Kingston Lightstation was a probationary posting. The keepers were usually stationed there for a year to find out how they coped with the life and the duties involved.
We had to buy all the household items to set up house in Kingston, but after these initial expenses, everything was found; except for our food, which was fresh and cheap.
At first, I found shopping difficult. Even standard grocery items had different names to those I was used to. Ice creams were Dixies or cones, not tubs or cornets or wafers. Bread came in half loaves, not large or small ones, and it was all shaped differently. A potato was just a potato, and bacon was all the same it came in a role tied up with string.
I got into the habit of just pointing and asking for some of that. While most shopkeepers were very helpful, a few seemed to take delight in pretending they could not understand what I was saying and made me repeat myself several times. Sometimes I would walk out of a shop in frustration, and the shopkeeper would shout after me, why dont you learn to speak English?
The butcher was surprised when I asked for liver, known as 'lambs fry' (How did liver come to be called 'lambs fry'?). He said very few Australians ate offal, and he usually threw it out. He would put several in my weekly meat order, free of charge and glad to be rid of them. We did not want a meal of liver every week, so I told him that I would ask for one when I needed it. I think he was offended.
Milk was delivered to the garden gate early each morning, fresh from the cow. A milk pail was left out overnight in a specially built box, which was nailed to the gatepost. We took eight pints of milk each day, and usually a pint of cream as well. Sour cream was free for the asking. The bakery made delicious bread and cakes, but as it was considered bad form to serve bought cakes to visitors, we only bought for ourselves when it was too hot to light the wood stove.
Using the wood stove was an art that I thought I would never master. I wondered how anyone could judge the temperature by just putting their hand in, but I soon got the feel of it, and found it cooked better than gas and was more convenient, as it was always lit. In winter, it was the main source of heating in the cottage.
The local fishermen were very friendly and helpful. Fish and crayfish were often left on our back verandahs, after the boats had returned from sea.
There were always two keepers manning the actual light. They maintained the light and kept the structure rust free and painted. The third keeper stayed on shore to rest, maintain the cottages and monitor the radio keeping contact with the base in Port Adelaide and transmitting weather reports. This system worked well. I had become used to Jim being away from home a lot, and the security of the job and good standard of living more than made up for his absences.
The weatherboard lighthouse cottage was large and comfortable. It was furnished with strong and serviceable Government-issue furniture, made for the long use of many families.
The laundry facilities were primitive, but the wood-fired copper was burnished bright and there was always a good supply of dry wood. The concrete wash troughs were scrubbed almost white and the soap powder soaped up well - it was just great to bath and wash in the clear rainwater that drained from the corrugated iron roof. Clothes that had been made dull and dingy from being washed in the brown Adelaide water soon became bright again, and sleeping between our own soft sheets was a pleasure after the hard hostel linen. Just having a clean space of my own to work in was heaven.
We had only been in Kingston a very short time when I became pregnant again. Four months into the pregnancy I received word from England that my parents had split up. The circumstances that my Aunt Zena described in her letters were so distressing to me that I almost miscarried.
Our third daughter, Irene, was born in Kingston in September 1959. Now we had three children in nappies. I had no problem with this fact I loved being able to hang washing out on the long clotheslines in the garden, to blow in the sea breeze, and not have to worry about it being stolen.
The cottages were built on a rise directly across from the sea there was a long sloping lawn in front and another lawn at the back. Beyond the back garden, the ground dropped down into thick scrub. Snakes were a worry, and we were warned to keep a sharp lookout for them. There was a strange loop-like wire object on the back porch to catch them with, but I never had to use it, thank goodness.
One sunny spring morning, I was busy pegging up washing with my back to the bushes, enjoying the warmth and a bit of a chat with the keeper on shore duty that week, when he suddenly stopped talking and motioned me to keep still. Moving slowly away, he fetched a spade from the shed and returned towards me - I was still wondering what was going on he made a lightening leap and swung the spade down to the ground with a loud thump. My laundry basket was splattered with the remains of a large brown snake. I suppose I was lucky to not have been bitten.
I have always loved the sea. Walking with the children along the shore of Lacepede Bay, just beyond my front garden, was a real bonus. My greatest pleasure was lying in bed at night, listening to the sea and watching for the flash of the light beam from the structure out on the reef. The mood of the sea would change from mirror-smooth, inky blackness that reflected the light beams and moonlight to huge thundering white-capped waves driven with such force by gale force winds that the spray would reach the cottages. Shrouds of thick fog often blanketed the coast, obscuring the view. The effect of the sea soothed my soul and gave me new strength.
