other localities, and the authorities could not, apparently, supply men
to follow. Officials were getting used to attacks and killing by this class of
men. Let the out-country settlers and timber getters do their own following on
and “disperse" where and when as they pleased.
All this leads me up to one dreadful man, and also a native of Bribie a robber and murderer when so e'er he felt inclined. He was feared in many districts, not alone by the white folk, but also by the natives, those of his own colour. He knew, and had many hiding places on the island, where he was born; was fleet of foot and as cunning as a native could be. Neither afraid of the dark, or of travelling by night as nearly all of the Australian aborigines are. He was like unto the Arabs of that wonderful personage, Lawrence. An escapade here, a murderous attack there; a robbery at another place . . . and a day or two afterwards he would be miles away, amid his own known haunts, and as he thought places of security. The troopers and soldiers were, however, after him- he was a wanted man.
After one daring daylight robbery at Caboolture he made himself scarce, and, keeping quiet could not be found, he made his way to Bribie, and took charge of the tribe. Nothing being apparently done by the soldiery for his arrest. He began to become more imperious and daring. Officials were playing their own game, known by the soldiers, in fact, were lying low or abiding their time. By their inaction they wanted to draw Dundallie into the open and they eventually did. One morning near the place now called Bongaree, he called his crowd around him, and said he was going to Meginchin (Brisbane), and would dare the soldiers to arrest or shoot him. The old men of the tribe warned him, persuaded him in vain not to go. He went. On his way through Caboolture and North Pine he was very quiet and subdued- all put on- stayed awhile here and there, until the men of other tribes marked him as a changed man, and were not afraid of him. They became much easier in mind when in his company. He arrived at Meginchin, and was engaged by a bricklayer named Massie, not for brick work assistance, but for cutting down trees on land whereon Massie had a contract for building.
place was at the corner of Ann and Wickham street, where the old Union Hotel
once stood. He worked there for some days, when he was recognised by a
black-tracker named Wumbungur of the Brisbane tribe. This darky hung low for a
time, then informed the police. A couple more days of quietness was allowed
Dundallie, then one morning whilst he was sitting on a log of his own falling he
was surrounded and captured.
other blacks saw and recognised him, then gradually it came from the lips of
many that this self same man was one of those who had taken a hand in the
killing of Gregor and Mrs. Shannon, and was also present when the sawyers were
attacked at Doughboy Creek.
He was tried, sentenced to death, and hanged on what was at that time a little ridge in Queen Street, and where the present G.P.O. stands. That was on the 5th January 1855.
Petrie says that her father was among the crowd in Queen Street, and saw this
hanging. This method of despatching Dundallie was a terrible and bungled
business, so much so that I have no desire to describe it here. See Petrie's
book if you are desirous of more particulars than I have given you. See page
Bribie Island was thus well rid of this sanguinary gentleman. It may be
fitting, perhaps, to hear what another writer has said of Dundallie, so I betake
myself to J. J. Knight's book, entitled “In the Early Days," published in
1895. See pages 335- 336.
25th May, 1854 saw the capture by the native police, aided by the
well-disposed blacks, of one of the greatest scoundrels of his time- Dundalli.
Dundalli seldom ventured near the Settlement. Generally he remained about the
Pine, or on Bribie Island, but one day deeming it safe to visit Brisbane he came
over and camped in the Valley. He was seen by blacks who were afraid of him, so
they quickly gave the police the hint, and after a desperate resistance he was
captured. His had been a merry life of depredation extending over eight years,
his name being connected with nearly every native murder or outrage perpetrated.
He belonged to the Bunya district, but for years had been associated with blacks
on the coast over whom he possessed great influence. On being arrested he denied
that his name was Dundalli, saying he was known as Wilson, but he was too well
known to be able to deceive the authorities. On the 2nd June he was
brought up and committed for trial for robbery with violence at the Revd. J. G.
Haussman's station in 1845; for the murder of Boller and Waller in 1847; for the
murder of Charles Gray near Bribie Island; and for the murder of Mr. McGrath's
shepherd. Although heavily ironed he was most violent while awaiting trial, so
much so, indeed, that steps were taken- without success- to obtain a special
commission to try him at once.
“There was a great gathering of the Ninghi Ninghi tribe from the Northern
coast of the bay (Pumice Stone Channel), with Billy Barlow at their head who
swore revenge on whites generally, and on those blacks who had assisted in
Dundalli's capture in particular. On the 21st November Dundalli was
found guilty at the Circuit Court, and was sentenced to death. Up to the last he
would not admit that he was likely to suffer death, asserting that when ‘the
whiteman (the hangman) arrived he would take him to Sydney, but would not hang
the fatal morning, 5th January, 1885, Dundalli did not express any
fear until the executioner went into his cell to pinion him. Then he cried and
wailed piteously to all around to save him. To avoid he possibility of escape,
the gallows was surrounded by police, while a rope was passed through the cord
that pinioned the prisoner's arms. He went up the rude ladder without any force
but continued to call on all who knew him, and then, as if recognising that his
entreaties were unavailing, he shouted in his native tongue to the crowd of
blacks who lined Wind Mill hill. This it was afterwards ascertained was an
appeal to his wife and other members of his tribe to avenge his death."
This is what J. J. Knight, at one time editor of the Brisbane “Courier,"
wrote in his book, published in 1895. If this book is in your possession you may
read the remaining part of the story to know more.
Brief as I have been I am of opinion that I have written enough about
these “atrocities," and must not further besmirch this island of Bribie to a
greater degree. But why write so much about them as you have done, I fancy I
hear some supersensitive reader remark? Well, it is easily explained. It is
history, is it not? It may not be flavoured with the good deeds and actions of
early times and pioneers. It might well have been best to forget them. From many
authors have I culled these records of past events, and in endeavouring to make
summary abbreviations of them all I have tried to condense them sufficiently to
make one short complete story. In my own case of reading far back history of
nations, cities and notabilities, I have missed much salient and important
matters, and the older I grow I appear to know so little. There is no doubt of
the correctness of the topics mentioned in foregoing pages. Their inscribings
were nearer the time and scene of the events touched upon, and coming from
writers of repute I accept what they have sent down to a later generation with
We cannot forget the brave and intrepid Matthew Flinders, nor can we dismiss from memory Surveyor John Oxley, who gave no honour to the convicts who discovered the Brisbane River, taking all that credit himself and the naming of it also. We pass to the philandering lady who lured away the innocent Basket Maker to the fair realms of her tribal abode, and we look upon Bribie Island as one of the charming, inviting spots of Moreton Bay. What a paradise it, must have been before the white man came and the pellets of his gun dispersed the numerously named birds that frequented it; birds that made their nests on tree and bush and amidst the blue-laked rushes, with never a fear amongst themselves. I well remember my first boating trip through the passage to Caloundra, and will never forget the beauty of that jaunt. The Glass Houses, seen at various angles as we made our way! They were inspiring in their beauty and grandness. It was in the morning early, with a gentle southerly sending us along. As the sun came out from the ocean these Glass Houses glistened in their loveliness. A magnificent sight! Their charms are still there to behold. Bird life is not what it used to be, and the noisy motor launch has almost banished the white sail. I say this with sadness, but is it not true? From my long knowledge of, and sojourn at Amity Point, I am of one opinion that no one will ever shake, and that is, civilisation has always killed nature's beauty spots of silence and adornment.
THE ISLAND ITSELF
In the month of February 1928, my friend, Mr. William Main, of Ocean Beach, who has been for many years a resident there, wrote a very interesting account of Bribie as an island. He mentioned the advent of the Brisbane Tug Company, their enterprising efforts, not alone with steamer traffic from Brisbane, but motor transport across the island to the outer beach.
he wrote of Pumice Stone Channel wending its twenty miles away to Caloundra, and
where the island terminates in this northern extremity, a narrow opening to the
Pacific Ocean there to be seen. He spoke of the road across the island from the
Tug Company's wharf at Bongaree. One can quite appreciate his poetic fancy of
the flowery banks and braes of Caledonia when you read the description of this
road. It runs through a timber growing and lined pathway all the way.
Somewhere about three miles north of the road he writes “the thick scrub forms but a narrow belt, and beyond for many miles, the island is open country like a Scottish Moor covered with heath, with occasional clumps of Banksia and tea tree." He speaks of the wily dingo, the macropus, the eagles in their nests of sticks and bramble, within one, two weeny, tiny, eaglets ensconced therein.
the outside beach he is proud, for he maintains it is the finest surfing beach
in Queensland. Mr. Main should know and I do really believe he is right. The
lagoons are not omitted for he has seen and photographed them all. How many
pictures of these did he send to “Amity," my New Farm abode? Let me see. One,
two, three- why he has forwarded me the lot, nine in all-not nine lagoons, but
nine photos of them.
must now be some thirty years since I viewed those self same ponds and lakelets
he has had under the camera. And would you believe it- he has actually called
and named a lagoon after me- or is it two he has chosen. I am not quite sure.
Anyhow I wrote and thanked him very kindly.
me to say I do not know Stradbroke Island would be an untruth. I know it
thoroughly- the whole island. Almost over it all have I ridden and walked, and
have taken ducks- in season of course…wouldn't do otherwise- from the lagoon at
Fern Gully right away down to Swan Bay. The wild flower spots are known to me
equally as well as the tree and branch hidden among silent waters where the
floating lily hides its fragrance and beauty.
Where are the orchid valleys, where grow, chiefly, on tall cypress pines,
the staghorns and the elkhorns? Where is the climbing maiden hair, the mountain
heather, and the fringed hillsides with the clinging sarsaparilla plant? That is
not for me to say, for the vandal does not love or admire the scented, aye, if
the unscented flower is found, like I do, and I will not divulge. In my
searchings for these and when after the macropus I have often been lost, but the
planets of the night, and the sound of the continuous rollers of the Pacific on
the outside beach have given me my location and direction of travel.
why am I adopting this strain and manner of writing? It is because my envious
nature goes out towards Mr. William Main and his knowledge of the contents of
the length and breadth of Bribie Island; and I know so little. Should the years
be allowed me, I will out-emulate him, and make my knowledge equal to his. All
the quiet, and I hope unvisited and undisturbed localities where the wild
flowers grow, will be visited and viewed by me- and I will be alone in my
those of the present day times it might not here be out of place to mention that
so far back as the year 1877 there was a movement made to succour and aid those
of our native race who were inclined to adopt some of the white man's desires to
ameliorate the conditions of their fast disappearing numbers. The Hon. John
Douglas was in this year Premier of Queensland. He was a most sympathetic
gentleman, and was inclined and willing that something should be done for these
coloured people. So he decided upon forming a settlement for them somewhere
about the White Patch on Bribie. In June of 1877 he, accompanied by several of
his Ministry, journeyed by steamer- it must have been the Kate, the
Government vessel run down by the Burwah in the Francis Channel in
November 1890- to the island mentioned to choose and establish a place whereupon
to settle and educate them.
Tom Petrie accompanied them. Petrie had an early and intimate knowledge of those
the Premier was desirous of assisting and upon being asked, replied that he was
quite agreeable to supervise the workings and control of this proposed Native
Settlement. On the island Petrie called the dark men around him and in their own
native language told them of the proposals of the Government. They cheered
loudly, and expressed their thanks to Mr. Douglas through Petrie. The
establishment being formed, a fishing boat, with necessary nets, was handed over
to them, and all and everything done for their comfort and living.
all had settled themselves down in the homes of their abode, their number
including men, women and children was somewhere about fifty. Tom Petrie visited
them once a month, and made himself satisfied with what the residents were doing
for themselves. All went swimmingly for many months, the mullet season giving
ample sport and food for all. For two years it went along well, was commencing
to pay and become self-supporting. A change of Government took place, the Palmer
Ministry of 1879 doing away with the entire habitation.
The blacks, sorely disheartened, scattered and went away in all directions. The Church of England took up the cause, and made strenuous endeavours to have the place kept going. All this was of no avail, and sadly the place was closed down- went “Bong."
before its closure a Presbyterian minister named McNab intervened. He went to
Bribie with Mr. Petrie, and with good intentions no doubt, brought religious
teachings somewhat too prominently forward. This was too much for the blacks.
