No 6/2003 - October 2003

Lighthouses of Australia Inc


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Letter from the Editor

Welcome to the October Bulletin, edition 6/2003.

Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin EditorThis edition of the Bulletin has been published late this month, as I spent the early part of October on a "lighthouse trip", travelling from Nowra, 160km south of Sydney, down the southern NSW coast, and the far eastern Victorian coast, all the way back to Melbourne. We had about 10 lighthouses, plus a few extra beacons, "pseudo" lighthouses and other points of interest to see - what a holiday! A report on my holiday, plus many of the photos will be given in a later edition of the Bulletin.

This Bulletin contains a significant proportion of historical material. There are many people out there who are descendants of lighthouse keepers who have great stories to tell. All of our Australian lighthouses have significant histories behind them, and their history has an impact on modern efforts to preserve and protect them.

Lady LochWe begin this Bulletin continuing the story of The Golden Age of Australian Lighthouses. The story originally appeared in a booklet titled "The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service - Its Formation and Early Development", and in this issue, we read about the circumstances leading up that period of activity.

Tasman Island LighthouseTwo similar stories of hardship and death on lighthouse stations are described. Firstly, in Tasman is Murder, we report on an unsubstantiated tale of the lighthouse keeper at Tasman Island in the 1950's going mad with the isolation and transforming from a normal young man into a violent and drunken monster. His reign of terror and madness finally ends with two deaths.

Deal Island LighthouseThe second story, Cut Off from the World in Bass Strait, unbelievably describes the bureaucratic callousness of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service in the 1920's, when they marooned the wife of the head lighthouse keeper at Deal Island after her husband suddenly died, forcing her to stay on the island for many weeks after his death.

Cape Morton 1950The next article is a reminiscence by David Williams, who grew up as a lighthouse keeper's son on northern Queensland lighthouses in the 1950's and 60's. His father was posted to a number of lights, including Cape Moreton, Double Island Point, Low Island & Dent Island.

Deal Island LighthouseWe have been able to reprint a letter sent after WW2 to the parents of an airman killed when his plane crashed on Deal Island.  Mr Roy Cowling, the father of one of the men killed, visited the island sometime after the accident, and wrote to the Grahams, to report on the state of the boy's graves and the plane itself.

Pauline O'BrienWe meet our next Lighthouses of Australia, Inc Committee Member - Pauline O'Brien, LoA Secretary.  Pauline teaches at a primary school, and is working hard to instil an appreciation of lighthouses in her students, taking them on excursions, and building an awareness of the issues involved in lighthouse preservation.  Pauline has also developed her own Lighthouses of Western Australia website.

MV Cape DonGood news regarding the lighthouse tender MV Cape Don!  A group called the "Saving the MV Cape Don Society" are working towards restoring the vessel to full operational status, and hope to use the boat to travel Australian waters on research and/or community assistance expeditions.

Maatsuyker Island LighthouseThe ABC recently showed "A Big Country Revisited - Keepers Of The Light", a program describing how the era of manned lighthouses in Australia had come to an end, and how the changes had affected one particular lightkeeper. The program spliced together footage filmed in 1975, when John Cook was head lighthouse keeper on Maatsuyker Island, with modern footage, where he recalls the lifestyle long superseded by technology.

The Norah Head Lighthouse Centenary is coming up very soon. Celebrations have been in planning for several months, and will include an Air Force flyover, an antique car rally, a street parade, and school writing and art competitions. Ex-keepers are especially invited to participate in the festivities on 15 November 2003.

Lighthouses of Australia: A Visitors GuideJohn Ibbotson's new book, Lighthouses of Australia: A Visitors Guide, has been released. John launched the book at an exhibition in early October, along with a new calendar, and framed original photographs from his first book, "Lighthouses of Australia - Images From the End of an Era".

Again, we have a number of letters from readers, mostly from people searching for relatives who were lighthouse keepers.

Enjoy reading this Bulletin, and if you are not a member of Lighthouses of Australia, and would like to be involved in preserving, promoting and protecting Australia's lighthouses, join now!

Kristie Eggleston
LoA Bulletin Editor
Email Bulletin Editor


The Beginning of the Golden Age

Editor's Note:  The Golden Age of Australian Lighthouses originally appeared in print in a booklet titled "The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (CLS) - Its Formation and Early Development" by Michael B. Komesaroff, a Commonwealth Lighthouse Service (Victorian Region) lighthouse engineer. The article was re-printed in The Victorian Historical Journal, Vol 48 No 2 May 1977. 

In the previous Lighthouses of Australia Bulletin (September, issue 5/2003), we published details of the actual construction and costs of the new lighthouses. In this issue, we read about the circumstances leading up that period of activity. 


After 15 years of debate, the Commonwealth became responsible for the maintenance of lighthouses around Australia. The following table shows the composition of lights acquired from the states.