We settled in and made friends. I felt I belonged.
With our children in school, Iris and I took jobs at the local hotel. All went well for several weeks, apart from being confronted by a huge, rock-hard, blue pumpkin, which I had been asked to prepare for lunch. I had no idea how to tackle the job, and stood looking at the thing until the managers wife came to the rescue. She got a large meat cleaver, placed the pumpkin on the ground and fetched it a hearty whack, which split it in two. Another few whacks reduced it to bits small enough to tackle with a knife.
But we were in trouble with the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (CLS). It seemed that lighthouse keepers wives were not allowed to have outside jobs. We received stern lectures from Head Office and had to write abject apologies, which was a very humiliating experience for us. We were also appalled to find out that we could not leave the town without permission. We had to be available for emergency radio calls, at all times.
Saturday was a big day in Kingston. People came in from outlying properties to pick up supplies at the general store and the stock merchants, do their banking, visit the Post Office, and to socialise. Although it was only a small town - little more than a village - it was on the railway line from Adelaide. From very early morning, cars, utilities and pick-up trucks lined both sides of the main street. Once the shopping was done, families would visit friends or go to the hotel. In the afternoon, there was usually a sporting activity to go to. Some evenings, there was a film show in the local hall.
Towards the end of our first year, two new postings were offered. Iriss husband, as the longest-serving keeper, got first choice. The Roberts went to Cape Willoughby, and we went to Neptune Island, about 50 miles off Port Lincoln in Spencer Gulf.
All our goods had to be packed into handmade boxes of prescribed proportions, with rope handles at each end so one person could lift them. We had landed in Australia with five suitcases and five metal trunks. When our packing was complete, we had 95 pieces of baggage!
I did most of the packing myself, as Jim was out on the light structure. He made the boxes out there and sent them home with the fishermen. I packed carefully, numbering each box and cross-referencing and duplicating each list. The head keepers wife helped with this task. They had been in the CLS for many years, and had served on most of the stations. So when she told us how easy it was for a box to slip out of the flying fox, or fall from a basket as had happened to some of their belongings and how the CLS was strict about lists and paperwork for insurance claims, we took notice of her.
Proposed Cape Cleveland Reunion
Chasing History on the Sellwood Family
The "Post Office" Cave Under Booby Island
Will There be Celebrations for Norah Heads Centenary?
Looking for John Lechte of Deal Island
The Taylors of Cape Willoughby
Feel free to post any request, letters and notices here regarding research, events etc for any Australian Lighthouse on this notice board.
If anybody has any of this material on any Australian lighthouses including the ones listed at the Department of Scrounge it would appreciated, especially the high priority ones:
Please eMail <Keeper>
Volunteers needed to research and write up text for New Pages for Australia
If your e-mail does not display in HTML these pages can be accessed from the "New Listing for Month Index" at <http://www.lighthouses.org.au/lights/New/Index%20New.htm>
The Situation So Far
Christian Bell of the Marine and Coastal Community Network (MCCN) was recently contacted by a concerned individual who stated that the caretaker program on Maatsuyker Island (affectionately known as "Maat", pronouced Matt) was being terminated and that when the present caretakers who are due to come off the Island in August would not be replaced.
According to the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service (PWS) there was no money left in the PWS district budget to continue with caretaker scheme.
After news was received of the possible withdraw of the caretakers from the Island many phone calls and letters were sent to the responsible state minister and staff of the PWS over a twenty four hour period. It appears that any immediate threat of the removal of the caretakers has receded.
Christian spoke with an officer from the PWS with regard to the volunteer caretaker scheme and he stated it will continue to function as normal for this budget cycle. However he did state that for the next budget cycle this might not be the case.
Christian would like to thank all those who contacted either the Ministers office or the PWS but believes that a long term strategy needs to be formulated to guarantee the human presence on Maat.
Maat was the last manned light station in Australia before the historic light was deactivated and replaced with a solar powered light. It is Australia's most southerly light and is located in the middle of Tasmania's wilderness southern coastline.
MCCN was part of the successful consortium of interests that opposed the removal of caretakers from Maat when Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) indicated it was going to remove its staff from the lightstation in 1998.
The operation of a volunteer caretaker scheme on the Island generated tremendous community support including from the fishing and the aviation industry. They saw that a continued presence on the Island as essential due to the key role the caretakers have in weather reporting in the southwest as being vital to their interests.
Since 1998 the State Government has been responsible for the operation of the volunteer caretaker scheme and Christian Bell states that this probably has been one of Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Services most successful community participation projects. It has attracted much favourable media for PWS.
