Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club and Keane’s Point

In 1891 distinguished colonist Edward Keane purchased land that included what was then known as ‘Butler’s Hump’, now Keane’s Point. By 1894, Edward had built their family home, Cappoquin House which they named after their home town in Ireland.

Although his work as a civil engineer, builder and politician kept him extremely busy, Keane still found time to be an instrumental force in establishing the Freshwater Bay Boating Club at the foot of Irvine Street in December 1896. With government agreement, the Club, now known as The Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club, built a jetty out into the Bay with its own club house (look out for the plaque to mark the spot, next time you visit the bay). Keane died in 1904, and twelve years later his wife decided to subdivide their land into residential sites.

The subdivision was suspended when an influential group united to purchase the land to keep it in public hands. In 1920, the land was leased to the Repatriation Department for Permanently Disabled Returned Soldiers, and Cappoquin became Anzac Hostel and accepted 14 patients. By 1928 numbers had reduced to just six patients who were transferred to Lucknow Hospital.

The area subsequently became a popular camping ground before finally being leased, in 1936, to the Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club. The club has flourished and it remains a premier home for yachting in Western Australia.

Cappoquin, 1916.

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Freshwater Bay

Freshwater Bay Nyoongar people have maintained a close connection with the Swan River – known to them as Derbal Yerrigan – for more than 40,000 years. This connection forms the basis for much of their cultural and spirituality identity. Freshwater Bay was an important camping place, a source of fresh water from springs, a fishing and trading area, and above all a spiritual place.

 

The Nyoongar word for the bay itself Minderup – means place for alleviating sickness.

Since European settlement Freshwater Bay has been regarded as a healthy place, one for recreation and enjoyment. It was once a popular holiday, camping and picnicking spot for the many thousands brought by steamers and other river craft to enjoy its beauty and the safe swimming: as noted in the West Australian on the 31st of December 1936:

 

Freshwater Bay, which from most angles resembles a great lake, has few peers along the river for sheer beauty. The beautiful homes capping the northern highlands bear witness to the loveliness of the scene. Then down the river, beaches have one great asset and charm not possessed by their northern sisters – the shady and graceful Peppermint tree.

 

It was these native riverside Peppermint trees which inspired the name Peppermint Grove. The majestic Moreton Bay figs were planted here later – in the early twentieth century – and remain important for shade. At one time destroyed for camp fires, the trees are now appreciated and protected.

 

The beach at Peppermint Grove is also home to the black swan, Cygnus atratus, the symbol of the Swan River and after which the Swan River Colony was named. Loss of riverine habitat resulted in a significant reduction in the once abundant swans, but their numbers are slowly increasing