State Manned Lights Unattended Lights,
Beacons & Buoys
Victoria 9 2
South Australia 15 15
Western Australia 14 8
NSW 19 -
Tasmania 16 1
Queensland 30 37
Northern Territory 1 -
TOTAL 104 63
Cape Liptrap Lighthouse
Cape Liptrap Lighthouse in Victoria, built in 1913, was one of the first lights built by the Commonwealth.
Photo: 4Cs Enterprises


Joshua Ramsbotham, Director Commonwealth Lighthouse Service
Joshua Ramsbotham, first director of the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service 

An Englishman, he had worked for the Western Australian government. Ramsbotham was a reserved man who inspired his team to great achievements during the period 1913 to 1926.
Photograph: From Dawn to Dusk

Section 13 of the Lighthouses Act provided for the collection of light dues from all overseas shipping. Details of the first Lighthouse dues were compiled by Bernhard Wallach prior to Joshua Ramsbotham assuming the position of Director, Commonwealth Lighthouse Service. In his calculations, Wallach, in accordance with Government policy, budgeted for a self-supporting service. On 15 December 1914 the Minister, Frank Tudor, announced the light due of 8d per net ton per quarter which would apply for all interstate and overseas ships on and after 1 April 1915.

Under Section 13 of the Act, light dues prescribed by the States in respect of ocean lights maintained by them were to cease. In two States only (Western Australia and Tasmania) were light dues collected as such. In the other states, the dues were amalgamated with port, tonnage, wharfage and other fees. In these cases, it was impossible to determine the proportion of the combined due which represented light dues and the State governments used this as an argument against reducing their rates.

The light due immediately provoked considerable opposition in Tasmania. Of prime concern were the fortnightly mail steamers en route from London to New Zealand, which called at Hobart for Hobart Marine Board rate. Fearing that the new light due would destroy the state's fruit trade with South America, the Tasmanians petitioned for a reduced levy.

On board one of the early lighthouse tenders are (left to right) Assistant Lighthouse Engineer, Maurice Mehaffey; Captain Hildebrand; Director Joshua Ramsbotham and another engineer, A H Swingle.
Photograph: From Dawn to Dusk

After some pressure, the Commonwealth revised the light dues to provide for a reduced rate of 4d per ton for ships calling at only one port en route to a port outside Australia. All other ships were to pay 8d per ton per quarter. Provision was also made for a maximum charge of £75 and £150 in each case. This rate was to remain unchanged until January 1918 when it was increased to 9d per ton per quarter and 6d per ton per quarter for vessels calling at one port only. At this time, the maximum charges were abolished.


Under Section 84 of the Constitution, lightkeepers at the transferred lights came under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs. Lightkeepers not retained in the Commonwealth Service were permitted to retire under prescribed conditions.

Captain Brewis
Captain C.R.W. Brewis, C.B.E., R.N. (Rtd.) 1874-1953

Employed by the Australian Government to report upon the Lighting of the Australian Coast, 1911-13.
District Naval Officer, Victoria, Australia, 1920-23.
Photo:  From Dusk Till Dawn

The difference in conditions of employment between the States and the Commonwealth Public Service prevented immediate transfer and re-employment. For example in South Australia, the retiring age for lightkeepers was 70 whereas all Commonwealth employees retired at 65. In these cases and where for disciplinary reasons some still were considered unsuitable, the individuals remained in State service. In all, 216 lightkeepers were transferred to the Commonwealth, with salaries ranging from £132 per annum for an assistant keeper to £210 for a Headkeeper Grade 1.

When considering the romance of lighthouses we often tend to forget the hardships endured by the lightkeeper. Whilst the lightkeeper of today enjoys the comfort of television and other modern conveniences, this has not always been the case. In 1915, the situation was very different. Without paid annual leave or travel assistance, lightkeepers remained at their isolated stations for years on end. Compulsory transfers to other stations were made at their own expense. Fresh food and other supplies arrived every three months on the local lighthouse steamer. If these ran out before the next steamer arrived, the lightkeepers and their families were forced to fend for themselves. Often this meant hunting local wildlife.

At the time of acquisition by the Commonwealth, much of the housing occupied by the lightkeepers was unfit for habitation. In most cases this was the result of neglect by the States, which, knowing that their lights were to be taken over by the Commonwealth, withheld necessary funds. As the transfer was deferred from year to year, the need for new and improved housing grew. Unfortunately, limited funds and the need for many new lights precluded any improvement in living conditions until after the War.

Henry Trace
Captain Henry Trace

Captain Henry Trace, the first master employed by the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service. He was the master of the Victorian lighthouse tender, the Lady Loch.
Photo:  From Dusk Till Dawn

It is of interest to note that during the amendments to the Lighthouses Act (1915) it was suggested that, because of their strategic location, lighthouse keepers should come under the Department of Navy. Such a decision would have paved the way for a paramilitary service. Probably for this reason the suggestion did not gain wide acceptance, though many of the early keepers were ex-naval men who found employment on a lighthouse suitable "retirement".