In 1998 when it appeared for a while the Lightstation might be abandoned (AMSA had given a publicized date for its withdraw) vandals and thieves turned up with sledge hammers and bolt cutters to help themselves to whatever they could take. They were surprised to find a continuing volunteer presence there and were told to leave.
Christian has very little doubt that the important cultural heritage would be destroyed within a very short time should the Lightstation be left without a caretaker presence (as well as much of the natural environment of the island).
Failure of Private Sector Tourism
As for many other remote lightstations, tourism does not appear to be an option for such a location.
The two previous expressions of interest process failed. They had some pretty loopy proposals. One guy wanted to turn the tower into a disco and bar!
Access is only possible at present involving a very long and very expensive helicopter flight with sometimes limited opportunities for landing because of the weather!
Transport is certainly the biggest cost associated with maintaining caretakers on Maatsuyker.
The Issue That Confronts Maat
During the last years of operation by AMSA (a Federal authority), of Maat they had an operating budget of over five hundred thousand dollars a year for the island!
Tasmania's PWS are a much more cash strapped organization.
At present Parks Christian thinks they are spending about fifty thousand a year.
Operating costs for a turbine helicopter are about two thousand an hour and it would be a one and a half hour return trip from Hobart to Maat. They make the trip about twelve times a year.
We Need a Long Term Strategy
Christian on behalf of LoA would be particularly interested to hear from people who can offer practical advice, support and assistance in developing a strategy for ensuring additional resources to assist with the continuation of a long term caretaker presence on the Island before the next State budget.
An informal strategy meeting was held 2 weeks ago on Thursday to make a start on some of the issues and to move to form a new support group for Maat and to investigate setting up a Tasmanian Chapter of LoA. As a result there will be a formal meeting on September 16th.
So regarding Maat, as I have expressed in previous issues of the Bulletin, we can be as romantic as we like but there are times we have to get our hands dirty and this is one of them!
However we all have work within our comfort zones and resources. I propose to you 2 options:
is located 15 kilometres off the southern tip of Tasmania.
<Maatsuyker Island, one of a little nest of islands lying about 15 kilometres off the south-west coast of Tasmania, came into the living rooms of Australia on January 26 in 1988 as part of the Bicentennial celebration television broadcasts.
The then light keeper happily announced to the rest of the country that it was so windy down there it could blow the back out of your undies. Maatsuyker was the last Light Station in Australia to have Light Keepers.
Maatsuyker is part of the World Heritage Area, making it the responsibility of both the State and Commonwealth Governments.
last keeper, Owen Barrett, inside the huge Maatsuyker prism.
Lighthouses have been shut up, replaced by smaller navigation aids, with the old buildings either being destroyed or left to fall apart in the weather, simply because economic rationalisation demands it.
Direct responsibility for the island was transferred from AMSA to the Government of Tasmania in 1998. There has been a scheme involving volunteer caretakers managed by the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service (PWS) on the island since the transfer.
Any removal of caretakers would appear to contravene the "heads of agreement" reached by AMSA and the Government of Tasmania in 1998, as there is a clause within the agreement that insists a presence be maintained there.
The benefits of having a human presence on Maatsuyker are many:
Other advantages of having someone on Maatsuyker are:
Organisations that have benefited from the human presence on the island include:
From a natural conservation perspective, human presence on the island has aided in the recovery of the populations of New Zealand Fur Seals in this region. It is also occupied by the Australian Fur Seal (the fourth rarest Fur Seal in the world), the Sub-Antarctic Fur Seal and the Southern Elephant Seal.
The island is free of introduced rodents and mammals and is the second largest mutton bird rookery in the State.
Through low frequency of fires (resulting from the presence of a caretaker) Maatsuyker vegetation has been allowed to develop without the human induced high fire frequency.
The island has unusually thick and stunted Smithton Peppermint and Native Pepper trees, as well as the predominant banksia and melaleuca trees.
So, what is left if there is no presence on the island? A skeleton infrastructure made of an automated navigation aid and weather system, which doesn't provide all the information to facilitate safe operations in the Southern Ocean.
The lighthouse, over one hundred years old with hand-cut crystal pieces and brass mechanisms, will be left to deteriorate in the elements, or be looted by unscrupulous visitors to the island.
The seal colonies too, will become more vulnerable to shooting. Fishing and recreational boats, as well as aircraft will be venturing into the 'unknown' without being able to get information on demand about local conditions.
In all, through the removal of caretakers from Maatsuyker Island, the Tasmanian and Australian community as a whole has so much to lose. The caretakers must stay on Maatsuyker Island.