They wanted tucker and clothing, and too plainly could see that Bible teaching
alone would not supply these. Hunting for food in their manner prior to these
days of solemn prayer, and holy teaching- the drawing of the seine for fish- if
these were not properly regarded they would starve.
Parson McNab preached, prayed and persevered. It was useless, so the
beloved and no doubt well-meaning gentleman called a halt and there ended the
last lesson. I am of the opinion that most of the coloured people made their way
to Humpy Bong.
they were visited by a black called Piper, of the Maroochy tribe. This unwelcome
individual had murdered, so it was understood, a white man, a botanist at
Mooloolah. His presence at Woody Point was not desired, so it was arranged
quietly among them that a Bribie man called “Dangalin" should sneak upon Piper
whilst he was asleep and do away with him. Something went wrong, the intended
and attempted despatch failed, and Piper cleared quickly for Maroochy. Staying
there for a time he again became adventurous until news of a big corroboree at
Brisbane soon to take place, lured him to that town. He camped at Kedron Brook
with some Durundur natives, regarding himself safe among them. He was not. These
fellows knew the man. Sambo, one of the tribe, knowing that Piper liked his rum-
all natives did I should imagine from what I know of them- had obtained poison
from somewhere and secretly conveyed a small portion thereof into a rum bottle
carried by Piper. Piper going into his gunyah at eventime, took with him another
darkie. They both partook of the fire water, and were found dead in the morning,
lying side by side on the sand. Sambo cleared well away into distant bushlands,
was protected where he sojourned, but was never known to visit Brisbane.
There came another attempt to form a native settlement at Bribie. It
lasted but a few years. The occupants were from distant places, as well as from
the bay islands, the number of tribes were many, and dissatisfaction and
jealousy prevailed. It was no good- too much bickering, and at times fighting,
so the Aboriginal Department closed the place down. No progress whatever had
been made here, so Peel Island was next selected. This island was also a
failure, and very wisely, I think that well-known “Myora" was fixed upon. These
mission blocks at the various spots named were, and had been always, called
“Myora." This “Myora" in Moreton Bay lingo means “Mission." The place last
established and still in operation on Stradbroke Island has a native name of
“Moongalba," having nothing akin with mission.
years past I have endeavoured to find out its meaning in English, but have never
been successful. Nor will I now ever be, for everyone of the old native born on
Stradbroke have gone, to the beyond, or rather nearly all.
Myora has turned out well. For years most of the Moreton natives lived there, or at the Two Mile, or at Dunwich, those living at this latter named, being mostly in the employ of the Old Age Department there. A fair-sized school was built by the Education Department, qualified teachers were in charge, and there is no doubt much benefit for the many children attending was derived. The school is still there, but the Mission Establishment is now very quiet, nothing like it used to be. School attendance is very limited, whilst many of the original homes are vacant. Of all the tribes of the island located in Moreton Bay waters, and of all those who made Moongalba their home, and who were actually born on the island there are but two alive this very day. Again- so-called civilisation-for them!
the soldiers, the pilots and the convicts were on Stradbroke from 1825 to nearly
1855, the natives numbered almost a few hundred. Then they were happy and
contented, and were a good living community. Religious teachings of all kinds
were tried amongst them. This, too, was a failure. Yet, and I do ask you to
believe me- I know it well- there were not a few of them, had not their colour
been what it was, who would have been a credit and an example to some of the
highly cultured individuals who regarded them as niggers. Shades of Abraham
Lincoln. Am I not forgetting the heading of this chapter: “The Island Itself,"
and apparently running away from it altogether? So here we are, and I
Bribie Island is about twenty miles long, with varying widths from one to
five miles. Moreton is twenty-four, and Stradbroke thirty-eight.
Starting from the lower southern end of the island at the entrance into
Pumice Stone passage, and passing the black beacon on the port hand, the first
beginning of the little township adjoining the Tug Company's wharf is noticed.
That part where dwelling houses have been erected is known as the “Town of
Bongaree." Some little distance further along some twenty years or so ago a fish
curing and tinning establishment had been erected by Mrs. Sarah Balls, a Mr.
Crouch being, if I remember aright, its first manager. Later a Mr. Harry Wright
from Brisbane occupied the same position. A very considerable amount of money
was invested in this venture, and every effort made to cause it to be a dividend
paying concern. It has been closed down now for many years, and machinery
removed. The immediate holders of land a little way to the north of Bongaree
were A. T. Hall and A. H. Bestman, 321 acres; no distance further along James
Clark, 132 acres; with Tripcony next with 210 acres.
Cobbler's Peg Creek Harold Wright and Harry Wright held respectively 230 and 227
acres of Bribie Island land. Then came land marked on the map as “Bribie," with
ten sections of surveyed land, one to ten in proportions, totalling some seventy
to eighty small areas. This land was surveyed in 1886. The sale results were
White Patch- Tarrangiri- is some two miles, perhaps a little further, more from the Tug Company's jetty. In this vicinity various foreshores, and oyster banks were at one time held by William Moore, ex-M.L.A., and Joe Gallagher. The former died a few years ago, Mr. Gallagher but recently.
Comes, now, the Lower Light House. There are two structures of this
nature on the island used as leads for deep sea vessels seeking the North West
Channel into Moreton lights. They were built in 1896, one being called the front
light, the other the back light. These houses contain fixed white lights, the
nearest giving a front of 12 nautical miles, the back one fifteen. The
structures are built and known as skeleton towers. The outer or ocean light has
a height of 62 feet, as a building, from base to vane, with 56 feet height of
light above high water, whilst the inner or back light is 98 feet in height from
base to vane, and is 95 feet above high water mark.
Bribie Island, opposite Bell's Creek on the mainland, a little above, where it
begins to narrow, Mr. Thomas Maloney, some twenty years ago had a fish canning
factory. On operations being commenced there, so he informs me (Mr. Maloney is
my neighbour at New Farm) the Commonwealth Government gave him half a penny per
lb.-for all fish cured and tinned. He carried on this business for nearly four
years, the principal fish so tinned being mullet, with occasional supplies of
whiting. Tins contained one and a quarter pounds of fish, and a fair sale had
been reached when he closed down. Tailer, also found their way into the tins, as
their seasonal visits came around. There was, however, not a fortune to be made
at this business, so he closed down, and buying a ketch went north to
There are two small islands in the passage opposite Bell's Creek. Here
Mr. Maloney and Sam Leach, Junior, owned oyster banks. Leach also held banks
over near the mainland.
here onward Bribie narrows until we reach Caloundra. The passage way running out
to sea between this place and Bribie is also very narrow. I once had a very
nasty experience on this bar that I am not likely to forget in a hurry. We were
outside after snapper in an eighteen-footer named Lottie, Bill Tutty, of
the Mavis, in charge of the tiller. Coming in to the bar with a fair
catch, the second roller caught us- and over we went. Luckily the wind was due
east, and as the craft only swamped, did not sink, these self same rollers,
brought us towards the shore. Whilst clinging to the water logged boat we undid
the throat and peak halyards and making them as one rope, when near enough to
the land, I swam ashore with an end tied about my waist. Luckily the boat and
crew were soon in safety. But sharks! It was a nasty experience.
Taking the foreshore on the inside from Bongaree to Caloundra, the island
is not a very inviting one. Governmental charts show mangrove shores, with
unwelcome mud, mangrove islands and mangrove swamps. Taken as a whole the island
will never be of any value commercially, whilst agriculture or grazing is
completely out of the question. These remarks apply to Moreton, and partially so
Opposite Glass Mountain Creek on the mainland is “R.232 Reserve for
Camping. For the use of Licensees of Oyster boats."
not think much advantage was ever taken of this. Oystering nowadays has gone off
very much. The days of dredging as of old times, too, have gone. The golden
lipped beauties of the lagoon on Moreton, near “Clohertys" Alas! Where are
Having written briefly of the starboard inside of the island of Bribie,
let us return to Toorbul Point, on the mainland and from there trace our way up
past Landsborough holding, a little to the south of Caloundra. The map which I
must needs consult is marked, “Parish of Toorbul," commencing and running
northward at the Caboolture River. The extreme southern point on this mainland,
a little further up from opposite Bongaree, is known as Toorbul Point, and in
one owner‑ship alone contains no less than 1,280 acres. This property, so I am
informed was the first surveyed portion of the nearby land not very long after
Separation in 1859, and still bears the chart ownership of the first purchaser,
Mr. D. D. Hamilton. This man appears to have been the first occupier. Many years
went by until my very old friend, George Markwell, purchased it. Mr. James
Clark, of New Farm then became the owner. It still remains in the James Clark
Toorbul Point land history is as follows: The 1,280 acres of land was
purchased by Douglas Hamilton for £370, on the 31st May 1872. It was
sold by the mortgagees to George Edmonstone Markwell on the 26th
September 1889. It again changed hands on the 11th January 1900, when
the mortgagees sold the property to Mr. James A. Clark.
Almost all the land from here going further to the north has been taken
up, and used for many purposes. Beekeeping, grazing, and agriculture chiefly.
Between Toorbul Point and Ninghi (spelt also Ningi) on the said chart can be
seen the well-known names of pioneers of over fifty years ago.
me name some.
First there is Thomas Hussey, whose father burnt oyster shells at Toorbul long syne; Godwin, Bestman the bee king; in fact, the names of Bestman and Hussey are printed all over the map at the Toorbul end right up to Ningi. G. E. Markwell is then down for 640 acres on Ningi, so are several names of Bentley under more than one different initial. The total holding of land under all these various names must amount to hundreds of acres, nay thousands. A fair amount of land was taken up between Ningi Creek and Elimbah Creek, Carnegie and Freeman being the more prominent. In the passage, sand and mud banks are very numerous, as also are the mangrove foreshores and islands. In writing of the mainland, I am so constrained, as Pumice Stone passage, dividing it from Bribie, brings it under the requirements of description as regards the island opposite. Besides, Bribie was never in any way properly inhabited until the Brisbane Tug Company commenced running steamers there, and the land sales at Bongaree were made. The opposite mainland had as tillers of the soil, if I may so designate the raisers of herds of cattle, and even horses, pioneers who, in a very large way, were associated with Bribie, when the country around was recognised or spoken of.
slip past the foreshores still northward, in the distance seeing the opening of
Elimbah Creek until we come to what is marked on the map as the Town of Toorbul,
marked with the names of Stephenson, Matthews, and Furlong as owners of land.
Then Glass Mountain Creek comes to our view with Donnybrook close at hand.
Donnybrook was, in the year of which I write the camp of the Moreton Bay Oyster
are still in the Pumice Stone Channel, and next see Cowie Bank, the old-time
residence of the Tripcony family. I knew Cowie Bank well. When I wrote
“schnappering" in 1905, 1 gave full particulars regarding this place, and the
grand old man, Thomas Tripcony, the soldier man who fought with Chinese Gordon,
and I also wrote of his three sons. His good wife was one of the most stately
women it has ever been my good fortune to meet. This family had a great amount
of acreage hereabouts, something like 3,000 acres. In the passage, close by,
there is an island of 140 acres bearing their name. At the old gentleman's
death. the property was divided amongst his three sons, Andrew, Con. and Tom, at
least so I was informed. Two of these sons are still alive, Con. having passed
away in 1936.
are now approaching the Parish of Beerwah, pass by Long Island, mangroves
thereon, until we reach Coochin Creek.
place is historic, and I must tell of its old time patronage as best I can, for
here I see the name of J. D. Campbell, the owner of 898 acres of land. This J.
