History – Bribie’s FIRST ELECTRICITY

Barry Clark - Bribie Island Historical Society

History. Historical buildings. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Brisbane. Queensland. Australian.-1

    [top dis] => 
    [bottom dis] => 

Tags: History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian

This is a delightful story about the building of a holiday cottage on Bribie Island in 1946, and the coming of the first mains Electricity to Bribie Island in 1954. That was 66 years ago…. so just think about all the “things” that people did not have before electricity came.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)The residents of Bribie Island had been requesting the Government to provide a mains electricity supply to the island for several years. In 1945 the Southern Electric Authority of Queensland sent three Engineers to meet the Bribie Island Progress Association and report its findings on the question as to whether a supply of electricity to Bribie Island was warranted. Keith Price was one of the Engineers who travelled from Brisbane to Bribie Island on the Steamship Doomba to attend the meeting at Bongaree.

Their wives went with them and had a picnic whilst the meeting was in progress. This was my introduction to Bribie Island. After the meeting, the woodman of the Island took all of us for a ride around on his truck. There were no made roads along the front of the passage, just dirt tracks, and we could only go North as far as where the I.G.A. store now stands.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)
Postcard Bongaree 1950’s

It was just bumpity bump, bumpity bump and we were certainly glad to get off. However, the Committee’s report was against mains supply being extended to the Island as the estimated revenue would be insufficient to cover the cost of the cross-passage cables, etc… So nothing was done about it at that time.


During a conversation with Arthur Winston, the local Storekeeper at Bongaree, we heard that he would be selling some of his property North of Bongaree where he and his family had a tobacco farm which had not come up to expectations. During 1946 my husband Keith saw an advertisement offering the land for sale.

He rang Arthur Winston who invited him to go down and have a look at it, offering a house that he owned to us for the weekend. We went down, and Keith arose early in the morning and took a walk along the beach, leaving me in bed asleep. When I awoke and heard the scampering of the opossums in the ceiling.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (4)
Aerial view Bongaree 1948

And imagined all sorts of wild animals being up there. Keith came back and reported that he had seen hundreds of yabbies, and being a very keen fisherman he was very interested. Of course, at that time yabby pumps had not come on to the market – you had to dig holes, then get down on your knees and scrape the yabbies out of the holes which was pretty hard work.

Later in the day, we set off to look for the land being sold, but all we could see was a dense forest. However, we saw a big black woman on the veranda of a house and recognised her as Lottie, Tom Welsby’s cook. She recognised us, and after we told her the reason for our being there, she called out to Charlie next door, who was cultivating beautiful carnations and asked him to take us down to the land.

When we were on the beach in front of the allotment all we could see was dense forest studded with beautiful trees. We scrambled through the bush and found the allotment which Arthur Winston had mentioned, and found a swamp in front of it, which we filled in by hard labour after we bought it.


We bought the allotment on which “Kiama” now stands for 50 Pounds. The sale prices were controlled by the Treasury Dept. and Arthur Winston had to sell the front allotments at not more than 50 Pounds, and back allotments at 30 and 25 Pounds. Our first Council rates were 3 Pounds a year.

We decided when Keith had built our cottage we would call it “Kiama”, after a coastal town on the way to Melbourne, where we always swam in the pool cut out if the natural rocks near a big blow-hole. It is an aboriginal name meaning ‘Good fishing grounds’ which was very apt at that time. The first stage was clearing of the land, and then Keith calculated the amount of timber required, and purchased it from Redcliffe.

It was delivered by boat and left on beach and Keith had to carry it up to the site. He erected a tent in the back yard and the two us went to Bribie on the Steamship most week-ends whilst he was building the cottage.


Whilst Keith was building, he dug a hole in the back for water, which we pulled up by bucket on a long rope, complete with many huge green frogs. Afterwards, when we got the electricity, he put in the spear pump and water tank. Then we got the town water and the pump proved very useful for the garden and lawn.

Once the building was finished Keith built a dinghy for himself, and each weekend we would drive over a very bad road from Caboolture to Toorbul Point on a Friday night and hire a boat, and Keith would row across. Some nights were very rough and I was always thankful when we reached the Island.

