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Christmas on the Southern Moreton Bay Islands was one time that the farming families in the got together to celebrate.

Around 1914, young farmers Harry Brooks, Herb Robinson, Perce and Bob Lovell celebrated Christmas eating watermelon in Harry’s hessian walled shack on Lamb Island.

They owned land together and grew vegetables for the Brisbane markets. Later they split up the block into their own parcels of land and built houses and Harry married.

Harry and Peggy’s home became the place of worship on Lamb Island and where Christmas was celebrated.

On Russell Island a Methodist church was built in 1920.

However, the new St. Peter’s church, built in 1924 was the hub for celebrating Christmas, island style.

A large pine tree was cut down and after being placed in a barrel of wet sand, it reached to the ceiling in the church.

Children made decorations for the tree for weeks before.

Felt stars, painted pinecones, cardboard cut outs of angels and garlands made from wool and beads were created after they finished their farm chores.

The star at the top of the tree was fashioned from pine wood and painted gold. It was used for many years.

Children from the Russell Island State School performed a concert, dressing in fancy dress for the occasion.

Isabel Dunsmore’s family celebrated Christmas Day with a lunch of cold grey, salty corned beef, vegetables from the farm, homemade bread and chickens.

Yes, the chickens were a real treat. They were roasted in a Dutch oven on the coals.

The root vegetables were fried in dripping before being put into the Dutch oven at the end of cooking the chickens. Gravy was made with flour and Pariessens essence to make it dark brown.

Dessert was steamed puddings (usually three) with homemade custard made by mixing Poppy Custard powder, sugar and skim milk powder in water.

A fruit cake with generous amounts of rum was offered to visitors from other farms who called in to share the festive spirit.

It was often beer and home brewed wine from any fruit growing at the time. Bull’s Eyes, boiled sweets shaped like fish and liquorice were placed on the sideboard in bowls made from plaster of Paris moulded over an upturned bowl and a doily pressed onto the outside then removed to create a lacy effect.

Recipe for steamed Christmas pudding from the old Dunsmore recipe book –


1 cup flour

1 tablespoon dripping

2 tablespoons sugar

1 teaspoon of cinnamon and same nutmeg

½ cup currants

½ cup sultanas

1 dessertspoon rosella jam

1 tablespoon rum

1 cup boiling milk in which 1 teaspoon of bi-carb soda has been dissolved.

Steam 1 ½ hours.

On Boxing Day, the farmers from Lamb, Karragarra and Macleay sailed to Russell Island for the annual cricket match. Everyone took a picnic and caught up with friends.

• Island children dress up for Christmas in the early 20th century

• Perce and Bob Lovell share a Christmas beer.

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