Torres Strait Flag  Thursday Island Covers and Postcards  Torres Strait Flag


Where is Thursday Island? - here is a Google Earth link  Thursday Island.kmz.  It is at the northern extremity of Queensland, Australia.

Photo album from my 2009 visit

Bill Snell's pics from 1963

 Wikipedia article


View Larger Map

William Bligh of mutiny fame sailed past here in the Bounty launch in 1789 on his way to Batavia. He named an island in the Torres Strait as Wednesday Island. It appears that an 1848 survey added names to other islands in sequence after Wednesday and Thursday Island thereby came to get its name, linked to Bligh but not directly named by him.

The island was known as Waiben to the local people. It was selected as an administrative base by the Queensland Government in 1875 and an outpost was established in 1877, after the abandonment of Somerset on Cape York (founded in 1864 as a "new Singapore"). Thursday Island was conceived as a Whites-only administrative centre. The first census in 1885 had a population of 307 including only 16 indigenous people. 

It was fortified by Queensland against the Russians from 1891 and after federation the fortification became a federal government responsibility. Green Hill Fort  The Island became the centre of maritime industry exploiting pearl, trochus and beche de mer in the surrounding seas. It was very diverse culturally, with Torres Strait Islanders, Europeans, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Indonesian and Sri Lankan components. There came too to be a component drawn from Queensland's South Pacific indentured labour population. The town  had a racial pecking order and segregated living districts.  The Federal Naturalisation Act of 1903 stopped non-white immigration to Australia but the pearling industry was exempted so this diversity continued.  The pearling industry focus moved to Dutch waters in 1905 and low prices for shell from 1920 onwards caused a decline which became terminal in 1956 and all pearling ceased in 1965. Today there is a cultured pearl  industry near TI.

The Federal Torres Strait Islanders Act of 1939 recognised the indigenous people as different from aboriginals and eased, but did not end paternalistic control. It was only in 1947 that TS Islanders were permitted to work on the mainland. This started a diaspora, where the majority now live away from the islands.

Today much of the Thursday Island population is of mixed Asian and Asian-indigenous origins. There are people with some Japanese descent but no distinctive Japanese community.  The languages of Thursday Island  are English and an English based Creole. 

The Post Office was established by the Queensland Government in1878 and has been on the present site since 1887.

- An historic photo of the Thursday Island PO (Thumbnail), at the eastern end of Douglas Street. It was built in 1934. About John Douglas Turnbull dates the first post office as 1877. It became a telegraph office too in 1887 when an undersea cable reached the island.

thursday 089.jpg (86631 bytes) - The PO in 2009 (Thumbnail.

CustomsHouse.jpg (25439 bytes) - The recently restored Thursday Island Customs House (Thumbnail).

The cover pics are all thumbnails

1894.jpg (82577 bytes) 1894 cover, Japan to TI.
1895wrap.JPG (25066 bytes) 1895 Wrapper
1897xx.JPG (67119 bytes) 1897 Form letter

ttt2.jpg (23722 bytes) 1900 Post card to England

2259.jpg (87121 bytes) 1901 cover, The gold mining town of Charters Towers is in Queensland but 1100km from Thursday Island. It is a great heritage town to visit.

1902.JPG (61576 bytes) 1902 piece

2260.jpg (65598 bytes)

1905 ship letter with Japanese stamps.

1910 view

1905.jpg (13252 bytes) 1905 - To New Zealand.

1906.jpg (79795 bytes) 1906 Postcard - The postcard was printed in Japan and is of a Japanese scene. Shame about the stamp.

Undated postcard

1907u.JPG (64738 bytes) 1907 cover to England
LeperChurchreverse 1907.jpg (39102 bytes)

1907 Postcard Carpentaria Mission Series.

1909.jpg (41808 bytes) 1909 cover from Papua - but passed by censor on TI.

1910x.jpg (15508 bytes)

1910 Postcard to Britain

1914.jpg (23385 bytes) 1914 postcard with a Singapore transit cancel.

2261.jpg (53985 bytes) 1911 registered cover. NSW stamp. The Australian Commonwealth though formed in 1901, did not issue its own stamps until 1913.

1910 view

The cover pics are all thumbnails

1919 card.

