top of page

Ambulance Picnic - 60 000 at Suttons Beach in the 1930's

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

The annual Ambulance Picnic was held at Suttons Beach in the 1930s and large crowds were common for the event that attracted tourists and day trippers from all over South East Queensland.

Crowds visiting Suttons Beach to watch the competition were upwards 50 000 for the events held between 1935 and 1938.

The Courier-Mail Monday 5th October 1936 Page 13 :

"50,000 VISITORS AT REDCLIFFE £1000 for Ambulance REDCLIFFE. Sunday.

A crowd, estimated at 50,000 thronged the beaches of the Redclilfe Peninsula to-day. Of these 20,000 took part in the Ambulance motor picnic to Sutton's Beach.

Although more vehicles were offered than last year for the conveyance ot holiday makers to Redcliffe, more than 2000 persons had to be turned away. In Brisbane, despite that a number of motor trucks made double trips.

Members of the ambulance committee expressed the opinion that the net return would be over £1000, exceeding all previous figures. Traffic was heaviest between 9 a.m. and 11.30 a.m.,

when 5000 vehicles crossed the Hornibrook Highway, and almost as many arrived by the old Brisbane road.

Thousands of visitors came by motor bus, and the Koopa brought a full complement. By noon every available parking space between Margate and the Redcllffe Post Office was occupied.

The weather was fine, although somewhat sultry, and many thousands revelled in the high midday tide.

Sutton's Beach was densely packed, and the esplanades teemed with visitors. There were also large crowds at Scarborough, Margate, and Woody, Point.

At Sutton's Beach a platform had been erected by the Redcliffe Town Council; and from this music was broadcast. The announcing staff of 4BH and artists from the Theatre Royal and Rex Theatre, also provided entertainment.


Following a parade of mannequins attired in the latest beach suits, a modem mermaid competition attracted over 100 bathing beauties. The judges were the Mayor and Mayoressof Redcliffe (Alderman and Mrs.Langdon), Mr. Charles Chauvel, the film producer, and Mr. W. Richardson, chairman of the ambulance committee.

Three charming blondes, attired in black costumes, carried off the prizes. They were: —

Miss Bonnie Orchard, Wilston Street, West End, 1st; Miss Irma Dummitt, Brunswick Street. New Farm, 2nd ; Miss Dulcie Kelly, Theatre Royal, Brisbane, 3rd

Sports were conducted on the beach, the men's open championship (100 yards) being won by C. Hoffman, with F. Fritz and D. Corcoran second and third respectively. The ladies' championship was won by Miss J. Peal, with Miss V. Askew second and MissM. Norman third.

Six teams competed in the tugo' war, the police team winning from the R. Jackson's team.

A utility truck, driven by G. Campbell, of Petrie, ran off the road near Saltwater Creek, but the occupants escaped serious injury, although five adults and children had to receive medical attention.

The ambulance treated over 100 minor cases."

The original newspaper pages are at:

The picnic was originally called the Tramways Employees' Annual Outing, in the 1920's and in 1930, the Tramwaymen's Picnic and was held at Suttons Beach, with the Koopa arriving with over 1000 passengers:

In March 1930 The ESCA picnic was also held at Suttons Beach:

E.S.C.A. Annual Picnic

About 350 persons took part in the tenth annual employees' picnic, which was held at Redciiffe on Saturday last, under perfect weather conditions. Tne Koopa was specially chartered, and left Kennedy's Wharf at 8.30am.

The National Jazz Orchestra rendered selections of music, and ice creams, sweets, etc. were dispensed on board during the trip to Redciiffe, which was reached at about 10.30. A basket picnic was held on Sutton's Beach. During the morning aquatic sports consisting of water polo and swimming races for both sexes were held. The winners were Miss R.Laurie and Mr. Alan McGhie. A number of guests were entertained to luncheon at the Hotel Ambassadors.

Athletic sports were held in the afternoon on Sutton's Beach.

