Once removed from the crates, the refrigerators were replaced with the units being sent back to the Port Adelaide workshops for service. A simple enough job, one would think.
South Neptune Island Lighthouse.
Jim had a few spare minutes before going on duty, and decided to get our fridge out of the crate and under cover before nightfall. He began removing the screws from the back panel with a large screwdriver.
In an instant, the head keeper was beside him, upset because Jim had not asked his permission to begin the job. He was also concerned that the 'brass' in charge of the ship's working party would see this as a lack of control on his part. Moreover, he had not given Jim instructions as to how the job was to be done.
Jim himself became upset. He was worried about having been on duty when the Yandra went aground, not knowing what had gone wrong, and that there was to be a Marine Inquiry that could find him to blame.
He told the 'head' he was capable of dismantling a crate without instructions, and explained how he would tackle the job: "Remove all the screws from the front and back panels, take off the top, then push the fridge out. Then you only have two sections to replace later. The job will only take half an hour and I will be finished in time to go on duty."
The head keeper became really upset, shouting about "insubordination" and "big headed Poms who thought they knew all the answers". He then gave precise instructions on how he wanted the crate dismantled:
Jim's practical mind could not accept this, so he argued. "That will take hours. A complete waste of time. I'll do it my way or not at all." By now, the engineers and deck crew had gathered around. A shouting match developed between Jim and the head keeper, which brought Captain Taylor to investigate. I had gone indoors, disturbed by the shouting and concerned for our future. Through the open window, I heard Jim say he could not work under such a fool.
A few minutes later, Captain Taylor was standing on our porch, looking very formal. My mind was racing Was this to do with the wreck, or the row over the fridge crate?
Jim was just as concerned about our future. He had never suffered fools gladly, but he knew he should not have argued with the head keeper, a man who took himself very seriously, lived by the rulebook, and upheld the military viewpoint: 'If it moves, salute it. If not, paint it'. After a long talk, we decided lighthouse life was not for us. Jim wrote his resignation, giving two months notice so we could organise accommodation on the mainland. It was accepted almost eagerly, and he was told we would be taken off the light station at the discretion of the Service. We had no choice in the matter.
Less than an hour later, the Captain was at our door again. Jim was on duty. He was polite, asking me whether I wanted to go, and what we would do on the mainland. I assured him we would manage. What else could I say that I liked it here, and would love to stay? What difference would that have made?
A short while later, I was being asked to pack, ready to go in ten hours. Cape York was leaving the next day and we were being taken off the island. My mind reeled. How to pack in such a short time? What on earth was I going to do about the heaps of dirty clothes stored in the laundry? Where would I find boxes to pack the food stores in?
and Margaret Hill's children on Neptune Island in 1959. L to R Marilyn,
The Cape York was a work vessel, not designed for passengers - with a full compliment of crew, our family of seven, all our household goods and three boxes of cats, it was crowded. There was always work to do aboard, and every morning Jim had to report for duty. Until we reached the mainland, he was still employed by the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service.
The ship headed towards Port Lincoln, stopping to service the automatic lights on shoals and tiny islands. They changed acetylene tanks and did repairs, with as little interruption to the wild life as possible. The old seals and sea lions became aggressive if disturbed, so it was wise not to linger. The engineers were doing some repairs at Dangerous Reef when an old bull seal became enraged, and charged at them, roaring his head off. The man at the boat tried to knock the huge creature out of the way with an oar, only making it angrier. As the workers clambered into the small boat, the seal bit the end right off the oar!
Finally, we reached Port Lincoln and were billeted into an old boarding house. Our large rooms were on a cool, covered verandah with an outside door, which was convenient for letting the cats out of the boxes to play on the grass and be fed.
The cook/housekeeper was horrified at my stories of the water situation on Neptune, and came to our rooms to see the bags of dirty washing. They were low on water themselves, but she left the soapy water in the machine for me to wash each day after the house laundry had been done. I was very grateful.
Our cats were seen as a health hazard and they had to go. Jim did not want to pay a fee for the vet to put them down, so he disappeared down to the jetty with a large, heaving bag over his shoulder. Some time later, there was a knock on our door. Several small boys stood outside, each one holding a couple of bedraggled cats. "We saved these for you, Mister, how about a tenner for the trouble?" the ringleader asked, with a cheeky grin. Jim was more inclined to clip his ear than give him money, but I paid them off. After dark, Jim set off again with the cats and we saw no more of them.