At present a PWS officer has recently stated that the volunteer caretaker scheme will continue to function as normal for this budget cycle (till June 30, 2003). However he did state that the for next budget cycle this might not be the case.
If members of LoA or other interested parties could write to:
And insist that the caretaker scheme on Maatsuyker Island be continued into the future long term.
The Premier has recently become the minister responsible for Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service.
It is better that you write rather than use an email.
For further information contact LoA member:
An informal meeting was held on Thursday 8th August to discuss the upcoming caretaker crisis on Maatsuyker (Maat).
The meeting resolved that 2 steps should be taken to demonstrate to the Tasmanian Government the community feeling about retaining the caretakers on Maat.
The Wildcare Option
The first option the group considered was that it should work with Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) by setting up a Wildcare group for Maatsuyker Island.
This group is to give practical assistance to PWS with regard to the management of Maatsuyker Island.
Wildcare groups are the PWS formal way of dealing with volunteers who wish to be engaged with projects within PWS, however each Wildcare group is a separately incorporated as a community group and has separate board.
Even though this long term goal is to be persued to look after the interests of Maat, there seems to be some resistance from PWS as with the caretaker crisis it may be seen to be too politicised.
The LoA (Tas) Option
The second, and now the most important option is that if it must be political it seems obvious we need to organize a Tasmanian chapter of LoA as apart from Maat there are plenty of other issues regarding lighthouses in Tasmania that need a more strategic and long term approach. We should concentrate on the formation of this group of LoA members and follow afterwards with the formation of the Wildcare group.
As the first priority this group needs to be to address the Maat issue it can start of in a sense as an informal chapter, but still part the LoA structure. From our understanding of LoA constitution it allows for the development of regional groups subject to the approval of the executive. At present the Tasmanian chair at the table is vacant.
Convener of LoA, Malcolm Macdonald has indicated that he willing to attend as the guest speaker, but also emphasised that this is Tasmania's undertaking and must be that way to be successful.
Opportunity to be a Model for Other States
Tasmania has a great history of activism and eventually their lead may become a model for other states to step up to the plate and become more proactive in preserving and promoting their lighthouse heritage.
Even though one of the stengths of LoA is a strong national and international presence using new technology this can actually be alienating to the ordinary member on the ground.
State chapters such as this offer us an opportunity for:
It would be great to see other members outside of Tasmania nominate to be a state organiser to rally their members to give our Tasmanian friends as much support as possible.
Where and When
I encourage all Tasmanian members and subscribers to get behind this move.
Don't just bring yourself, seek out others that you feel may be interested and bring them too.
I would suggest that those of you overseas that have nominated a Tasmanian lighthouse as their Home Lighthouse should get involved too.
The meeting time and place is:
[Deborah Kavaliunas <email@example.com>]
Wednesday 14th August, 7am set off to the Cape Otway Lighthouse for the combined inspection of Cape Otway.
Once there the group assembled and was made up of the managers of the lightstation , Cheryl Nagel, Supervisor of Visitor Services from National Parks, Stephanie Symes CEO of Tourism Great Ocean Road (TGOR) the lessee, Jenny Bowkers the incoming owner of TGOR, Cyril Mariner and Mike Ferie representing Friends of Cape Otway Station (FOCOS) and ourselves Malcolm Macdonald and Ed and Deborah Kavaliunas representing Lighthouses of Australia (LoA).
The reason for the visit was at the request of LoA and FOCOS as they had been receiving mixed reports about the condition of the lightstation, especially the tower.
The group were invited to view at length the extensive works to date on the once derelict Telegraph Station. The chance to see the multi layers of complexities and the unexpected discoveries involved in renovating such fragility was an opportunity indeed as was the insight into the search for authentic replacements and or techniques.
The group were then escorted to view the out buildings, the original workshop that also housed shipwreck memorabilia and the adjoining Assistant Keepers quarters before moving on finally to inspect the tower.
The discussion started mainly around problems such as removing ancient paintworks and replacing it with appropriate paint that specifically meets the requirements of this particular structure - all very complicated indeed.
Then, over a cup of tea and coffee, each representative was able to put forward the view from their perspective.
The discussion concluded with the general agreement that what was needed was an active program of maintenance and that it would be in the best interests of the heritage and tourist value of the lightstation for all parties present to work towards this.
FOCOS and LoA will compile a condition report from their visit and hope to be able reconvene the group in several months to see how we can move forward in addressing the issues raised in the report.
Just like starting to renovating an old building, one must remember to consider the whole picture and also to expect the unexpected.