Captain Brewis, [who had been commissioned by the Commonwealth Government in 1909 to report on the condition of the existing lights and recommend any additional ones] regarded the purchase of four lighthouse steamers as an important item in maintaining a lighthouse service. He saw the duties of these vessels as supplying the lighthouses with stores, periodic visits to unwatched lights, prevention of smuggling and general search and rescue work. The vessels he proposed were 500 tons gross, 200 feet in length with twin screw propellers capable of steaming 15 knots. To facilitate repairs to lighthouses he suggested each vessel be equipped with a small workshop.

Lady Loch
Lady Loch

Victorian Lighthouse tender, Lady Loch, which the Commonwealth chartered in 1915 and two years later bought for £9050 less the chartered money already paid. Lady Loch served from 1915 to well into the early 1930s.
Photograph: From Dawn to Dusk

In March 1914, tenders were circulated for the construction of up to three steamers for the Lighthouse Service. They were left open for six months so that Australian firms could determine the availability of overseas materials. In all, eight tenders were received. Only one was from an Australian firm. This offer from Poole and Steels of Sydney was for £50,000 per steamer. The onset of the war and consequent shortages of materials deferred any contractual arrangements.

As an interim measure, tenders were accepted in May 1914 for the supply and delivery of two ketches for lighthouse construction. The Alcairo (60 tons) was purchased, minus engine, from W. F. Casey of Hobart for £1,900; the Forbes Bros (70 tons) was purchased from W. Ward of Newcastle, for £2,900. In June 1914, a Skandia two cylinder 30 BHP engine costing £454 was purchase from Messrs Nelson and Robertson of Sydney. This engine was eventually delivered to Townsville where it was fitted to the Alcairo.

S.S. Kyogle

One of the first Commonwealth lighthouse tenders, Kyogle, 707 tons, built in 1901. She was acquired in 1924 but was soon replaced by one of the first purpose built Cape ships. Here the Kyogle is seen approaching South Solitary Island, NSW.
Photo:  From Dusk Till Dawn

The transfer of lighthouses released the State lighthouse steamers from much of their work and in October 1915 the Premier of Victoria, Alexander Peacock, wrote to the Prime Minister asking if the Commonwealth would be interested in acquiring S.S. Lady Loch. Ramsbotham recommended against the offer because of the vessel's age. Wartime restrictions meant there was little prospect of obtaining a ship and the Victorian Government agreed to charter the Lady Loch for a two-year period. In July 1917, with the end of the charter period, the Commonwealth agreed to purchase the vessel for £9,050, less charter money of £2,100.

The South Australian lighthouse tender Governor Musgrave was chartered for £14 per day in 1915 and purchased for £5,800 in 1916. In 1924 the vessel was found to unseaworthy and was replaced by the S.S. Kyogle, a 707 ton, 115 H.P. steel hull vessel built in 1901. The Karuah was purchased from the Newcastle and Hunter River Steamship Company in 1916 for £17,000.

The inadequacy of lighthouse vessels seriously hindered the early work of the service. During 1919 and 1920, Ramsbotham urged the construction of two additional steamers. Yet by 1923 no action had been taken to remedy the situation and after the Eastern Shoal (S.A.) light has failed, Ramsbotham by-passed the Comptroller-General and presented his complaint directly to the Minister (Austin Chapman). It was not until 1926 that two new steamers were acquired.

Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank Gail Higginbotham and wife, Sandra, for typing the manuscript. Mr Greg Jones drew a map that does not appear here. The author is also indebted to Dr Stephen Murray-Smith for much helpful advice. However, the author accepts responsibility for any errors that may be found.

Tasman is Murder

Tasman Island Lighthouse
Tasman Island Lighthouse

The Tasman Island Tower with the original lantern room
Photo:  AMSA

Editor's Note:  We read stories about lighthouses and imagine the romance of it all. As we investigate and talk to the lightkeepers and their families, we realise how their lives were comprised of tedious daily duties and plain hard work that revolved around keeping the light burning and maintaining the lightstations. Occasionally, we are presented with tales that tell of underlying privations that reveal the harsh realities of life on the seaward edge of the civilized world.

This gripping drama begins on one of Australia's most remote and foreboding islands off the coast of Tasmania. The lighthouse stands on the barren, perpendicular cliffs of the windswept, storm ravaged lump of rock that is Tasman Island, at the south-eastern tip of the Tasman Peninsula. Sheer rock-faces drop 1000 feet to wave-battered rocks, and for the early occupants, the only way on or off this island was a hair-raising hoist between the sea and the shore.

