top of page

Brisbane Tug & Steamship Company Inc


A Tug & Steamship company started a resort on Bribie Island at Bongaree in 1912.

In Brisbane, at the turn of the last century, three tug companies were operating in competition in the holiday excursion business. 

The tugs: the Boko (a Paddle-wheeler owned by Gibbs, Bright & Co), the Greyhound (Single-screw owned by James Campbell & Sons) and the Beaver (Twin-screw owned by Webster & Co). They were not purpose-built tug boats but vessels also capable of being used as excursion steamers on Moreton Bay and on the Brisbane River.

It was felt that a merger of the three companies would be beneficial to all concerned and the Brisbane Tug Company was formed on 28th August 1903.

The Boko (203 tons) could carry 253 persons on Moreton Bay and 506 on the Brisbane River; the Beaver (222 tons) could carry 400 persons on the Bay and 700 on the River whilst the Greyhound (77 tons) could carry 255 persons on the Bay and 450 in the River. The Beaver and Boko were usually seen at Dunwich and Redcliffe whilst the Greyhound had the honour of opening up the excursion service to Bribie Island. She ran there from between 1901 and 1912.

The success and popularity of these holiday excursions led the directors to formally alter the name of the company to the Brisbane Tug & Steamship Company on 3rd February 1911 and place an order for a purpose-built pleasure steamer from Ramage & Ferguson of Leith in Scotland. The Koopa (Flying Fish) departed Scotland on 17th October 1911 and arrived in Brisbane on Christmas Eve.

George (GP) Campbell was nominated as Company Secretary and Manager and the house flag was royal blue with a red Maltese Cross superimposed in the centre and the colour scheme for the tugs and steamships Aberdeen green with the funnels banded in red.

Bribie a New Resort

In February 1902, James Campbell & Sons Limited were granted a Special Lease (SL 724) over 12 acres of land on the western side of Bribie Island, on Pumice Stone Channel for a wharf site.[1]

In 1912 the Queensland government granted Special Lease No.1628 over 12 acres on Bribie Island to the company. Effectively, this was another continuation of the 1902 five-year lease which had been extended in 1907 for another five years, to 1912. A key difference this time was that SL 1628 was for 21 years (at £2 per annum) and required a “good and substantial wharf” to be built. [2]

In May 1912 the jetty was ready for the SS Koopa to disembark her passengers at Bongaree and over the years the company made various other improvements at Bongaree.  They placed a narrow-gauge tramway along the jetty and supplied a trolley for conveyance of luggage and stores, erected jetty railings, and a stylish shelter shed at the jetty head. Changing sheds and lavatories were erected at the beach for use of excursionists. Private enterprise provided a store and boarding houses and the company built a row of twelve huts along the foreshore, north of its jetty. These were quickly dubbed the ‘Twelve Apostles’.

Bribie became known as the Rising Resort and the Company's hey-day was the 1920s and 1930s.

By 1952 the excursion trade was no longer profitable and the Brisbane Tug & Steamship company, having already disposed of the Doomba prior to WW2, sold the Koopa to the locally owned Moreton Bay Development Company and closed their books on 14 February 1952.

Written by Lynne Hooper from information in the public domain and BIHS' Database.

[1] Queensland State Archives ID 24553

[2] The Queenslander, 23 Dec 1911

bottom of page