D. was the son of James Campbell the pioneer father of James Campbell and Sons,
which firm still carries on business in Creek Street Brisbane. This James was
another grand old man, for knowing him so well as I did no better words can be
used by me. He came to Brisbane on the 28th May 1853.
the early eighties this firm built a sawmill at Coochin Creek, on a site known
as Campbell Ville. Pine, cedar, beech, in fact all scrub timbers were obtained
from the Blackall Ranges. Hardwood was obtained from the forest country at the
foot of the range even as far north as Eudlo. The sawn timber was placed on
pontoons at the mill, and taken to what was called the loading ground-down the
passage- and from there placed on steamers and freighted to Brisbane. Log
hardwood was obtained from creeks on Bribie, and on the foreshores, including
Ningi, Elimbah and Glass Mountain, and about Coochin. In the year 1885 the
barque Deodarus loaded 50,000 feet of cedar logs from the Blackall
Ranges, at Bribie passage, consigned to Harrold Brothers, Adelaide. When the
North Coast railway was completed, the sawmills were removed to their present
site, namely, the Albion. Year 1890.
Leaving historic Coochin we go on our journey to Caloundra passage, at
the north end of Bribie. R. Westaway, with his 920 acres, is perhaps, with
Landsborough, the oldest pioneer land owner at this end of Bribie waters. The
island has here began to narrow ere its final point is reached. Bell Creek, of
which I have spoken, adjoins the property of the late William Landsborough, the
Explorer. When he passed away, Mr. W. L. G. Drew and H. W. Radford became his
executors, and map No. 8 north, if consulted, will show that 2,451 acres stand
to their credit. A small creek, called Landsborough Creek, is about a mile
further onwards. Then we reach the end of Flinders' supposed Pumice Stone River,
and note the strong current of waters passing out into the Pacific, giving its
“sum of more to that which had too much." Here mainland and Bribie Island part
remain, however, with the name of Landsborough trickling adown my pen handle,
and of him I give a little further account.
William Landsborough was the third son of the Reverend David
Landsborough, a Presbyterian Minister, and naturalist of much fame. He was born
at Stephenstone Manse, Saltcoats, Scotland on February the 21st 1825.
He died on the 16th March 1886, aged 61, at Caloundra, and at that
place his remains were first interred. Later they were removed to the Toowong
fitting monument, the cost of which was borne by a few friends and admirers, was
placed over his grave at this God's acre, and a brief description of his life's
work engraven thereon.
At thirty years of age he had been a small pastoralist in the New England district, and came to Queensland about 1855 to better himself, taking up an area of ground on the Kolan River, west of Bundaberg. In 1856 he discovered and named Mount Nebo, also Fort Cooper. In 1860 he traced the head of the Thomson River, and in the following year he made his explorations to the sources of the Gregory and Herbert streams.
1861 he was one, and the leader of, four distinct parties to go in search of the
missing explorers, Burke and Wills, starting from Brisbane for the Gulf. It was
Howitt, making from Melbourne, who succeeded in ascertaining the melancholy fate
of the men so many were in search of. It is not here necessary for me to dwell
upon the exploring expeditions of Landsborough, but should any one desire to
know of this fine and stalwart gentleman, an article written by me can be found,
with many incidents and particulars in the records of The Historical Society of
Queensland, volume two, pages 296 to 303.
recognition of Landsborough's services to Australia, a collection of plate,
valued at £500, was presented to him in Victoria by Governor Sir George Bowen-
at one time Governor of Queensland (1859-1868). He was entertained at a public
dinner given in his honour in Sydney, and a gold watch was presented to him by
The Royal Geographical Society, for finding a route, a practicable one, from
North to South Australia. The Queensland Government voted him £1,000, and gave
him a seat in the Legislative Council.
Again I turn to sheet 8, North of Bribie. There can be seen an area of
ground, to the north of Bell Creek, No. 27, and not so very far distant from
Caloundra Heads, containing 2,451 acres, under the names of his executors
already mentioned. This area was ex esplanade, roads and reserves. This land was
the gift of the Queensland Government, at least I have been so informed. He had
previously been made Inspector of Stock in the East Moreton district, and at one
time had lived between Redcliffe and Scarborough, the area being known as the
Landsborough Estate. Resigning from his position as Inspector he took up this
property in the Bribie Passage, built thereon a comfortable dwelling, amongst
pleasant surroundings, stocking it with cattle, horses, sheep and angora goats.
And it was here he fell into his last sound sleep in March 1886.
This little booklet would have been incomplete without this insertion, brief as it may be; incomplete without reference to an explorer of the type of William Landsborough, one of Queensland's own. Australians are too apt to forget the lives and doings of our early pioneers who were the makers of history. How often has Sir Leslie Wilson deplored the fact that not enough has been written of Queensland's earliest history, of the men who blazed and marked the hinterland; of the courageous womenfolk who stood by all the dangers and difficulties of distant faraway places; where neighbours were, maybe a hundred miles apart; of the Christmas goods ordered when the year itself was but young, ordered long before the ever memorable day was due; how the womenfolk eagerly looked forward to a visit to the metropolis, when journeying was made by buggy, spring cart or bullock dray?
one occasion when I was present at a social gathering, presided over by Sir
Leslie, the question of Pioneers-the capital is mine-came up. His Excellency
with that pleasant smile of his, remarked at the end of his speech:
take off my hat to the Pioneers."
may I say it: “So do I."
Having written thus far in memorative mood, is it not time I proceeded to
the real and historic telling of Bribie Island? Seeking to be correct in what I
should pen I sought the aid of the Survey Department, and was more than pleased
in meeting Mr. W. Cran, whose name I think has already been mentioned, finding
him, like myself eager for reliable historic information. He willing obliged. So
what I now tell can be regarded in the light and size of full truth.
area of Bribie Island is about 37,760 acres: it is not particularly arable, but
with spots here and there worth observing with camera eyes. The lagoons are
interesting and, alone in their silent composure- shall I say- are indicative of
the beauties of nature when she desires them not to be intruded upon, save by
the wild duck and kindred bird companions. I have written in other pages than
these those pleasant lines of Sydney Smith. I give them again:
“It is good for any man to be alone with nature and himself, or, with a friend who knows when silence is more sociable than talk . . . It is well to be in places where man is little and God is great."
surely on Bribie Island there are many nooks and corners amid the little hills
and pine trees, sufficient to make one consider the real beauty and truth of
these very lines.
width of the island at Bongaree near the Tug Company's jetty is about two or
three chains over three miles. The reader with a plan before him can see this
much for himself. The plan of 1912 was made by Surveyor J. E. G. Stevenson, that
plan showing the proposed - long since completed- tram line across the island to
the ocean beach. Towards the north the island is inclined to widen from the
lagoon “Welsby" lagoon, named after
myself by Mr. Main- the lagoon is on the Pacific side- to the Oyster Company
Reserve opposite Glass Mountain Creek on the mainland the distance across is
about five miles. The length is in the vicinity of twenty miles. The first
survey of the town of Bribie was made in June 1886, the first land sale taking
place on the 3rd May 1887.
first sections of the town of Bongaree were surveyed in the year 1912.
Having given these interesting, I trust, particulars, let us paddle
across the divide to the mainland and make mention once more of Toorbul Point.
The large area of land right on the hilltop, with a perfect and full view of
Moreton Bay bears a somewhat historic imprint. Toorbul Point is in the Parish of
Toorbul, the whole area of 1,280 acres of land- the portion known and charted as
No. 2 was surveyed by Surveyor William Fryar in 1868, a Mr. D. D. Hamilton- I
think he held the title of captain, whether of sea or land I know not- applying
for this section in 1872, in May, the lease being granted to him on the
31st July of the same year, 1872.
happened during the next five years I can find no trace. It is on record that a
deed was issued to Hamilton in December, 1877. I can only presume the lapse of
time of lease and deed had some connection with Hamilton's right out purchase,
for the 1,280 acres have been freehold for many years, and direct purchases were
made by the various owners from time to time.
shall conclude this chapter with one more reference to Mr. Main, He has lived at
Ocean Beach since 1927, and knows the Woorim Parish well. He speaks with
pleasure of the whiting fishing down as far as the (misnamed) Skirmish Point,
saying this class of fish bite well during their summer visitation. On Ocean
Beach in 1927 the Government of Queensland built some ten small cottages on the
Main Beach, and five at the back of the kiosk. In one of the Ocean Beach houses
Mr. Main resides. He secured some time ago the freehold of No. 1 section 6, area
31.7 perches, and in December 1931 had a small cottage erected thereon.
cottage is named “Colfin," and is usually occupied by visitors during holiday
time. He knows where the Boronia flowers grow, and speaks of them being
plentiful in the spring season.
have visited this outside ocean retreat. It is most attractive. The full Pacific
is right in front, Moreton Island can be seen in the southeast, and in my
opinion Ocean Beach should be a flourishing little township.
Another historic- to me- matter came answered at a certain interview with
a friend. I had always wondered why, so far away as Currigee, on Stradbroke, a
little island there received its name of Little Bribie, my mind being cleared
and set at rest by the following:
Before the Government brought into force a license fee on oyster banks
and beds, Brisbane and the South received its supplies from Toorbul and Pumice
Stone passage. A bed was accidentally found in this passage, which turned out to
be very lucrative for the finder. The oyster business was then brisk, and
Currigee was looked upon as a likely place to obtain the article. Dredging was
found near the small islands in that vicinity, and as the shell was exactly the
same in almost every respect as that away at the northern Bribie, one island in
these southern parts was named “Little Bribie," which name it bears to this day.
It is said that in one day alone, as many as 40, sacks were dredged. No wonder
Prior to 1922 there were difficulties which could not be overcome, the principal reason was that the Postal Department would not erect the line at Bribie unless the residents paid £360, which was quite impossible.
directors of the Brisbane Tug and Steamship Coy. Ltd., decided on trying another
way, and offered the following inducement to the telephone people: The Tug
Company to supply all the poles placed on the line; provide pontoon and launch
and men to assist in laying the cable across the opening- take to Bribie, cable,
wire, all material plant and men by the S.S. Koopa, free of all and any
charge, and when the work was completed bring back the labour and plant also
free. The offer to remain open for two weeks only. The Department accepted these
conditions promptly. Early in September 1922 the construction of the line was
commenced, and before the end of September of the same year was completed.
Tug Company were greatly indebted to the selectors along the line, who
unhesitatingly supplied poles; to the late Mr. Jas. Clark for the use of his
launch and pontoon; also to Mr. Joe Campbell and his sons for their generous and
valuable help. Had it not been for the kindness of these good people, the
construction of the line would have been delayed for years.
was suggested that this line follow the Caboolture River, and thence along
Deception Bay to Toorbul Point . . . the reason being that there were fewer
large trees, therefore less risk of breaks or interruptions. This mode of track
was adopted and carried out by the Department, and has been a great
THE TOWN OF WOORIM
most of this chapter I am indebted to Mr. Main.
the. Brisbane Tug Company determined to obtain a safe and permanent place in
Moreton Bay for pleasure excursions, Bribie Island and passage was decided upon.
