History of some sports on Bribie Island

By Barry Clark Bribie Island Historical Society


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History of Bribie Island sports. Moreton Bay. Brisbane. Queensland

This article tells the start of some sporting clubs and activities on Bribie island. The Brisbane Tug & Steamship Co. opened up Bribie island to day-trippers and holidaymakers, when they leased land, built a jetty, and ran large steamships from Brisbane to Bribie from 1912. Before that the only people who came here for “sport” were catching dugong or shooting birds.


In 1923 Tug Company was instrumental in setting up the Bribie Island Surf Lifesaving Club providing staff and equipment to enable protection and safety for bathers and surfers. At that time Woorim was the closest surf beach to Brisbane, even with the long steamship trip, before easy access to what is now the Gold Coast and Surfers Paradise. There were many more high sand dunes and breaking waves on the beach in those days. It became a very busy and popular destination after the first basic road was cleared from Bongaree to the Ocean Beach in 1924, and trucks provided basic transport across the island.


In 1929 the Bribie Island Bowling Club and Tennis Courts were established. The Tug Company brought a large old timber building from Moreton Island and placed it on “The Hill” where the Water Tower now stands at Bongaree. Initially used as a School, before the State School was built in 1924, it was also the Community Hall for Dances and all sorts of functions at weekends and evenings.

The building was later moved down the Hill to become the initial Clubhouse for the Bribie Island Bowls Club. The first President of the Bowls Club was Alf Johnson and the Bowling Greens were subsequently named for prominent members including Campbell, Bell, Cressy, Loi, and Pettitt. In the 1930s Tennis had become a very popular sport for all family members, and Tennis Courts were constructed at the south end of the Bowling greens.

Early Members of the Bribie Island Bowls Club were largely non-residents, who came by Steamship from Brisbane at weekends and holidays. In 1947 a Bowler’s Hostel was established, providing accommodation for up to 30 visiting Bowlers, in a building that had also been brought to the island, as the first School Headmasters house. That building still stands today and has had several different uses over the years, and is now the “Bribie Doctors”


By the early 1950s, Bribie residents had increased to more than 300 and they campaigned to create a Bowls Club specifically for residents. The Bongaree Bowls Club was formed in 1949 and using a horse to clear land and filling the swamp, it was opened by President Arthur Winston in 1952.

The Greens were later named to honour pioneer members including Winston, Richardson, and Kling. Six months after the opening of the Bongaree Bowls Club in June 1952, the ladies of Bribie formalised their involvement, at the inaugural meeting of the Bongaree Ladies Bowling Club, held at the Church of England Hall. The foundation President was Marion Winston with a committee of local ladies including Shields, Stanley, Rasmussen, Thornley, Tesch, Kling ad Whitney.


From the earliest times, Bribie was known for its remarkable fishing. As early as 1908 a Fish Canning operation had been established at Bongaree, where the IGA Store stands today. Operated by Mrs. Sarah Balls, an outstanding businesswoman who also operated refreshment rooms at many of the new railway stations throughout Queensland. The oldest Fishing Club in Queensland, the Amateur Fishermen’s Association, established in 1904, built a Clubhouse at Bongaree in 1925 for its visiting members.

This building still stands on the waterfront along South Esplanade and still used by members. Thomas Welsby, a Brisbane businessman, Historian, and author of many fishing books, was an early President, serving for 17 years from 1906 to 1923. It was Thomas Welsby who later wrote the book “Bribie the Basket Maker” creating the legend of a runaway convict who lived with the aboriginal people of the island.

Over the years, the AFA conducted Fishing Competitions in the waters around Bribie, often involving hundreds of people being towed out in boats to a designated fishing area.


As far as I am aware, there has only been one current Bribie Island resident to compete in the Olympic Games, at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne. This was Doug Winston, who represented Australia in the 200m and 4 X 100m relay. The Winston family were pioneers on early Bribie, establishing a Tobacco Farm at Bongaree in the 1930s, and running the General Store opposite the Jetty at Bongaree.


Back in 1961, before the Bribie Island bridge, was constructed, the island was a very different place with a permanent population of fewer than 500 people. A number of concerned residents were keen to provide some recreation facilities for the youth of the island and conducted Gymnastics and Boxing in various locations. In 1963 tentative approaches were made to the Lands Department for land as a recreation area.

This led to the promise of land near the old “Town Dump”, on the south side of Ocean Beach Rd, (now First Ave.) and where the Recreation Hall now stands The present building known as the Recreation Hall was constructed over a period of many years. Initially, funds would only allow the building of two sides and a rear wall, and it was finally completed and enclosed in 1979.

Over the years, the Hall has seen many different groups use the Recreation Hall, and numerous functions, events, and celebrations have been held there. Today it is used by Vietnam Vets and U3A where several more modern “Sports” such as Pickleball, Boule, and Burlesque on a Chair are played.


If you have questions or information to provide, please contact us. The Historical Society has monthly public meetings at the RSL Club on the second Wednesday of each month commencing at 6;30pm. with guest speakers on a wide range of topics. Come along, visitors welcome. You can see many more photos and articles on our Blog Site at http://bribieislandhistory.blogspot.com or contact us on [email protected]

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