Scan2.jpg (69412 bytes)

1922 cover, wax seal or reverse.

1920's view

Scan10001.jpg (81147 bytes) 1926 cover, No 2 cancel. Farquhar and Porter Ltd envelope.

SS Wyreema at Thursday Island - Unused postcard. She serviced the Australian east coast.

Scan10002.jpg (65418 bytes) 1926 cover, No 2 cancel. Envelope has Farquhar and Porter Ltd, Pearlers, Thursday Island, on reverse.

Undated postcard

1926 postcard (not a local scene)

The cover pics are all thumbnails

236942.jpg (17455 bytes) 1927 cover. "Pearl merchant and jeweler".

1930 Postcard

1928.jpg (21157 bytes)1928 rev.jpg (21114 bytes) 1928 registered cover.

zza525.jpg (46843 bytes)

112612.jpg (16871 bytes)

112612-2.jpg (16171 bytes)
Reverse of last with Manila and Japan postmarks, signed by Chichester

1931 cover. No 2 cancel. This cover associated with Francis Chichester. This was part of a round the world flight attempt starting in Sydney following his pioneering Tasman Crossing from New Zealand. The flight ended with a crash in Japan. Chichester's visit to TI gets a section in his book about the trip Ride the Wind,1936, republished 1967, Hamish Hamilton.

Chichester with his floatplane DH-60 Gypsy Moth Madame Elijah ZK-AKK

1932a.JPG (31301 bytes) 1932 cover
1932.jpg (26680 bytes)

1932rev.jpg (23415 bytes)

1932 Cover to England. SS Taiping, Australian Orient Line.

Taiping was routed: Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns, Thursday Island, Manila, Hong Kong.

klm.jpg (17713 bytes)

1933 Letter

1933xx.JPG (65753 bytes) 1933 Letter

1935.jpg (60282 bytes)

1935 postcard. No 1 cancel. (Not a local scene)

Thursday Island in the 1930's.

The cover pics are all thumbnails

1936.jpg (117069 bytes)

1936 Cover. No 1 cancel.

Thursday Island in the 1930's.

Scanx1.jpg (33047 bytes)

1937 cover, No 1 cancel.

All Souls and St Bartholomew's Cathedral Church and Quetta Memorial, 1893. My wife's grandparents, William Porter and Maggie Wolff were married there on 21 July 1896. About the church

1937.jpg (43115 bytes) 1937 Cover to Scotland

1937a.jpg (36609 bytes) 1937 Cover to NZ

1937x.jpg (19939 bytes) 1937 Cover to USA

1937 yankee.jpg (20760 bytes)

1937 yankee 2.jpg (18245 bytes)

Two 1937 covers with sender address: Aboard the Yankee. See also 1940 below.

Irving Johnson and his wife Electa, spent much of their life cruising the world on yachts called Yankee. The first, a schooner, owned from 1933-41, would have been the one referred to here. Several of their voyages were written up in the National Geographic making it a famous craft of its time.

Later the Yankee ran aground on a coral reef at Rarotonga in the Cook Islands in 1963 and was wrecked. The hulk was visible near Avarua.


The wreck as it was in 1992 (with two of my sons exploring).

1938.jpg (22332 bytes) 1938 Cover to England.

The cover pics are all thumbnails

CVA154.jpg (30256 bytes)

1937 PC to the USA.

The card.

acc4_1.jpg (17685 bytes) 1940 Schooner Yankee cover - third world cruise - signed by Irving Johnson - skipper.

1940 cen red.jpg (15488 bytes) 1940 Censored Cover.
1940.jpg (18731 bytes) 1940 Cover.

1941.jpg (118013 bytes)

1941 Cover

censor.jpg (76451 bytes)

1941Censored Cover.

1942.jpg (23918 bytes)

1942 Cover.

On January 27, 1942 the order was given to evacuate all civilians from the island. They did not return until 1946. Hence there are no civilian covers from that period. Turnbull dates the closure of the post office to August 1942. There are some military covers that went through the post office up to that date.