By a strange coincidence I happened to land with the directors on the very spot
almost where now the jetty ends. I think that Mr. A. B. Webster, of Webster and
Company, was then chairman. Well, on one occasion he made up a private snapper
trip on the Beaver. The party was a small one, and yours truly was of the
number. We first fished at Spitfire buoy, had a good haul, then ran early in the
afternoon into Bribie Passage, and the directors went on shore to select a spot
whereat they would build a jetty, and if possible form a township. The place
chosen is now known as Bongaree. Not long afterwards they secured leases of
land-Crown- at this Bongaree spot, and a lease for a road across to the Ocean
Beach, to what is now the town of Woorim.
was about a year after the road was opened that the company built a kiosk, and
that was the real beginning of the township. North from the road the crown land
facing the sea was subdivided into 25 perch allotments in four sections,
Nos. 1, 2, 6 and 7. Behind the kiosk were sections Nos. 3, 4, and 5. Each
section consisted of ten frontage blocks, and ten back blocks. The map shows
avenues dividing the sections, and, at the back, North Street connects with the
road. On boat days the company arranged a motor car service to the ocean beach,
and the public can use the road on foot, but it is a private property, and is
not available for trading purposes.
first sale of crown land was about 1924. It proved a great success, and some of
the portions adjoining the car road brought up to and over £500. The conditions
of sale were: The lease will be a lease in perpetuity. The annual rent will be
an amount equal to 3 per cent on the capital value bid at auction, subject to
appraisement every fifteen years. Within two years purchasers had to make
improvements to the satisfaction of the Minister of a value of not less than
twenty-five pounds. The first year's rent, with survey fee and stamp duty must
be paid at the time of the sale.
is generally understood that the purchasers of the higher priced sections bought
with a view of building a residential hotel, which, no doubt, would have been
the making of Bribie Ocean beach. It was then discovered that Bribie Island was
attached to the Shire of Caboolture, and that the “no new license clause" in
force in Caboolture Shire applied to the Bribie Island. The island is still
without hotel accommodation.
next step was the removal of fifteen cottages from Beerburrum soldiers'
settlement to Bribie Ocean Beach. The sale took place at the Lands Office,
Brisbane, on Friday, the 22nd April, 1927. The first lot on the list
was No. 1 allot. 4, section 6, 25.6 perches, upset price :£100, house
improvements :£250. It was sold at upset price, and that finished the sale. All
the allotment values were high, from
About seven of the original purchasers at the high rate built cottages. It is said that the surveyor of the blocks valued the allotments at from £15 to £25, and when such high values were received at the first sale, he refused to alter his valuation. On the Moore Government coming into power the holders of land at Ocean Beach asked for a fresh valuation of their allotments. The matter was submitted to the Lands Court, and the holders were asked to put in their own valuations, which varied from £27 to £40 per allotment. Those values were accepted. The general valuation of the various open allotments was made at £30 for frontage blocks, and £20 for those at the back.
At a subsequent sale Mr. Main secured allotment No. 1, section 6, at the
upset price of £30- old valuation, £150. The price of the houses was reduced to
£175, and the land values were on the reduced scale. All the houses have been
sold, and in this year of 1937 there are upwards of 40 houses paying rates, all
situated within half a mile of the Kiosk.
The Moore Government gave the option of buying the freehold, and
practically every holder changed from lease to freehold. Under the government of
today- 1937- this option was withdrawn and settlement has very evidently
In the general number on Ocean Beach very few houses are occupied
permanently. That number is about five. The balance of non-residential are
houses for letting to visitors. There are some half-dozen of houses for sale on
the frontage areas, and many more of the back blocks have notices of a like
So apparently household properties are not a paying proposition on Ocean
Beach. It is a great pity, for as quiet as the place may be there are pleasant
surroundings, and the Pacific Ocean, with all its variable moods is worth
admiring, morning, noon, and specially night, when the moon is at its full.
It may be interesting to some readers to know that the Government of 1922
on the 1st August of that year opened a banana nursery on Bribie on
the right hand of the road running out to Woorim. On the 31st May
1929, the Government of the day decided that nursery had served its purpose and
closed it down. I make no comment. It is not needed.
Bongaree was declared a township on the 23rd December 1912.
Bribie has a value, like all others in the bay, that is bound to come,
and in time to come also, to be well and truly appreciated. The western islands
of Scotland are numerous, some five hundred of them so I understand. In many
cases they are almost isolated. Their charm and beauty is always acknowledged by
visitors even outside Great Britain. The monetary value of these places has
increased much during the past few years, and for many reasons. It will be said,
look at Britain's population and compare with ours. Now is there anything better
than outdoor life, with the quiet, keen work of nature, nature with her water
falls, her flower life and the primitive growth of all around. Interest in
Moreton Bay islands will some day- soon let us hope- quicken, and something for
our good will eventuate. Why St., Helena has remained idle so long since its
freedom from prison life has puzzled me. It will come to its own as a pleasure
resort-maybe not in my time-but, it will come. And Bribie will do the same.
Manly, that open ocean facing resort near Sydney remained almost silent and
dormant for years, and not so very far back from 1937. A movement took place,
attractions were made and given, and I know for a positive fact that some buyers
of idle and vacant land there but twenty years gone by have made small
Give inducement and the crowd will follow. Australians are as a rule lovers of the open spaces. They are advocates of sport, pastime, and Dolce far niente, sweet- doing- nothing: sweet idleness. May I ask how long was the Barrier Reef of Queensland almost unknown? There are no better coral islands and beauties in the whole world than are to be found on the eastern coast of Queensland. Now it is visited by, the southerners during winter months in numbers, and if our Government continue with their good work, as I know they will, its value of attraction will greatly increase. Time alone is the essence of this visiting contract, and I am well aware of what will be the result.
Bribie Island so far is unspoilt. Please heaven it will always remain so.
It has full twenty miles of ocean frontage; its beach is a safe one; the fishing
is plentiful and good, and, lo, it is but little over three hours steam from
Brisbane. The island is crown land, and cannot be taken up, and held for sale.
On a transfer only can the improvement be sold. There are no land jobbers there,
or commission agents to make profit out of sale- and of re-sale, and it does not
matter to the officials of the Lands Office whether one takes an allotment or
There are many houses and homes on Bribie that receive weekly and holiday
visitations. For the latter the business man, tired of figures, cost, and
taxation, can rest in quietness, and in peace, with the sound of the rolling in
of the sea waters for his musings of the afternoon, and his dreams of evening.
It is an island of rest for those who are desirous of rest. And the picture
shows are only those of nature.
rent of an ocean beach front allotment payable to the Crown, is one pound per
year; a back one only requiring twelve shillings to be found. The shire rates
for each of these is fifteen shillings, general cleaning rate by motor service,
thirty shillings; loan rate is two shillings and sixpence per year. And for this
small annual sum you can take up an area, and build according to your
During winter time the main beach is well protected from the western
wind. The climate and sea breezes are all that a sybarite could wish for. In the
summer season a steamer runs to Bribie on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday-in the
afternoon-and on Sunday. Winter time does not see its visitation on
I now go back to many years ago, to the days when steamer communication was made with Woody Point; go right along the trail of history until we find Bribie land offered by certain conditions of sale to the public, and when the Brisbane Tug Company made means of transport to that place.
Everything does and must have a beginning. That of any importance came to
Bribie in 1883, when the little Garnet plied for passengers to what is
oft-times termed Humpy Bong. This small unobtrusive craft was in reality the
Phoenix of the Brisbane Tug Company. Yes, a very small steamer was the
Garnet, yet when she commenced her life in the year mentioned Woody Point
residents were very proud of her. She suited them well. She was in charge of a
Captain Bengston, with whom I was well intimate. A fine type of skipper he was.
On New Year's Day there was always a pleasant gathering on the boat; his health
was most cordially proposed and drunk; he was amongst true friends, and these
assemblages were sincere. A glass or two of beverage, one or more short
speeches, and then a monetary gift was made him. Then would the captain take his
pipe from his mouth- a most inveterate smoker was he- and with honest tears in
his eyes, he replied in a little broken English and the ceremony ended. He was
master of the Garnet from 1883 to the year 1900, that being the period
when the Emerald started running. This much-admired-at the time
-Garnet was but 50 tons, and very small, one might consider, those days
for the purpose of the bay trips she was called upon to make, but she served her
passengers with content. For seventeen years did Bengston stand at the wheel,
relinquishing her to take command of the Emerald. This vessel's tonnage
was 183, and a comfortable steamer she proved herself. She ran the Woody Point
and Redcliffe trips until 1912. During her early career Captain Bengston obeyed
the Great Call, and passed away, a Captain Farmer filling the vacancy. Farmer
retired in 1909, and then Captain J. S. Johnston was appointed to the position,
holding the same until 1911. The Koopa next appears on the scene, this
self same J. S. Johnston commanding. This steamer proved a great boon to the
travelling public. She was vastly superior to the two previous crafts, and she
extended the mileage trips by going over to Bribie. Tonnage 416. Her initial
trip was on the 26th December 1911, and still she proudly runs under
the able command of Captain Johnston. More passenger accommodation being
required the Doomba was purchased by the Tug Company, and commenced
running, in conjunction with the Koopa on the last week in November 1923.
Her tonnage was 750. Captain Johnston was placed in the wheel room, and Captain
J. S. Gibson ran the Koopa.
went well for a time, but when business was not sufficient to keep both boats in
service, the Doomba was laid on one side for a time, and skipper Johnston
went back to his first love- the Koopa.
says a lot for the capabilities, as well as for the personalities of these
mariners when we consider how long they were in command of the vessels running
to Woody Point, Redcliffe, and Bribie. Captain Bengston crossed the bay waters
in the Garnet and Emerald until early in this century, somewhere
about 1907 or so, when at his demise Captain Farmer operated. Then Captain
Johnson holds command 1909-1911, and then from the 26th December 1911
we find him on deck of the Koopa, and is still there as I write these
lines in 1937. And Gibson was on the Koopa for two years or more.
perusing these records of masters, but more especially that of the Koopa,
I could scarce believe mine eyes when I read Koopa 1911. For twenty-six
years Captain Johnston has virtually been in command, always at his post. There
you will still find him if you board the vessel at Circular Quay, Petrie Bight.
Long may he still be spared is the wish of his numerous friends. I have been on
board the Koopa with him when beastly south-easters have ripped the bay.
Have been with him when the waters have rolled and broken heavily on Redcliffe
beach; when the same waters and spray have deluged onlookers on the jetty, and
yet with all the angry defiance of these south-easters- how I as a bay-man know,
and love them‑the coolheaded skipper has conquered and berthed his charge in
chapter is headed “General" is it not? For a long time I was perplexed and
dubious as to the manner in which it should be titled. How would “Jumble" or
“Hotch Potch" have looked and been regarded? It is very hard to gather
historical facts and information and put it all in proper chronological order,
especially when the hypercritical gent wants to be satisfied. As I have
elsewhere stated I am not an author in its true representation and meaning, and
am in no way worried how any chapter should be headed or named. In what this
chapter entitled “General" contains there may be repetitive telling. The same
reading in different and more varied manner may perhaps be seen on earlier
pages. Surely you do not want me to go back and dovetail here and there part of
what I am now penning, more especially when my manuscript has been scanned by
critical eyes. I read a lot. It is one of my most beloved pastimes. One thing
that does really get on my nerves is to find an asterisk or other symbol, or a
beastly number marked in any part of the page of a book I am deeply interested
in. I know it refers to something at the foot of the page, whereon I must cast
my eye, and when I have done so, and am maybe none the wiser, trace upwards to
the very line that has caused this distraction and cannot find whereat I had
ceased proper reading, I really feel annoyed. Would it not have been just as
well for the author of the book I was reading to have continued right on without
numbering or marking or “see note at bottom of page?" I do really think it would
if there is anything here or further on as you read, anything that has already
been touched upon or referred to-do please keep your remarks in as kindly a
manner as you can, and-well-just read on. All of that which I am herein telling
and recording for the sake of history is not from my own knowledge. Surely you
must agree with that. I have had to make enquiries, hunt up here and there; seek
information from those who may have had contemporaneous knowledge with mine, and
better means of knowing and gathering it. If they told me what I already knew,
and had already noted in previous pages-now, what could I say? Willingly have I
received what they have imparted to me; have thanked them for their kindness;
and have accepted all in good faith.
Shakespeare in his “King John" mentions something as being “as tedious as
a twice told tale."
if I am repeating myself, little or otherwise, please let me ask that you read
it again without comment, good or bad. It may have one good effect-that of
strengthening your memory.
General Part 2
I had almost completed chapter eight, marked “General," and was under the impression I would end with “Finis," when, letting my intended purpose to write up Bribie be known to Mr. Geo. P. Campbell, of the firm of James Campbell and Sons, I decided not to do so, but continue.
