Sunday 15 July 2018


Canneries of the Pumicestone Passage
By Lynne Hooper
President, Bribie Island Historical Society

The digitisation of regional Australian newspapers and magazines by the Australian National Library has revealed some fascinating “new” facts about fish canneries on and around Bribie Island. Why is this noteworthy? Until recently Bribie’s history has relied on the memories of early Bribie residents, and many of these memories were captured in the Bribie Star’s newspaper’s Souvenir Edition published in October 1963 to mark the opening of the Bribie Island Bridge.  Stories were related about the history of the Island, its early residents, and when shops, churches, police stations, water and electricity commenced. Since the recent digitised newspaper roll-out we have been able to ‘fill in the gaps’ of our remarkable Island’s past.

The history of one early industry has been clarified -  the Canneries of the Pumicestone Passage.  The first cannery was in 1897, owned by James Clark and Reginald Hocking, trading as the Toorbul Fish Company. They sold canned fish from their factory situated on the bay-side of Toorbul Point.  The business was sold to Charlie Godwin for 160 cases of canned mullet in ca1900.  Godwin, an early settler, had bought 250 acres of land in the 1890s, in the area now known as Godwin Beach.  In 1901 the supplies of locally caught fish were so erratic that Godwin moved the cannery to the northern end of Bribie Island opposite Golden Beach.  Godwin’s fish was marketed under the name of “Anchor Brand Sea-Mullet”.
Maloney Bros. Lighthouse brand
Photo courtesy Audrey Abrahams

By 1906 the Maloney Brothers had commenced a fish cannery beside Charlie Godwin’s Cannery on Bribie Island and marketed their product as the Lighthouse Brand. The Lighthouse Brand won a “highly commended” award at the Brisbane Exhibition but by 1910 the cannery closed and the family moved into the oyster and shell-grit industries.

Charlie Godwin sold his cannery for £240 in August 1907 to Lionel Landsborough, son of the pioneer William Landsborough, but by 1909 Landsborough had left Australia to settle in California.

Sarah Balls
In 1907/8 the Federal Government introduced the Bounties Act and Sarah Balls, a well-known entrepreneur from Brisbane, decided to take advantage of the half-penny per pound being offered for preserved fish (including canned). Without widely used refrigeration it was reported that Australians were only consuming 9½ pounds of fish per head, whereas in Great Britain the quantity was 47½ pounds per head and Australia was spending over £300,000 annually on importing canned fish. 

Sarah leased 8 acres on Bribie Island just north of where the IGA stands today.  Fresh water is required for the canning process and this was readily available from the springs that were once used by the Joondoburri people.

Sarah’s “Caloundra Fresh Fish Preserving & Canning Company” were canning sea-mullet, whiting, snapper, bream, flathead, tailor, kingfish and jewfish, packing them in one and two-pound tins bearing the brand “The Diver”.  The Diver canned fish was retailed at 5½ penny though snapper and whiting were a more expensive option. The newspapers extolled the product advising “the fish is deliciously appetising and will undoubtedly supplant imported canned fish as the public were getting tired of the everlasting salmon, herring or sardine”.

Sarah erected a new factory in 1908 which measured 110 feet long by 20 feet wide with 16 feet walls (30 x 6 x 4.5m). 20 people were employed at the cannery producing 200 cases per day with each case containing 4 dozen tins.

Sarah originally employed a manager from Scotland who was experienced in preserving fish. She had to take control in July 1908 when during a “glut” fishermen dumped tons of fish on the cannery wharf during hot weather. Lacking refrigeration some of the fish took too long to be processed and many tins “blew” so the product got a bad name.  Later Sarah hired local men to manage the Cannery, but kept a firm hand on her investment, earning the sobriquet of “Mum-Balls”.
Canning works jetty

A new Linde refrigeration system was purchased in late 1908 and by 1909 “The Diver” brand entered a boom period.  In 1910 Sarah expanded the factory by purchasing the cannery equipment previously owned by Lionel Landsborough.  The Cannery now measured 150 feet x 50 feet (45 x 15m) enclosing a refrigeration and freezing room, an engine and boiler room, four retorts for cooking, and an area to stack the product. Adjoining was a 40ft jetty. 