The E.S.C.A. 100 yards handicap was won by Ralph Eden, Athol Lindsay 2nd, Don Cameron 3rd.

Winners of other events were as follows :

-Ladies handicap Hiss Hafner 1st, Miss Cleghorn 2nd.

-Wheelbarrow race : Athol Lindsay and Doug.Cossart.

-Schoolboys race (open) : E, Franklin 1st, L. Towers 2nd; girls: Joyce Deacon 1st, Thora Clarkson 2nd.

-Married men's race: Ted Sergeant 1st, H. Dimbleby 2nd.

-Bun race (boys): L. Towers.

-Three legged race (girls under 13): Audrey Gaitlt and Bessie McKechnie

-Cigarette race : Miss Laurie and Doug Clarke.

-Jumble race (boys): L. Erickson,

-Visiting Ladies race: Miss Phyllis Smith.

-Egg and spoon race: Ralph Chehners and Miss Talbot.

-Needle and thread race : Miss Laurie and Doug. Clarke.

-Three-legged race M. Campbell and Miss Julius. Competitions were won by J. Allan, Miss J. Childers and D: Baldwin (girl's) and R. Staele (boys).

The prizes were distributed by Mr. T. Welsby on the sports ground at the conclusion of the programme.

In December 1930 The Ambulance Picnic is first mentioned as a carnival:

Sunday Mail Sunday 28th December 1930 Page 4 :


REDCLIFFE, Saturday. — One of the most perfect days of the year was enjoyed at Redcliffe today. The brilliant sunshine and balmy breezes drew almost everyone out of doors. The beaches were thronged by thousands, and boating and fishing drew large numbers. At, the Redcliffe Bowling Club, 56 players were on the green this afternoon. The many public and private tennis courts on the peninsula wore crowded, while miniature golf held itsown. The pretty lawns of the Redcliffe Croquet Club attracted more than than usual numbers. In aid of the funds of the ambulance brigade sports were held on Sutton's Beach and attracted a large crowd. The Humpybong Regatta, and Oxley memorial committee held its second carnival, preceded by a successful procession of decorated and illuminated care and other vehicles, which started from Scarborough, and terminated at Woody Point, where the second of the series of pier carnivals was held, after being officially opened by the Mayor of Redcliffe (Alderman A. H. Langdon). Father Neptune again held court. Mr. L. J. Lucas, presiding. Mr. Maurice Goldhill led community singing, assisted at the piano by Mr. Bees Morgan. The Excelsior Brass Band providing music Vocalists included Mr. J. E. England. Mrs. Thomas, Mrs. Ryan, Mr. Stanley Lewis, and others. Large crowds assembled on the pier tonight. Mr. W. Duncan again judged the decorated vehicles in the procession,which was more than a mile and a half Ions- Prize winners were: Mr. A. B. Gollin, Jubilee Terrace, Ashgrove, 1st ; Mr. Alan Moore, Redcliffe. 2nd; Mr. Ken Laidlaw and Mr. A. Nicholson, East Brisbane (equal) 3rd. Tradesman's turnout: Mr. A.P. Smith, Redcliffe. A special award was made by the judge for a beautifully decorated donkey cart by Mrs. E. K. B. Pike to represent Laburnum time. Mr. Gollin, the winner of the first prize, also won the second prize at the Redcliffe carnival on Friday night, his name being telegraphed as Goddard.

By January 1935 the event had grown into a large event with over 60 000 estimated at the 1935 event , and the 1935 event was remarkable for the number of cars making the long journey via Petrie and Brisbane Road. The opening of the Hornibrook Highway Bridge later that year (1st October 1935) allowed cars to access Redcliffe, rather than arriving on the Steamship Koopa from Brisbane or the long drive along Brisbane Road (now Anzac Ave) in from Petrie.

The Courier-Mail Wednesday 2nd January 1935 Page 12


Round Of Revelries REDCLIFFE, January 1.

