Monday, 30 November 2015

Oct 2013 - 50th anniversary of the Opening of the Bribie Island Bridge

19 Oct 2013 - 50th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the Bribie Island Bridge on 19 Oct 1963
[For information on the plaques that were unveiled on 19 October 2013 please visit
Saturday 19th October 2013
50th Anniversary of the Opening of the Bribie Bridge
Today, Saturday 19th October 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Bribie Island Bridge.  The building of the bridge allowed easy motor vehicle access resulting in Bribie Island’s rapid transformation. 
While Bribie Island had long been a popular holiday destination the construction of the bridge allowed many people to choose to move here permanently.
Today is an opportunity to celebrate the history of the bridge: its design, its construction, the opening day and the anniversary celebrations that have occurred since.  

Bribie before the Bridge
The earliest regular visitors to Bribie Island came by boat following the construction of the first jetty in May 1912 at Bongaree.
A number of steamships including the Koopa and Doomba transported holiday-makers from Brisbane to Bribie Island.
As car travel became more popular after World War II, Mr. Gordon Shields began a vehicular-passenger service between Bribie and Toorbul Point.  Over the years the barge service was operated by a number of different people, with the last operator being Mr. “Snowy” Drenan.  The ability to transport motor vehicles to the Island resulted in considerable home building and community infrastructure activity. 

Constructing the Bridge
The idea of a bridge to Bribie Island had been discussed for many years and on 17 November 1959 came an official announcement that the bridge would be built.  It was obvious that the bridge should be located near Toorbul Point where the passage narrows but the exact position was chosen after consideration of such additional factors as the depth of the channel bed, the length of the bridge and approach from each side, and the requirement for driven pile foundations.
On 29 March 1961 it was announced that the contract for the construction of the bridge was let to K.D. Morris & Sons Pty Ltd.  The bridge was built from the mainland across to Bribie Island.  The sequence of each span of the bridge involved pre-cast piles being driven, the reinforced concrete headstocks cast, pre-cast beams lifted into place and the reinforced concrete deck poured in-situ and finally the handrails erected.  The pre-cast concrete elements were supplied by Concrete Industries Pty Ltd.
The construction of the bridge presented a number of unique challenges, one of the biggest being the driving of the long concrete piles.  These piles were up to 85 feet in length and weighed over 12 tons each.  It was necessary for the piles to be driven from a floating platform that remained perfectly stationary, using a ten ton hammer to drive the piles.  As there was no plant capable of achieving this readily available in Australia, a special pile driving frame was mounted on a floating steel barge.
Construction of the bridge gave employment to a work force of up to forty men.  There were no fatalities though several accidents did occur, the most common being men falling into the passage from their lofty footholds.

Opening Day Celebrations
The opening celebrations for the bridge took place on Saturday 19 October 1963.  The events for the day included:
·       A formal opening ceremony with dignitaries and invited guests
The bridge was officially opened by the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Frank Nicklin.  Speeches were given by Mr. Frank Nicklin and Mr. David Nicholson, the State Parliamentary Speaker and Member for Murrumba.  Two memorial plaques on the mainland side were unveiled by Premier Nicklin and Sir James Holt, Co-ordinator General.
·       An afternoon tea
The newly built Bellara Motel Restaurant was the venue for afternoon tea for the official party.  A review platform was set up on the front lawn for the Premier and official party to watch the procession.
·       A procession 
The procession included: vintage and veteran cars, a horse guard, marching girls, buses, scouts and other local groups crossed the bridge into Benabrow avenue.
·       A Debutante Ball in the evening.
In the evening the Bribie Ambulance Ladies’ Appeal Committee held a Debutante Ball at the Church of England Hall in Banya street.  The debutantes were Yvonne Williams, Brenda Gould and Teresa Clarke.  The flower girls were Michele and Terese Kendall.

