Memories of Redcliffe: An Essay and History
Fellow writer Ann Carr's issued the following challenge in her wonderful work Geraint the Seiver..:
"I want to pass the baton with a challenge of my own.
Do you have a favourite beach? One you know, or one in your imagination? Write about it! Describe like you’ve never described before! Use unusual vocabulary! Make us see every detail in the landscape!
Prose, poem, fiction or reality, let’s hear about it in a way which makes us want to visit or which fires up our imagination."
This essay is my response, and I would like to thank Ann very much for rekindling these fond childhood memories and giving me the opportunity to share them.
Memories of Redcliffe: an Essay
Having spent a large part of my life living on or near the East Coast of Queensland, Australia I have had a number of favourite beaches over the years. These include Sunshine Beach, Granite Bay, and Alexandria Bay as well as various beaches on Bribie Island.
However, my first fond childhood memories are of the main beach at Redcliffe, a town (or now outer Brisbane suburb) where we lived from when I was around two years of age until eight.
My father and brothers actually helped my grandfather build our house in Watt Street, Redcliffe, and as soon as it was finished my parents (and I) moved out of the room they were living in above my grandparent's garage to their own home.
Redcliffe was then and now a popular seaside resort town/suburb, and our house was a quick three or four minute drive, or 15 minute walk from the beach.
My Favourite Beach: Redcliffe Beach and Jetty
As a child, the main attraction for me at Redcliffe's main beach was the jetty and the penny arcade that was located at the end of it. I treasured every visit there to enjoy the wonders that small amusement arcade held, and those memories are still vivid today, over half a century later.
I used to be in awe of the length of the jetty, at least through a child's eyes, and it seemed to stretch on forever. As we walked along the wooden planked pier we would encounter numerous fishermen or even other children with their lines dangling in the water. Dad would often stop and engage a fisherman in conversation, "How's the catch today? What are you using for bait.?"
I can't remember all of the amusements but those that captured my childhood attention and imagination at the time included The regular fairground "strong man test" requiring the contestant to hit a pad using a large mallet like a sledgehammer as hard as you could and see if you could ring the bell at the top. I always begged my dad to "have a go" and, though he feigned reluctance, it was a proud moment to see him ring the bell every time.
I recall a 10 pin bowling lane that operated by inserting a sixpenny coin, wherein it would release a bowling ball for your attempt at knocking down as many pins as possible. If I recall, there was a small toy or memento as a token prize if a strike was scored.
The obligatory pinball machines were dotted throughout. This was long before popular electronic arcade games like Pacman and space invaders were ever envisaged. I can vaguely recall an attendant scolding me for tilting or shaking one of the machines, oh well.
I also remember a machine for testing how much electrical current you could endure. You gripped a leaver and pushed it forward or squeezed it and an electrical current would course through your body until you couldn't take any more and you eased it off. This probably would be no longer allowed in with today's strict health and safety laws.
There was a Gypsy fortune teller in a glass case. I remember she was very scary looking and you were required to put a coin on her plaster or plastic palm and she would proceed to tell your fortune.
After we had spent our allotted money, or my parents had grown bored, we would make our way down to the beach, or drive to nearby Sutton's Beach, where we would swim, build sand castles, or collect shells. This was usually followed by a visit to the ice cream vendor for a refreshing cone before heading home.
History of Redcliffe
Redcliffe is part of the division of Brisbane (Queensland's capital and largest city) and located approximately 28 kilometres (17 miles) north-northeast of the city's CBD.
Before European settlement, the Redcliffe Peninsula was occupied by the indigenous Ningy Ningy people. The native name is Kau-in-Kau-in, which means Blood-Blood (red-like blood).
Redcliffe was, in fact, the first European settlement in Queensland, first visited by Matthew Flinders in 1799. Explorer John Oxley recommended "Red Cliff Point" (named after the red-coloured cliffs visible from Moreton Bay) to Governor Thomas Brisbane, reporting that ships could land at any tide and easily get close to the shore.
