|Colin’s parents settled in Redcliffe in 1942, purchasing a grocery store at Woody Point where Colin worked during his school holidays. Colin captained the under 18 Rugby League team on the peninsula, and his keen interest in sailing led to his involvement in the Humpybong Yacht Club. With the demand for building at the end of the war, Colin decided to become a carpenter. He eventually built many homes in Redcliffe, including his own in Sydney Street.|
|Then I landed at Archerfield. Because of the War, Eagle Farm had been taken over by the American Army, so it was pretty late when we got off the old DC3 and we were coming down – I’d got no idea of where I was because it was dark – and dad said to me, “We’re getting close to home now. We’re about to cross the big river.” I said, “A big river, I didn’t know we had a big river there,” so we hop onto the bridge and I’m sitting there and we keep going and going, and it just kept going and going, and “my God, this is a huge river!” You never had bridges like that over the creeks that I know, and even the Fitzroy wasn’t this big, and it turned out in the morning, when I saw what it was, that we’d gone across the edge of the Bay – it was the Hornibrook Bridge!|
|My name is Colin Bainbrigge. I live in Redcliffe but I was born in a little town called Wowan and Wowan is famous for one thing – not because I was born there; it had the first cotton ginnery ever to come to Australia, where they processed the seed from the cotton boll itself, but I actually was born and bred in a little town called Thangool, which is 7 miles south of the town of Biloela in the Callide Valley. Now you know that it has the Callide Coalfields.|
I went to the State School, Thangool State School, which had a population I think of about maximum one hundred people, but all of the valleys – the Dawson Valley and the Callide Valley – were black soil country. It was very, very fertile and, of course, most of the settlers that were there were dairy farmers, wheat farmers and cotton farmers when the seed became available. The cotton you see today growing in the fields in Emerald and all of those places, was not the cotton that we grew.
I was in Thangool during the War, and when it came to my Year 13 (which was Grade 7 in those days) I finished my scholarship year at boarding school, and the nearest boarding school was Rockhampton Grammar.
My father was a highly decorated First World 1 Digger, so much so that he was MM, DCM and Bar. My dad was an atheist because of the War, but he married a strictly Catholic woman, whose surname was Fleming and they were dairy farmers in what is called Valentine Plains, which is another little flat area of the Callide Valley.
Cotton in those days – we got paid as kids - it could grow from 2ft tall to 6ft tall, but during the War they brought out the Land Army girls to pick the cotton and most of those came from Newcastle in New South Wales. They had absolutely no idea of what they were in for.
Cotton has more bugs per square metre than any other plant ever grown, and with the height of them they were extremely prickly, because the boll had to be dried and then it would crack open and you grabbed it with three fingers and you pulled the boll out and you had a bag dragging between your legs. We were paid the princely sum of one penny per pound. I’d hate to tell you how many bolls you had to pick of cotton to make one pound in weight, but 1d per lb was big money for us as school kids.
So the Land Army girls came up there to help out on the farm because the men had gone to war – World War 2. In the meantime they were there and I went to boarding school. I stayed in boarding school – I did my scholarship there, I did sub junior, junior and part of sub-senior when the Brisbane Line was formed because of the Coral Sea Battle and Rockhampton had a population of 30,000 American troops. You can imagine the difference 30,000 made to a city devoid of its young men, in a population I think then of about 30,000 – 50,000 I think it probably was in those days – people, so the effect they had on our childhood was immense.
The school overlooked the Rockhampton Aerodrome. The Rockhampton Grammar School was situated on The Grange, which is the second highest point in Rockhampton. It overlooked the aerodrome and, of course, the activity there was immense because of the comings and goings of all of the different types of aeroplanes and the amount of crashes we saw and what have you.
In 1942 my parents had sold out from Thangool and had headed south. We could not come anywhere so we were sent, because we were only cadets, to the Magnetic Island on that Christmas so I did not then arrive in Redcliffe until 1943 for the first visit to Redcliffe, but my parents had left Thangool and in a thunderstorm he [father] lost the front wheel of the motor car they were driving, so in a stormy setting he was out of the car and got soaking wet replacing the wheel. He didn’t realise that he had turned off, so he drove and drove and drove until he finally came to a village. That turned out to be the City of Redcliffe, as we know it today!
