ISLAND BOUND: Peter Troy, Barbara Summers and Wendy Adcock arrive on Old Woman Island in their boat Swampy in the 1980s.
ISLAND BOUND: Peter Troy, Barbara Summers and Wendy Adcock arrive on Old Woman Island in their boat Swampy in the 1980s. Wendy Adcock

REVEALED: What life was like on Old Woman Island

THE stone house that John Sewell built on Old Woman Island has long laid in ruins but new stories of idyllic life on the island in the 1980s have come to light.

When Peter Troy took up the lease on the island off Mudjimba in the 1980s some time had passed since John Sewell left and there was plenty of work to be done.

He and his then-partner, Wendy Adcock, found the cottage weather-beaten and vandalised.

"Firstly we had to re-secure the house and remove rubbish and debris from inside and sweep the accumulated sand out," Ms Adcock said.

"To our amazement as we cleared the sand and leaves from around the house we discovered patios circling the house and an entire network of rock-lined shell paths leading to the southern side of the island, while another, longer network of paths meandered among the pandanus palms towards the Mudjumba Beach end of the island."

 

The stone cottage on Old Woman Island had huge window openings with black wooden shutters and a black wooden door that could not be completely secured. It was broken into occasionally by other visitors to the island.
The stone cottage on Old Woman Island had huge window openings with black wooden shutters and a black wooden door that could not be completely secured. It was broken into occasionally by other visitors to the island. Wendy Adcock

The were never able to restore the plumbing Mr Sewell had installed to the kitchen and bathroom, instead they would warm water for "bucket baths".

The pair, sometimes with friends, would visit the island for three or four days at a time around Mr Troy's weekend work as a night manager at Surf Air and Ms Adcock's job in a Mexican restaurant at Noosa.

"We always tried to go to the island when the tide was right so we could get into the harbour and when there was little or no swell," Ms Adcock said.

"This meant that much of the time there was no surf, therefore very few people would come out by boat or paddle out to surf.

"We would have the island all to ourselves.

 

Peter Troy wears odd thongs found on Old Woman Island as he rakes pandanus leaves and collects rubbish, some time in the 1980s.
Peter Troy wears odd thongs found on Old Woman Island as he rakes pandanus leaves and collects rubbish, some time in the 1980s. Wendy Adcock

"We'd stay there until the food was running out and then we'd go back. We had some rough trips when the nor-easters were blowing."

They watched "amazing sunsets" from the island and cooked on an open fire place every night.

"I would toss in potatoes wrapped in foil and jaffles were a favourite of ours," she said.

"We drank boxed red wine, listened to the battery powered radio, and played back gammon."

 

Wendy Adcock throws a line off the rocks on Old Woman Island in the 1980s.
Wendy Adcock throws a line off the rocks on Old Woman Island in the 1980s. Wendy Adcock

Most of the time their visits were "peaceful and tranquil", Ms Adcock said, although they worked hard.

But one rainy night they were awoken by banging on the cottage door.

"When we opened the doors there were two men in dark grey boiler suits, dripping wet," she said.

"There was a helicopter hovering over the beach with a huge spotlight lighting up the entire beach and the two men."

 

Wendy Adcock, Barbara and Graeme Summers have afternoon tea on seats pulled form the boat, while watching the surf from the island.
Wendy Adcock, Barbara and Graeme Summers have afternoon tea on seats pulled form the boat, while watching the surf from the island. Wendy Adcock

Their prawn trawler had run aground on the island in the bad weather as they were returning to the harbour at Mooloolaba.

"They had been able to radio for help before jumping overboard and swimming to shore and that's why the helicopter was there," Ms Adcock said.

"When they made it ashore they saw Swampy (Mr Troy's boat) in the harbour and realised someone was in the house so they woke us up."

"The next morning we investigated the crash site and it was an unbelievable mess. The wreckage of the trawler covered the whole rock shelf, rusty cables, foam pieces, coolers, splintered wood, pieces of engine, prawn traps, and so much more."

Ms Adcock, who moved to Hawaii in 1987, returned to the island in 2008 after Mr Troy's death.

She paddled ashore with friends and was saddened by what she saw.

"It was overgrown, the walls were falling down, it was barely recognisable," she said.

 

When Wendy Adcock returned to Old Woman Island in 2008, more than 20 years after leaving, the cottage was a ruin and the gardens overgrown.
When Wendy Adcock returned to Old Woman Island in 2008, more than 20 years after leaving, the cottage was a ruin and the gardens overgrown. Wendy Adcock

Mr Troy sold the lease for the island in 1991 but a year later the State Government took the lease back.

The island, which is now part of the Maroochy River Conservation Park, was subject to what Queensland Parks and Wildlife said was a "major clean-up" in September 2005, which included removing the damaged asbestos roof from the cottage.

Now, nearly 10 after last setting foot there, Ms Adcock looks back on happy times on Old Woman Island with a smile.

"It was a lot of fun, a lot of good memories," she said.



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