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
Yes, 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
In 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.
But 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
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
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 Flinders.
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 manner:
“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 lady."
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 strain:
Chief of Ulva's Isle
And this Lord Ullin's daughter."
It 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.
But I am anticipating.
I 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
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 book:
“At 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.
Not 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 waters.
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 warmth.
From Maroochy and Bribie they came, that unnamed place as yet,
some by the calling of Pumice Stone.
Let us see what Oxley and Uniacke had written of this
Pumice Stone tribe as far back as 1823.
“The 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
How 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?"
She 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
Another day they met and passed each other with
encouraging looks. Their “mil" (eyes) beamed satisfactorily
and returned pure love.
The 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
But 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.
The 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
No 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 bay
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
Now 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 1815.
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.
Is 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
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."
Now 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?
Some 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
“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.
I 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 towards Moreton.
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.
Let 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 Deception
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.
One 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.
Here 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
Is 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."
Here 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.
From 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 diary:
“We anchored on the west side of the bay."
This 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 “Skirmish."
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.
Who, may I ask, gave the name of Bribie Nose to any
portions of the southern end?
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.
The 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.
The 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.
The following is the exact wording on this too surely
original and correct chart:
“Map of the Colony of
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
Contemporaneous writings accompanying it prove to me
that the chart was compiled in 1861.
In 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.
It 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 good
John 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:
“So 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
With 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
John 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
“I 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
BRIBIE THE ISLAND
FIRST VISIT BY WHITES
Who 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.
A 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
“Under the lee of this Point Lieutenant James Cook
landed on the 24th May, 1770."
So 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.
He then proceeded on his southern bay voyage,
reaching Karra Garra, between McLeay and Russell Islands. On
the 22nd July he returned to Pumice Stone River.
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
Lest I forget, the native tribe of Bribie were, cannibals, and were known by the title of “Joondoobarrie."
Yes. 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.
The 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.
He 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.
In 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 named.
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
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.
To 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.
“To 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.
“I 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.'
“Do 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
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
He, 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.
I am 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.
It 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 Caloundra.
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
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
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.
The reason 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 shown 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
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 recompensive.
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.
When 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.
On 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.
On 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.
Why 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.
No 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
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.
The 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
Many 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.
Miss 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 175.
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.
“The 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
“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 him up.’
“On 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."
Yes. 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 perfect confidence.
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.
And 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
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.
Of 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.
It 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.
For 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.
And 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
To 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.
Mr. 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.
When 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."
Just 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
Here 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.
For 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!
When 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 commence:
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.
Over 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 poor.
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
On 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 Mackay.
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.
From 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 to Stradbroke.
Opposite Glass Mountain Creek on the mainland is
“R.232 Reserve for Camping. For the use of Licensees of Oyster
I do 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 they?
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 estate.
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.
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.
Let 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.
We 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 Company.
We 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.
We are now approaching the Parish of Beerwah, pass by
Long Island, mangroves thereon, until we reach Coochin Creek.
This 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.
In 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 company.
I remain, however, with the name of Landsborough
trickling adown my pen handle, and of him I give a little
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 Cemetery.
A 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
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.
In 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.
In 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?
On 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:
“I take off my hat to the Pioneers."
And, 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.
The 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."
And 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
The 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, 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.
The 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,
What 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.
I 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
The 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.
I 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 it paid.
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.
The 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.
The 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.
It 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
THE TOWN OF WOORIM
For most of this chapter I am indebted to Mr. Main.
When 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.
It 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.
The 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.
It 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
The 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 stopped.
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
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
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 leaves it.
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
The 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 pocket.
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 Tuesdays.
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.
All 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.
It 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.
On 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 safety.
This 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 have been.
So, 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."
Then 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
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.
If 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."
I 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 too pleasing.
“Set 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
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 Queen's.
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 were closed.
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 Mavis.
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 Caloundra.
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
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. Bestman.
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 material
original 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
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
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.
This 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
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.
The 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.
Here they are:
Artemus Ward, Rip, Charm,
Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Harrie,
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).
Also 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.
The 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.
This 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.
It 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,"
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.
Fish 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
A 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
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 it is:
“The Beaches in
“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.
Mr. 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 all."
Is that not a tribute, you Caloundra-ites?
In 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.
Caloundra lay 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
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
I 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:
“Has 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
On a memorial tablet in St. James Church, Sydney, can
be seen at the terminal part of the wording:
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."
I 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
So having gathered more valuable information re the
volatile Bongaree I have decided to give him a chapter on his
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.
The “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."
The 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
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.
In a 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
As 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."
On 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."
That 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 school.
“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:
“How 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 tribe."
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 me.
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
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
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 long."
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 native Bongaree.
“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 otherwise.
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
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.
Jew Fish: Bigoon.
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.
For “where are you going," say Wunnar inter
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.
It 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 Uniacke:
“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
And 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.
And so closes the little work written and entitled by
me as, "Bribie the Basket Maker."