The main suppliers were fishermen Ted, Julius & Leo Freeman who were paid five shillings per hundred-weight for mullet and one and halfpenny per pound for mixed fish. It was noted that fishermen had benefited in net cash by over £150 in this period. The Freeman’s delivered about six tons of fish at a time onto the jetty where it was scaled, cleaned and filleted before moving into the processing plant.  The tins contained two belly pieces and one tail piece (packed perpendicularly) of mullet all other fish were packed side-wise with a pinch of salt added to each tin.

Sarah diversified in 1913 by leasing a further four acres so she could raise pigs and grow and can asparagus and pineapples. But by 1914 the five-year period of the Bounty had ended and the shortage of tin and men caused by WW1 were impacting on the her business.  The greatest obstacle though was that Queensland fish are mostly “hot water” fish and altogether unsuitable for canning as they contain a large amount of phosphorus and the tendency to decompose rapidly.
Circa 1922. Huet family and
canning works jetty in background.
Source: Vera Campbell photos VC8_42

In August 1914 a newspaper advertisement advised that the Cannery could be leased as a 'going concern', and although Sarah had left the business, the cannery was still operating on a seasonal basis until 30 April 1923 when the lease and equipment was transferred to J.E. Burnard & Co, who were Jam Manufacturers and Fruit Preservers in Brisbane. 

By the 1920s the Cannery Jetty was all that was left of a once thriving business and was a prime spot to get a feed of fish.

Early fish canneries on Bribie Island by Lynne Hooper. 
The Bribie Islander issue 47, June 2018, page 36.

Sunday 8 July 2018

Parks on Bribie

What's in a name
Parks on Bribie
by Barry Clark
Bribie Island Historical Society
Have you ever wondered why the park you walk through or exercise your dog in has that funny name? I think it is important to recognise and remember those who have contributed to the islands history, so this month I have written about just four public parks in different suburbs to explain how they were named.

A few recently erected park signs do have informative words on them that help residents and visitors appreciate why they are so named, but why not all of them? They provide background information for residents and visitors to appreciate those who made valuable contributions to the island over the years, and were recognised by having a park named in their honour. In most cases they were named some years ago to honour people who now seem to be forgotten. It seems to me that they may just as well be called Park A, B or C if the names no longer have any meaning. 

There are parks in all Bribie suburbs that have the name of an organisation, group or event, but many have been named for specific people. Here is just a bit of information about some Park names that may add value and interest for you. If you would like to know more about the name of a Park or Street please contact us on


SIDNEY CLAYTON worked in the Caboolture Dairy industry until he retired and in 1952 and was then elected Chairman of the Caboolture Shire Council. He served as Shire Chairman for 12 years during which time both the Bribie Water Supply and the Bribie Bridge were constructed. When the Bribie Island Bridge opened on 19th October 1963 the Government imposed a substantial Toll which lasted for 12 years until the bridge was paid for.
Following the opening of the Bridge the new suburb of Bellara developed and this park recognises Sidney Clayton being the Shire Chairman at that time. This park became the roost for millions of bats a few years ago causing problems for residents.


EDWIN SCHRAG represented Bribie on the Caboolture Shire Council for 8 years from 1971 to 1979. He lived at Woorim and ran his Real Estate business at Bongaree. Over many years he served the Bribie community in the Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce, and from 1976 to 1982 was founding President of the Golden Age Centre. In 1976 the Bribie community staged a major fundraising stunt to secede from Queensland and become our own “Republic of Bribie Island”, with Edwin Schrag as President, and his wife Phyllis as First Lady. This park recognises the significant contribution he made to the island.


BERNIE & SALLY BRENNAN came to Bribie Island in 1941, and after the War opened a General Store in the front of a wooden cottage at No 7 Toorbul Street. Brennan’s Store provided the basic needs of the few residents and the thousands of holiday visitors who camped in canvas tents in this park and all along the Bongaree Foreshore. In 1958 the shop became the islands first Golden Casket ticket agency, and sold the winning First Prize ticket to a local resident in 1965. Brennan’s Store served the community for 33 years until 1978, and over all those years Sally washed the kit for the Surf Club volunteers until her death in 2011. This park sign was recently damaged in an accident. Council have now installed a new one with appropriate wording added. Thank you. 


