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Caretaker Ladies of Bribie


The Tug Company Caretakers' wives sold provisions to campers and managed the dining room and store for the Company.

Before the Brisbane Steamship & Tug Company built a store and dining room at the Jetty in 1915, the caretaker’s cottage, erected at the end of Jetty in 1912, was home to George & Catherine Jacques. Catherine, like her successors, Lily Layton, Henrietta Lawrence and Jessie Freeman, provided for the visitors and campers who came on the steamships to enjoy the Island in the Sun.

Catherine Jacques decided to make some extra money by serving refreshments from a bush-house constructed at the side of her home.  She always had a kettle on the boil, so a camper could purchase hot water for their kettles, putting much-needed coins in her housekeeping purse. 

Catherine then went on to sell provisions to campers from her home. She must have been incredibly pleased when the Dining Room and Store were brought over from the South Passage resort and rebuilt next to her home in 1915.  No more knocks on the door!

Lily Layton carried on the work of Catherine but had the additional work that children bring to the home.

Henrietta Lawrence, a mother to three little girls, took on the role of Postmistress when George Layton signed up for WW1 in 1916 and the Layton family left the island. The unofficial post office had been established when George Jacques, in 1913, was paid an allowance of £4 ($8) per year to run it for the Tug Company. Newspaper advertising for the Koopa soon noted that meals and all camping requisites could be obtained at Lawrence’s store. The caretaker’s wife was certainly a major asset to the success of the new island resort.

By 1921 the Tug Company built a second cottage where the Jetty Restaurant is today, and Bill Freeman, a local lad born in Toorbul, was employed to look after the arriving steamships and company property. The caretaker no longer lived at the end of the Jetty as the Dining Room, Store and house were leased out to Mr Davies of Glan-y-Mor Boarding-house and the Lawrence family left the island.

Jessie was still a bride when Bill Freeman was offered the new job and she happily took over the role of Postmistress, a position she held for over 22 years. The Post Office was relocated under their new house and was soon joined by the new telephone exchange. In 1924 there were only 50 permanent residents, but during the holidays the population grew with the influx of holidaymakers and of course everyone needed to keep in touch by sending letters or postcards, all conveyed by the Steamships.

The military in 1943, not only acquired the Koopa for war service, but the Post Office also went under military control, so Bill and Jessie both retired, leaving the cottage and buying a house in Queen Street (behind the Bongaree Bowls Club) where Jessie died in May 1944.

Written by Lynne Hooper from information sourced from the BIHS Database.

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