When we arrived in Adelaide, we decided to ask Dot to put us up. She had written several glowing letters about the house they were renting in Mitcham, so we took a taxi there from Port Adelaide, only to find that she and her husband were only renting rooms in the house. The house owner was kind enough to let us stay for one night. Dot was very embarrassed and our friendship did not last long after that.
We took a taxi over to Gepps Cross, where Ken was living. Ken and his wife made us welcome and offered us a place to sleep for a few nights, which was all their tenancy agreement would allow. Besides, with only one bedroom and a combined kitchen and living room, they were cramped as it was. We had to sleep on the floor in the kitchen. Ken drove Jim around for two days looking for a place to live, with no luck.
We applied to the South Australian Housing Trust for emergency housing, and spent a whole day talking to officials and explaining our plight, to no avail. In desperation, Jim went to the hostel where we lived before, and begged. The Housing Trust eventually promised to house us within three months, so the hostel agreed to let us have four rooms for a short time. Back to the hostel - what a blow. Well, at least we knew 'the ropes' and had a roof over our heads; and we had cases of tinned food to supplement our diet. Jim was able to look for work at last.
It was mid-winter school holidays 1941. My brother Doug would have been eleven years old and I was ten.
Dad and mum were then assistant light keepers on Gabo Island. The head keepers George and Muriel Piper, the navy and the air force, made up the rest of the population of the island.
boat is on the left and standing in it is Mrs. Huxley, Doug and Max,
getting ready to undertake the journey back to Eden (much to their dread).
The other boat is Eden Cole's "Shamrock" containing the travellers
suitcases. Eden himself is on the right, biting up his long line getting
ready to go fishing.
We picked up our suitcases, said "good bye" to our landlady Mrs. Muier and tramped off to meet Brice Southwell, a fisherman who was to take us back to our parents. Brice had the mail run to Gabo at the time, taking turns with Eden Cole.
As we climbed down into Brice's little green fishing boat he made room for our cases among crates of vegetables and fruit, cartons of meat, mailbags and newspapers. He was taking all the goods for the keepers, the navy and the air force to Gabo on his fortnightly run to the island.
Soon we motored out into Eden's beautiful harbour, past Boyd's unfinished light tower and into rough open sea. Doug and I started to feel queasy almost immediately. We were both rotten sailors, we were sick even aboard the lighthouse supply steamer "Cape York" and this was much, much worse! Our excitement of going home gave way to fear and dread, not talking about heaving stomachs.
When we were well out to sea, Brice leaned his leg against the tiller and proceeded to bait up his long line. Then he cast it expertly over the stern and began trawling for tuna as he headed even further out to sea.
of Brice's catch on the bottom of the boat. The chain lowers the retractable
keel when the boat is under sail. The square object in the right foreground
is the bilge pump, the round part is the top of the handle. This is
the same pump which had Max hanging over the side being horribly sick.
Doug and I were mortified while we chugged on and on. Brice ordered us to move out of the way and he hoisted the sails and cut the motor. Doug and I felt only slightly better, at least, we did not have to put up with the noisy, smelly engine on top of everything else.
We saw flying fish leap out of the water and skim the waves for a few yards before they dove back again. We have never seen the flying fish before and it was a most spectacular sight but Doug and I were too crook to fully appreciate it.
Soon, Brice hauled his long line in and the floor of the boat was turned into a thrashing mass of tuna. They belted into our legs, their bodies as hard as rocks, bleeding and splashing blood and slime all over us.
Again, Brice cast his line into the heaving gray waves. Meanwhile, the wind was getting stronger, the waves bigger and Doug and I sicker.
(left) and Max (right) in front of the water tank of their Gabo Island
Spray was starting to spill into the boat as she lay over in the wind. "Doug, take the tiller and steer, Max - start pumping!" shouted Brice over the wind. I remember thinking it would be much nicer to drown and get it over and done with! Brice hauled down the sails, started the engine and showed Doug in which direction to steer for, even though we could not see any land.
I pulled and pushed the pump handle up and down and having something to do made me feel a little bit better. That is until the water level dropped bellow the floor boards and started to make horrible slurping and sucking sounds and worst of all started to bring up rotten fish guts, blood scales all mixed up with old engine oil. The sounds and the smell had me hanging over the side of the boat again in no time at all.
Island jetty as it looked in the 1940's. Standing on it are Bernice
Huxley, Muriel Piper (obscured) both the lightkeepers wives, Max is
hanging from the rail and Jean Brighthope (Mrs. Piper's niece) is keeping
an eye on him close by. Cyril Huxley is seen greasing the pulley on
top of the crane and three sailors with George Piper (in the hat) are
seen at the end of the jetty.