Mr. Campbell most kindly volunteered further information regarding the island and its very early days. Therefore, I straight way determined to make “General" Chapter 8 into two parts, that which is now being read coming under the title of “Part Two." It traces the commercial history back to its primitive days, and will add much value of historic connection regarding it. First of all reference will be made to the names of those steamers plying to the island parts of the northern extremity of Moreton Bay. I am sure some of my readers will recollect the Mavis, Captain William Tutty in charge. William and I were friends, and although he went away to the North, and for many years we had not seen each other, that friendship lasted until his death in Townsville somewhere about 1934. With him I once had a very nasty experience on the Caloundra bar. A party had engaged the Mavis for an Easter trip from Brisbane to Caloundra. I was in that party. Tutty piloted the boat right From Skirmish Point to Bulcocks jetty, with heavy dark clouds obscuring the moon, manipulating the narrow and shallow “W's" without mishap, and at break of day we had reached our objective.
ever man knew the Pumice Stone Passage, Tutty did. At Caloundra was moored an
eighteen-foot sailing craft, the property of some campers there. Tutty obtained
permission to use the Lottie, for such was the boat's name. She was
decked from a little aft of the mast right up to the stem piece. Breakfast over
Tutty asked for a crew to man this Lottie, as he purposed going out over
the bar to the fishing grounds for snapper. There were four volunteers, viz., G.
P. Campbell, Phillips of the Queen's Hotel, a man called Jim, myself, and with
the skipper in charge we made a total of five. The weather was fine, with
little, if any, wind, and but a small break of water on the bar. Soon we were
near Bray rock, and down went some of the lines, but in passing over this bar,
and meeting the last outward breaker, the little craft falling heavily in the
trough of the sea, had unknown to us at the moment split her garboard strake
near the step of the mast. I was on the jib sheet, and, whilst preparing my
lines as we neared the fishing ground, noticed water underneath the boards of
the cockpit where I had not seen it before.
I mentioned this to Tutty, who replied, “it may be rain water, or, a bit of the sea that came in over the stern. Bale her out and I wilt fix up your line." I put my hand on a tin pannikin-no enamel in those days- and proceeded to do as I was told. I could make no apparent lessening of the water, and again spoke to the captain informing him of this fact. He was always a cool soul, this same gentleman, and as he dropped his sinker overboard, made a quiet remark, as follows: “Well, she did hit a bit hard after that last roller, lift up the flooring boards inside and have a look."
did so, and then perceived water coming in through a crack or split some two
feet or so aft of the mast step, the split apparently inclined to open wider;
with the roll of the boat. I ripped a small piece of cloth from my jersey, and
with my sheath knife rammed it in with my hand. Caulking is never effective from
the inside, but what else could I do. Certainly I could not go overboard to do
the job. Forcing the sheath knife with my closed hand, the split widened and
water squirted in from a foot length as high as my stooping body. I told Tutty.
Then he and I baled together. No use, no effect, the water was gaining on us.
The wind was beginning to come in from the south-east, and our position was not
the mainsail, and then up with the anchor," came the command. Soon the peak
and throat halyards were belayed by the other three. Tutty and I still baled.
But lo, the anchor was foul and after five minutes hauling we were compelled to
cut the rope, and let it go. The Lottie was headed southward and towards
the bar. The wind
We then headed for where we thought the channel should be. Being on the
jib I determined to sit as close as possible to the man at the tiller, so that
in case of pooping, our combined backs would stop a portion of the intake. Up on
the first roller we started, carried along with the wave, and as it broke ahead
of us down in the trough we were placed. Here the sail flapped and my heart was
in my mouth so to speak, as I saw another roller coming astern and at us. It
caught us, and broke amidship, and half swamped the Lottie. In this
half-swamped condition Tutty still kept the craft's head for the shore. Luckily
for us the tide was flood.
Another roller did us very little harm, but as the tide carried us almost
to the last inner one a sea crashed on board and the gunwales were awash. The
Lottie had no ballast, and again it was lucky for us she did not turn
turtle. “Keep in board, boys," cried Tutty. Don't lose your heads, the tide will
set us in,” as indeed it was doing. Obeying further orders we undid all
halyards, made one long line of the peak, throat, and jib ropes, and as we
neared the shallows one of us swam to the land. There assistance was awaiting
us, and many hands hauled the eighteen-footer ashore. The Caloundra passage from
shore to shore is a narrow one. But! Those sharks! No more Caloundra bar for us
was the verdict of us all. We much preferred the one owned by Phillips at the
This Mavis I have mentioned was 47 tons gross measurement, and was
the first steamer to run to Bribie. She was built in 1883 by J. W. Sutton and
Coy., Kangaroo Point for James Campbell and Sons, and was used to convey timber
from the Coochin Sawmills to Brisbane, taking back general cargo and supplies
for residents in the Bribie district. Tutty was famed for navigating the Bribie
Passage, including the “W's" (this name being derived from the twisting nature
it had). It is no distance in length, and does in all reality assume the letter
“W" in appearance.
This Brisbane-Coochin service was maintained for seven years, a weekly
trip keeping the boat fairly busy. Sometimes business required two journeys, and
Tutty was always in command. He, during these seven years trading was never
known to “stick" the Mavis on any bank inside or outside the passage. There were
no lights or leads for him. He steered by self-known landmarks and his
well-known local knowledge. He knew the southern end of the bay equally as well
as the north.
The little steamer Mavis made her first trip on the
26th January 1883, and with regularity and punctuality, be the tide
ebb or flow, continued her service until the year 1890 when the Coochin sawmills
A double-ended boat had been built at Coochin Creek, and started running
between Brisbane and Caloundra in the early part of 1883. She, like the
Mavis, was a paddle wheel steamer. She had been named the Bribie.
This Brisbane-Caloundra running was in no way remunerative, and doing but six
months work the service was discontinued. She was afterwards used for towing
pontoons laden with logs, or sawn timber to the Coochin Creek or to the steamer
In the early eighties a very well-to-do chemist named James C Moffat,
imported a fine steam launch from England to run a service between Coochin Creek
and Caloundra, thereby relieving the Mavis of the journeying to and fro.
The venture was not a success, and the boat was sold to a Brisbane man, whose
name I cannot here call to memory.
This Moffat took up a large area of land at Caloundra, including that
prominent and well-known spot termed Moffat's Head. About 1887 he formed this
Caloundra land into a syndicate. After a small sale the balance of allotments
were raffled amongst the members of the syndicate, areas going in proportion to
individual capital invested. Moffat's high point overlooking the ocean was the
most desired one to win, and naturally much speculation was ventured as to whom
the lucky marble would go. How do I know all this, you may ask? Well, the writer
was one of that syndicate and has reason to remember. The drawing took place in
due course, and Moffat himself was the winner.
My own small area that became my lot was held by me for many years.
Subsequently it went to assist the funds of a ‘school-to-be,' opened at
Moffat and his wife died many years ago, the good wife passing away
first. On the husband's demise probate duty was paid on a very large sum, and to
the credit of Moffat, be it known, the great bulk of the money went to the Sick
Children's hospital. Moffat owned a fine brick house in Wharf Street, not so
very far from Queen Street. Dalkeith was its name, and here the couple
resided for a long time. There was no family.
Although I have dealt elsewhere with steamers it was very interesting to
learn from Mr. Campbell that to the Greyhound goes the honour of opening
up the Bribie excursion service. She made trip to the island on Sundays and
holidays and was well patronised. She carried on this service from 1901 until
1912. During these visitations to the island there was no jetty, and
excursionists had to be ferried to and fro in a large punt in charge of one, H.
I have written on other pages of the Koopa and Doomba, so
the need no further reference from me now. The year 1912 saw the present jetty
at Bribie completed by the Brisbane Tug and, Steamship Company.
This Tug Company has maintained a continuous service from the city to
Bribie since the year 1912, and has, most undoubtedly been responsible for the
building of the two townships “Bongaree", and “Woorim." This latter is situate
on the Pacific Ocean side of the island. The road between these two places named
was built by the same company in 1924, at a very considerable expense. All the
directors of the Tug Company were: A. B. Webster, J. D. Campbell and F. D.
Phillips. These gentlemen are all departed hence, their positions now being
occupied by Messrs. G. P. Campbell, V. F. J. Campbell and F. H. Webster. At the
moment of this writing, the last three are still on the board of
The respect which I have always evinced towards the pioneers of our State is well known, I think, amongst my friends. Of early squatters, as far back as 1842, and of explorers from the 1845 time of Ludwig Leichhardt, have I written much, and also have lectured about them (vide Historical Society's Journals), and although the first settlers of Bribie and its vicinities do not take me back so far as the years I have noted, yet as settlers and pioneers I deem it my bounden duty to chronicle them in this small historical venture of mine- all the individuals whom I name below, maybe, nay are not, still in the land of the living. Perhaps to those relatives who have survived them will be pleasing, let me hope, to see herein their names mentioned:
Hamilton, Captain D. D. (Military), 1881, Toorbul Point.
2. Hussey, T., Parish of Toorbul.
3. Mills, H., Parish of Toorbul.
4. Freeman, S. H., 1877, Parish of Toorbul.
5. Carnegie, J., 1880, Parish of Toorbul.
6. Bishop, J. and W., Ninghi Creek.
7. Freeman, W., Freeman's Crossing.
8. Perry, F., 1885, Toorbul.
9. Matthews, G. W., Parish of Toorbul.
10. Hamilton, E. H. D., 1885, Parish of Toorbul.
11. Furlong, T., 1884, Parish of Toorbul.
12. Tripcony, T. M., 1877, Parish of Beerwah.
13. Westaway, W., 1879, Parish of Bribie.
14. Roberts, H., 1885, Hussy's and Coochin Creek.
15. Lander, J., 1885.
16. Campbell, J. D., 1883, Coochin Creek.
17. Westaway, R., Westaway's Knob and Caloundra Passage.
18. Eglinton, A. M., Bell's Creek, Bribie.
19. Hall, C., 1886, Bell's Creek, Bribie.
20. Leach, S., Bell's Creek, Bribie.
21. Bell, Miss, 1882, Bell's Creek, Bribie.
22. Landsborough, W., 1882, Bell's Creek and Black Flats.
23. North, F. L., 1884, Bell's Creek and Black Flats.
24. Bulcock, R., Caloundra.
25. Moffat, J. C., Caloundra.
Let me hark back to number sixteen, showing the name of J. D. Campbell. He was the son of James Campbell- the pioneer of James Campbell and Sons, and became the member for Moreton in the year 1899, and was in Queensland's thirteenth parliament, remaining in the Legislative Assembly until 1907, in which year he was appointed Minister for Railways in the Philp Cabinet.
Philp on this occasion held office for but a short period, as in
November, 1907, a dissolution of the House took place, William Kidston being
returned as Premier on an appeal being made to the country. J. D. Campbell
passed away on the 19th June 1909.
Campbell family was indeed of the pioneer type. They lived for a time at the
“Bar House" at the mouth of Coochin Creek a long time ago; this house having
been built for them as a residence. The Bar House was a noted landmark for early
day yachtsmen using the Pumice Stone, or as it is now called, the Bribie
Passage, and marked the junction of Caloundra and this passage with the entrance
to Coochin Creek. When the Campbell family left and came to Brisbane the house
in question was sold to the late W. Westaway, and removed to Caloundra.
At this juncture I find my mind reverting to the succulent bivalve, the oyster, the ostrea if oyu would have me so name it. The foreshores of Toorbul, Bribie, and the upper reaches of the Pumice Stone in the “good old days," sent many thousands of bags of these to Brisbane and the South, and much money was made by the holders of the various banks. A large number of men were engaged in the industry finding constant employment for them in picking and bagging. These oyster banks covered an area at Toorbul, and continued to within a mile and a half of Caloundra. One of the richest dredge sections in Moreton Bay was situated between Bribie Island and Donnybrook- thousands of oysters being taken therefrom during a short space of years. In 1909 or somewhere thereabouts came the now detested worm- a thin little black crawler it is- the consequence being that dredge sections and practically all the banks were destroyed.
oysters from the localities named were freighted to Brisbane in various cutters.
Well did I know them all, for in my holiday times I visited the northern end of
the bay muchly. I give the names of these vessels so employed- give them almost
with reverence, for many times have I travelled on them, laden with bagged
bivalves for the markets, thrashing across the bay against heavy south-easters
to Luggage Point.