From there they [parents] didn’t know where they were and they got befriended by the locals and stayed in Redcliffe for a few days and had a look around. They liked what they saw, but dad was still determined that he wanted to see the Northern Rivers, but whilst he was here he found out that the Belvedere Hotel was a deceased estate and it was going to go up for auction.
They continued on with their journey down south, but immediately returned and bought in a little grocery store down at Woody Point, right on Main Coast Road as Oxley Avenue was called in those days. It was owned by people by the name of Fellows, and he bought the shop and the block of flats next door. There were only 2 flats and they were used for holiday letting. So that became their residence, I went back to Rockhampton Grammar and I did not return until 1955 – the beginning.
When War ended I can remember mum and dad were up in town somewhere. Mum and I – she shut the grocery store, we hopped on the bus, raced on to the train and went into Brisbane for the celebrations of peace at last, so that was my introduction on the first visit.
I went back to grammar school and I could not stay because mum and dad had now settled. When I came back to Redcliffe I started working in the shop, but mum wanted me to finish my education, but I could not get into a school because I was a boarder. All the boarding schools were out, so I finished up doing my last year at the only college I could get in to that turned out to be the Brisbane Commercial High School, which was based near Government House, near the Botanical Gardens.
After the War years, of course, everybody wanted to get back into business and amongst one of those things I became involved with at the beginning, was a club called ‘The Humpybong Yacht Club’. The Humpybong Yacht Club was formed by a chappie by the name of Billy Black, and Redcliffe remembers him more for the manufacture and the design of the ‘Anzat’ tile, mostly because there was such a big to-do over using the name ‘Anzat’ and, of course, the RSL had a big fight with him. Nevertheless, as history proved, he won the battle and he was allowed to keep the name ‘Anzat’ because it was the Australian & New Zealand Tile Company, as it were.
Billy Black was the founder of the yacht club because they had been racing yachts before, so when I went down there we had three different types of boats and they were just 12ft trainees. They were built of marine ply and they carried two sailors only in them, one for the sheet end and one for the tiller, and they could carry a small jib and spinnaker. That was our first one and one of Redcliffe’s early dentists whose name was Aubrey Bashford, Aubrey bought two and gave them to the club for the use of the children to teach them how to sail.
From those we progressed to 16ft skiffs. My brother and a chap by the name of Wright bought an ex-Australian Champion and they were carvel – carvel boats 16ft long with a bumpkin and they formed the second part of the fleet. They were very expensive for young teen-agers like that because I think the average wage would not have been even £1 per week in those days, so they were very expensive to run.
We then went into a Libby class boat, which was referred to as a 12 square metre. A 12sq.m boat was an Olympic class boat and in our early days of sailing those, a gentleman who used to race with us, and against us, was a chap by the name of John Cuneo. John Cuneo went on to be the Olympic Gold Medallist.
Now the 12sq.metre was very, very fast. They were a lot easier to maintain but they were really, really, really fast. They were very slim built and we actually took it over. The Humpybong Yacht Club has grown over all of these years now into what it is to this very day. They were the three main boats, but we did have the Queensland Championships down there in their different classes of the Trainees, the 16ft skiffs and also the 12sq.metre. The 12sq.metre was 19’7¾” long from stem to stern, so the 12sq.metre refers to the amount of sail it can carry, not to its length.
Because we were going as a club, the Queensland Cruising Yacht Club decided that they wanted to have an ocean yacht race and it was to be called the ‘Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race’ and it is still a very popular attraction to this day down on the Redcliffe Peninsula. Thousands of people come down to watch the beautiful ships sailing past, but the original ones were in 1949 at 11.00am and it started off at the Woody Point Jetty. They had a total number of 8 ocean going yachts, but in 1950 it grew bigger. I believe that then 15 yachts took part. They were to be the only two starting lines that Woody Point jetty and the Humpybong Yacht Club were involved in.
