Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Quail Island

Quail Island is situated at the northern end of Western Port Bay across Rutherford Inlet from Warneet. Adjacent to Quail Island is Chinaman Island. You can see Quail Island on the left of the aerial, below, and Chinaman Island in the centre under the Warneet township. Cannons Creek is at the top of aerial.

Aerial from October 19, 1986. Quail Island on the left of the aerial, below, and Chinaman Island in the centre under the Warneet township. Cannons Creek is at the top of aerial. Towards the top of Quail Island you can see a dam, so that would have been in the vicinity of the house that was once on the Island and destroyed in the 1898 bush fires.

Quail Island was so named due to the number of quail in the island. Chinaman Island was named becasue Chinese fishermen were said to live on this island and they fished for the type of fish eaten by the Chinese, dried them and sent them to China. Quail Island was originally used as a pastoral run - one of the earlier lease holders appear to be Henry Greer and James Wheatley as the following advertisement appeared in The Age of May 25, 1864.

The Age  May 25, 1864

I presume that in the end James Wheatley took over the lease as in August 1864 he offered a portion of Quail Island to the Acclimatisation Society for them to run stock. Whether Wheatley's offer was accepted or someone else took over the lease, the Island was used to stock game  as Quail Island was 'temporarily reserved for Acclimatization purposes' on April 16, 1866. A report in The Age of August 14, 1867 said that 'nine black Indian partridges and seven Cape partridges had been sent down to Quail Island, for liberation'

State Government Gazette April 24, 1866

This advertisement (below) regarding the sale of Quail Island give us some idea of development on Quail Island as by July 1868 the Island had a 'good three roomed house and sheep yards' and was connected to the main land by a bridge. The house was destroyed in a bushfire in 1898. You can see one of the 'permanent lagoon' or dams in the aerial photo at the top of the post. Graham Patterson, in his Coastal guide, quotes an article from The Argus of November 1, 1865 relating the story of the housekeeper on the Quail Island Station and her misadventure in returning home from Cranbourne one day. It's well worth a read, which you can do, here.

The Argus July 7, 1868

As best as I can I have traced the  lease hold holders or owners of Quail Island - it is part of the Parish of Sherwood and was part of the Cranbourne Shire. The first time I could see Quail island itemised in the Rate Books was 1877/1878 when Alexander Hunter was listed. Hunter also had the Balla Balla run at this time. The Island had been advertised for sale in September 1878 (see advert here) so he may have purchased it around then.  Alexander Hunter had Quail Island until 1884/1885. Donald Tolmie is listed in the Rate Books from 1885/1886 until 1887/1888. From 1888/1889 Charles De Arth (also called De Ath) is listed n the Rate Books until at Quail Island until 1889/1900, the next year his name is crossed out and in July 1901 this notice (see below) appeared in South Bourke and Mornington Journal, reporting on the proceeding of the Cranbourne Police Court. After De Arth, James Ridley had the Quail Island lease until 1912/1913 when Francis Callanan took it over. By then it was listed as 2000 acres although it had been variously listed as being of 3,000 or 4,000 acres - perhaps by this time they could accurately measure the island. Callanan was at the island until 1915/1916 when the Rate Books have the annotation 'Abandon' and 'Reverted to the Crown'

South Bourke and Mornington Journal July 3, 1901

In 1908, the Department of Agriculture inspected Quail Island to see if it was suitable for closer settlment or  a labour colony, but in the end both options did not go ahead  for various reasons including distance from the Cranbourne Railway Station. After Francis Callanan abandoned the Quail Island lease I can find no other lease holders and as it did not become  a labour colony or was taken up for closer settlement I presueme that it was unoccupied. In March 1928 it was proclaimed a 'Sanctuary for native game' - as game is considered to be animals which are hunted for sport of food, it doesn't seem like much of  a sanctuary. The next time we hear of Quail Island is when koalas are transferred there from French Island.

State Government Gazette March 21, 1928

The Argus of January 15, 1930 reported that transference of koalas from French Island to Quail Island has began. Many families of koalas were captured and transferred in boats over the five mile strait between the two islands.  The residents of French Island complained that koalas were present in such large numbers that they denuded every gum tree within reach and they asked for permission to thin them out bu shooting or alternatively have them removed. As koalas are protected the second option was chosen.

A report in The Herald in May 1932 also spoke about the koalas being removed, so the process of removal to Quail Island and neighbouring Chinaman Island was still taking place. This article (which you can read here) talks about Mr R.H. Bennetts, from the Department of Fisheries and Game as 'the welfare officer for the little migrants' so this must be the same R. Bennetts who took the photograph, below.

Koalas being placed in boxes to be transported from French Island to Quail Island, 1930. 
Photographer: R. Bennetts

Another photo taken at the same time by, Mr Bennetts, of the koalas and the boxes they were transported in from French to Qaail Island. 

In April 1933, The Age reported (read article here) that 200 koalas had already been transferred and that it was recommended that another 150 - 200 also be transferred as gums on French Island were suffering from blight but that Quail Island had an adequate food supply. A later report published in the Argus in June 1933 (read it here) said there were only 1,000 koalas left in Victoria and that eventually the only populations  would be on the Western Port Islands.

However, fast forward ten years to 1943 and there were various reports and letters in the papers about the health of the koalas on Quail Island. They were either starving due to lack of feed or else they were in a state of good health. In March 1944 The Age reported  (read it here) that the Chief Inspector of Fisheries and Game recommended the transfer of a number of koalas from the Western Port Islands in the coming months. Amongst the places suggested as new homes for the koala was the Wombat State Forest, Brisbane Ranges and Healesville. 

There is an interesting film on YouTube, Koalas removed from Quail island,  filmed  around 1944, about the removal of the koalas to near Trentham. You can view it here

Koala in crate which is being transferred from French Island to Quail Island
Argus newspaper collection of  photographs, State Library of Victoria Image H2004.100/1011

There must still have been koalas on Quail Island in 1960 as the 'Regulations for the care, protection and management at the Chinaman Island and Quail Island Koala Reserves' was gazetted in August 1960.

State Government Gazette   August 24, 1960.

There was talk in the early 1960s of turning Quail Island into a jetport but, as you know that never happened. Quail island is now a Nature Conservation Reserve and some of the waters around it are part of the Yaringa Marine National Park. Quail Island and Watson Inlet are also of State Geomorphological Significance - you can read about this here -

I have created  a list of newspaper articles connected to Quail Island, on Trove. You can access the list, here

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