Bribie Island History

By Barry Clark Bribie Island Historical Society

queensland history

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Bribie Island Bridge under construction(above)

Tags: Bribie Island. History. Queensland History. Nostalgia. Historical Society

The following item of “Nostalgia” was first written by Ted Clayton back in 2004 and is one of several documents he has shared with me recording his memories of Bribie Island. Ted has over 80 wonderful and challenging years of memories to look back on and has lived on the island since he married in 1954.

Ted and Pat Clayton are one of the “50+ years on Bribie” pioneers that I had commemorated on a plaque in Brennan Park. Ted’s parents Ernie and Marion met on Bribie Island in the1920’s when they had rental properties and lived most of their time here until 1984.

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50+ residents plaque(left) and Ted Clayton Fishing World cocer 1979(right).

Ted grew up in Brisbane but spent much of his early childhood on family holidays on Bribie, attending the Primary School for periods during the 1940’s. In 1954 Ted married Patricia and they came to live on Bribie in a house Ted built himself at No.11 South Esplanade.

As a carpenter, Ted did contract building work and together they ran a bait and tackle store. Their family of three daughters and a son grew up on the island. During the construction of the Bribie Island Bridge in the early 1960’s Ted was the General Foreman.

Ted Clayton was also one of the islands most renowned fishermen and from 1970 wrote regular articles about fishing, and became a regular contributor and field editor for “Fishing World” for over 20 years.

Ted’s articles about fishing around Bribie Island created nation-wide interest. There is not a square inch of Bribie Island that Ted has not explored in his 80 years roaming the island. In 1990 Ted and Pat moved from South Esplanade Bongaree, to live a quieter life at Whitepatch.

The following document is one of several that Ted has written to document and share some of his memories of Bribie Island, and I hope to bring you more of his great memories in the months ahead.



Fifty years ago when Pat and I were married we settled permanently on Bribie. The Place was paradise – there is no other description for it. Making a living was a starvation pastime but that was the only drawback. In my Batchelor days, I worked in the scrub in North Queensland. My parents had more use for my spare cash than I did and they repaid the favour with an allotment in South Esplanade. To make it vacant I had to move a small house that was on it to the back of the allotment to the south. My parents owned that block. It already had one house on the front.

It was my first house move and I undertook it with more guts than brains. Looking back I wonder at my parent’s feelings. It was their house and they had a lot at stake. You are a bit thoughtless when you are young. My partner and I moved a couple of big houses from block to block with the Council tree puller. A bit of sherbet could get you that. There was no dirt for filling on the Island but sometimes a truck would conveniently break down outside the job.

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Ted & Pat Clayton Show photos Jan 2018

All perfectly good-natured. Life was a bit simpler then. The process with the houses was to jack them up – put longitudinal timbers on the stumps then place some more crosswise. The faces of both of these where they met were liberally rubbed with laundry soap (‘Velvet’). The tree puller was attached to the house and once the thing moved the timbers glazed and went quite well. There was a bit more to it than that of course. One had one-metre stumps that were rotten and as soon as we started pulling half of them snapped and we had to get under it to salvage things.

I was very fit – I built our house in my spare time in twelve months. We had no floor coverings or curtains, we bathed in a basin. The Rentons were next door and both houses survived on 1,000-gallon tanks. The Renton’s system, in the kitchen sink, was to wash themselves, wash the kids, wash the dishes then do the laundry. I made our furniture at night at a workbench in the main room.

The Council would have a fit these days but no one thought it odd at the time. The toilet was a thunderbox out the back. Pat accepted it all in good spirit. The best advantage was the position. In front, we had a pristine beach where one could swim and sunbake. Our children grew up with that. You could not put a price on it. Going fishing was as easy as crossing the road and stepping into a dinghy.

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Ted Clayton + big fish

The roads on the Island were simply wheel tracks in the sand. That was South Esplanade – two-wheel tracks. There was not a shovelful of road gravel anywhere. Early on we had a special Island Registration fee for our vehicles. In theory, they couldn’t get onto the mainland. Mostly we bought old ‘bombs’ that couldn’t run on main roads. One, I forget the make, needed an eighteen-inch piece of flooring jammed between the gear lever and the dash panel to keep it in top gear.