The nearest civilization is the town of Port Arthur, the scene of Australia's bloodiest massacre in recent times and a place where the early colonial history of Australian settlement was forged in cruel isolation and hardship. Imagine the setting with wild storms buffeting the lighthouse on the coldest and darkest of nights... and a mad lighthouse keeper - morose and armed - threatening his de facto wife, their four children, and another man who is desperately striving to arrange their escape from the island fortress - the hopeless odds seemingly stacked against them.

In early 1950, Herbert James Yates and girlfriend Rita arrived at remote Tasman Island, stationed there to tend the light. The isolation quickly got to Yates and he was transformed from a normal young man into a drunken monster that constantly menaced and assaulted the young woman. There was no escape for his bruised and battered victim, her terror heightened by Yates' formidable arsenal of weapons, including slaughter knives and a marksman's rifle.

Tasman Island Lighthouse
Tasman Island Lighthouse

Tasman Island with Cape Pillar in the background
Photo:  Ed Kavaliunas

Over the years, Rita sought help from the occupants of the three other scattered dwellings on this god-forsaken island, but there was little they could do to contain the keeper's drinking habits and abusive nature. In the midst of this life of horror she had four children by Yates. (Did Rita give birth to all her children on the island?) The sole means of contacting the mainland was to raise the flags on the lighthouse mast and only Yates had access to this communication arm.

Finally, salvation came eight years into this captive existence - 30 year-old Bob Tregenza arrived on the island as assistant lighthouse keeper. Rita was attracted to the good-looking and caring Tregenza, which was not surprising, considering how she must have felt about her crazed partner. The two light keepers worked together reasonably well until the strange and twisted moods of Yates caused Tregenza to hide all the lighthouse knives and judiciously remove the bolt from the lighthouse rifle. Tregenza could hardly ignore the physical and mental abuse of Rita and his compassion for the young woman grew. Their mutual fear of Yates drew them closer together and ignited a dangerous love affair.

Yates' insane jealousy intensified and he became clearly homicidal. Rita's fear was now openly displayed and during a frenzy of rage in July 1959, Yates viciously attacked and half-throttled her, causing the assistant keeper to rush to her rescue and knock the head keeper unconscious.

Tasman Island Lighthouse
Tasman Island Lighthouse from the air

This photograph indicates the isolation of the lighthouse.
Photo:  Ed Kavaliunas

In such a claustrophobic environment, the situation must have been explosive. Yates vowed to kill his estranged de-facto, forcing the lovers to desperately plan their escape. How the two lightkeepers managed to attend to their respective duties at this stage is unknown. Tregenza had been denied access to the pulleys to get the rescue flags aloft, but he actually climbed the treacherous mast and managed to signal the mainland. The lovers had to hide in the nooks and crannies of the island until the rescue boat arrived. They somehow eluded Yates and used the flying fox to get down to where the emergency boat took them aboard, taking them to mainland and leaving the demented Yates raging on the island.

They were married in Hobart the very next day, vowing eternal love to each other. It might have had a happy ending there. They fled Tasmania and went into hiding at bayside Mornington, in Victoria, determined to never see Yates again.

Meanwhile, Yates was under investigation, but he quit the lighthouse service and pursued the couple and his children to Victoria. Through various means, he traced them to their hideaway and confronted the terrified Rita at her home, threatening to kill them all, children included.

Tasman Island Lighthouse
Tasman Island cliff top

This photograph was taken only a few years after the events that occurred in this story.
Photo:  AMSA

When confronted by the raging Yates, Rita confessed she had married Bob. Enraged by the disclosure, he swore to wreak vengeance. The couple and the four children quickly abandoned their home and moved to a house in Seaford, but that was not far enough away to be safe. They were housebound as they learned Yates was combing nearby Frankston in search of them. They sought police protection and the police said they could do nothing until Yates made his move.

Frustrated and angry at failing to find the couple, Yates attempted suicide by gassing himself at Mornington. Unfortunately, the police arrived in time to save him and his pursuit was renewed. Finally, he tracked them down to their hideaway and the final confrontation ensued - Yates had left his lodgings in Richmond after midnight, with four bottles of beer, a bottle of wine and a loaded rifle. Literally dressed to kill, he arrived at the Tregenzas' address sporting a dazzling white shirt and a red bow tie.

At 6 am, Rita was leaving home to get bread from the local bakery. Yates was waiting outside and brandishing a gun; the empty wine bottle lay on the ground nearby. He demanded to see Tregenza and waved the gun. She screamed and ran back into the house, with Yates following.

Responding to his wife's screams, Tregenza was scrambling from his bed as Yates burst in and aimed the rifle at him. Tregenza pulled a blanket over his head in a futile effort to shield himself, but Yates shot him through the head, killing him instantly. Then Yates walked outside and shot himself in the head, right in front of a horrified teenage girl. He died on the spot.


Tasman Island lighthouse was demanned in May 1977. This tale was submitted by Brian Hansen, a Melbourne journalist who is writing a soon-to-be published book, titled The Life Of Brian - Inside the News With an Aussie Journalist. The story was allegedly published in the Melbourne Truth newspaper, which has since closed down and the existence of any archival copy and photographs is unknown.