Rip, Charm, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Harrie, Bret
One trip in the Artemus Ward I must mention. Frank Watts, the father of the noted Lance Watts, whose tiller handling in the restricted class is so well known, was in charge, and I, T.W., made up the “crew."
An ugly south-easter was blowing when we entered the bay at the lower black beacon almost opposite Skirmish Point. The Artemus was heavily laden. There bushel bags, each containing picked oysters, were in numbers in the little cabin and in the cockpit. There was but little movable space in the boat. Frank had put in one single reef, the only reef points the sail contained. He, of course, had the tiller. I worked the jib, seated most uncomfortably on the protected though sharp-edged oysters. Continual seas came on board, and we were both drenched. Some three miles out from Deception Bay a hummer of a squall struck us, and as the Artemus was being brought up in the wind a broken-topped wave threw itself right at us amidship, and something black in appearance came with it. It fell from half way up the mast and dropped on the oyster bags, on which I was seated.
Quickly I threw my body towards the counters, and lifted my legs just in
time. Getting over the squall trouble we both looked at our most unusual
visitor. Nigh to the legs of us both with a long swishy tail lay an enormous
ray. It was a spotted ray, a ray that carries a very long slender whip tail,
sometimes called parrot-billed ray, although I am inclined to write it as
Spotted Eagle Ray (Aetobatis narinari). By this time its pancake body had become
jammed amongst the bags until we reached calmer waters in the river- then
overboard it went. This episode may seem and sound untrue, but for reference of
a good character and likewise of veracity I would ask you to mention the
adventure to Dick Watts, owner of the Mariner, and you will receive his
endorsement. Not that he saw the occurrence, but he will inform you he has often
heard his Uncle Frank speak of it in fishing and boating company.
Amongst those engaged in this oyster industry were Captain Hamilton, Fred
Turner (what a fine type of character his good wife Alma was. She was one in a
thousand and deservedly respected by everyone).
J. Carnegie, Hussey and Mills, E. H. D. Hamilton, Perry and Griffin (did not
this firm own the Day Dawn and the Dawn of Day!), W. Freeman, T.
Furlong and J. Pollack.
late Mr. James Clark after acquiring the Toorbul headland property- it is still
in the estate- took up this oyster industry and culture in a thorough
businesslike and skilful manner. His chief holding at the first covered an area
of foreshore round to Cook's Head. He also took up banks in Pumice Stone, and
was instrumental in successfully forming many artificial oyster banks this being
done at considerable expense. Hundreds of tons of ashes were conveyed by steamer
to Bribie for utilisation on the banks and flats.
lets me out on the ostrea subject and I now turn my attention once more to
timber, but only slightly dealing with it. In 1881 James Campbell erected a
large sawmill at Coochin Creek, about eight miles up the mangrove-lined banks. A
little township followed this venture, the place in a little time taking on the
name of Campbell Town. The mill drew its supplies- there were virgin forests in
those days in many places, viz., from Bribie Island, Ninghi Creek, Elimbah
Creek, Bullock Creek, Glass Mountain Creek, Bell's Creek, and also from in and
about Caloundra. Cedar, pine, beech and other softwoods were obtained from the
famous Blackall Ranges. The sawn timber was conveyed to Brisbane by the cutters
Sabina, Alice, Cleveland - and others until 1883, when the freightage was
taken over by the Mavis and the Leonie.
is to me very pleasing to here record a kindly action made by James Campbell to
some of the coloured people at Coochin. A presentation was made to a native
called King Fred, of a Crown on which was inscribed: “Presented to King Fred,
and his Queen Ellina, and their two daughters Johanna and Rosie, of Coochin
Creek, by James Campbell." This presentation was typical of the man, and was
made to King Fred on account of some meritorious deed done by him. This crown is
now in the possession of the Philp family at “Mallow," Toowong, Brisbane.
Thousands of pounds in worth of log cedar, pine, and a fair amount of
beech, were drawn from the Blackall Ranges by bullock teams, taken through the
heavy country to the rafting grounds of Mellum and Coochin Creeks. From here it
was floated to deep water, loaded into steamers, taken to Brisbane to be cut up
and sawn into lengths at the mills. Harrold Brothers, of Adelaide, a firm well
known as billiard table specialists, purchased the whole of the cedar logs, as
such timber was required for their particular class of work.
Canning. A factory was built in the year 1898 on the Deception Bay side of
Toorbul by Messrs. Godwin and Day, about four miles from Toorbul Point. Mr.
James Clark took much interest in this and watched the growth of the industry
with a keen eye. Sea mullet and tailer were the principal fish treated. The
method of preparation was successful, and the tinned article found a ready sale.
The business was carried on for some time, but eventually had to close its doors
on account of the lack of regularity of fish supply.
Later a fish canning plant was purchased by Mr. T. Maloney, and suitable
buildings were put up on Bribie Island some miles up the passage towards
Caloundra. The tinning of fish was carried on with good results, but I am
informed that the place was compelled to cease work on account of similar
reasons applying to the Godwin, combine. A portion of Mr. Maloney's career has
already been touched upon.
About the year 1910 the late Mrs. Sarah Balls, who at one time was the
licensee of the Exchange Hotel in Queen Street, purchased an up-to-date fish
canning outfit, and made extensive working accommodation on Bribie Island, some
little distance to the north of the Tug Company's jetty. Real first-class
products were turned out, all finding a ready sale. Notwithstanding the addition
of further improved machinery and plant, the existence of the commercial
operations could not give satisfaction to the good lady. Battling bravely she
spared no expense, but seeing that the task was costly and hopeless she with
deep regret closed down. Another example of failure caused by like manner and
incidence as the others just written about.
Dugong and Turtle were, in the early eighties, treated by a man named
Foster, his location being on a hill close by where the Bribie Bowling Club is
now situate. This hill was known as Foster's Camp. Foster worked up quite a
profitable business with dugong and turtle. Eventually, I understand, it passed
over to Peter Tasken, now of Cleveland. Ordinary net fishing was also carried
on, very extensively, by a number of licensed fishermen, their hauling spots
being throughout the length and breadth of Pumice Stone. Great hauls at times
found their way to Brisbane housewives, nearly all the catches being sold at an
old jetty at the mouth of Breakfast Creek. The fish were sold according to
requirements, or in baskets, and house to house hawking was prevalent and
appreciated by Brisbane folk. No cold stores in those days, and the good
housewife, knowing the fish, its state, and appearance, did her own
condemnation. They don't get that chance nowadays. But advanced civilisation,
and controlling boards are making a fine improvement. Now really what do you
Mr. T. Tripcony plied a motor boat service between Brisbane and Caloundra for a
time, carrying up to the city fish, oysters and shell grit, returning with
general stores. This was, however, some years after the Mavis had been
taken off the route. Then a number of settlers engaged themselves in fruit
farms, growing pineapples, grapes, bananas, and citrus fruits, also vegetables.
All this produce had to be conveyed to the Big Smoke by cutters. Amongst the
many who indulged in this business were Messrs. Bestman- who for a while tried
his hand at wine making- J. Carnegie, and the Bishops. These two brothers
purchased the yacht Medea for the purpose of running their fruit and
produce to the city.
Having written thus far from the notes so kindly supplied me by Mr. G. P.
Campbell- and no doubt having slightly repeated myself-I cannot pass by the
opportunity of again referring to land sales, chiefly areas at Caloundra. The
first public land sales at this fine ocean water resort are dated 9th
April 1883. But right here I stay my pen and think. Today as I pen these lines,
is Wednesday, the 21st July 1937, and I remember reading something in
the issue of the “Courier Mail," of the like date. It refers to
Caloundra. Now I always liked this place, especially in the primitive days when
flora and fauna were at their very best, when the city vandal did not roam
afield, and the motor car was unknown- thank heaven-and when one did visit
nature's beauty spots there was always something to enlighten the mind and
comfort the soul. And I have not seen Caloundra for nigh on twenty-five years.
Let me give the extract from the “Courier Mail" in full. So I do and here
Beaches in Winter.
Surfers' President Enthusiastic.
“Your beaches at Caloundra and Maroochydore are splendid, and if the
others are as good then Queensland has a wonderful asset," was the parting
comment made by the president of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia
(Mr. A. H. Curlewis) before his departure for Sydney yesterday.
Curlewis was taken by car by Mr. T. Thynne to Caloundra and Maroochydore, and
enjoyed the surf in the genial warmth of the sun. It was his first ‘dip' in
Queensland surf, and he was surprised that Queenslanders did not make more use
of surfing advantages in the winter which, he thought, was not winter at
Is that not a tribute, you Caloundra-ites?
connection with this sale of 1883, there is one small historic event that needs
must be chronicled by me in these collections of olden days events. During a
time when Sir Thomas McIlwraith was in power here in Queensland, some members of
his cabinet chartered the S.S. Mavis from Messrs. James Campbell and Sons
to convey the Hon. Patrick Perkins-then Minister for Lands-and Mr. B. D.
Morehead, and some of their friends to Caloundra. Mr. R. J. Smith, Commissioner
for Lands, I think, was with the party. The Mavis left Brisbane on the
evening of the 8th April 1883, reaching Caloundra by way of Bribie
Passage the next day at 1.30 p.m. The party left for the return to Brisbane on
the 10th April, crossing the Caloundra bar, running down the ocean
coastline of Bribie Island, and was berthed at her wharf in the city at 10 p.m.
the same day. Knowing the S.S. Mavis so well as I did, all that can be
said by me regarding this bar harbour exploit in so small a steamer is- that the
weather must have been good and the bar remarkably sound asleep.
Caloundra in the year given was indeed a pretty place. The Head and
adjoining slopes and inclines were covered with green grass, with no
undergrowth. Trees were sufficient in number and in foliage to give the hill
tops and inclines and dales, a thorough park-like vista.
dormant for many a long day. Now it ranks as one of Brisbane's favourite ocean
side resorts, and is rapidly making progress. Wickham Point, or Head, has not
the rugged, rocky ravined, attractions of Point Lookout on Stradbroke, but its
charms are its own, with the great Pacific Ocean in full view, and its white
topped paralleled line of breakers miles away to the northward. In years to
The late Mr. J. C. Moffat- whose name I have written before being a land owner, extensive too, at that, at Caloundra, spent much capital in searching and sinking for coal. Up to the time of his demise he never gave up hope of finding it in payable commercial quantities. Results taken from many places were continually disappointing, the shafts, and trial sinkings never giving any real indication of worth.
It is not generally known that coal and kerosene leakages or seepages can be found on Bribie, and its inside passage. I could tell a story re a proposed coal venture here on the island, but these pages are not the place to mention it. Some day it will be divulged.
A finale should be cheerful, should it not? And I am ending now chapter eight, part two, with something that may be regarded as gruesome. Never mind, my readers. You want history, do you not? So here goes the fall of the hammer, and the placing aside of the pen.
My “conclusion" says that even at the time when Flinders visited Bribie in 1799, the natives on the island were cannibals. They held the early primitive ideas and habits of the inland blacks, and their mode of living was not dissimilar. From the birth of a child to the death of an old man or woman, they adopted and carried on customs and mannerisms not known on Moreton or Stradbroke. Their mode of burial was different. In the not very far back, skeletons of natives were found in the forks of fair-sized trees on the island. It was their mode of burial. Many a skull from off the tree, or on the ground, many a part of the human frame have I known to be taken away by university, medical and anatomical students. That is another story.