The dates can be seen in context:

Date Event
Dec 7 1941 Pearl Harbour attack
Dec 10 1941 Prince of Wales and Repulse sunk near Malaya
Dec 25 1941 Surrender of Hong Kong
Jan 11 1942 British forces withdraw to Singapore
Feb 15 1942 Fall of Singapore
Feb 19 1942 Bombing of Darwin
March 11 1942 Bombing raid on the aerodrome on adjacent Horn Island 
April 1942 Attacks on Ceylon and on RN ships nearby
May 4-8 1942 Battle of the Coral Sea
May 6 1942 Corregidor surrender
May 31 1942 Attack on Sydney by submarines
June 4-7 1942 Midway
July 7 1942 Bombing raid on Horn Island aerodrome
July 21 1942 Japanese forces land in Papua and then advance to the Kokoda Trail 
July 29 1942 Bombing raid on Horn Island aerodrome
August 1942- February 1943 Guadalcanal air land and sea battles
January 1943 Japanese forces dislodged from their Papua beachheads

Clearly the threat was greatly reduced by 1943 but the military authorities were happier with having no civilians on the island well beyond that. Having once had a thriving Japanese community, that was one aspect of the town that was forever changed. The Japanese, even third generation born, were interned for the duration of the war. Repatriation to Japan was the rule after the war but there were exceptions for Australian born, those married to Australian born and parents of Australian born children. Only a few returned to Thursday Island.

Thursday Island was not attacked during the war - the speculative reason advanced is that the Japanese were uncertain if the Japanese residents were still there.

Of the non-Japanese many resided on nearby Horn Island for the duration of the evacuation.

The cover pics are all thumbnails

1947.jpg (23496 bytes) 1947 peace issue cover. No 1 cancel.1948xx.JPG (61296 bytes)

1950.jpg (33302 bytes)

1950 cover to Britain.

1a.jpg (67434 bytes)

2a.jpg (65720 bytes)

1952 covers with strange printed inscriptions - What the Bay of Bengal has to do with Maori chief portraits is a bit of a mystery.

Scan11.jpg (65722 bytes) 1953 Registered cover, the Coronation commemorative stamps.
1953x.jpg (31923 bytes) 1953 cover.
1953.jpg (27822 bytes) 1953 cover to Britain.
1953xx.JPG (43759 bytes) 1953 Paquebot card

Scan3.jpg (75358 bytes) 1955 cover, No 2 cancel. Paquebot. Sender address on rear - MV British Triumph.
1955.jpg (23012 bytes) 1955 Card.

1956-2.jpg (20068 bytes) 1956 Cover.
1956.jpg (20437 bytes) 1956 To Japan - but it appears to be research oriented rather than relating to the former Japanese community.
1956ff.jpg (10489 bytes) 1956 Paquebot cover with NZ stamp.

Scan9.jpg (81668 bytes) 1957 Cover. No 2 cancel. Tattersall ('Tatts") is an Australian lottery.

4482_1.jpg (31968 bytes) 1957 cover with postage due.
1957x.jpg (30776 bytes) That Paquebot cachet got put about a bit. The colourful  Melbourne 1956 Olympiad stamp

The cover pics are all thumbnails

Scan6.jpg (60769 bytes) 1958 Cover. Broken Hill Proprietary envelope. No 2 cancel. Flying Doctor stamp. The nearest modern RFDS base to Thursday Island is Horn Island. While there is a hospital at Thursday Island air transfers to Cairns are made occasionally using the airstrip on Horn Island. 

1958.jpg (47253 bytes) 1958 cover, No.1 and No.2 cancel, with different dates!

Scan5.jpg (53078 bytes) 1960 Cover, No1 cancel.

Scan4.jpg (90912 bytes) 1961 cover. Sitmar Line M/n Fairsea envelope, Paquebot.This must have been a very late use of the Melbourne Olympic stamps. 


Scan12.jpg (42936 bytes) 1964 Cover - P & O - Orient Lines envelope.

orsova2.jpg (54509 bytes)

1967 Card

Orsova, P and O.

1967.jpg (12682 bytes)

1967 Cover - Ship mail.

The cover pics are all thumbnails

1968 full.jpg (23963 bytes)

1968 Paquebot cover ex MV Waitaki - to Tattersalls. Back stamped Purser's Office 12 Nov 1969. New Zealand stamps. Waitaki was a Union Steam Ship Co vessel on a New Zealand to the Far East run.