When Brice pulled in another load of flapping fish, he finally coiled up the line, put all the hooks around the basket and then filled the petrol tank from the drum. After fiddling with the noisy, smelly little engine, he managed to make the boat go a little faster.
Having been at sea all day, Doug and I were cold and wet. Wet from the sea spray splashing over the side of the boat as well as the cold, squally showers that swept over us several times.
Compared to Brice's little boat, the waves looked like huge and threatening gray mountains of wind lashed water. When we looked over the boat's stern we were horrified to see one of these monsters sneaking up behind us, its curling crest beginning to tumble over as it reared even higher.
Just when it seemed that we would surely be engulfed, the little boat suddenly seemed to slide backwards up the menacing slope, then flip over the tumbling crest and slide down the other side into the trough. The gray mountain of water then overtook us, hissing off before us, its seething crest collapsing in a welter of foam. We would sigh with relief only to look around and see the endless procession of those dreaded monsters bearing down upon us.
Brice mucked around with his slippery fish and engine; he coiled the ropes and washed his hands over the side of the boat, quite unconcerned.
near the back door of "our House" on Gabo are left to right:
Head lightkeeper George Piper, his wife Muriel, Bernice Huxley and Max
Huxley - assistant keepers. The house, which stands apart from the other
two is now being renovated to be used as an accommodation for the tourists
just as the other one, closer to the lighthouse.
At last we saw the land, when through the mist and rain we spotted the Green Cape. It was beginning to get dark and the unabating waves took on a darker, slatey shade of gray. Eventually, we rounded a rocky piece of land, where a wrecked ship pointed its bow skyward like a black tent. We were finally passing Cape Howe.
It was almost dark and the drizzling rain when we rounded the cape. Suddenly a fantastic sight opened before us. Driving through the mist and drizzle were great long beams of light sweeping around with slow majesty in the rapidly darkening sky. Revolving like the spokes of a huge wheel.
They were the welcoming rays of Gabo Island Lighthouse. My brother and I cheered up immediately; just the sight of those warm looking rays of light seemed to take some of the chill away.
Brice slowed down his motor in the passage between the mainland and the island, waiting for a calm bit of water among the breakers that erratically leaped about in the shallows.
When he saw his chance, he gave the motor full throttle. We bounced and bucked and after scraping the sandy bottom a couple of times, we were through into the calmer waters of Gabo's lee side.
In a while, we entered the island's small harbour and there, standing on a little jetty was our dad as well as some of the navy boys waiting for us. "Fingers", yelled our dad, warning us not to put our hands on the side of the boat where our fingers could be squashed between the boat and the jetty.
The boat rose and dropped with the movement of the water. "Get Ready", called dad, "Doug first." Doug waited for the right moment when the water rose. "Now, jump!" urged dad, and Doug promptly jumped and caught the ladder at the end of the jetty. Doug was big for his age and climbed up the ladder unassisted.
"O.K. Max, get ready." I waited for my chance. "Now!" I leaped for the ladder. As the boat fell away beneath me I grabbed a nearest rung of the ladder with numb hands. I was small and scrawny and with little strength left, I clung to the ladder my sopping wet coat feeling like a heavy weight pulling me back down again. One of the sailors climbed down the ladder and hauled me up onto the decking and safety. He felt strong and warm and my fears disappeared in a flash. I was so relived and excited to be back on solid land, even though it was only a jetty.
The station is on the other side of the island and we still had unsteady sea legs as we staggered along the sandy track towards our home. Penguins waddled along the same track giving us an occasional peck and squawking angrily, when we got in their way. We came over the hill and the view of the station opened before us. There was that magnificent lighthouse again, its flashing light even stronger now that night was fully upon us and the houses with just a faint yellow glow showing through their windows.
Finally, we walked through the gate in the wall surrounding our house, opened the back door and ran into the warm kitchen where our mum was waiting for us with open arms. Hugs, kisses, excitement! The kitchen was full of mum's freshly baked bread; soup was simmering on the stove from which wonderful warmth wafted into the room. Gosh, it was marvelous!
Doug and I took off our filthy, saturated,vomit streaked, fish smelling clothes, washed ourselves and slipped into clean pyjamas and set down to a bowl of hot soup and lovely fresh bread. We ate by the glow of the kerosene lamp. After we have eaten, dad went out to do his watch duty while mum tucked us into bed, kissed us good night and blew out the lamp.
brother Doug, mum Bernice, dad Cyril and Max himself sitting on the
verandah of the Gabo Island's Assistants keepers' house.
