Pattersons 1920’s Bribie
In the last edition, you may have read the first part of Ron Patterson remarkable memories as a young boy visiting Bribie in 1910. If you did not read it perhaps you should because this article is the second part of his story about life on Bribie in the 1920s.
Two years ago the Historical Society published a book titled “Describing Bribie Island 1865-1965” as a collection of first-hand accounts by visitors to the island over the hundred years from 1865. The Society Database Coordinator Donna Holmes selected 27 stories giving a special insight to what life was like back then on Bribie Island. The book is for sale from the Historical Society or at the Seaside Museum.
One of the 27 stories in that book are the vivid memories of Ronald Patterson who came to live on Bribie in 1920. We are so fortunate that Ron wrote his memories in 1982, 62 years later at the age of 82, and died two years later in 1984. His daughter Estelle Rashleigh kindly donated his handwritten account to the Historical Society in 2014.
The first part of his wonderful Bribie boyhood adventures was published in the last edition, and his story now continues from 1922 when he falls in love on, and with, Bribie Island…
Featured image(above): Bribie Experimental Farm 1920’s
In LOVE ON, and WITH, Bribie Island in1920’s RON PATTERSON-
BORN 1900, WRITTEN 1982 AGED 82, DIED 1984
About this time I met my wife at a dance. I was ready to go out for a nights netting with the crew way up Donnybrook way. I was in my fishing clothes. I must have been a real sight, almost burnt black. I felt so embarrassed at the time, but my wife, later on, I am sure, understood. We wrote regularly to one another. We became engaged in midyear of 1925.
We were married on the 15th January 1926 at a church in the Valley, Brisbane. We, the Bribie fishing crew, four of us, took a job on a State Government affair called an “Experimental Farm” on an area about ten acres situated just where the sports ground now is, on the right side of the road to Woorim. We all worked with a will. I will digress for a while. Mr. Freeman and son came down to the jetty during the time the Koopa was in, selling fish filleted for one and sixpence a pound and good mud crabs for two and two and six each.
The Freeman family have for many years fished and crabbed all the Bribie Passage area, as well as Ningi, Elimbah, Coochin creeks. They went for almost seventy years a great achievement. They were all very good fellows.
BIG FISH STORY
Now to a story that has caused a lot of nasty talk, an episode of my stay on Bribie. A man named Peter did catch over the years quite a few big gropers from 100 up to 350 pounds. Also, old Alf Shields did quite a lot of catching quite a big groper. The biggest one caught was 487 pounds, claimed by Peter, is rather open to question and this is my honest straight down the line account of what happened.
Groper catch at Bongaree Jetty 1920s
We were netting around South Point this particular night and spoke about bait for the groper line. We got back to the jetty and I went up to our tent and got two groper lines, we baited one with two sand crabs, the other with a fair sized stingray. Peter said he was going to make a cup of tea. He was away some twenty minutes when all of a sudden bang and bang again. This huge groper had taken both baits.
I felt lines making sure he was hooked. I raced up to the tent and told him what had happened. He abused me and asked why it took me so long to let him know. We gathered up the boys and it took almost three hours to get this enormous fish free. He took the lines over cross beams, around piles, we finally beached it about 4 a.m. We all hoisted it up on the jetty rail and about 7 a.m. a few photos were taken.
I claim to this day I played a very big part in catching this monster, but Peter claimed in the press interview he was the one that did the job.
MAYOR OF BONGAREE
One amusing part of life I would like to relate before closing. I have mentioned before Banner Beany. We decided on New Year’s Eve (1923 I think), we made him Lord Mayor of Bongaree. We adorned him with a robe made of a blanket with tufts of cotton wool, made a hat of brown paper, hung some trace chains from a horse’s harness and we set off on our procession with an accordion, a kettle drum and a couple of kerosene tins, a couple of tin whistles.