Because of the fact that the prevailing wind that hits our foreshores here is south, south-easterly winds (mostly south-easterlies) it meant that starting from the Woody Point Jetty you had to steer into the wind, and those locals here know that there is a reef that protects that southern end of the Peninsula, which meant that the yachts had to punch out and just keep punching into the wind, which meant they had to tack. Because of that reason it wasn’t such a good spectacle, because the yachts had very great difficulty in being safe because of the shallow waters of Bramble Bay.
It then moved in the 1951-52 era to the Shorncliffe Jetty, because you had the following wind, which gave you a spinnaker start, and that was even more spectacular. It wasn’t because of anything else.
Many years ago when Joh Bjelke-Petersen was the Premier of Queensland he approached the Club – this is the Humpybong Yacht Club and also the Moreton Bay Boat Club – to try to help and see if we couldn’t get the Americas Cup raced in Moreton Bay and, of course, we all chuckled and Joh didn’t realise that the keel depth of the Americas Cup type boats in those days – their draft was 22 feet, so it meant that the only way a boat could have 22ft of water was to follow the shipping channels, so it would have made a very interesting Americas Cup Race! He was an intelligent man, but he just didn’t realise how much keel was under an American yacht.
Again, because of my age (and I don’t tell lies) I was the founder of everything in Redcliffe basically, except bowls clubs, but I was a foundation member, believe it or not, of the Bramble Bay Bowls Club because my dad had lots of money in those days and they were selling debentures, so he made himself a member, mum a member, my brother a member, and little Colin Bainbrigge a member! He bought us £100 debentures, so I was a foundation member of the Bramble Bay Bowls Club at the age of what, 19 or 20!
Then I landed at Archerfield. Because of the War, Eagle Farm had been taken over by the American Army, so it was pretty late when we got off the old DC3 and we were coming down – I’d got no idea of where I was because it was dark – and dad said to me, “We’re getting close to home now. We’re about to cross the big river.” I said, “A big river, I didn’t know we had a big river there,” so we hop onto the bridge and I’m sitting there and we keep going and going, and it just kept going and going, and “my God, this is a huge river!” You never had bridges like that over the creeks that I know, and even the Fitzroy wasn’t this big, and it turned out in the morning, when I saw what it was, that we’d gone across the edge of the Bay – it was the Hornibrook Bridge!
The impact that the sailing club had on the Peninsula because of the inaugural Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race being there – they came in their thousands, because the Brisbane people could catch the train from Brisbane and all the suburbs surrounding it. They’d catch the Hornibrook bus and come over by bus, so it really made Redcliffe a tourist attraction in its own right. I promise you that Redcliffe was just as pretty in 1949 as it is to this very day.
My mother was a pianist of some renown. She got a gold medal from the Conservatorium of Music in New South Wales, and in our country town she was the one who was always the pianist for all of the functions, including debutante balls and what have you. Originally in Redcliffe we also had them, and they were all after the War held at the Renown Theatre, and the Renown Theatre had all canvas type seats. You could take them all out, but it was a wooden floor and it made a big dance hall, so the debutantes then they started up and Bradley was Mayor at the time. The first ‘Debutante Balls’ were held at the Renown Theatre and, of course, all the proud parents and what have you – it would be packed to the hilt for the Mayor’s Debutante Ball at the Renown Theatre!
The other strange coincidence we had – Anzac Avenue [Victoria Avenue] and all at the back of King Street – they were all farms in those days and we had one incident where the Queen of Peace Church is today when we lost a man there for two nights. He got into a banana plantation and there were the police and every volunteer from the clubs and we couldn’t find him. He could dodge us all, and he spent two nights in this banana farm, which is now part of Collins Street/King Street where the Queen of Peace is.
They had all banana plantations there, and on the other side of the road you had Dawes Farms which was small crops, then you had the Kings had the other end of that, then over the road from that, going down the hill in King Street down to the creek, was Miller’s and he was an excellent one.
That’s where you bought your cabbages and cauliflowers and carrots, beans and peas, but out on the Anzac Avenue most of those farmers came from the same place that I came from. They were Callide and Dawson Valley men, but we had one particular area that was called Valentine Plains and 90% of the people that took that up came here – number one because we got more rain, and number two Redcliffe does not have frosts, so they went into growing what became the famous Queensland Blue Pumpkin.