Bridge Anniversaries
Over the years there have been several anniversary celebrations held for the Bribie Island Bridge, including 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th and 40th year anniversaries.  While some of the anniversaries coincided with other Bribie festivals others were more low key events. 
1973 – 10th anniversary
The 10th anniversary celebrations were held on Saturday 20th October 1973.  The toll was lifted for the day and bridge was closed to traffic while the procession was in progress.
1983 – 20th anniversary
The 20th Anniversary celebrations were held on Saturday 22 October 1983 and coincided with the annual Bribie Island Festival.  The bridge celebrations included a parade, an afternoon tea and a commemorative publication.
1988 – 25th anniversary
The silver anniversary was celebrated with the Bribie Bridge Carnival which was held in October 1988 over five days.  As part of the celebrations there were three commemorative publications, a carnival t-shirt and a display of artwork.
1993 – 30th anniversary
The Anniversary celebration was part of the Bribie Island Aquatic Festival which ran from 15 to 17 October 1993.
 2003 – 40th anniversary
For the 40th anniversary a walk was held by the Rotary Club of Bribie Island to raise funds.  Each person of a 10-person team walked four times over the bridge.

When the bridge first opened there was a toll of ten shillings.  The popularity of Bribie as a holiday destination for people from Brisbane can be gauged by how quickly the toll paid off the loan for the bridge – it took just under 12 years! 
The first toll ticket was purchased by Premier Nicklin and the last toll ticket was purchased by Bribie resident Mr. Stan Balmer on 22 March 1975. 
The Toll Master for the duration of the toll, 20 October 1963 to 22 March 1975, was Mr. Jack Greenhalgh.

Bridge Facts
At the time it was constructed the Bribie Island Bridge was the longest pre-stressed, pre-cast concrete bridge in Australia.
The Bridge spans 2742 feet (835 metres).
At the centre of the bridge there is a clearance of 24ft (7.3m) at low tide to cater for small craft.
There are 104 beams each weighing 18 tons.  The beams of pre-stressed concrete are each 72ft (21.9 m) long and 4ft 6in (1.4 m) deep.
The bridge cost £350,000, a little over $700,000.
The bridge now has 13 lights and walkway hand railing which were additions to the original design.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

BIHS Brochure

Bribie Island Historical Society
Meetings of the Bribie Island Historical Society are held at 6:30 pm the second Wednesday of each month (except January) in the ANZAC Room, Level 1, RSL Club, Toorbul Street,
Bongaaree, Bribie Island.  All Welcome.

For a pdf version of the BIHS Brochure visit

Bribie Island Heritage and Interesting Local History - Visit Sites - Enjoy Walks - Learn More

Talking Monument - Matthew Flinders
(Northern end of Col Fischer Park)
Celebrating Matthew Flinders' landing on Bribie Island.

Community Arts Centre
Local Arts and Craft Centre with a Talking Monument located at the front of the Centre relating the history of the local Aboriginal people.

First Settlers Talking Monument
(located in the park beside the Volunteer Marine Rescue jetty)
Celebrating the Island's early pioneers.

Castaway Convicts and Oxley Memorial
(Oxley Place off Bestmann Road East)
The story of Lt. John Oxley's discoveries in the Moreton Bay region.

Settlement Tribute
Stone memorial near the Bongaree Jetty records both the Jetty and Bongaree township's Centenary in 2012.  A sign in Brennan Park pays tribute to long term residents of Bribie Island.

Turner's Camp Memorial
Tribute to Fred and Alma (Kal-Ma-Kuta, the last Bribie Island Aborigine) who lived and worked here from the 1870s.

Seaside Museum
(South Esplanade)
New modern museum showcasing aspects of local history and travelling exhibitions.  Matthew Flinders memorial in the grounds.

WW2 Bunker
(in Rotary Park, Woorim)
A military installation for protecting Brisbane from enemy submarine attack during the Second World War.

Heritage Plaques - Waterfront Walk
Walk back in time reading the sixteen heritage plaques located along the waterfront at Bongaree.  Pick up the brochure at the Visitor Information Centre, Bribie Library or Seaside Museum.
A copy of the Bongaree Waterfront Walk can be viewed at

Bongaree Self-Guided 'Walkabout'
Take the brochure and enjoy a walk around the historical areas in the Bongaree precinct.
Pick up the brochure at the Visitor Information Centre, Bribie Library or Seaside Museum.

