Bribie Island History – A BOY ON BRIBIE A HUNDRED YEARS AGO Part 1

By Barry Clark, Bribie Island, Historical Society

Bribie Island. History. RONALD PATTERSON. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Australia.

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Tags: Bribie Island. History. RONALD PATTERSON. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Australia.



The Historical Society has recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary and is proud to have created a growing awareness and interest in the rich history of this small island. Over those years we have built a Database of over 300,000 searchable documents relating to Bribie. These include Photos, Films, Maps, Letters, Articles, Newspapers, Books, Interviews, Personal accounts, and Community records.

Featured image(top): Tent Campers Bribie 1922

Last month we launched the book “Bribie Island- A Handy History” providing an overview of the key aspects of Bribie’s past which is now on sale for just $10 at the Museum and from the Historical Society. Two years ago we published a book titled “Describing Bribie Island 1865-1965” as a unique collection of first-hand accounts written by pioneers who visited the island over the hundred years from 1865.

bribie island history books to readOne of the 27 accounts in that book was written by Ronald Patterson about his vivid memories of visits to Bribie in 1900 and 1920. Ron wrote his memories in 1982, at the age of 82, and his daughter Estelle Rashleigh kindly donated the handwritten account to the Historical Society in 2014. It makes fascinating reading and provides a wonderful insight into life here 100 years ago. The remarkable story is being published here in two episodes, with Part 1 in this edition as follows, and the second half in the next edition of the Bribie Islander.

This is a story of my impressions of Bribie Island very often referred to as “The Island in the sun”. I have always thought of this marvelous place as Paradise in the years gone by, and I speak of the early nineteen twenties. The beautiful beaches, the fish, the mud crabs and sand crabs are in abundance, especially in Pumicestone Passage. Before I continue my story, I have no claim to be a literary genius or the necessary qualifications to explain in detail my thoughts.

My only wish is to explain in simple terms what I have seen all through the years. A BOY of 10 YEARS I was ten years old when I first saw Bribie Island (1910). I had an uncle who had a farm in the Beaudesert area. It was decided that he would take me on his proposed trip to Bribie Island, which he expected would take one month. The whole trip was a real hazard and I realised I was taken along to be a real little flunky.

Harness the horses, unharness the horses, hobble them each stop, see to the cooking fire, all sorts of chores. None the less it was quite interesting and to a boy of ten quite exciting. We finally set off on our trip to Bribie Island, it took seven days to reach our destination as I remember. One afternoon he asked me if I would like kangaroo tail soup and a nice steak. I said it sounded good so he said righto Boy (I was known as Boy to my family). He shot a nice plump kangaroo and for tea that evening, what a feast. What that man could do with a kangaroo and making damper, oh boy could he cook. He was a most incredible man.


That night we set up camp at Redcliffe. We had killed five big black snakes that day and shot about ten goannas. That night we were troubled with dingoes and I must say, I wasn’t very happy about it all, however, the night passed by. We set off the next day for Caboolture. The next day we started early and received a number of directions on how to get to Bribie. We got vegetables and fruit that we would require for a week at Bribie. Water was a problem. We filled our containers, six kerosene tins and one wooden flask holding about fifteen gallons.

That night we camped at a creek and saw many huge crabs. The only way we got them was to cut a large forked branch, stripped it free of bark and made it in the fashion of a launching net. We waded out waist deep and we managed to get three large crabs. What a feast we had. Lovely crab meat and fresh damper. We eventually arrived at our destination. We made camp at the spot where the Toorbul boat ramp now stands. We had a good supply of fishing gear and tackle. No gut lines in those days, mostly a black and white linen type of line which proved most effective.

Bribie Island. History. RONALD PATTERSON. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Australia.

Boys on Bribie 1910


That night we had a couple of nice squire fillets. To get bait, mainly Gar and mullet, the method we used was by the aid of a Slasher. It was constructed of a pole about eight foot long and links of chain which was attached to a length of heavy fencing wire about eight feet long. We watched the little inlets on a rising tide teaming with mullet and huge gar. At the right opportunity we brought the slasher down with a mighty swing, stunning gar and mullet, enabling us to pick up all the bait we needed which, as all fishermen would know, fresh bait was the answer.

There were hundreds of dolphins, also dugong in small herds feeding on the seaweed which grew profusely on the bottom of the passage. Shoals of surface fish such as mullet, big schools of tailor, all sizes of mackerel and often we observed large Bonita jumping about feeding on fish of all descriptions. One had to see all this to really believe it all, but take my word it all happened.

We were, unfortunately, unable to get over to the Island, we just could not locate a person with a boat. We were so disappointed we didn’t get over to the Island. After eight days we broke camp and headed for home. This stay was one of my most pleasant experiences of my life and as we left I looked back to Bribie and made a vow I would be back, and back I came in late 1920.


The following few lines before commencing my four years residence on Bribie are not really important, it is really to fill in the gap between 1909 to the year 1920. I had no schooling of any consequence. In the next few years, 13 to 17, I worked on farms and cattle stations. I enlisted for the armed forces at Beaudesert township in 1917, putting my age up. I eventually reached England and camped at Salisbury Plains then on to Brighton on Sea where we were trained for Field Engineers.

I eventually arrived in France just after the battle of Villers Bretonneux when word of the Armistice came through. Prior to leaving Australia we, the last of reinforcements for overseas, were engaged for six months on a rather gruesome job of locating those Australians who died in battle. We dug up and placed them in the various War cemeteries in France and Belgium. We returned to Australia in September 1919 and were discharged.


