Barron Ferry

Mrs Marett’s ferry

It was a long trip to Cairns for farmers on the northern bank of the Barron as they had go to Kamerunga to ford the river. On 25 May 1888 Thomas Behan of Stratford wrote to the Cairns Divisional Board requesting they considered auctioning the rights to a Barron River ferry at Stratford (Cairns Historical Society, Letter D2338).

In 1890 Ah Bow became the first ferryman. His boat was a square-cut sampan which he rowed while standing, facing the direction he was travelling. Mrs Marett later took over the ferry service and she had a fierce reputation;

If in a temper, and she often was, she could use more swear words than to the minute than the best bullock driver and she would reprimand the children; Don’t be grinnin’ and smuckin’ behind me back.

It wasn’t just the school children who were wary of Mrs Marett, the crocodiles too needed to be cautious.

She destroyed many a crocodile with her old muzzle loading shot gun; a wonder too as the old gun would fizz for a long time before it went bang.

On 12 October 1889 the Cairns Divisional Board met to discuss building road approaches to the ferry at Lilybank.

Portrait of Mrs Marett who owned ferry at Stratford for many years.
Image: Cairns Historical Society (Mul box A,no.18).

Mrs Marett and a dead crocodile, Barron River,1890s.
(She ran ferry service and is supposed to have shot the crocodile)
Image: Cairns Historical Society (GPN D0472 and GPN 0489).

Mason’s punt

In 1883 William Walter Mason took up 160 acres of land on the north bank of the Barron which he called Acacia Bank. He grew maize, rice, fruit and vegetables which were taken across the river on the ferry and on Chinese sampans. It may have taken a while, but it was still possible to get the produce across the river.

However in 1915 when William Mason began growing sugar cane under contract for the Mulgrave Mill he needed a more efficient way of transporting the large crop across the Barron. Mason and his sons built a punt large enough to carry their dray and horses. The punt was pulled hand over hand across the river on a hemp rope and it took twenty minutes to cross from one side to the other. On one occasion the punt sank and as there was no other means of getting the cane across the river the harvest was lost. On another occasion the punt capsized and the dray and two horses in harness were lost.

Old Ah Bow was our first ferryman. He had a square shaped boat and rowed while standing. Then a family named Smith became the ferry keepers. A few years later Mrs Marret used to row us across. She could be amiable and she could be an old tartar. if in a temper and she often was she could use more swear words to the minute than the best bullock driver. She destroyed many a crocodile with her old muzzle loading shot gun – a wonder too as the old gun would fizz for a long time before it went bang. The ferry keeper was appointed by the Barron divisional board. £2 was the annual allowance for the upkeep of the boat. Charges were 3d per head; policemen on duty, school children and [Barron Divisional] Board members attending meetings were free.
“Stratford & Freshwater” by Mrs D E Griffiths, Cairns Historical Society Bulletin Number 41, June 1962.

Kamerunga low level bridge

Other than the ferry at Stratford, the only other way to cross the river was at the ford at Kamerunga. In 1910 the Barron Divisional Board received a government loan for £850 and constructed the low level bridge over the Barron at Kamerunga. This was the first bridge over the Barron River and it opened in February 1911.
“Road bridges on the Barron delta” by Pat Broughton, Cairns Historical Society Bulletin, Number 535, June 2006.

The Stratford Heritage Trail is an initiative of the
Stratford & Freshwater Community Association