MV Waitaki

1970k.jpg (28924 bytes) 1970 Cook commemorative

Scan10.jpg (68691 bytes) 1973 Thursday Island Radio produced this commemorative cover. Skylab was launched in 1973.

OTC is the Overseas Telecommunications Commission formed in 1946 and became Australian Telecommunication Commission (trading as Telecom Australia)
in 1975. The history of its predecessor the Coastal Radio Service can be seen here.

Skylab fell back to Earth over Australia in 1979.


1973ss.jpg (19591 bytes) 1973 cover - returned to sender

klb.jpg (40162 bytes)

1974 letter

1975s.jpg (19108 bytes) 1975 Paquebot Cover, NZ Stamps.
1975.jpg (128686 bytes) 1975 Paquebot Cover, GB Stamps.1978xx.JPG (14090 bytes)
1978.JPG (37469 bytes) 1978 Cover Christmas Island Stamps
1979.JPG (37877 bytes) 1979 Cover Nauru stamps
1979xx.JPG (26013 bytes) 1979 Paquebot cover. MV Baron Murray.

79ship.jpg (30004 bytes) 1979 Ship Mail - MV Cape Rodney

.MV Baron Murray

B12.JPG (36934 bytes) 1980 Barron Murray again with Christmas Island stamps.
Scan1.jpg (64315 bytes) 1980 Cover - Australia Post 20c pre-stamped cover with extra 40c stamp. The cancel is the shape of a pearl shell.
1980.jpg (23712 bytes) 1980 Cover Paquebot - Christmas Island cover and stamp. MN Baron Murray. Baron Murray was a bulk carrier owned in Scotland and then chartered to the British Phosphate Commission who used her for cargoes from Nauru. 


Scan8.jpg (61147 bytes) 1984 Lettercard - Australia Post - pre-stamped.

Scan7.jpg (97917 bytes) 1984 first day cover - Australia post 30c pre-stamped cover, not addressed. Centenary of the Coastal Pilot Service. The Torres Strait passage is just north of the island. Pilotage is compulsory. Provision was deregulated in 1993 and now mariners have a choice of providers.

History of Australian Reef Pilots

scan0002.jpg (76768 bytes) I finally made it there - July 2009. Two postcards I posted from there are shown. The pearl shell cancel is looking a bit tired but still going.

1884 view Town And Country Journal, April 10 1884 


M1410890472.jpg (134682 bytes)

Graphic 1890


From family holdings:

Pearling fleet, undated but probably early 1920s. The mother ships are identified on the reverse from the left as Sketty Belle, Fanny, Wanitta (sic. Wanetta in another source), Alice and Aladdin. The smaller vessels are the luggers from which the diving was carried out. This fleet was based at Thursday Island, but where was this picture taken? 

Thursday Island - not dated on the photo but Foley, 1982: "Timeless Isle" has the same image as "about 1905" The wharves are (left) the Government Wharf and the Burns Philp Jetty, both built in 1893.

Thursday Island 1922 photo.


1910 Postcards

Thumbnails of more (sorry there are repeats here - it is hard to remember what has been added):

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dd73_1.jpg (10505 bytes)1905 postmk.jpg (13822 bytes)1910xx.jpg (52306 bytes)thursday.jpg (46857 bytes)thursday2.jpg (11369 bytes)91.jpg (35706 bytes)93.jpg (20157 bytes)94.jpg (17450 bytes)

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$_57 (1).JPG (155986 bytes)$_57.JPG (306311 bytes)$_12.JPG (21113 bytes)$(KGrHqZHJFcFF2YHNkTEBRikglZiWg~~60_12.JPG (27210 bytes)$(KGrHqRHJFEFJWQ,Z2grBSW2YJCnig~~60_12.JPG (40942 bytes)$(KGrHqVHJBcFBUUDMsuFBSYQUL6cig~~60_12.JPG (75404 bytes)$(KGrHqRHJFEFJWQ,Z2grBSW2YJCnig~~60_57.JPG (323714 bytes)$T2eC16NHJIIFHJV+VFt)BSW2R!wiug~~60_57.JPG (223206 bytes)$(KGrHqZHJB!FI8ruUC(nBSW2LSW3G!~~60_57.JPG (139893 bytes)$(KGrHqNHJ!8FI9Q1UcuJBSU9Bt(DgQ~~60_12.JPG (64673 bytes)689860510_o.jpg (125207 bytes)