I suppose all my life I have been a rebel one way or another. I have a definite feeling about life in general and I will not have any form of standover tactics, as a kid, as a soldier, as a worker, now or in the future. I have a very definite dislike to such tactics. Soldiering days, jobs I have had in my time, quite responsible positions I have had all through my life, my understanding of a fair go and to my knowledge been a fighter for the underdog. I am now almost 82 years of age. I consider I know all about hardship and always to the end a real down to earth battler.


I want to mention especially the arrival of the Christmas Eve crowds as the ships approached the blinker at the entrance of Pumicestone Passage. All ships brilliantly lit up and horns blasting away as they approached their berth at the Bribie Jetty. People from everywhere flocked to the jetty to welcome their Mums and Dads, brothers and sisters, friends, all calling out to one another, what a joyous occasion it was. Any wonder I called this my Island of paradise.

Many nights we had sing songs on the jetty. Dancing in the hall which was situated first where the water tower is, adjacent to Bribie Bowls Club. I eventually reached my goal in late 1920, my Island of Paradise. I met up with Jack Creber one of the finest fishermen I have ever known, and others, Peter Rich (known as the groper King), Bob Goldener and Banner Beany, they were the fishing crew of my netting adventures. Whilst engaged in fishing, I had a lot of spare time.

Bribie Island. History. RONALD PATTERSON. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Australia.

KOOPA Leaving Bribie

I helped the Davies’ family in their boarding house and café, which was situated on the piece of land adjacent to the jetty. I prepared vegetables, opened oysters and other odd jobs in between. I had all of my meals free. The Davies family lived in Banya Street and he had a hedge cut out of pine trees and along the top he cut and trimmed the figures of kangaroo and emu. It was known as the “Novelty Gardens” and was a thing of beauty for the many hundreds of visitors to the Island.

Bribie Island. History. RONALD PATTERSON. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Australia.

Novelty Garden 1933

Bob Davies, the son, used to wheel a cart about, rubber wheels and built of wire mesh. He sold groceries, soaps, toothpaste, all sorts of things. He rang a bell and his cry was “Good Morning Lady, have you used Pears soap this morning?” He was a real character. I also helped the Tug Company’s Caretaker, Mr. Bill Freeman, his father, his son, and grandfather were well-known fishermen and crabbers. I helped him in taking to ropes and securing them off the Koopa and Doomba and I helped in the storehouse on the jetty which had rail lines from the edge of wharf to the end of jetty, used for loading goods, buildings, tanks, cement and all sorts of materials used for building, plus visitors’ luggage.

Many times I prepared and aired various houses, for the many friends I had, even had their stoves going for a cup of tea. Holiday times my fishing friends and I erected tent poles for many of my friends, even had heaps of firewood ready for them. I have seen up to 500 tents erected from the toilets near the little bridge up to the jetty and beyond. A real city of tents, especially at Christmas time.


I also took on a job of cutting palings from Cyprus trees, about 2000 in all divided between the storekeepers. Hall and Bestman which was just where the Super Value store is today (corner Toorbul and First Ave), and also a small store run by Jim Ormiston which carried a nickname of Anthony Horden’s store. Jim had quite a number of houses to let and sold quite a lot of allotments of ground around the 10-20- 30 pounds.

It is incredible to think back and see the prices today (1982) are seven thousand up to thirty and even forty thousand dollars on today’s ruling prices. When I look back and remember around about twenty-five houses plus three Boarding Houses. Just over the creek next to where the Caravan Park is now situated, there would be no more than four houses. The rest, way up as far as Banksia Beach, all tea tree swamps and thick scrub, hundreds of kangaroos and very many emus.

Bribie Island. History. RONALD PATTERSON. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Australia.

Ormiston’s Store 1920’s

The bird life all over the Island was truly amazing. The waters in the passage, there were egrets, cranes of various names and black swans by the hundreds, even a couple of eagles. They had their large nests mostly in dead trees, also plenty of Seahawks and up towards the lagoon on the main (surf) beachside several families of bower birds and other species too numerous to mention. Around the Gallagher Point area and up to Poverty Creek there were numerous cattle around, owned mainly by a man, I think it was Mr. Landers.


One has really to see it all happening. Hundreds of people coming for this Christmas break and the arrival of the Koopa, the Doomba and the Beaver and at times the Greyhound, a tug, all owned by the Brisbane Tug Co who also owned the jetty and surrounding areas including about 12 fisherman’s huts let at five shillings per week and two and six for weekends. Almost everyone had marvelous catches of all types of fish. It was a real fisherman’s paradise.

After the ships berthed side by side people by the hundreds, anxious to get cracking erecting their tents, others to the boarding houses, holiday houses and others with their private homes and almost all, particularly the campers, worked on through the night almost till daylight.

Bribie Island. History. RONALD PATTERSON. Queensland. Moreton Bay. Australia.

Camping on Bribie 1922

The following night was a sight to behold. Hundreds of tents, carbide lights were the popular means of lighting. An occasional tilly lamp, although a novelty in that particular year (1921- 1922). The lit up tents, the campfires in the evenings was a sight worth seeing. All so friendly and jovial. I knew very many fine people. Brawls there were none. All the people wanted was a good time and an exciting holiday. Believe me, they all had it.

Ron Patterson 1982


This is a logical point to end Part One of Ron Patterson’s wonderful memories, which will be continued in the next publication when he falls in love, gets married, experiences the “Depression” and great changes on Bribie over the years. The Historical Society has monthly public meetings 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, and you can see many more photos and articles on our Blog Site at or contact us on [email protected]

Read part 2

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