Fairweather Park
(corner First Avenue and Hunter Street)
Former site of the grass hut home of world-renowned and reclusive artist Ian Fairweather.

Old Aquarium Site
Remains of a 1960s tourist attraction at northern end of Red Beach carpark.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Wow, that's me in that old photo! Ron Jennings, then and now.


Ron Jennings and Family, 2015.
Ron Jennings shows his old photo to his family
(L to R) Libby, Andrew and daughter-in-law Sherryl.
Photo source: Barry Clark
This is a delightful story of a man being surprised to see a photo of himself taken 72 years ago, and being reminded of a memorable Christmas past.

Ron Jennings grew up in country Victoria and as a young man was keen to join the Army and serve his country. He joined the Army in 1942 at age 17 spent a short time at the Military Training Camp at Toorbul Point, the site of what is now the new Sandstone Point Hotel.

Last week he was taken to the Hotel by his family and looked at the many historic photos on display....when he suddenly spotted himself in one of the photos.

Toorbul Point Hospital, 1943.
Photo taken Christmas 1943 in the Field Hospital.
Ron Jennings is fourth along on the left.
Photo source: MBRC Library P2167
It was taken in a 12 bed Military Field Hospital in December 1943, which had stood right where the main bar of the new Hotel is today, and where Ron Jennings saw it for the first time on his visit to Bribie last week ......73 years later.

Vivid memories filled his head as he recalled the events that led to his being in the Military Field Hospital at Christmas-time all those years ago.

In an interview with Barry Clark of the Bribie Island Historical Society, who had supplied the photo for display at the Hotel, he said ....

  "It was a rather strange occurrence that happened. We were camped on the flat below the hospital, close to the spot  where the old Boat Shed and Jetty still stand today. A few days before Christmas six of us got leave to go to a dance at Cooroy on the weekend.

We went on the Saturday morning and were booked at the local Hotel for the night. We had a good time at the dance, but in the morning one of the boys, Bluey Copeland, who had red hair and lots of freckles, was really ill. I was able to arrange a truck from camp to pick myself and Bluey up at the Railway station. It was at Landsborough I think.

Anyway, Bluey was delivered to the camp hospital and for some reason I was invited to join some of the other patients for a very nice lunch. You can even see Christmas decorations strung up in the photo, and bottles of beer on the table.  They suspected that Bluey had Dengue fever, but I don't know what happened to him because I didn't stay much longer.

Within a couple of days we had all our Beach Landing Craft ready, and we sailed away to fight the war in the islands. It was Christmas day when we set off north, and I never heard what happened to Bluey. 

I am amazed to see myself in that photos after all these years. I am the fourth one along on the left, just half a face, but I don't know who could have taken it.  I don't recognise anyone else in the photo, but it is just possible that Bluey is the guy in the bed in the background on the left.  I do remember enjoying their company that day, before I set off to the war with the Japanese in PNG.  I am sorry my memory is not so good these days."

Seeing the photo brought memories flooding back to Ron's head of how he had tried several times to join the Army, against his father's wishes. He had worked with the Post Office and eventually joined an Ordinance Corp. and after initial training in Wagga Wagga he found himself briefly at Toorbul Point Camp in 1943 before going to the islands with his Beach Landing Craft unit.

"We even had carrier pigeons in small cages on board our vessels for getting messages to each other, and we rubbed Kerosene on ourselves to protect from the fleas and mozzies. I had a bout of Malaria while we were up there, and experienced some very difficult situations landing people under fire on beaches near Milne Bay. I remember having my 21st birthday in Borneo. It just seems like so long ago now, but I was blessed with a great life after that, and a wonderful family."

Ron lost his wife of 66 years just a couple of years ago. Their five children, four boys and a girl, now live all around Australia but it is the family connection with Bribie Island that has led to this lovely story being uncovered.

Son Andrew and wife Libby had lived on Bribie some years ago, and another son Paul and his wife Sherryl live here today. It was their visit to the new Sandstone Point Hotel and connection with Barry Clark of the Bribie Island Historical Society that led to this fascinating discovery of a young soldier's face in a long forgotten photo.

If you have interesting old photos or special memories of Bribie Island contact them on