The editor asks readers to comment or assist with any information about this tragic tale. We welcome any photos of the protagonists that may exist, or verifiable knowledge of the service records of both lightkeepers.

Email Brian Hansen

Cut off from the world in Bass Strait

Editor's Note:  The following account was first published in "Smith's Weekly" of 8 November 1924. Although it contained a diatribe that illustrated how the Federal Authorities inflicted a cruel blow on the wife of a dead lighthouse keeper, and marooned the poor woman with her dead husband, forcing her to superintend her husband's funeral, the "Federal Public Service Journal" re-printed the account 29 November 1924, on page 16.

It has been transcribed from a faded hard copy to this digital version, and with respect to the original author, some minor editing applied. 


Deal Island Lighthouse
Deal Island Lighthouse

Deal Island Lighthouse is the highest in Australia
Photo:  Kim Shimmin

Deal Island is a speck of land at the extremity of the Kent Group, which lies between Tasmania and the mainland, about six hour's steaming time south from Wilsons Promontory

Perched on the southern edge of the sea lane, its lighthouse is 1000 feet above sea level and through the fogs of Bass Strait, flashes a warning of the dangerous waters.

The story of these outposts of civilisation around the Australian coast has yet to be written. When it is told it will read like a Conrad romance. But the people whose destiny it is to keep alight the lanterns, are usually silent folk - as silent as the rocks upon which they live. 

However, Mrs Hague has related a stark and tragic episode to Smith's Weekly. After spending 23 lonely years as a lighthouse keeper's wife, and while the eye of the light was peering into the gathering gloom, her keeper died, leaving her wondering at the strange decree of fate which has made her lonelier still. Her reason for seeking the services of this journal was, she says, "That public opinion may be stirred to demand that the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service Department should give a fairer deal to those whose lives are lived in such strange places." 

Here is the story of the death of Thomas Hague, head lighthouse keeper at Deal Island, and his burial within the shadow of the tower.

A Grim Jest
Towards the later end of September, Hague who had been on leave in Melbourne, returned to Deal Island and resumed duty. He appeared to be then as he had invariably been, in the best of health. Certainly his demeanour gave no indication that death was hovering near him. It may be that he knew something, but he said nothing.

For two days after his return he went about his duties as usual. On the second day, a fishing craft, the skipper of which was a life-long friend of Hague's, called at the island. They chatted until far into the evening, and as the visitor rose to go he uttered a grim jest: "Ah, well" he said, "I will say goodbye. We don't often meet and Lord knows when we will see one another again. I am the only one left of seven brothers and I may drop dead tonight." 

Hague laughed, though usually he was a man who hated to talk about death. Then he capped his visitor's jest with the remark: "And perhaps I will be dead before you come this way again." Two days later, the grisly joke had been translated into fact.

The Keeper's Will
On the third day after his return home, Hague appeared rather strange. He altered the routine of the day - a thing he had never done before. That night, he was sitting at the table writing. "What's that you're doing?" asked his wife. "Nothing" he replied.

But Mrs Hague looked over his shoulder and saw he was making out a will. "Don't be silly," she said, snatching the paper away from him and putting it in a drawer. It was an action of dire consequences, for she had trouble attached to the full recovery of the estate. 

Hells Gate Lighthouse
Entrance Island Lighthouse
Hell's Gate

The opening of Macquarie Harbour showing the Entrance Island Lighthouse
Photograph: Ed Kavaliunas

Collapsed and Died
Towards the close of the afternoon of the following day, Mr and Mrs Hague, their two daughters and Stanley King, a young assistant at the lighthouse, set out to look for a young heifer calf that had strayed. Later they rested at a spot from which could be seen a wonderful panorama of adjacent islets and of the ocean. As they sat there, Hague fell over sideways against his wife. He was dead.

Then followed three weeks of a nightmare existence for the widow. Her companions on the island were her two little girls, young King, and Hooper, the assistant light keeper and his wife. The awful happening had so unnerved Hooper that he was incapable of giving much help. He is another whom fate had dealt with unkindly; while on the light at Macquarie Harbour years ago he saw the Kawatiri, a small coasting steamer on which his wife and child were travelling, dashed to pieces on the rocks at Hell's Gate, as the entrance to the harbour is known. He swears that, above the howling of the storm, he heard his wife calling to him for help as the vessel sank.

Fate Again
Young King played the part of a hero - after helping to get the body back to the house, he set out in a dinghy to reach the bay in which the fishing vessel owned by Hague's friend had anchored. He risked his life doing this, as there was a gale blowing and a high sea running. After three hours of battling, he reached the opposite shore. He then had to clamber over the steep cliffs of the rugged coastline before he made the bay.