BONGAREE, THE NATIVE
have always had a respect for this native, even from the date of my earliest
recollections of reading Flinders' journal. And even a higher respect than that
given to Bongaree went to that coloured individual Jackey-Jackey, who was one of
the party accompanying Mr. E. B. Kennedy in that disastrous Northern Expedition
towards Cape York in 1848. Let any of my readers peruse Carron's account of the
journey, or better still, Mr. H. M. Suttor's “Australian Milestones,” published
1925. Turn up in volume two, pages 401 to 409, and read for yourself. Kennedy's
companion, Jackey, was a far superior man to Flinder's Bongaree, better in
intelligence, demeanour, and application. As I cannot deal with him at length
here, let me quote Mr Suttor's words on page 408:
a more beautiful story ever been told of the great devotion and loyalty of a
servant to his Master? At this time tribes had been so largely exterminated that
thousands of Colonists knew but little of the blacks. To them it was a surprise
that a black boy could be so affectionate, brave, truthful, pitiful, provident,
clever and enduring .We must all admire Jackey. He had a black skin but
otherwise he was a white man.”
memorial tablet in St. James Church, Sydney, can be seen at the terminal part of
An aboriginal of Moreton District
who was Mr. Kennedy's sole companion in his fight with the savages, and though
himself wounded, tended his leader with a courage and devotion, worthy of
remembrance, supporting him in his last moments, and making his grave on the
spot where he fell."
have met similar men to these two in Moreton Bay, but to compare would be
unacceptable. There was Toompani, a man well past the seventies who lost his
life at Myora in saving that of a. coloured woman. Johnnie Lifou was another
good man, as was Sam Rollins, who did my dugong work. Also Gurriwurriba,
otherwise “Gurrie," still hale and hearty although aged.
having gathered more valuable information re the volatile Bongaree I have
decided to give him a chapter on his own.
Luckily for me during the last couple of months I have been favoured with
a letter corresponding introduction to the Reverend V. W. Thompson, of H.M.A.S.
Penguin, Garden Island, Sydney. Mr. Thompson possesses a keen mind wherein he
stores Australian pioneer history, and has very kindly favoured me with
interesting subject matter regarding Bongaree, gathered from many sources. This
with other material enables me to enlarge upon this native from the time of his
visit to Bribie in 1799 with Matthew Flinders, up to his death in 1830. Wrongful
printed data, ofttimes copied, makes incorrect history, much to be regretted. In
what I now pen the source from which my information has been obtained is given,
together with, where possible, the day of the month as well as the year. In the
earlier pages of this work it will be remembered I have dealt with the manner in
which Bongaree's name has been spelt. Personally I still adhere to the spelling
of his name as given by Flinders. In what follows, I give the orthography as
used at the time of publication. The reverend gentleman's notes on Bungaree are
most copious, and. from most of these notes sent on to me this chapter is now
written. And our little island of Bribie has a little township named after
These notes record that on the 24th November 1830, there
passed away on Garden Island, Sydney Harbour, a familiar and celebrated figure
of the early nineteenth century in Sydney. This was Bungaree, chief of the Port
Jackson tribe of aboriginal blacks. His name is variously spelled. Professor
Ernest Scott in “The Life of Matthew Flinders," perhaps following Flinders'
spelling uses the form Bongaree, though Lieutenant Murray, commanding the
Lady Nelson, which accompanied the Investigator, spells the name
Bungaree. Lieutenant-Colonel Collins of the Royal Marines favours Bong-ree; Dr.
John Dunmore Lang prefers Bungary; while the newspapers giving an account of his
death have still another variant, Boongarie.
“Sydney Gazette," of Saturday, November 27 1830, gives the following
account of Bungaree and his death:
“Death of Boongarie.
“We have to announce the death of
His Aboriginal Majesty King Boongarie, Supreme Chief of the Sydney tribe. He
expired on Wednesday last at Garden Island, after a lingering sickness of
several months. A coffin has been despatched thither from the lumber yard, and
he will be interred at Rose Bay, beside the remains of his late Queen
(Gooseberry) this day."
facetiousness of the sable chief and the superiority of his mental endowments
over those of the generality of his race obtained for him a more than ordinary
share of regard from the white inhabitants of the Colony, which was testified by
frequent donations suited to his condition not only from private individuals,
but from the Authorities. At the commencement of his last illness the Hon Mr.
McLeay procured his admission to the General Hospital, where he received every
necessary attention, and remained there some weeks, but becoming impatient to
return to his “people" he was, of course, permitted to depart, and the
Government allowed him a full man's ration to the day of his death.
Boongarie was remarkable for his partiality for the English costume, and
it must be confessed that his appearance was sometimes grotesque enough, when he
had arrayed his person in such “shreds and patches" of coats and nether garments
as he could by any means obtain; the whole surmounted by an old cocked hat. The
late Commodore Sir James Brisbane was particularly partial to him, and on one
occasion presented him with a full suit of his own uniform, together with a
sword, of which he was not a little vain.
periodical called the “Australian Home Companion," on pages 359-360, there
appeared in the year 1859 the following anonymous contribution:
“Bungaree, King of the Blacks.
“There are few old Australian Colonists to whom the name of Bungaree is
not familiar. King Bungaree and myself were contemporaries, but there was a vast
difference in our ages. When I first knew him he was an old man over sixty, and
I was a boy of twelve. In person King Bungaree was about 5ft. 8in. in height,
not very stout, and not very thin, except as to his legs. His dress consisted of
the cocked hat and full dress coat of a general officer or colonel; an old shirt
and no pantaloons.
the king was a person of irregular habits, he generally slept as well as fished
in his clothes, and his tailor's bill would have been enormous, even if he had a
tailor, but as he "borrowed" his uniform, as well as his money, bread and rum,
his finances were in no way embarrassed. Every new Governor, from Macquarie down
to Gipps, supplied him with an old cocked hat and full dress coat; and almost
every colonel commanding a regiment, instantly complied when his majesty
pronounced these words:
"Len' it cock-'at; len it coat; len it old shirt." Round his neck was
suspended, by a brass chain, a brass plate. On this plate which was shaped like
a half moon, were engraven, in large letters, the words:
"Bungaree, King of the Blacks."
the plate was also engraven the arms of the colony of New South Wales- an emu
and a kangaroo. Bungaree, like many of the aborigines of New South Wales, was an
amazing mimic. The action, voice, bearing and attitudes, the walk of any man, he
could personate with minuteness. It mattered not whether it was the
Attorney-General stating a case to a jury; the Chief Justice sentencing a
criminal to be hanged; a Colonel drilling a regiment in the barrack square; a
Jew bargaining for old clothes; a drunken sailor resisting the efforts of the
police to quiet him. King Bungaree could, in mere dumb show act the scene in
such a way as to give you a perfect idea of it. Now as the Governor for the time
being was the first and most important person in the colony, it was from that
functionary that King Bungaree took his cue. After seeing the Governor several
times, and talked to him, Bungaree would adopt his Excellency's manner of speech
and bearing to the full extent of his wonderful power. When first I knew
Bungaree General Darling was Governor of New South Wales. Bungaree then walked
the streets with his arms folded across his breast, his body erect, his pace
slow and measured, with something of the military swagger in it, and the only
salute he vouchsafed was a dignified, but very slight, inclination of his head.
Even when his “Majesty" was so intoxicated that he could not walk straight, it
was impossible not to recognise the faithfulness of the copy to the original.
His mode of speech was curt and somewhat abrupt. Even the words: “Len' it glass
o' grog," came forth rather in the tone of a command than of a request. But when
Darling left and Bourke became his successor, how very different was the
demeanour and the deportment of King Bungaree. He walked briskly up George
Street with his left hand on his hip and his right arm moving to and fro; took
off his cocked hat periodically in recognition of salutes (most of them
imaginary), and when he neared the Guard House at the bottom of Church Hill he
would raise his right hand in the air, and shake it as a signal to the sentry
not to turn out the guard to present arms to him."
Bongaree was known to Dr. John Dunmore Lang is in evidence when reference is
made to vol. 1, 4th edition, page 350, of the History of New South Wales.
This is the reverend gentleman's own story as it appears therein:
“I was walking with my late
brother, Mr. George Lang, on. the banks of the Parramatta River, one beautiful
evening in the year 1824, when the late Bungary, chief of the Sydney tribe of
the black natives, was pulling down the river in a boat which he had received as
a present from the Governor, Sir Thomas Brisbane, with his two jins or wives. My
brother accosted Bungary on his coming up with us, and the good natured chief
immediately desired his jins to rest on their oars. During the short
conversation that ensued, my brother requested Bungary to show us how Governor
Macquarie made a bow. Bungary happened to be dressed at the time in the old
uniform of a military officer, and accordingly, standing up in the stern of his
boat, and taking off his cocked hat with the requisite punctilio he made a low
formal bow with all the dignity and grace of a general officer of the old
“My brother then requested him to show us how Governor Brisbane made a bow, to which Bungary very properly replied in broken English: ‘Bail me do that yet; top nudda Governor come.'
“Bungary could exhibit the peculiar manner of every Governor he, had seen in the colony; but he held it a point of honour, and perhaps' a measure of sound policy, never to exhibit the reigning Governor."
The Revd. V. W. Thompson wrote me and said that nearly all the later
references to Bungaree perpetuate the mis-statement that he was buried on Garden
Island. So I again refer to J. H. Heaton, who said: “Page 6 ... Boongarie was
buried at Garden Island, November
1830." Perhaps I had better give the exact wording contained, inter alia, in one
of Mr. Thompson's letters to me. This is what he wrote:
he came to be on Garden Island at the time of his death is not clear. J. H.
Heaton says he ‘settled at George's Head in 1815.' Collins says he was ‘a native
of the northside of Broken Bay.' This was in July, 1799. Ida Lee mentions him,
the context having reference to June 1801, and speaks of him as ‘a native Rose
Bay named Bungaree."
(The Log Books of the Lady
Nelson, page 61), and again referring to July 1802 (page 160), she makes
mention of “Bungaree, the Rose Bay native." I suppose the truth is that Bungaree
had all the nomadic characteristics of his race, and had no settled abode as
regards locality, but moved from place to place, wherever food was most
plentiful. It is evident that at some time he had resided at Rose Bay, if his
“late Queen" was buried there. Bungaree had a plurality of wives, and I am not
quite sure which one this refers to. The best known one rejoiced in the name of
“Gooseberry." But if J. H. Heaton's note on Queen Gooseberry is correct, she
must have survived her royal spouse. Heaton says: “Gooseberry, Queen wife of
King Boongarie, was one of the last if not the last, of the Port Jackson
However, I venture to suggest that it is possible that Bungarie was
allowed the use of Garden Island during the naval regime, as a concession and
mark of appreciation for the services he rendered to the Navy, in accompanying
some of the coastal explorations. As far is I can find, his first voyage was
with Matthew Flinders in the Norfolk, which sailed from Port Jackson on
the 8th July 1799, to examine the coast from Moreton Bay northward to Hervey
Bay. Professor Scott (Life of Flinders, page 159) quotes Flinders'
estimate of Bungaree, “whose good disposition and manly conduct had attracted my
esteem." Later, when taking him on another voyage Flinders refers to him as the
‘worthy and brave fellow' (Scott: Life of Flinders, page 266)."
Again I resume my own telling of Bongaree. If any student of history not
fully acquainted with Flinders' visit to Brisbane waters in 1799 desires a very
full and concise account of his stay and explorations in Moreton Bay, I would
kindly refer him to Lieutenant-Colonel Collins' work published in 1804, more
particularly to page 497, and thence onwards to page 514. Flinders had spent
fifteen days in Glass House Bay, had rowed up many miles in Pumice Stone River,
and had journeyed down the waters of the bay as far as Russell Island. During
all this time Bongaree was with him. Excerpts from Collins need not be given by
I now return to Mr. Thompson. He writes me:
“Bungaree was not deterred by the risks of his first trip from making
another. This time he sailed with Lieut. Grant in the Lady Nelson to examine the
Hunter River. They started on the 10th June 1801, and the following
day, mistaking the entrance to Lake Macquarie for the Hunter, Dr. Harris was
sent ashore in a boat. Harris discovered the error and brought back a native
called Budgeree Dick. Ida Lee, (Logbook of the Lady Nelson, page 62)
says: “In order to find out his meaning he was introduced to the Sydney native
Bungaree, who was directed to question the visitor. Bungaree, by signs, invited
him to sit down, an invitation, observes Grant, which, according to native ideas
‘implied that a stranger was received with friendship.' But it was useless to
ask Bungaree to proceed with his enquiries, for another etiquette demanded that
a profound silence should follow, which lasted twenty minutes. By degrees the
two blacks entered into conversation, drawing nearer to one another as they
began to talk. The information sought was not obtained, and it was inferred that
they did not well understand each other's language."