We lay there, feeling the warmth returning back into our bones. The mantle clock chimed a cosy musical sound in the lounge room next door and it seemed so far away through the solid thick wall. A couple of penguins were squabbling under the tank stand at the side of the house. The bed still seemed to roll a little like the boat and we heard the wind trampling across the iron roof and 'woofing' down the chimney to the fireplace beside the bed. We did not care. It could do its worst; we were safe and warm inside the solid old house. We were home.
Looking for Daniel Watson of Seal Rocks
Looking for Captain Angus of Cape Willoughby
List of Eclipse Island Keepers
Feel free to post any request, letters and notices here regarding research, events etc for any Australian Lighthouse on this notice board.
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Please eMail <Keeper>
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Jill Thiele & David Abbot (ex Maatsuyker Island caretakers and Dave is our Interim LoA Tas Organiser) in conjunction with the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service organized the Maatsuyker Award Ceremony for volunteer caretakers which was held last Friday, November 15.
The caretakers each received a green polar fleece top an a certificate of appreciation for their efforts from Wildcare.
The senior public service government representatives present could not have failed to be impressed by the commitment to Maatsuyker Island that the volunteer caretakers have towards the existing caretaker program. I am sure that this event will reinforce to upper management the value in maintaining the program.
Five projects which aim to preserve Tasmania's cultural heritage will share in more than $270,000 of Federal funding under the Cultural Heritage Projects Programme (CHPP).
The lions share, $111,000 dollars, goes to the preservation of the 122 year old Currie Lighthouse on King Island, Quamby Homestead in northern Tasmania gets $90,000 dollars and work at Voss Cottage at Collinsvale will receive $38,000 dollars.
The Federal Minister for Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp said the Currie Lighthouse was built in 1880 to support the growth of commercial activities in the Bass Strait.
"It has a unique structural characteristic, it's screw pile, pre-fabricated iron lattice tower design and there aren't many of those left. It's one of only two known examples," DR Kemp said.
CHPP funding has
been used for Tasmanian Conservation
Trust projects on Deal Island in the past but this year's project
guidelines stated that projects that related to government owned buildings
were ineligible. Maybe this did not apply to local government! King
Island's Currie Light is operated by the King
"You're up so high. And it's just you. And the wind's out there. And it's a noble thing to guard a light. So perhaps you'd feel like - a commander, perhaps a commander of space and light."
Be a guest of Jack's memories, the weather, sea shanties, shipwreck stories, loves and frustrations as you are invited into his life during his shift one night, keeping the light.
play's co-author, Ian Scott.
When Jack Power or "Black Jack" as he was fondly known met Agnes Mary Taylor and her 6 year old son, Henry he had met his match.
Chancing upon her one stormy night while they were both stranded in the South East of South Australia in the RAG AND FAMISH pub, he proposed immediately.
Laid up from the sea life because of love and a broken leg. Jack takes Agnes and Henry to the light as he takes up his new position as Assistant Keeper on a remote lighthouse off the South Australian coast.
[Egbert Koch <EgbertW.Koch@t-online.de>, World Lighthouse Society]
WLS has established an Optic Work Group (OWG) about Fresnel lenses. The aim of the work group is to list "classical" Fresnel lenses world wide still in use on lighthouses or displayed in museums etc.
At the very first step we do not want to include buoy lenses etc. We want to describe the Fresnel lenses as detailed as possible, i.e. name of the manufacturer, year built, order of the lens, exact focal distance, number of prisms, diameter of the bulls eye, height of the lens, etc. etc.
So far Al and Helen Gademsky, Mike Vogel and Thomas A. Tag from the US, Peter Williams, publisher of LEADING LIGHTS, and myself joined the Work Group. Esbjörn from Sweden is not sure whether he can join us because of time problems, but he offered his help regarding Swedish lighthouses.
I am ready to act as a Coordinating Officer at the start. Once the work group has been established we may decide who is going to be the Coordinating Officer.
Anybody interested in Fresnel lenses please let me know. I think that the OWG needs assistance from Australia, South East Asia, Africa, and South America .
Best wishes and keep 'em shining.
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Thankyou for 5 years of support
The DECEMBER 02 BULLETIN was published on: 15/12/02
Lighthouses of Australia Web Site First Published: 3/12/97
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