Returning to Deal with King, the fisherman decided to make sail at once for Welshpool, on the Victorian coast, in order to advise the Lighthouse authorities of what had happened. But Fate played a cruel trick when the wind swung around to the west and blew with such a force that the yawl could not set forth. 

Wife's Terrible Ordeal
Hague died on Tuesday, September 23. He was buried on Deal the following Friday morning. The widow's father had been an undertaker, so it fell to her to show King and Hooper how to make a coffin from some pine board and a table top, as there was no other timber available. King dug a grave, and while Mrs Hooper read the burial service, he and Hooper lowered the coffin and completed the sexton's task. As Hooper shovelled the last sods into the hole, he fainted.

All this time, the wind had been blowing hard from the west and it was not until Sunday night that it moderated sufficiently for the fishing boat to leave the adjacent island and make for Welshpool early on Monday morning. The fisherman immediately got on to the telephone to inform the Lighthouse Service authorities in Melbourne.

Dreadful Callousness
What followed is a damming indictment of the callousness of Commonwealth officialdom. The message transmitted by the fisherman was that help should be sent to Mrs Hague immediately. It was not more than reasonable in the circumstances that this should have been complied with at once. There was nothing to prevent help being sent. The lighthouse steamer Lady Loch was lying at Wilsons Promontory and could have reached Deal Island in four or five hours, but it was not till three weeks later that the vessel was despatched to the scene of the tragedy.

Lady Loch
Lady Loch

The lighthouse steamer Lady Loch, which was at Wilsons Promontory, was not despatched to the scene of the tragedy for three weeks.
Photograph: From Dawn to Dusk

If there is an explanation for this amazing delay, Mr Pratten as the Minister for Trade and Customs in charge of the Lighthouse Service should demand that it be given. Out of sight, out of mind seems to be the attitude of the Department towards its employees, for it does not even take the trouble to send a doctor around with the Lady Loch when she is paying her periodical visits to the lights, some of which do not have a vessel calling for three or four months.

During the period which elapsed between her husband's death and the arrival of the Lady Loch, Mrs Hague suffered an agony of the mind such as might well have deprived her of her reason.

It seemed as though Fate had all the cards stacked against her. Two steamers passed, but on each occasion heavy fog prevented signals from the island being seen. The poor woman could not understand why her message to the authorities had been disregarded, and as day by day she kept a fruitless vigil for the relief vessel her overstrung nerves and strain became more than she could stand.

"If help does not come tomorrow, I'll smash the light", she said to Hooper. The arrival of the Lady Loch spared her the necessity of carrying out that threat. 

To the Last Farthing
With her two daughters and household effects, Mrs Hague was brought on to Hobart. Then the Department further proved its kindliness and consideration by billing her for the cartage of her goods from the wharf to her place of residence. And now, out of a few hundred pounds that her husband had managed to scrape together during thirty years of State and Commonwealth service, both Federal and Tasmanian treasuries are taking their cut in the form of death duties. About the only thing that has not been done is to charge her for the six feet of earth in which her husband takes his long rest.

The case demands firstly that there should be a thorough inquiry into the reason for the delay in sending help to this afflicted woman. Secondly, that she will be relieved of all claims upon her transfer to her present home; and thirdly, that she be relieved of the necessity of having the small sum of money left by her husband depleted by State and Federal Duties.

No Communication
There is another matter which also must be mentioned, and which, in the view of the circumstances of the Hague case, demands immediate attention. At the majority of the island lights, there is some means of communication with the shore. On the Deal Light, there is nothing of the sort. An epidemic might break out there and people die as in the present instance. Unless some vessel happens along, there is no method by which the mainland can be advised until the Lady Loch makes her periodical round. It is a scandalous state of affairs, and one that should not be tolerated. Smith's Weekly wants to know what is going to be done about it all.

Williams family on northern Queensland Lighthouses

by David Llewellyn Williams
formerly of 17 Musgrave Street, North Ipswich Qld 4305

Cape Morton 1950
This was our first house - just below the headkeeper's which we had in 1970. (A corner just visible to the left). Beautiful view down the main beach to the south in the background.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Leaving Moreton Island 1950
Leaving Cape Moreton in 1951 - my mother climbing on to the DUKW and all our stuff beside it. Headkeeper's house in background.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Double Island Keepers Cottages
Aerial shot of Double Island Lightkeeper's cottages. 
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Low Island 1951
My father Lloyd on right and the head keeper on Low Island 1951. The wrasse tasted terrible - it had been eating iodine weed.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Port Douglas 1952
On the wharf at Port Douglas 1952, just prior to moving to Archer Point. This was our first leave while at Low Island.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Archer Point 1950
Archer Point - 1950 - from the North. Rocky Island to left.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Archer Point from boatshed
Archer Point from boatshed. Note trolley line on right. Supplies could be hand-winched from the beach right up to the light. 
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams

My father Lloyd Williams joined the lighthouse service in 1950 and our first taste of life as lighthouse brats was on Moreton Island in Queensland. It was a very steep learning curve - adjusting to the reality of stores being delivered only once or twice a month, weather permitting. After a year on Moreton, we were transferred to Low Island off Port Douglas by the old lighthouse steamer Cape Leeuwin.