It had no brakes at all. You turned off the ignition coming into a corner and turned it on again as you came out. I had one vehicle, a Dodge Six, that had as much guts as any four-wheel drive that I have ever driven. Its failing was the steering box. It took about six turns of the wheel to have any effect.

On a bush track, you had a very active time. I used to drive it through the scrub to Dux Creek chasing mud crabs. That area is where Bellara now stands but in those days it was a very pretty marshy place with a lovely freshwater creek running through it. The old Dodge would chug through across a ‘corduroy’ of logs and up a greasy slope on the other side as easy as you like. One of my most respectable was a Chev, 1934 I think, that I bought in Brisbane for the equivalent of fifty dollars.

It was fully registered, I even took it on the mainland once. Today’s car buffs would cry. We did some shocking things to some lovely old cars but they were cheap and all that we could afford. I once went to Brisbane car shopping with my building partner. He finally found one out near Mt. Gravatt. It was a Rugby in immaculate showroom condition – hood, upholstery, the lot. He got it for the usual fifty bucks. I drove it back to Bribie. The barge was running by then.

We took a hacksaw and cut it off behind the front seat down to the chassis. Everything but the front seat was thrown into the scrub. He fixed some rough hardwood on the chassis and called it a utility. It lasted three years. One of the jobs that I took on for a while was a while was driving an eight-ton Bedford truck for the Rentons. Driving to the Darra Cement Works for cement was one task.

A bit hairy because at first, I had no idea how to get there. Cement had the advantage of being warm. If I missed the last barge I would crawl under the tarp and go to sleep. I have told you that gravel for building was worth a fortune on the Island in the early days. I later did trips to S&S Gravel at the Pine River for gravel. What one was allowed to put on a truck was foreign to us all. ‘As much as it could carry’. It certainly never occurred to me that anyone would give you more gravel than you paid for.

I paid at the office for the load and they directed me to an excavator that would load it. I stood back and watched. After a while, the operator looked at me and raised his hands and his eyebrows. Apparently, it was up to me to say when. I got to the gate and the mob in the office had a talk. The portable scales were working somewhere so they told me to take a dirt back road to avoid them. Things went OK until I reached a very steep hill and didn’t have enough power to get over it.

All that I could see half a kilometre back down the track was a very rickety and narrow bridge. Fortunately, I had Pop with me. I stood on the brakes, pulled on the handbrake, turned the motor off in gear and got Pop to put some big rocks under the wheel. Then I got into it with a shovel and put a pile of it into the gutter. You live and learn. Another choice run was to Attewell’s sawmill at Caboolture for timber.

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Ted & Pat Clayton July 2017

Again you simply loaded all that you could get on. The long stuff piled up on either side of the cabin until you needed to be a snake to get into the seat. I had to back it down onto the barge and at low tide and that was a spooky business. Another job that I took on for money was an eviction out at Woorim. The tenant wouldn’t get out. It required someone to stay full time on the front verandah for three days. I knew the bloke vaguely and he took it quite well. The inside of the place was a complete pigsty.

I put in a price and got the job of erecting steel towers along the Ocean Beach for the Coordinator Generals Department, and I also renovated one of the old navigation lights at the top end of the Island. I put the lookout cabin on top of A.P.M’s. (Australian Paper Mill) one-hundred-foot fire tower. Most of it got put together on the ground and was lifted by a crane but I did the finishing touches hanging on like a fly. Anything for a quid.

Ted Clayton

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A highly successful sales and leadership career working in a number of different and very competitive industries. Engaging with decision makers at all levels in business and government. Three decades employed by corporations, SME businesses in senior roles and almost twelve years operating as a freelance contractor has equipped me well for all aspects of business. Whether leading and mentoring sales teams, or in a direct sales role I enjoy the challenge to meet and exceed expectations. Making a real and tangible difference in either a team environment or as an individual is an important personal goal I have consistently achieved throughout my career. In all of my business and personal dealings over the years there is one issue that stands out above all others - communication. Excellent communication skills creates trust, helps with mutually beneficial outcomes and above all cements long lasting positive relationships. I strive everyday to communicate effectively with the people I encounter.