It was quite comical the whole affair. When writing a story one finds so much to write about and needs a lot of concentration. Here are a few interesting items. There were many people to obtain fresh bait for a spot of night fishing. The favourite way of many was to very slowly row a boat parallel with the water’s edge with a bright light usually a carbide gas light placed on a centre seat, one would have to row about a hundred yards and you have all the bait you needed, mullet, gar, yellowtail hardy heads would jump into the boat.
That doesn’t happen anymore. One would row a mile now and never see one single bait. Quite a number of people desired to fish at night and all along the main channel many various types of fish were caught usually in the 2, 3 up to 20-pound range, were caught almost nightly. Of course, tides and the right reasonable calm weather was helpful. The Pumicestone channel can cut up real nasty in a matter of minutes. It is most essential one must know what it’s all about especially at night and an ebbing tide. My motto is when in Doubt Don’t Venture Out.
Groper catch at Bongaree Jetty
TRUE FISH STORIES
These comments and stories I am about to quote are just plain honest truthful stories. I see no advantage what so ever to be untruthful. I have followed that principle right through my writing of my observations and wide experience. Another unknown factor has been the great numbers of valuable rods gone overboard due to big fish grabbing the bait and off at terrific speed, mainly snapper, mackerel, kingfish and the occasional shark that are all around Deception Bay, the sunken reef, Cooks Rocks and up the Passage almost to Caloundra.
I would say without hesitation that hundreds of rods are in the deep waters. As for lost anchors, there must be hundreds lost over the years going back as far as 1912 through to the early forties. These are all authentic happenings. Fishing in the last ten years (1972-1982) has slowly diminished to an alarming degree and these days are just hopeless due to a great number of factors which I have studied most closely and in the concluding stages of my story, I intend to give my thoughts and reasons for the very poor state and reasons for the decline in fish numbers so that the residents and visitors to Bribie can read about it.
I have seen for a number of years the Koopa leaving with rows of really good quality fish hanging all around the bridge deck, their backbones salted in an endeavour to get home with catches in the hope their family can have a feed of freshly caught fish. Even today (1982) one only needs to make a visit to the jetty and listen to a few old-timers discussing the fish of years gone by. I am a silent listener.
Crowd awaiting the arrival of the bay steamer(above)
Fish taken back on Koopa(below)
FISH RINGING HAUL
Here is something of interest to the older and younger people of Bribie. In my netting days, there were some of the finest fishermen on the coast. Sam and Wally Buckley, Bill Leo and our team. The idea was known as ringing. This method of netting was strenuous and hard work and the spot usually used was an area between Cooks Rocks and the sunken reef. We anchored a main net boat and two other boats out off in opposite directions playing out net measuring twelve hundred to fifteen hundred yards, forming a large circle.
This maneuver was worked about the almost top tide. When nets met to complete the circle, the ends were joined. When ready, we all got to work hauling, about ten or twelve men were involved, three patrolling the outer circle the rest at the main boat, hauling all the time, closing the circle. When this work was almost completed, the water had subsided with the ebb tide. By the time the circle of the net was closed we were able to fork the fish into the boat using a wide gravel fork.
The result was an average of three to six hundred cases of fish of all descriptions. Big whiting, stacks of bream, flathead, an odd shark, usually a dog shark about two feet six. Sand crabs in hundreds, most of them bashed to pieces as most of them were so badly meshed and tangled it would take hours to free them. Plenty of rubbish catfish, eels, many species much too small, an odd turtle and sometimes sea snakes.
Fish Ring Net Haul
By this time Leo and the Buckleys were on the way to Scarborough to unload the catch onto trucks going to the fish board all packed in ice. The rest of us cleaned up the nets and strung them on the beach adjacent to the canning works jetty. This whole operation took about seven to nine hours.
A point of interest to you readers, all over this area there were thousands of cockles, periwinkles and hundreds of nasty shells called razorbacks that had a sharp point buried in the sand about six inches protruding out some two to four inches with an oval shape. The edges of those shells were extremely sharp. I know of a case of a visitor jumping out of a boat in a couple of feet of water and almost cut off his five toes.