This gave us a look at the majority of the lights on the coast - travelling lighthouse keepers were supposed to work their passage. We spent 1951-2 on Low Island - my younger brother Ian was born there.

Then we moved to Archer Point, just south of Cooktown, where we experienced our first real isolation. Archer Point was a one-man station eighteen miles by road from Cooktown and 8 miles from the nearest cattle station "Greenhills" on the Cairns-Cooktown road. We would ring our stores order through on the party line, and the station owner would bring our supplies and mail out once a fortnight.

The week in between, the mailman would drop the mail at "Greenhills" and we kids would walk in to collect it - sometimes we would ride horses or bikes. A wonderful wild life for kids. We might have only got to Cooktown about three times in the four years we were at Archer.

Archer Point was an important RAAF base during WW2 - a radar installation was mounted on the top of Mt Archer and spotters telephoned and radioed information back to the bases on the Atherton Tableland during the battle of the Coral Sea.

In 1956, we moved to Dent Island in the Whitsundays where my family spent the next fourteen years until moving back to Moreton again in 1970. Dent was without doubt the best place we served at - it was well before the resort on Hamilton Island was operating. We roamed all over Hamilton - the only occupant was an old retired Broken Hill grazier, until he sold out to another couple who ended up selling the island to Keith Williams. 

Our first houses were the original ones constructed when the light was first established, built from timber that had been cut and milled on Whitsunday Island. My father was the headkeeper. 

We had a fairly poor water supply of about 4000 gallons capacity, and we were warned never to run out as it would have to be shipped out by boat from the mainland. We never did, but it got close at times - I can remember five of us kids showering under a four-gallon pull-up shower. It was a roster system with the favourite spot being last as that kid got all the left over water to use. Often we just swam to conserve water or we walked about two miles to a spring which had plenty of water, and carry water back from there in a four-gallon drum. 

In the early '60s we had a new house built, which included a 20,000 gallon tank for both houses. Real luxury - we had never seen so much water. Our supplies and correspondence lessons came from Mackay every two weeks, weather permitting.

Dent Island Light was a pressure kerosene clockwork light. The prism assembly floated on a mercury bath bearing and was rotated by a set of weights that slowly lowered down from the top to the basement. It required winding up every 45 minutes, and the pressure vessels had to be pumped up every day and refilled once a week. 

We had kero lamp lighting in the houses for the first few years, as electricity was rationed. I can remember the problems we had in the wet season especially, as insects kept getting caught in the governor mechanism which controlled the speed of rotation and hence the number of flashes per minute. 

The governor was a set of corks which acted as a brake system - when the insects got in it the light would stop and everyone would swing into action - normally us kids would turn the light while the adults would clean the mechanism, counting the number of RPM to keep the light in synch. It seemed unusual to visitors who were disturbed by the light flashing across the windows every few seconds, but to us, the absence of the flash was better than any alarm clock and it would have everyone out of bed as soon as it happened.

Dent Island 1963
Dent Island 1963 - from the new house. Generator shed in background - South Molle Island in distance (eight miles away). Path and steps going left go down to the boat port and sea. The palm tree was there when the "Yongala" went past and was sunk off Townsville in a cyclone - a keeper photographed her as she sailed past and the tree was prominent then.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Dent Island 1963
Dent Island - our new house just after completion - all hand built, including the excavations and benching. The builders lived in a camp three miles away up the island and most times had to walk to work and back. They started at 0730 hrs and finished at 1630 hrs. All equipment, as well as the concrete, gravel and sand had to be carried up from sea level by hand until the crane and trolley were built.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Cape Moreton Lighthouse Vessel
Cape Moreton on one of her quarterly supply trips. She replaced the Cape Leeuwin. Her Captain was the late Harold Chesterman, an old Royal Navy officer who survived the North Sea Murmansk convoy runs in corvettes during the war. It was his experiences that "The Cruel Sea" was based on. He was instrumental in getting me into the Navy, where I served for 32 years. This was taken from our lounge room window - Pine Island in background with Long Island behind and then the mainland. (Not the Pine Island of lighthouse fame)
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams
Dent Island looking towards Hamilton Island
 Looking east from the top of Dent towards Hamilton Island - totally different now.
Photo: David Llewellyn Williams

WW2 plane crash on Deal Island

Editor's Note:  The following letter was forwarded to us from Tony Wark, whose great aunt and uncle were the Grahams. Their son was one of the airmen who died in the plane crash on Deal Island during WW2.

