July 11th 2007
A Ball to be had
On Saturday 11 August, there will be a major social event at Magnetic Island's West Point.
The occasion is the West Point Fire Brigade Charity Bush Ball and it will be held at a location few Islanders would have ever visited: the site of the former Gray's Guest house - an historical landmark once owned by the World Champion billiards player George Gray.
The night is certain to be a special one with the kind of fun and hilarity Magnetic Island's West coasters are famous for.
To gain an insight into the antics of the wild west coasters one only has to take a look at the official invite in which various members of the Brigade have arranged themselves onto a vehicle of not quite appropriate means.
Ready for action - the West Point Bushfire Brigade
Townsville's wacky and totally irrepressible Barramundi Brothers band and other, yet-to-be-announced, entertainment are planned and all for the very good cause of raising funds to purchase a water tanker so the brigade can seriously take on fires in this superb but wildfire-vulnerable environment.
The Ball starts at 7pm and because parking is limited on site a bus will be running at 6.30pm from the MI Country (Golf) Club.
The event is clearly to raise money for the Brigade and tickets are $70 and available from Fat Possum Cafe on Sooning Street Nelly Bay.
The organisers advise that the night is BYO + glass and that dress should be warm bush-formal so it seems one can add as many imaginative layers for warmth and amusement as feels appropriate.
Following is some historical information about little-known Gray's Guesthouse and its amazing owner George Gray and his tragic family circumstances.
Grays Guest House, West Point, Magnetic Island.
George Gray and his wife and family came to Magnetic Island in January, 1942. Gray, by then in his late 40s and past his peak as a celebrated billiards exponent and world champion, came ashore on the sheltered mangrove coast at Young Bay virtually side by side with American military forces. The Yanks were establishing their anti-aircraft and other wartime defences for the port and air base of Townsville in preparation for the Coral Sea battle and the push towards Japan.
The resort was built in quick time with a large area of concrete floor, an impressive entrance, cooking and dining facilities and 14 cabins for guests. A Chevrolet truck was used to collect guests from the ferry at Picnic Bay and bring them along the 7 kms bush track across tidal creeks, mudflats and dunes to the idyllic beachfront retreat. Guests had access to recreational tennis, bushwalking and swimming, a feast of seafood, and a bonus of a first rate billiards table and one of the all-time greats of the game. In the war years and after, Grays Guest House was one of the favourite honeymoon destinations for Townsville newlyweds.
The guest house operated for more than 10 years. In 1955, the daughter of the family, Mafalda Gray, 26, a nursing sister at Townsville Hospital, was killed in the tragic crash of an RAAF aircraft on a mercy flight to Brisbane with a sickly newborn baby. Soon after, the Grays left Magnetic Island and never returned. The guest house gradually settled back into its remote environment preserving the memory of a famous past.
George Gray died in 1970.
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