A little over twelve months later Bungaree again went with Flinders, this
time in the Investigator. They sailed on the 21st July 1802 to
examine the north-east coast more carefully than Cook had been able to do;
explore Torres Strait and the East side of the Gulf of Carpentaria. This voyage
was a big event for Bungaree. For if Flinders was the first man to
circumnavigate Australia, as he did on this voyage, Bungaree was surely the
first aboriginal to sail round Australia.
From the “Narrative of a Survey of the Intertropical and Western Coasts
of Australia,” by Captain Phillip Parker King R N. we learn that Bungaree sailed
on one more voyage of exploration, for he accompanied P. P. King on the first
voyage of H.M. Cutter Mermaid. King also mentions Bungaree's good
qualities. After speaking of the establishment of the Mermaid, he
continues- vol. 1, page xxxix: “In addition to this establishment I accepted the
proffered services of Boongaree, a Port Jackson native, who had formerly
accompanied, Captain Flinders in the Investigator, and also on a previous
occasion in the Norfolk. This man is well known in the colony as the
chief of the Broken Bay tribe; he was about 45 years of age, of a sharp,
intelligent and unassuming disposition and promised to be of much service to us
in our intercourse with the natives."
The Mermaid left Port Jackson on the 22nd December 1817. Forced by bad weather to put into Twofold Bay, King landed at Snug Cove. He says- vol. 1, page 4- “Boongaree also accompanied us, clothed in a new dress, which was provided for him, of which he was not a little proud, and for some time he kept it clean."
But there were occasions when policy demanded that for Bungaree the
“dress of the day" should be “negative uniform." On one occasion, King said, be
landed “taking Boongaree with me, divested of his clothes"- vol. 1, page 45.
Though Bungaree was inordinately proud of his uniform it is not recorded that he
raised any objection to the dishabille.
Among other qualifications Bungaree was an expert fisherman. At Oyster
Harbour King says- vol. 1, pp. 15-16- “Boongaree speared a great many fish with
his fiz-gig; one that he struck with his boat hook on the shoals at the entrance
of the Eastern river weighed twenty-two pounds and a half and was 31 feet
Bungaree's bush craft enabled him to find water in places where others
had little success. He seemed also to keep a watchful eye for any signs of
hostile intent on the part of the natives. Here is an instance: “The next day
whilst the people were at dinner Boongaree, whose eyes were constantly directed
towards the shore, espied five natives among the grass, which was so high as to
nearly conceal them, walking towards our wooding place; and, as they proceeded
it was perceived that they had stolen one of our station flags."
King took three more voyages in the Mermaid but as he did not mention
Bungaree it is to be presumed that he did not accompany him on these occasions.
King's last voyage was in the Bathurst, commenced on the 26th May
1821. Bungaree offered his services, but at the very last moment withdrew and
did not go. A little over nine years pass away, and Bongaree is laid to rest at
Rose Bay, Sydney.
And as I finish chapter nine I am thankful to be able to give the
concluding paragraphs of Mr. Thompson's last letter to me in regards to this
“We gather from these records that Bungaree was popular with very many people, not only on account of his facetiousness, but because of his manly bearing. And it is not unfitting that Bongaree, who assisted the Navy in the infancy of the colony, should end his mortal career on Garden Island, which was the early home of the Royal Navy in Australia, and destined to become the nursery of the Royal Australian Navy in the infancy of the Commonwealth. And I suppose Bungaree was proud of his connection with the Royal Navy; and perhaps there was no prouder moment in his life than that in which he donned the full uniform, complete with sword, that was given to him by Sir James Brisbane."
There have been no gathering, no collection, or no compilation of the
words and language of the Moreton Bay natives save perhaps that little to be
seen in Tom Petrie's book. On the three islands: Stradbroke, Moreton and Bribie
there were distinctive vernaculars, different in many parts yet sufficiently
alike to be understood when meeting each other. On Stradbroke particularly,
there was a curious alteration in some words that often caused me to wonder. Two
tribes even but a little distance apart had a different name for an animal or
bird. Like the Maori, and the Polynesians, the letter wording as made from
pronunciation was composed of vowels, making the utterance pleasant to listen
to. In home conversation it was distinctly so, and when seated around the dining
board or table it was almost a charm to hear the merry chatter that always
accompanied. Some of my white friends whose acquaintance I made years ago could
speak, the noon-nuckle language quite fluently. The natives of the largest
islands when not in the presence of the white man spoke in their own tongue. And
even so well as I knew them it was but on rare occasions they spoke
Gradually their own talk is dying out, and in a few years to come it will almost have disappeared. I knew the Stradbroke islanders well, and often have they confided in me their trials and troubles. They looked upon me as a friend, and I knew that they trusted me. And trust to them was everything. To make them a promise, and not keep it was distasteful, and to go back on your word was not forgotten or forgiven. They would tell their friends, if the latter happened, and took a long time to regain caste. Knowing them so well as I did I am now sorry that I cannot speak their language to keep up an uninterrupted conversation. Oft times I would make diary notes, and would jot words and sentences down on my return from bay trips. On revisiting I would place these before my friends, and be corrected I where I was in error. How they enjoyed it, and laughed at my mistakes. Perhaps the wrong utterance of a vowel would completely destroy the intended meaning, and then their merriment would be loud and long. Always did I find them true hearted souls, and I am indeed sorry they are passing altogether away.
What I have now written is completely apart from Bribie the Basket Maker,
that I know. However, the following may not be uninteresting:
Black Cockatoo: Bullum.
Chicken Hawk: Mingel-Mingel.
Flying Fox: Gurranum. Land
Leather Head: Gulcoolung.
Laughing Jackass: Gookgogun.
Pheasant (Swamp): Boon-boon.
Wag Tail: Imgeria-Imgeria.
Cabbage Tree: Mungur Kall.
Cotton Tree: Dulburpin.
Fig Tree: Gunnin.
Gum Tree: Munguree.
Honey Suckle: Bumbaree or Dungil Nut'.
Iron Bark: Jundoor.
Orange Mangrove: Gowenchar.
Silky Oak: Unnagurgunpin.
Tea Tree: Noojoor.
Black Bream: Dungellar.
Carpet Shark: Gunbing.
Diamond Fish: Dulpung.
Johnny Dory: Gunambarag.
King Fish: Deerumbilla.
Pearl Shell: Quampie.
Rock Cod: Goojung.
Sting Ray: Bunkoo.
Black hair: Mugool-gurong.
Bully Frog: Wogull.
Finger Nails: Gillin.
Kanga roo: Murry.
Kangaroo Rat: Woogelpun.
Native Bear: Doombearpee.
Old Man: Begar.
Old Woman: Wullingoor.
Red Hair: Mugool-gowen-gowen.
Woman or Girl: Gin.,
White Hair: Mugool-boopa-bundal.
“where are you going," say Wunnar inter yurranyah.
Growing on the islands of the bay, chiefly Stradbroke and Bribie, there
is to be found a certain fern with a root of a little length that when dried and
opened produces a certain substance which was made by the natives into a powder
resembling flour. This flour in their own rough way was converted, with water,
into what I might term as a very poor substitute for Johnny Cake. In drawing
attention to this I deem it necessary to say something regarding those three
convicts who discovered the river, afterwards named Brisbane, in the year 1823.
It is not necessary to deal with their sad sea journey from the South until they
landed on the ocean side of Moreton Island at the very base of those two high
ridged sand hills somewhere to the south of the island named. The native name of
these white ranges of sand seen from every point of the bay is Gheebellum. After
so landing for much wanted water, these unfortunates were still under the
impression that they were to the southward of Sydney, and continued their
northern pilgrimage. Without detail, briefly their foot journey was this: From
the sand hills they reached the first rocky headland of Cape Moreton‑thence
round to Comboyuro and back on the bay side to Cloherty's.
was here they first encountered the natives, and by them were taken across the
South Passage to Amity Point. When they had left Sydney on the 21st
March 1823 for the Five Islands, about fifty mile on the south of Port Jackson,
they were in search of cedar. Their cutter was a fairly large one, and they had
with them a considerable quantity of provisions, viz., flour, pork, etc., and
the necessary implements for the falling of timber. When wrecked on Moreton
Island much of the provisions and implements came on the beach, and ere they
commenced their long walk they carried with them as much of these provisions,
etc., as they could with comfort do. But this food could not last or ever, so
that when they reached Amity Point They were near to starvation. From this Point
they made Peel Island, across the waters to Ormiston; away up and along the
Brisbane River to Oxley Creek, which they named as Canoe Creek, then on the
northern side away right down to Toorbul Point. Most of this time they were
scarce clothed, natural food had all gone, and they subsisted on such that had
been shown and given them by the natives of Amity. At Toorbul they ended their
wanderings in search of Sydney, determined to, live with the blacks there, and
at Toorbul they were found by Oxley's party.
Pamphlet informed Uniacke they were some weeks at Amity Point, were well
treated by the natives, these bringing them certain food daily, as well as much
fish. The desire to get onward was always manifest. They determined to make a
canoe out of standing timber. They consulted amongst themselves, and decided to
commence this canoe building purpose. Pamphlet's words re this are given to
“We now consulted whether we had better to take one of the canoes (native) by night or endeavour to make one ourselves, and having decided upon the latter, we made choice of a tree, and immediately fell to work to cut it down and form a canoe. We worked from sunrise to sunset for nearly, three weeks, having no other tool but the hatchet, and during the whole time the natives brought us food where we were at work, and likewise left fish in our huts. The fern root from which the rough flour was made by them they called ‘dingowa.'
Throughout their enforced journey of many weeks and right up to the time
they reached the huts and camps of the blacks at Toorbul, it was almost solely
on this fern root they lived. Natives, however, were always to be found on their
march, and from them they learned of the berries that could be eaten with
safety, but fern root was ever their main food. Pamphlet stated that he and his
companions had kept as well as could be done the number of the days of their
tramping, from the time they came ashore on Moreton, and estimated they reached
that place we now know as Toorbul on the 101st day after they had left Sydney.
So we make a calculation. One hundred and one days from the 21st
March- the day they had left Sydney- would take them to the 30th
June. From then until the 29th November, when Oxley found them, would
give them 152 days, equal to five months. The various tribes were kindly
disposed towards the three men, and fed them well. Much of the fern root was
found prepared and eaten. At Amity Point it was named Dingowa, at Bribie
besides this fern root they had been shown other resources for food. There was
that fat, juicy (so am I informed- and I take my coloured friends' word for it-
for I have never tasted it) tree grub known as the “Jubbum." This grub can be
found almost anywhere, chiefly in all eucalyptus trees, wattle, and sometimes
cyprus. Even today, in the year 1937, it is sought for and eaten by the children
of Stradbroke, these children being more than one generation moved from their
sable and darkish forebears.
Bribie and the mainland was a paradise for these coloured race of people.
Kangaroo, Wallaby and many other mammalia were in hundreds. Duck, swans,
pelicans, cormorants were secured by the swirling and circling boomerang. Mullet
came in their seasonal time, as did many other fish, and dugong, weighing up to
half a ton, could be taken by canoe and spear. Blue Mountain parrots,
accompanied by the swift flying greenies, came in the fall of summer, and lazy
life for man could be lived with but little work. Turtle too could be had in the
passages of many waters. Then Parsons, Pamphlet and Finnegan settled down, took
unto themselves, I suppose, lubras of their liking, preferring such freedom and
comfort to the one-time cruel lash when they were numbered amongst the chain
gangs of the coal river at Newcastle. These men were the witnesses of many
tribal encounters, no doubt saw corroborees, and who knows but that in time, had
they not been found, would have lived, and loved, their lives amongst these then
owners of Queensland, possessing, however, no Real Property Office, if we except
the waddy, spear and boomerang. Parsons was away at a Bunya feast when Oxley
appeared on the scene. He turned up some weeks later, and then made his way to
Sydney whither his two pals had gone.
so closes the little work written and entitled by me as, "Bribie the Basket