Redcliffe boomed as a seaside resort town in the 1880s with the principal route for passengers being a steamer from Sandgate pier to Woody Point Pier. The Hornibrook Highway was a bridge connecting Clontarf in the Town of Redcliffe to Brighton an outer suburb of Brisbane and was completed in 1935. This allowed easy access to and from Brisbane by car and made Redcliffe less isolated. Subsequently, rapid suburban development ensued and soon resulted in the cessation of the Sandgate to Woody Point steamers. (source: Wikipedia)
History of the Redcliffe Jetty
The Jetty has been considered the heart of the Redcliffe Peninsula ever since ships carrying holidaymakers started arriving in the late 1800s.
In those days, Brisbane residents who wanted to visit the popular seaside resort either had to endure a four-hour coach ride or a three-hour journey by sea.
- The Redcliffe Jetty was completed in 1885 and then in 1889, it was extended to a length of 700 feet.
- By 1921 the Jetty was declared unsafe and closed to the public.
- In 1922 the new Redcliffe Jetty was completed. At the time the two jetties sat side-by-side.
- In 1924 the Council imposed a toll of one penny per person going onto the Jetty.
- In 1937 the Jetty pavilion was replaced with a brick structure, then in 1938 an entertainment parlour opened in the halfway house on the Jetty (this was also frequented by the Bee Gees during their childhood tenure in the area).
- In 1976 the Jetty was severely battered by Cyclone David.
- in 1983 the Jetty decking was repaired.
- In 1999 the third Redcliffe Jetty was finally opened.
Today the current Jetty features heritage lights, seats and drinking fountains in recognition of the two previous structures. Its concrete deck also has a railway track motif along its length. This acknowledges that railway tracks were an important feature of the first two jetties, being used to transport cargo between the head of the jetty and Redcliffe’s main street.
The Brothers Gibb: The Bee Gees
In 1958, the Gibb family emigrated to this area from Manchester, England and called it home.
In 1959, Brisbane based Speedcar driver Bill Goode, the promoter of the Redcliffe Speedway hired the brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin, to entertain the crowds at the speedway from the back of a truck during the interval. This was the first ever public performance by the trio in Australia.
Barry Gibb and his mother Barbara Gibb went on to sign the band’s first music contract with Bill Goode and also radio announcer Bill Gates - on the family’s kitchen table in Redcliffe. Because, it was the initials of both promoters as well as Barry Gibb it was suggested the group call themselves The BGs..this was subsequently changed to the name we all recognise and The Bee Gees were formed.
In the early 1960s the Bee Gees began booking gigs and appearing on local Queensland television shows performing their own songs, and in 1966 released their first big single, Spicks and Specks.
Following a succession of top ten Australian singles, the Bee Gees returned to England to pursue their musical dreams. The rest is history.
I moved to Redcliffe with my parents in 1959 and we lived there until 1965, so the Gibb Brothers were living there during that time. Maurice and Robin were seven years older than me and Barry 11 years my senior. Younger brother Andy was actually 10 months younger than me so probably attended primary school at Scarborough State School at the same time I was there.
In 2013, Moreton Bay Regional Council unveiled a 70-metre monument connecting Redcliffe Parade and Sutton Street, and renamed the alley ‘Bee Gees Way’ Redcliffe. This incorporates statues, photos and information about the famous trio.and as you stroll along the walk their music plays in the background.
In 2015, Barry Gibb personally returned for the Grand Opening of Bee Gees Way stage 2 and recounted memories of their time in Redcliffe as well as performing on stage.
Redcliffe My Home Town: a Poem
Memories come flooding back
Of a childhood full of fun.
Redcliffe's jetty's penny arcade
Has a soft spot in my heart.
The seaside town I first called home
In a house my father built,
Where my first memories were formed,
And where I started school.
We move a lot throughout our lives
To places near and far,
But some we never can forget,
They always draw us home.
I didn't live there very long
In the span of years I've clocked,
But always had some family there
So my visits never stopped.
The city changed and modernized
But its appeal has never waned.
One day I may live there again
And relive my childhood years.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 John Hansen