I was then left at ‘Kiama”, with only a kerosene lamp, whilst Keith towed the hired boat back to the owner. All I could hear were the kangaroos hopping around the cottage the whole time until Keith got back.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)
Kiama Cottage


When the car ferry barge started operating after the War we would sometimes ring Mr.Tesch from Caboolture if we were running late on Friday night, and he would have the barge at the Point when we got there. We very often had to wait in a queue for hours on the return trip, Easter Monday being the worst day, there always being a queue of cars waiting five hours or more before getting on to the barge.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)
Car Ferry

We solved it by taking the car over at daybreak and carrying remaining luggage over later. During the first years, our near neighbours were Fegan, Blacklegs, Butterworth, Stanley, Robert, Marr and Hermes, who built cottages they named Faux Pas, Fegans’ Folly, and Blacklegs’ Blunder.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)
Fegans Folly


On New Year’s Eve, we always had a big bonfire on the beach and every child had to give an item, which they did willingly. What parties they were! Good clean fun. One year the theme song was “Goodnight Irene”, another “I’ve got a beautiful bunch of coconuts” and so on. In that era, most of the fishing was done in front just off the beach and we could see the snapper and sweetlips being pulled out of the water into the boats.

It was not out of the ordinary to catch three or four big fish weighing from 12 lbs. to 24 lbs. during a weekend. The reason for the big fish being so close to the shore was that the Americans, when camping during the war years had a swimming pool in front of “Kiama” which they enclosed with arc mesh and the big fish were feeding on the weed which had accumulated on the mesh. Keith and others built fences from some of the mesh, and fishermen lost quite a few anchors by snagging on it.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)


One weekend friends and I were sitting at kitchen table cleaning crabs for lunch and boning fish for fish cakes, the men being away fishing, when we heard a loud scraping noise presumably coming from behind kitchen dresser. I went outside to see if anything was scratching the sidewall but found nothing.

The scratching continued louder and louder so we all moved to the other side of the dresser with all eyes on the dresser. We all screamed and scrambled out of the window until a neighbour arrived and wanted to know what we were doing. He got on a chair and peered down the back of the dresser, then jumped off quick and said “It’s a goanna trying to get away from there, and it’s the biggest b….. I’ve ever seen. Get me a gaff”.

The goanna was apparently living under the pile of trees left on the front footpath, crept into the house during the night, took a fancy to a basket of eggs on top of the dresser and fell down at the back of the dresser.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)FERGUSON AVENUE:

The street beside the cottage in those days was only a winding sand track with a swamp gully running through it. Years later we were invited to give a name to the Street beside our “Kiama”, and I decided it should be named “Ferguson Ave.”, that being Keith’s middle name. Much later the Council officially gave it that name and erected a sign.

History. Bribie Island. Moreton Bay. Queensland. Australian (1)
Cable to Bribie 1953


From 1947, we came to stay in “Kiama” on most weekends and holidays. Keith kept telling his Manager at Southern Electricity Authority how great it was and how the resident and holiday population was increasing on the Island. In the early 1950’s the S.E. Authority asked Keith to prepare another report on mains Electricity for Bribie, and draw up a specification for a cross-passage electricity supply cable and call tenders, which Keith joyfully did.

Eventually, Keith recommended the best tender to the Manager and Board of Directors, and huge drums of cable were purchased and delivered. Keith was then asked to set the date for laying of the cables, which turned out to be a perfect day for the job. I have photographs of the men doing the work. We got the electricity supply in 1954, our area being the first to be switched on.

We all had a great night square dancing on the lawn, singing etc. The official opening was held at Bongaree sometime later. Thanks to Evelyn Price for writing down the above story in the 1960s, and to Bev Grimmer for saving it and giving me a copy.


These first submarine mains electricity cables laid in 1954 were two 11Kv cables. When the Bribie Bridge was being built in 1961 they were replaced with 33Kv cables to cater to the demands of increased population. The 1000 yards of 33Kv cable weighed 21 Tons and was the longest cable laid, jointed and commissioned by the company at that time.


The first submarine electricity cables laid in 1954 were two 11Kv cables. When the Bribie Bridge was being constructed in 1961, with anticipated increases in population to follow, The Historical Society has monthly public meetings at the RSL Club on the second Wednesday of each month (except January) commencing at 6;30pm. 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 [email protected]

Other Articles

Previous articleAustralia Day
Next article10 MONEY SAVING TIPS
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.