Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cribb Island

Recently a reader (Hi Jenny!) suggested a post about the former suburb of Cribb Island. Initially I dismissed the suggestion because I didn't know too much about it, but a couple of things drew me back to it.

Firstly I knew that the BeeGees had lived there at some stage. Secondly, I remembered that not long after I bought my first car I had a couple of dates with a lovely girl who lived there. When I say a couple I mean literally two! The relationship didn't prosper because it was what we used to call "GI". (GI = geographically impossible!) Cribb Island was north-east of Brisbane's CBD and I lived with my parents south-west of the city. The round trip to her place was 100 km, and that was before we went anywhere else. A bit of a shame really, but it didn't seem to cause any great grief - she turned up at the football with one of my team-mates soon afterwards.

In Cribb Island's earliest days aboriginal groups used the area as a food-gathering place. After white settlers arrived it was purchased by JG Cribb in 1863; he sold a portion of it to James Jackson and that part of it became a farming community known as Jackson's Estate, producing bananas, watermelons and pineapples.

Cribb Island was a suburb that was literally on the shores of Moreton Bay. It was not an actual island, although you could be forgiven for thinking that it was. It was bordered by the Bay, Jacksons Creek and Serpentine Creek, making it the ideal spot for fishermen to build their little shacks like the ones in this 1928 picture.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #119341)

During the depression cheap land allowed the relatively small population to increase. The suburb was usually thought of as being in the lower socio-economic band even though it had reasonable facilities for a population that fluctuated between 400 and 900 residents. Many of residents have spoken of the idyllic lifestyle on "Cribby" as children - swimming, fishing and crabbing amongst the regular pastimes.

Cribb Island's location, although handy for fishing, didn't do it any favours. Transport to the area was always problematic because of sand, mud and mangroves and the lack of proper roads. Here's a photograph from around 1929 showing a bogged Model A Ford getting a shove through some sand at Cribb Island.
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(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #156215)

And here is the relevant page from a 1974 Refidex street directory showing the then location of Cribb Island.
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(Photo: skyscrapercity.com)

On the eastern side of Serpentine Creek at Luggage Point lay the sewerage outlet for Brisbane. There were often complaints about effluent and odour from local residents and Brisbane City Council has upgraded the facility over the years since. 

And it was location that was to cause the demise of Cribb Island. In 1971 the federal government decided to expand Brisbane Airport to allow the arrival and departure of international flights, and that to do this they would need to reclaim the entire suburb of Cribb Island - an area of 5 km by 400 metres with a population of 870.

Between 1971 and 1980 the creeks and waterways were diverted and all residents were relocated. Understandably there were protests about the forced resumption of property. The prices paid for the houses were low and many people were unable to afford to then purchase houses in other suburbs. Many were bitter about the process and I don't know that anything similar could happen today. The fact that there were relatively few residents and that it was a lower socio-economic area probably made the government's task easier, although it still took many years and disrupted many lives. But there is still rancour - there are books and even a play about the "Cribbies" who were turned out of their homes to allow an airport to be built.

Click here for a google Map.



  1. Thanks so much for researching this! My Paternal Grandparents moved there in the 1950's/early 60's? from Spring Hill. You are right, it wasn't a rich area, the community spirit was though & continues on their FB page. In saying that my Gparents had a house right on the beach looking over Moreton Bay, I have very fond memories of Cribby :-). Sadly they passed away during the time frame of the suburb being demolished. Since then we've met so many people who have a link to Cribb Island.

  2. I have very strong memories of "Cribby", my family have a very strong connection with the Island. My great grandparents (Kelvin Grove) owned a holiday house, Jackson estate end, which resulted in years of extended family holidays being held there. More recently and up to the 1970's, my great uncle and aunty lived on the main road into the village and then owned on the road down to Serpentine Creek, they were forced to move, could not afford to buy in Brisbane, dispite pleas to be relocated to Nudgee Beach, they were resettled in housing commission at Inala! Cribby memories: 50 relatives in the cottage and single men sleeping in the shed on the property, tank water, my great grandmother's old wood stove cooking constantly, scones through to the full roast meal, adults playing cards, sugar bags full of caught fish, rutile sand, drawing houses in the miles of sand at low tied, jumping and splashing in the puddles, running wild with my brother and second cousins, exploring the then closed and deteriorating bathing shed (ignoring our parents orders not to!), ice cream sundaes at the roller skating rink/ex Cinema, my great aunt's spread of food, visiting always on Boxing Day, my brother (now a mad fisherman) catching his first fish ever in Serpentine Creek off the bank, happy happy times. Memories, many which I think are actually my mother's from when she was a child, but somehow I feel that some of them may be mine? as I have recounted them over and over in my mind over the years. My grandmother winning the seashell competitions - regularly. Simply and wonderful times, wish my son could have experienced Cribby!

  3. I remember when we moved there in about 1955-56 was such fun - went to Nudgee School - lived with a family called McEvoy -daughter was Valerie - don't have any idea where they would be now - didn't realise then that the Bee Gees lived there.

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  5. Hi my mum was born in cribb island 1947 her family name was confer.. They lived right next door to the bee gees and used to be in a band with them.

    1. hey cousin Em, our mums and their siblings lived with Nan and Pop Conder at 38 Elmslie St :) let me know if you want to share any info :) luv always Lizzie

  6. My wife Raakel and I lived at 52 Jackson's Estate Crabby on the left as you turned to go along the front We bought our little packing case cottage for $1400 from Mr Dikeman in the 70's. We improved our little shack and got $3500..... from a government that was only interested in getting rid of all ages of us at the cheapest price possibly .we paid 60 something dollars every 3
    maths for land rent to Ma Jackson and had an amazing 3+ years of first married life by the sea of Cribbie Regards Brian&Raakel
    (I have great photo memories of our life there)

  7. I was there in the last year as a very young child. I remember all of the empty houses. But I remember alot of good things from Cribbie


  8. I grew up in Brisbane and I was always curious about Cribb Island. I'm sorry that I never visited there.

  9. Trying to get information about the night 12/03/1973 when my father suicide and murdered my mum.I was only 10 yrs old I have the court inquest and only a small detailed archive news clipping. Just need to know more.

  10. Dreamed about Cribb Island last night. Don't know why but have been thinking about my late Father a lot and he loved it. His Parents had a holiday home there a long long time ago and when he was a kid he got in trouble for shooting out the school windows with an air rifle. His name was Doug Merkley.

  11. Looking for Ray Norman and John Smith, who lived in Cribb Island in the 1950 to when i went to New Guinea in 1966. Mike Waller from Bald Hills.


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