A typical Queensland summer day,New Year's Day, 1935, brought the largest crowds to Redcliffe ever seen here. At least 60,000 persons spent the day on the Redcliffe peninsula. Between 8 a.m. and noon a fast-moving procession of motor cars, trucks, and buses loaded with passengers followed one another at intervals of a few yards along the Brisbane Road to Redcliffe, making for the different beaches of the peninsula. On New Year's Day, 3426 motor vehicles arrived in Redcllffe. Today at least 5000 motor cars arrived in the forenoon to swell the large number of vehicles already on the peninsula. There were thousands of bathers in the water at Sutton's Beach and Margate Beach thousands more at Scarborough, Queen's Beach and Woody Point, and every few yards of the five miles of bathing beaches between the reef and point in the north and Clontarf in the south were to be seen knots of bathers. Every reserve and headland was crowded with parked vehicles with tents and flies stretched in between the cars to afford the occupants some relief from the heat of the sun. The problem of keeping cool was solved by cool drinks, ice creams, and frequent immersion in the sea. BOWLS AND TENNIS The heat did not deter bowlers of both sexes from patronising the greens at Redcliffe, and energetic tennis players were to be seen on the numerous tennis courts. Last night crowds of holiday-makers in high spirits thronged the streets, and patronised the side shows, pictures, and dances. At Woody Point there were at least 4000 onlookers at the fireworks display given by Mr. J. W. Johnson at his residence, Abydoo. Thousands of promenaders crowded the Redcliffe jetty to see the Koopa berth on the late trip. Hundreds of passengers dis- embarked. There were many bathers in the water last night, particularly near the Redcliffe Jetty, where a section of the beach and sea was illuminated with flood lights. At midnight the passing of the old year and the ushering in of 1935 was celebrated by the tooting of motor horns, blazing bonfires, and exploding fireworks. New Year's Day had fully dawned before many of the revellers sought their houses or camps for rest. This morning a sand garden competition was conducted on the Woody Point beach and the works of the 22 competitors was watched with interest by a big crowd. The judges were Alderman A. H. Langdon, Mayor, and Messrs. A. B. Wilson and C. Spicer, and prizes were awarded as follows: Norma McDonald and Betty Moss (equal) 1st, Jean Osborne 2nd, June Wilson 3rd, Morris Wilson 4th. MANY VISITORS REMAIN This evening the exodus of visitors was not as large as might have been expected. The outgoing traffic was heavy, but a large number of the houses and tents will be occupied until after the termination of the school holidays. At 1 o'clock to-day a middle aged man, R. Pitceathly, of Ipswich Road. South Brisbane, fell from the running board of a moving motor car near the Scarborough Hotel, striking his head on the bitumen road. He was given first aid by an ambulance officer, and was conveyed to the Brisbane General Hospital for treatment. Sales of land at Redcliffe were held today, but attracted very few interested parties. In no cases were the bids equal to the reserve prices, and no sales were effected.

Mr Charles Chauvel and his wife Elsa, who were judges in the “Sirens of the Surf” competition, with Misses Bonnie Orchard, the winner (left), Irma Dummitt (second), and Dulcie Kelly (third).

The First, Second and Third Prize Winners are all wearing “Black Lance” Swim Suits.

Photographer George Jackman Courier Mail Newspaper October 1936.

From our Pictorial History of Redcliffe Book 1824-1949 - available to purchase at the following link:

The last Ambulance Day Picnic at Suttons Beach was held in 1938. A tragic accident occurred where a truck carrying 20 passengers on their way to the Picnic, overturned on Gympie Rd near Bald Hills, killing 5 and injuring 15.

The Ambulance Day picnic at Sutton beach was not held after 1938.

In the 1950's and 60's the Sunday Mail Sun Girl Quest was held at Suttons Beach attracting large crowds again. For the history of the Sun Girls Quest go to the following blog post:

192 views0 comments


bottom of page