Amateur Fishermen's Association of Qld Inc.
The Amateur Fishermen's Association of Queensland is a body steeped in history and fishing tradition. The Association was formed at a meeting held on 10th May 1904, attended by approx 100 amateur fishermen and chaired by the then Queensland Deputy Governor, Sir Hugh Nelson.
At this meeting (remember it is 1904), Mr W.J.Johnson, Vice President of the Brisbane Snapper Club, said that for many years, “it had been apparent to anglers that fishing was not what it used to be. Years ago amateurs could go out with a certainty of catching fish, but this was not the case now. The Snapper Club had been considering this matter for some time, and they thought that something might be done in the way of imposing restrictions against netting". It had been decided that an association should be formed.
At this meeting, annual subscription was fixed at 5/- (quite a sum in those days) and 70 members signed up immediately.
By Feb 1905, a competition list had been drawn up, and plans were well advanced to establish a Museum. Members began reporting the illegal catching of undersized fish in Cabbage Tree Creek to the Department of Fisheries.
This was the start of the responsible approach of the AFA and their members, who obviously took this responsibility very seriously. In 1905, then Vice President, Thomas Welsby dedicated his book "Fishing in and around Brisbane Waters" to the AFA. He also played a vital interest in the establishment of the museum. Welsby ( 1858 - 1941), a respected historian of Moreton Bay, was a Vice President for the first two years, President from 1906 to 1921 and Patron from 1922 to 1941. His biography has only recently been published.
Recognition at Last
The early years record many incidents of approaches and petitions to Government for bans on netting and the responsible extension of the specimens in the museum to help preserve a history of marine specimens for posterity. A number of very prominent people joined the AFA and offered their expertise in promoting the Association’s goals.
At the first annual meeting, 11th July 1905, the membership had doubled to 141, ten fishing competitions had been held, averaging 4.22 fish caught per line.
By 1909 the Museum continued to flourish, and had approximately 350 species of fish, 100 crustaceans and numerous other objects, mainly marine. It also hosted a collection of 100 items from the Aru Islands. Items had been loaned to the Inspector of Fisheries for displays held in Rockhampton.
In the latter part of 1911, an attempt was made to circulate a petition to open the Nerang Creek again to netting (Nerang Creek is now known as the Nerang River i.e.the Southport Broadwater). Through a counter petition by the AFA, the Under Secretary to the Treasurer ruled against the re opening of netting.
From the early days of the Museum, The Hon. Curator J.Douglas Ogilby (1853 - 1925) was adopted by the AFA and played an integral part in the formation of specimens in the museum. Mr Ogilby was a highly regarded Ichthyology scientist with a worldwide reputation. Mr Ogilby assisted in the labelling of specimens, and in March 1915 donated some of his writings on fish etc to the Association's library.
In 1915 the Association conferred Life membership on Mr Ogilby, and in 1916 printed and distributed 200 copies of Ogilby's essay on "Queensland Fish". Mr Ogilby passed away in 1925 after a long illness and hospitalisation of some 6 years.
In October 1925, The committee resolved to purchase a freehold block of land on Bribie Island for Seventy-five pounds. The new clubrooms were to be known at the "J.Douglas Ogilby Cottage" (this still stands today and is the headquarters of AFA in Queensland).
In December 1922, the museum was transferred to the Public Library, William Street, with specimens now totalling 700.
Bribie Island featured prominently in much of the Association’s activities, well supported by the "Brisbane Tug Company" and the S.S.Koopa, with Captain Johnson, a keen angler, taking an interest in the development of the AFA. The “Koopa” ran as a ferry service taking passengers from Brisbane to Bribie.
A record taken from the “Island News” in Mar 1998 written by a local Bribie historian Warwick Outram stated that in 1915, members of the Amateur Fishermen's Association travelled to Bribie Island on the SS Koopa. They were prominent Brisbane businessmen, politicians, public servants, vice regal people, all dressed in suits. They kept apart from other passengers and in small groups and patronized the considerable onboard facilities. When the SS Koopa berthed at Bribie these good persons entered the sheds as Mr or Sir, changed into fishing clothes and emerged as Tom, Harry, Bill Jack etc. As recreational fishermen, they socialized with other holiday makers. AFA still to this day draws its members from all walks of life.
In 1937 land was purchased and a second Cottage erected on the Oceanfront at North Stradbroke Island. This Cottage was named after James O’Neil Mayne, a Member at the time and benefactor both to the Association and Queensland generally, (Mayne Hall, at the University of Queensland refers). This Cottage and land was sold in the early 1960’s due to lack of patronage and financial problems in the Association.
We have only basic records of Association activities from 1938 to 1948, but there is a record in 1950 that membership was capped due to inability of the clubhouse to accommodate membership.
1951 reported problems with beach erosion near the cottage, and the need for new specimens for the museum, particularly Schnapper.
In 1954, the Association celebrated their 50 years, and celebrations were held at the Victoria Park Golf Club, at a cost of two Guineas per head.
Around the middle of 1960, a nearby property owner, fearing the disastrous results of the continued erosion on the waterfront, purchased the old disused hulk, S.S.Cormorant and had it positioned nearby. Initially it was placed in a North/South direction in front of the cottage, but the Association subsequently had a channel dug to re- position the hulk, placing it in and East/West direction. The wreck eventually became a hazard and was destroyed and taken away as scrap metal in the early 1980s.
By 1963, the new Bridge was almost completed, and members were looking forward to this event with interest. A local businessman, Mr J Di Betta was opening a new café, and offered to house the museum in a special area of the café. This was also greeted with a fair amount of enthusiasm by the members, as it would allow the specimens, to be viewed by the public. The Museum had been shifted constantly throughout its career and unfortunately, due to a subsequent sale of the café, it ended up at the Cottage. It is housed today in a shed on the Cottage property awaiting restoration, which is a Centenary Project.
By the early 1970’s the members had dwindled and finances again suffered. The crunch came when the Caboolture Local Authority put through sewerage on Bribie Island and a purpose built Amenities Block was needed. A loan was obtained from a kindred club and to pay this back a membership drive was started. This membership drive was to be the new beginning for the Association and about 25% of the current members can trace their origin in the Association back to that drive.
If we jump forward now to the present day, the Association is within months of its Centenary. The Cottage was extended in 1996 by the addition of a sundeck and 2000 by an upstairs shower and toilet. It has been repainted and renovated. Membership is at or near the current capping limit of 80. The Association’s fishing heritage has been revitalized and a look at the Calendar on the site will show the variety and multitude of competition events planned. The Association’s Minute Books right back to its beginning in 1904 have been placed in the John Oxley Library for posterity. Finances are continually topped up by the running of Hotel raffles and a “wish list” has been prepared for future projects as finances become available. At a recent meeting the Guest of Honour was Mrs Joy Ware, the grand niece of J Douglas Ogilby, who is writing his Biography.
Meetings are held at the Cottage, Bribie Island, on the first Saturday of each month starting at 9am.