Reminiscences of the Koopa days.
Near North Coast News Wed Mar 16, 1977.
Many people – particularly the elderly –
often recall with great pleasure the early settlement on Bribie Island in about
the year 1919 and associated with the island in following years was the
steamship “Koopa”. And here I [Doris Stanlake] have endeavoured
to recall the atmosphere the Koopa created for the residents of Bribie Island
and the day trippers in those days.
|Steamship Koopa, 1934.|
Photo: State Library of Queensland negative #8418
steamed from the Custom House wharf in Brisbane to the Koopa Company’s jetty on Bribie Island two or three times a week,
and these trips were so popular that the vessel was often packed to capacity.
The crowd would gradually gather on the
Brisbane wharf around 8 a.m., comprising mainly of happy families bent on
enjoying the simple things of life. Mum and kids came armed with picnic
baskets, and bathing suits in shopping bags. Dad, anticipating a good catch,
would have a sugar bag and fishing tackle. By about 8.40 a.m. the supplies for
the island would be loaded on board and the passengers filed up the gangway.
There might be some last-minute arrivals
– a few businessmen, with expensive fishing gear, getting away from it all by
spending a couple of weeks without the telephone and other worries. (Once on
Bribie they would lunch at the little boarding house and later emerge as
unrecognisable “tramps” to do battle with the fish. All business aplomb would be thrown to the
winds and they would be known to the Bribie-ites as “Old Bill”, “John”, “Claude”,
|Children from the Wooloowin Brisbane school in the 1930s|
on the Koopa picnic trip to Bribie Island.
Photo: Doris Stanlake, 1977.
On the Koopa morning tea was served below decks and a call was made at
Redcliffe where goods could be off or on-loaded, more passengers could join the
After leaving Redcliffe jetty, the trip
was felt to be really under way. Small children scrambled everywhere with ice
cream and sticky sweets . . . the vessel would rock gently, and the sea breeze
would blow; and long before the island was sighted the breeze would waft to the
Koopa the smell of burnt pine and
Skirmish Point, the most southernly
point of Bribie Island, would come into sight and the boat would spring to life.
Mum would get busy gathering her brood, putting them into their bathers and
collecting the picnic baskets, ready for disembarkation. The men were engrossed
in serious discussion about the wind and the tide while they assembled their
As the steamship glided up Pumicestone
Passage, the smell of fish being cooked on wood stoves on the island would
mingle with the fragrance of the pines. Everyone made ready to leap onto the
jetty immediately the vessel was secured.
Open-decked motor boats moored to the
side of the jetty were a picturesque sight laden with produce from the local
dairy, fruit and oyster farms. One boat would have a pyramid of huge, yellow
pineapples and bunches of bananas, another pile of shiny, pink-shelled, cooked
sand crabs glistening in the sunlight in contrast to the lush green vegetables
and water melons on display in the next boat. Then there were the fishing boats
with their overnight catch of large mullet and reef fish, and cooked prawns.
People holidaying on the island were
dependent, to a great extent, on these farmers for fresh supplies and would
rally forth armed with bags and billy-cans to shop from the boats . . . great
Then Ned Bishop’s boat would chug its
way across the passage and take its place alongside the ramp, loaded to the
waterline with anything his farm would produce. There were neatly sewn up bags
of oysters, bright red mud crabs and a pile of “lean mutton” (which we all knew
was goat flesh) as a welcome change from a steady fish diet. There were baskets
of mulberries, mangoes, chokoes and Queensland nuts, while in the middle of the
boat there would be two large cans of fresh milk. Accompanying the cans was a
tin mug which was used to fill our billy-cans. Unhygienic? But we suffered no
And so the day passed with the day
trippers having fun and frolic in the sand and sea and the fishing lines
reeling until half an hour before the Koopa’s
scheduled departure time when her foghorn would give out a resounding blast to
be heard all over the island. Then began the hasty packing up and trek back to
the steamship. There would be bush walkers with bunches of boronia and wild
flowers, groups of picnickers and mothers shepherding their suntanned families
along the ramp and up the gang-plank. There they would await the men folk who
would scurry along when the second foghorn blast sounded at a quarter of an
hour before leaving time. On board the fish the men had caught were hung in the
breeze on the captain’s bridge and duly admired by all.
Then came the third blast at departure
time and the Koopa was released from
her mooring and slid gently away from the jetty with always a group of local
residents to watch her go.
And we – the locals – watched, perhaps a
little regretfully, until the Koopa
vanished from sight.
Reminiscences of the ‘Koopa” days. Bribie’s
steamship era by Doris Stanlake. Near North Coast News Wed Mar 16, 1977.
BIHS note: Story 12 in Describing Bribie Island 1865-1965 was written by Doris' son Alex.