Redcliffe doesn’t get frosts because we are so close to the sea – nearly part of it. The farmers out there were the first people who could provide pumpkins to the Sydney and Victorian markets, so they did very, very well thank you very much out of the Queensland Blue Pumpkin.
A friend of mine by the name of Fergie Ebert came up to me one day and then we built our house and by the way the house was the second big house ever built in Oxley Avenue, then called Main Coast Road. Fergie came up to me and he said, “I cut a piece of fibro today,” and I said, “You what?” He said, “I cut a piece of fibro,” and I said, “How did you do that”? He said, “You know, in my carpentry”. I said, “I’d like to be able to do that,” and that’s how I became a carpenter. I got apprenticed to a bloke called Billy Torenbeek, who is one of the founders of the Rugby League Club here in Redcliffe.
I was an original player and I was the under 18 captain of the Leagues Club then, when I started my career, and of course, it was done by correspondence and I would get a letter back from the school of correspondence –
‘Dear Mr Bainbrigge
You must realise that our classes are designed for people who have not had Grade 5. We do realise that you have had a senior education but we cannot change it because of your education.
You must complete the workings. How did you work that out?”
I continued to do it. I did trigonometry and building basically is just geometry, so at the age of 19 I started my apprenticeship and that normally should have gone for five years, but because I was so far advanced in education I got mine in four years and one of the major projects I ever worked on was the APM office building.
In Redcliffe I built many, many homes including my own in Sydney Street, and I still reside in Sydney Street right opposite the swimming pool. When I built my house I started it in late 1953, on my own, and I had it finished for our wedding and our marriage in 1954 with no help, except Mabel had to come up to help me with the gullies because of the severe cut of the timber that you have to have for that.
The whole of the area north of our house was just bushland right through to Anzac Avenue – there were no buildings there whatsoever, so when you see it today you can imagine that they used to use that area when the Christmas campers had no more room and they would put the surplus in the bush, right opposite my house.
My mother and father stayed in that shop for a very, very, very long time because dad, as I said earlier, was looking to buy the Belvedere Hotel. The date was getting very, very close and my mother was a strict Catholic and she was very concerned having two children, two boys, in the family working in a hotel. I can remember when dad came back from the auction. I said, “How did you go dad?” and he said, “Anybody that would pay £12,000 would have to be out of their cotton picking mind for a fibro hotel,” and my mother gave the biggest sigh of relief ever! Little did they know that within six months that hotel re-sold for £18,000 then later on, and not much later, it sold for £36,000 so the increase in the value of hotels would have made me rich for life!
The excitement on the day that we got word the War was over was finished! Mum came in and said, “Come on, get dressed.” She locked the shop up and we raced on to the Hornibrook bus and went straight to Brisbane to celebrate peace – the War is finished at last.
I was lucky when I was born because we had all the toys, but when I was growing up in Woody Point my brother and I, at nighttime, would just go down to the Woody Point Jetty and they had one electric light bulb on the jetty. You had to be under that because that attracted the prawns, and in season we would put down the hardy head nets and the prawns would fill it in, and we could fill a 2-gallon bucket of prawns without any problems at all, just with a hardy head net.
If you wanted sand crabs you just went out with a line at Woody Point Jetty and in those days a crab pot was a ‘dilly’ – just a flat ring – you could catch thirteen or fourteen crabs just by running up and down and every crab had barnacles on it. To get a feed of fish or crabs or anything like that – I made nearly £1000 one Christmas just by hiring dinghies and selling bait and that was a lot of money. That was before I became a carpenter, just filling in from the grocery store. It was paradise. You know, when you come from black soil country with no water to a paradise – well, we’re an island really, aren’t we? We really are an island.
They did have an idea once that they would cut a canal between Bramble Bay and Deception Bay, but that never ever got down the road because that would affect the so-called ‘balance’.
You think of doing a canal from one country – from one side the Panama Canal to another, the Suez Canal, the difficulties they had because of the differences in the level and there would be a slight difference between Bramble Bay and Deception Bay. You would have the tide changing in different directions, the same as Bribie Passage. It has an inlet and an outlet, but it has a point where the tides meet – one runs one way and the other runs another way. You call that the ‘lull’ area.