$_57 (7).JPG (362148 bytes)ghju.JPG (368539 bytes)$_57 (12).JPG (155986 bytes)$_57 (11).JPG (204356 bytes)689613564_o.jpg (166147 bytes)$(KGrHqRHJEkFGJV03H82BRk!2,5KLQ~~60_58.JPG (47502 bytes)671023555_o.jpg (97417 bytes)$(KGrHqRHJEUFE2Npg1IsBRhEG7vP6!~~60_3.JPG (153606 bytes)$(KGrHqV,!q8FE01Mys(WBRgjV-CR,Q~~60_57.JPG (237861 bytes)gm8.JPG (246495 bytes)dgki.JPG (321143 bytes)

ertt.jpg (155986 bytes)$hhh_57.JPG (491781 bytes)p212thurscolourclose.jpg (230362 bytes)$_57 (3415).JPG (127891 bytes)$_57 (21).JPG (229753 bytes)$_57 (6).JPG (254272 bytes)$_57 (4).JPG (161089 bytes)$_57 (3).JPG (144951 bytes)$_57tt (15).JPG (349314 bytes)$_5fff7 (15).JPG (289610 bytes)

$_5gyu7.JPG (190091 bytes)$T2eC16N57.JPG (246648 bytes)$ss_57.JPG (143313 bytes)$jhgf_57.JPG (148180 bytes)$eee_57.JPG (109255 bytes)$_er57 (15).JPG (182480 bytes)$_5ss7 (13).JPG (143281 bytes)$_5rr7.JPG (247555 bytes)$_57.JPG (248784 bytes)$_57 (yyy15).JPG (195373 bytes)$_57 (8).JPG (244924 bytes)$_57 (7).JPG (309226 bytes)$_57 (5).JPG (215493 bytes)$_57 (20).JPG (405581 bytes)$_57 (19).JPG (342694 bytes)$_57 (18).JPG (415343 bytes)$_12 (2).JPG (30517 bytes)rrrr67rr.jpg (142078 bytes)$_55677.JPG (115109 bytes)$_tyu57.JPG (379135 bytes)$_57ut (15).JPG (108429 bytes)$_5rrr7 (15).JPG (88685 bytes)$wer_57.JPG (99977 bytes)$_33357 (15).JPG (497936 bytes)$_88857.JPG (379135 bytes)6657.JPG (379135 bytes)E05-025a (1).jpg (56900 bytes)$_57 (14).JPG (669118 bytes)$_57 (1544).JPG (170832 bytes)$(KGrHqZHJ7.JPG (189666 bytes)$(KGrHq.JPG (383522 bytes)$_57 (13).JPG (126986 bytes)$_57 (17).JPG (207834 bytes)$_57 (12).JPG (170621 bytes)$_57 (15).JPG (338047 bytes)E05-025a.jpg (56900 bytes)

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$_12 (1).JPG (36157 bytes)$_57 (9).JPG (446120 bytes)$_57 (10).JPG (510230 bytes)

                    More Covers

1cov.JPG (34297 bytes)1cova7.JPG (58035 bytes)1covb.JPG (30715 bytes)1covc.JPG (22589 bytes)1covd.JPG (36419 bytes)1cove.JPG (22724 bytes)1covf.JPG (16145 bytes)b1.jpg (126451 bytes)

Early Obliterators used at TI

148          148 on Hong Kong stamp

336 on NG stamp      Official Service stamp

Links and references

Things to do on Thursday Island

Foley, J C H, 1982: Timeless Isle. Torres Strait Historical Society, Thursday Island.

Anna Shnukal (ed.), Guy Ramsay (ed.), Yuriko Nagata (ed.), 2004:Navigating Boundaries: The Asian Diaspora in Torres Strait. Pandanus Books, Canberra.

Island Defenders

Turnbull, James W. & Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria.  1990:  The postal history and postal markings of Thursday Island / by James W. Turnbull  Royal Philatelic Society of Victoria, Melbourne. 

Thanks to: 

Andrew Brocket


Website by Garry Law - Mail me -   Thursday August 06, 2015

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