Further over from the sunken reef toward what is now known as Caboolture channel, there was always a herd of Dugong feeding. They dug up the seaweed with their snout very similar to a pig’s snout, those Dugong like young shoots and roots of seaweed.
Dugong catch Bribie
Another interesting point in this area, there were quite a number of pearl shells. They are not large but I was fortunate to obtain three or four, getting 20 pounds twice, 35 twice and one about the size of a pea, a sky blue in colour.
I got 50 pounds, quite a lot of money in those days. I got a lot of smaller ones which I gave to my fiancé who became my wife. I think it was an aspro bottle full. In those days the Sunken Reef and Cooks Rocks were rumoured to be top class fishing, big squire and snapper, and other species and the only pest was plenty of Wobbie Gong Sharks sometimes called carpet sharks. The only catch fishing in this area were mostly southeasters, it was pick up and get out. No outboards in those days just the plain old rowing boat.
Fish and Oyster Kiosk at Jetty
WORK HARD TO GET
Shortly after leaving the Island I found work extremely hard to find. I managed to get a little casual work at the Woolstores on the wharf in Brisbane. I finally got a job driving a Fiat truck for a skin and hide store. I was married 15 January 1926 and crash, the firm I worked for closed down, only a week after my marriage.
The next ten years of unemployment was a nightmare, try as I did, no sign of constant work, so I did all sorts of things, traveled all over Queensland and eventually retired in 1962 at the age of 63.
BRIBIE 40 YEARS LATER
I returned to Bribie Island in January 1967 and was really surprised at what I saw. Buildings going up fast, the terrible erosion taking place, particularly the sand dunes in the Woorim area and more so in the area of South Point. The residents of Bribie today (1982) have no conception of the enormous amount of erosion that has occurred since the early twenties. Almost half a mile of dunes and beaches have gone into the sea and as a consequence, all of that sand has moved into the passage, almost to Toorbul.
I know of very many deep holes that were from twenty to a hundred feet deep. Today those same places would be lucky to have eight feet of water at low tide. Many old-timers on the Island would remember the canning works jetty just past where the IGA store is now.
BRIBIE CHANGED SO MUCH
In 1920 to 1930 straight off the ledge and jetty at low tide, there would be 20 to 30 feet of water. Today you can walk out fifty yards to throw a line into the channel. To one who claims to know this Island as I do, the result of erosion is almost impossible to imagine but there it is in pure simple facts. Between 1926 and 1962 we had many pleasant holidays in those years but the time has come when this wonderful life of fishing has come to an end and my eyesight has gone and I can’t even see to change gear.
As I conclude this story I never had the slightest idea of becoming boring. I have to the very best of my ability been very truthful in telling my story and I have sorted out what I thought to be the most interesting I hope that those that are interested enjoy it.
Ron Patterson, Boulevard, Bongaree. 1982
REFLECTIONS OF THE PAST
I hope you have enjoyed reading Ron’s very personal memories of Bribie. Most readers would not be old enough to remember the Depression or War Years, just how wonderful fishing was back then, or the extent of erosion that has taken place…….but it is worth reflecting on just how different life is today.
Before the next publication, I am planning to meet with Ron Patterson’s daughter Estelle and hope to bring you some photos of Ron and aspects of his life story. We have captured many such stories in our Book “Describing Bribie Island” which is for sale for $25 from the Historical Society or at the Seaside Museum.
Some of these very personal accounts go back as far as 1865 when there were only indigenous people living peacefully on Bribie Island, and white visitors were very rare. We have also just published “Bribie Island –A Handy History” which will be of interest to all residents and visitors. For just $10 it provides a great summary and many photos of the key aspects of Bribie’s past.
The Historical Society holds monthly public meetings in the ANZAC room at the RSL Club on the second Wednesday of each month commencing at 6:30 pm. with interesting guest speakers on a wide range of topics. You can see many more photos and articles on our Blog Site at http://bribieislandhistory.blogspot.com or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org