The Boyd brothers hauling in a catch, with helpers and spectators, 1940s.
The Boyd brothers hauling in a catch, with helpers and spectators, 1940s. Contributed

Boyds' Shed at heart of Tweed's fishing history

MANY people will be familiar with the distinctive red shed that used to stand over the water along Kennedy Dr, near the Boyds Bay Bridge, and is now at Tweed Regional Museum in Pioneer Park at Tweed Heads West.

The first section of Boyds' Shed was built in 1907 by the Boyd family, to use in their fishing operations. The Boyd brothers were well known for the hauls of mullet they netted off local beaches.

Brothers Jack, Herb, Fred, Charlie, Robert (Bob) and George (Norrie) became known Australia-wide for their skills and huge catches.

Boyds' Shed was built just above the high water mark, which made it easy to load fish and equipment from the boats. During the early 1930s the Boyd family extended the building, adding a wing to the eastern side.

HANGOUT: The Boyd brothers and friends at Boyds' Shed, in the 1940s.
HANGOUT: The Boyd brothers and friends at Boyds' Shed, in the 1940s. Contributed

The shed was also the social centre and unofficial pub, playing host to every section of the community; locals, judges, politicians and business leaders.

Oral history testimony tells that a Supreme Court Judge from Brisbane, who had a holiday home on the Tweed, was one of the Shed's most distinguished regular guests.

Sunday was a special day at the shed and everybody and anybody was welcome to a drink or three. Many of the old photographs of the men at Boyds' Shed have the word "church” scribbled on the back of them.

The Boyd brothers initially used horse and cart to move their catches from local beaches to the Shed, until they purchased their first truck in 1925. The truck was converted to a boat trailer in 1928 when they bought their second truck. The towing of the boat on the trailer is believed to be a first in Australian beach fishing.

Boyd fishermen using the boat trailer, cira 1940s.
Boyd fishermen using the boat trailer, cira 1940s. Alfred Wappett

Although the Boyd brothers fished for species including jewfish, bream, whiting, kingfish, prawns, and oysters, they are most remembered for the huge hauls of mullet they netted.

The netting operation always attracted a large crowd. The huge catches were hauled in by the helpers who arrived as the nets were run out to sea. The fishermen were generous and helpers generally received a free feed of fish in return for their effort.

The brothers used local hills to spot schools of fish, leaving one spotter on the hill while the others went to the beach, boat and nets. Henry Boyd recalls that spotters were equipped with mirrors to signal from Fingal Head to other members at Point Danger that schools of fish were moving. The Kafoa brothers remember 'the hill man' waving his hat to signal those on the beach to launch the boats. The heavy boats were rowed as fast as they could to get the net around the school of fish. With approximately 75m of net and 73m of rope at each end, the net weighted by lead, the two rowers were pulling a weight of about one tonne.

Once around the school of fish the nets were hauled in, the fish were thrown into baskets and crates to be transferred to the Boyds' ute and taken back into the shed for cleaning and sorting.

The younger generation of the Boyd family did not carry on the commercial fishing operations and the Boyd brothers had their last haul at Dodds Island in 1969, catching whiting, bream, and tiger mullet. They sold the whiting, and gave the rest away.

Even after the Boyds' fishing days were over, the shed remained a social centre for many years, hosting meetings, dances and family reunions.

By the 1970s it was rarely used and by the mid-1980s it was threatened with demolition, first by the Fisheries Department and then by the Main Roads Department. Tweed Shire Council was approached to ensure that the historical landmark remained.

In 1994 a committee was formed by the Lower Tweed River Historical Society to raise funds to relocate Boyds' Shed from near the Boyds Bay Bridge to the banks of Terranora Creek in Pioneer Park. It was moved in September 1996 by work trainees from the Landcare and Environment Action Program.

The Shed has now been redeveloped, with interpretive displays that pay tribute to the Boyd family and their important role in our local history.

Talking History is a column supplied by the staff of the Tweed Regional Museum. It features the stories behind their rich collection.

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