[Leo op den Brouw <firstname.lastname@example.org>]
It is the sad story about Alexandra Lyall's search for the story surrounding her grandmothers death and the subsequent splitting up of the family culminating in the suicide of her grandfather.
The Age weekend magazine featured a story on Alexandra some 6 or so months ago.
Her grandfather was James Duncan Beaton Stewart, Assistant Lightkeeper.
His wife Ethyl became quite ill while stationed at Gabo. After signaling a passing ship the "Katoomba" a doctor came ashore and tended Mrs Stewart but due to inclement weather and her condition she could not be taken off the Island.
Some days later a small ketch from Eden took her to Pambula Hospital in NSW where she subsequently died.
After about 6 years he could no longer take the separation of his children and his isolated existence and committed suicide by drinking Lysol while on leave in Frankston.
Alexandra's mother was 3 years old at the time of her mothers death and associated Gabo with doom and gloom.
It will probably be screened on the 19th August at 8pm and will be well worth a look.
Alex Lyall and
story producer John Millard will join an internet
forum on Monday evening. The forum is set to start at 8.30pm eastern
Shortly after the program concludes a transcript will be available at <http://www.abc.net.au/austory/transcripts/s647601.htm>.
Also, if you miss it on Monday night it will be repeated on Saturday 24th August at 12.30pm
It should also be noted that this is the day after International Lighthouse Day.
Celebrate the day by and exploring Australia's first and longest operating navigational light.
Macquarie is located on Old South Head Road, Vaucluse.
As well as regular tours to the top, experience the breathtaking 360 degree views.
At the base of the tower inspect the unique relic lighthouse equipment
Refreshments will be available.
The really amazing part is that admission is free.
Last time the tower was open many were turned away so bookings will be essential due to limits on how many visitors can climb the tower at a time.
Call (02) 8969 2131 Monday-Friday 9am-5pm, for further information
The next Open Day is scheduled for Sunday, 20th October 2002. Dates and booking details to be advertised and listed at <www.harbourtrust.gov.au>.
old Penguin Island Lighthouse.
John Nicholson, local historian and Honorary Editor for the South East Family History Group in Millicent South Australia has posted a list of the Headkeepers for Penguin Island Lighthouse to their web site.
The link is <http://www.seol.net.au/sefhg/Lighthouse%20Headkeepers.htm>.
Engineers Celebrate With the Flick of the Switch
The historic lighthouse, recently restored by the Department of Land and Water Conservation, sent its bright signal from sunset on Saturday 20 July to sunrise the following morning.
"We hope it prompted people to think about the valuable contribution that engineers have made to the Illawarra," Mr Dooley, manager of resource access and compliance with the Department of Land and Water Conservation said.
As a symbol of engineering achievement in the Illawarra, the elegant lighthouse which has stood at the entrance to Wollongong Harbour since 1872 rates as one of the most prominent. Even though small in stature (it stands at 14 metres) it has withstood the tests of time and is one of the Illawarra's lasting links with the great engineering achievements of the 1800s.
The lighthouse was designed and constructed by the NSW colonial government under the leadership of the prominent engineer E O Moriarty. Moriarty was Engineer-in-Chief of the Harbours and Rivers and was the inspiration and designer of many great engineering works in NSW.
Moriarty was also responsible for the expansion of Wollongong Harbour and Belmore Basin in the 1860s and 1870s.
"It is a fitting tribute to the colonial engineers who designed and supervised the construction of the harbour and lighthouse that much of the work is still in use and can be visited by the public.
"Having the lighthouse working is a symbol of the lasting effects that engineers have on society and highlighted their achievements during this years Engineering Week," Mr Dooley said.
[Christian Bell <email@example.com>]
Eddystone Lighthouse and Grave.
The Eddystone Point Lighthouse Historic Site was gazetted as a historic site under the National Parks & Wildlife Act 1970 on 26 June 2002.
The site comprises the 10.43 hectares of the former lightstation reserve but does not include the coastal strip which remains Crown land.
Ian Clifford was interviewed by RAI (Italian National Radio) for a program that was broadcast on Sunday 4th of August as part of a program dedicated to lighthouses around the world.
The focus of Ian's interview was the Macquarie Lighthouse because it is our oldest lightstation.
The interview covered the history of the light right up to issues including modern maintenance and also the lights role in European immigration to Australia.
An interesting aspect of the interview was that the questions were asked in Italian, translated to English and visa versa with the answers.
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Thanks to those who let me use their photos for thumbnails.
until the September 2002 Bulletin
The AUGUST 02 BULLETIN was published on: 18/08/02
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