Colin and Bry Fischer were early residents of the new Solander Lake development at Banksia beach from 1979. Their agricultural background resulted in their home garden on Solander Esplanade becoming a colourful showpiece of flowers and shrubs, winning many garden competitions, and being awarded “Best Garden in Caboolture Shire” on several occasions. Over their 22 years living here they witnessed the initial development of Solander Lake, which eventually grew to become the extensive canal developments of Pacific Harbour. They contributed thousands of volunteer hours to planting and beautifying the Foreshore area of Banksia Beach, and installing the Glasshouse mountain models in the Park named in his honour. I assisted Col to document his history of Banksia beach, but he died in June 2011 just before his book was published and launched by Bry at the Historical Society.

This article was published in The Bribie Islander, issue 48, July 2018, page 36. 

Sunday 1 July 2018

Story 9 Describing Bribie Island

The following story is one of 27 stories presented in Describing Bribie Island 1865-1965: historical first-hand accounts of visiting Bribie Island produced by the Bribie Island Historical Society in 2017.

Bribie Passage: a wonderful waterway by Vance Palmer (1926)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vance Palmer[1] (1885-1959) was born at Bundaberg to Henry and Jessie Palmer. His early education was in several Queensland towns and his school-teacher father Henry Palmer was a strong influence. Though Vance worked in jobs that varied from a city office clerk to tutor and book-keeper on a Queensland cattle-station, he found success through his writing. He married Nettie Higgins in London in 1914. From 1925-1929, Vance and Nettie lived economically, by their pens, at Caloundra with their small children. Vance published The Man Hamilton in 1928 and The Passage in 1930 both books probably set in the Pumicestone Passage. The couple knew Andrew Tripcony and Dick Dalton, were interested in aboriginal folklore and visited the Petrie family at Murrumba[2].

Vance Palmer submitted this article to The Daily Mail and it was published in The Daily Mail (Brisbane) 20 February 1926, page 16.

On all the east coast, from the lakes and inlets of Mallacoota in the south to the tiny islands of the Barrier Reef, there is no more delightful stretch of smooth water than the long and narrow passage running between Bribie and the mainland. It is astonishing that it is so little known. Up to the present, though, there have been few means of access to it.

The excursion boats, with their loads of day trippers, regularly make the passage to Bongaree, the flat, little settlement on the southern end of Bribie, wait for a few hours, and then turn homeward again; but anyone wanting to make the full journey up the wonderful waterway to Caloundra has to trust to an arrangement with a casual motor boat.  There are a couple of larger boats it is true that run with stores the whole way from Brisbane, but they are dependent on the tides, and cannot conform to a schedule that would suit passengers.

Yet those who have only glimpsed the passage from the southern end of Bribie can have no conception of its charm.  It is when the broad gates of the southern entrance have been left behind, and the tree-lined shores begin to close round the boat, that the passenger is moved to sit up and take notice. The wind-ripped surface of the water changes to an unruffled calm; little green islands appear on all sides; the blue, transparent shapes of the Glasshouse Mountains loom up in the sky like gigantic figures brooding over a magic lake. The very atmosphere of the sea is forgotten. It is a lake one imagines oneself to be drifting over – a lake so secret and sheltered that it is immune from the operations of wind and tide. Of course it is not, but that is the impression. Even the quiet movement of the current is hidden from the eye. The boat winds between islands so numerous and scattered that the traveler is liable to lose his sense of direction and forget which portion of the tree-studded shore is Bribie and which is the mainland of the continent. It is a low-lying shore, but varied. Sometimes a forest of mangroves hides the near view, and at other times there are sandhills thick with sheoak pines, or stretches of open forest where the eye travels over a dark green sward into depths of shadow.

A few cattle stare at the boat from openings in the timber. Occasionally a couple of kangaroos hop along the shores pause and listen to the chug-chug of the engines, and then make back without unnecessary panic to their secret haunts. The armies of black swans feeding into the mullet-weed near the shore do not show the faintest sign of alarm, or even interest, and the stately pelican, sailing in company with its shadow over the still water, only hastens its progress slightly to get out of way of the boat.

The glimpses of wild life are a reminder that once these waters, and the low-lying country around them, were a happy hunting-ground for the blacks. It is said that a few generations ago, at least a thousand had their headquarters here, and that they never had to go short of food. There was game of all sorts in abundance; the waters were teeming with fish and oysters; the thick, flowering shrubs were alive with honey-bees.

Emus are still to be seen on the open flats, and probably the boles of rotting trees held the favoured wichetty-grub in plenty. Altogether it was a natural paradise for those who came before us. But, where are their descendants now? Where, indeed? Probably the game, plentiful enough still, is shyer and more scattered than it used to be. The rich oyster-beds are staked out and leased, and sometimes for large rentals, and the only sign of human presence is the occasional whitewashed bungalow of an oysterman, set in a clearing and surrounded by a vivid green patch of buffalo grass.

One or two curious relics of the blacks’ camps remain, though. Here and there is a green knoll, not very large, but standing out prominently because of its height and smoothness.  The place of some tribal religious rite, you guess. No, not exactly. Inquiry has proved them to rest on a solid basis of oyster shells, the remnant of gargantuan feasts of the past. The loose sand has drifted over these heaps, the grass has sprouted, and they remain now as the only monuments those happy, care-free people have left behind them.

About half-way between the southern end of Bribie and Caloundra the passage suddenly narrows, the boat gliding between islands so closely placed together that you could almost pull a mangrove twig from either bank. Often there is a choice of half a dozen channels, but it is wise to follow the beacons. Yet even in the staked passage the water becomes ominously shallow in places. Beneath the boat’s keel the clear sand shows up, and looking over you can see shoals of frightened fish making for the mullet weed.

This is the place where the tides meet, and at low water it is often a case of having to get out and push behind. The larger boats time their passage, of course, to pass over these shallows at highwater, but their presence lends an uncertain factor to the navigation of the channel. An uncertain factor, and, it must be added, a rather humiliating one!

It is disquieting to reflect, for instance, that this passage was once regularly used by timber boats coming from the little ports along the northern coast, and that is can be used in this way no longer.  What had made the change?  The chief cause, it is said, was the mammoth flood of 1893, that brought down logs and timber from the coastal creeks, depositing them in the passage where the sand has silted over them. That was more than 30 years ago, though, and nothing has been done since in the way of dredging.

It is appalling that a waterway like this should have been allowed to pass out of regular use, except for small boats. Even if its charm as a pleasure resort were not allowed to count in the balance it would still have its commercial value in opening up places not easily approached except by water. And for years its oyster beds have provided a rich source of revenue for the State, so that any expenditure on the passage now would only be a partial repayment of what it has produced in the past. The shallow portion is limited, and if it were thoroughly dredged there does not seem likelihood of it silting up badly again.

But these reflections only occur in passing. Gliding along over the still water, it is easy to surrender to the charm of the place as it is now. Memories of other sheltered stretches of blue sea come back. I have a vision of approaching the shores of Finland in the quiet dawn through an archipelago of spruce-covered islands, with the little red roofed chalets of summer visitors from Helsingfors showing through the dark trees; another vision of evenings in the land-locked Japan Sea, with the queer-shaped sails of fishing smacks showing along the shore.

Yet, for pure natural beauty, Bribie Passage can hold its own with these places, in one pair of eyes at least, and it has its own distinct quality. That quality is closely connected with the impressive shapes of the Glasshouse Mountains. Beerwah, Crookneck, and Tibrogargan changing their positions at every turn of the boat, like figures in some stately minuet, and dominating the whole landscape by their very air of deliberate design.

We lose them for a while in the last few miles run to Caloundra. The stretch of water narrows again, and even above the purring of the engine comes the heavy pounding of seas on the outer bar, where Bribie thins and comes to a point, nearly touching the mainland. A white beam from the lighthouse on the hill pierces the dusk, with half-a-hundred other lights twinkling at its base, and the journey comes to an end. Only a 25-mile run, altogether! One leaves the passage feeling that, though its coves and islands have been known for at least two generations, still another will pass before their charm and mystery are really discovered. It is possible, even in the height of the holiday season, to make the whole journey without seeing anyone but a few fishermen dragging the sandy shallows with their nets, or fossicking in the clayey banks for crabs.

[1] Edward Vivian (Vance) Palmer, biography by Geoffrey Serle, 1988, Australian Dictionary of Biography, 1988.
[2] Fourteen years: extracts from a private journal 1925-1939 by Nettie Palmer, ed. V. Smith, 1988.