Ligar Street

Feb. 19th 1944

Deal Island Lighthouse
Deal Island Lighthouse

Photo:  Kim Shimmin

Dear Mr Graham,

Having returned from my visit to Deal Island, I will try to tell, as well as I can, just how things are out there. 

No doubt, you know that Deal Island is about sixty-four miles south and slightly east from Wilsons Promontory. It is quite a sizeable place, being roughly four miles square, and rising to a height of nearly one thousand feet. The landing jetty is in a beautiful little bay the mouth of which is protected by the neighbouring island of Erith. This bay is on the N.W. corner of the island and landing must be made by boat from the ship. 

From the jetty, one has to walk some way along the beach in order to reach a winding track by which to climb to the top of the steep hill where the Head Keeper's house is situated. Here is also the radio plant. From this point, the ground falls away slightly, and there is a cart track crossing a patch of grassland, continuing up the hill for a short distance. From then on, the path enters thickly timbered country having dense undergrowth. The scrub is so thick in some places that it would be impossible to penetrate into it, but the whole place is very pretty and were it not so far away would be a wonderful holiday resort.

After much climbing, the lighthouse is reached. It is about three miles from the jetty and on the highest part of the island. On the way up, the second keeper's house is passed (Mr Munro). His place is a mile from the light and he has to climb up and down twice a day to attend to the turning on and turning off of the light. From the lighthouse to where the boys are resting is, at the moment, only a narrow and indistinct track, and it would be hard to find the way unless there was a guide to show where the path twisted and turned. 

The four graves lie side by side in a little clearing nearly at the bottom of the hill on which the light stands and on the far side from the jetty. It is a pretty little spot in a valley running between two bays, and is within sound of the sea. The lightkeepers have done all that is possible to do in keeping the little plot in order, and I found everything in good condition. Looking from the way I came, the graves are in the following order, left to right:- Docherty, P. Hendrickson, R. Cowling, N. Graham. I am told that everything possible was done to see that the boys had a decent burial. They each had a separate service, and each was accorded Honors. The keepers assure us that they will care for the graves and have also undertaken to cut a wide footpath down the hill. The plane is still there. To give you some idea of the density of the scrub, I was within fifteen feet of the plane and could not see it. The plane is about ten yards away from the boys.

I do not know what the War Graves Commission intend to do about fixing up out there, and I think it may be as well to get into touch with them to find out their ideas. That being an isolated graveyard, it may be possible to get them to fix things up right away. Do you mind if I find out what they intend to do? If they do not intend to do something within a reasonable time, it may be desirable that we take over and do what we think fit ourselves. It would be fairly easy for us to send out the material, and I am sure that the keepers would be willing to assemble the covering for us. I had in mind that anything we did for one grave should be done for all, as otherwise Docherty's grave would perhaps be neglected as his people are so far away. I know that none of us would like that, as all the boys were pals together.

I hope I have been able to give you some idea that will help you to see more clearly in your mind how things are out there. I am glad I have been because I have been able to see for myself and am now more satisfied.

Having seen the position of the plane and from what Mr Munro has told me, I am satisfied that the boys flew into have a look at a ship which was really a wreck but could have been a vessel in hiding, and were caught in an air pocket in a valley between the two hills, and this was the cause of the accident. They were definitely rising again, but did not have enough height, and crashed into the side of the hill. Had they been only 30 feet higher, the accident would not have happened. As far as I can judge no blame was attached to any one person.

Mr Munro told me that a wreath was dropped on Armistice Day. We don't know by whose orders, but we thought it was a very fine gesture especially as far as we were concerned because it was our lad's birthday.

I would like to be able to see you some time, but with the train services as they are, it is fairly difficult to be sure of being where you would like to be at any given time.

I nearly forgot to mention that the people on Deal would like a photo of each of the boys. We must see what we can do to get one of Sgt Docherty from Scotland.

Mr Ford and Mr Munro were most helpful to me on my visit. In fact, the whole of the Lighthouse Department seemed anxious to do all they could in every way.

With kind regards to Mrs Graham and yourself,

Yours sincerely,

Roy Cowling

LoA Committee member profile - Pauline O'Brien

Pauline O'Brien
Pauline O'Brien
LoA Secretary

I was born in 1953 and raised on a dairy farm in the Margaret River region in Western Australia, where the Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse was a part of many childhood picnics, swimming lessons and showing overseas visitors around our beautiful coastal region.

Margaret River High School's model of the Leeuwin Lighthouse in the school grounds.
Photographs:  Pauline O'Brien

My local Margaret River High School had a lighthouse emblem with the motto "Shine Forth". Within the grounds is a model of the Leeuwin Lighthouse built by the head cleaner, Mr J Todhunter. The lighthouse has been incorporated into the current school logo. 

Coincidently, I have taught at four different primary schools that have a Lighthouse incorporated into their school emblem! I lived literally under the Geraldton Lighthouse for six months and have a deep emotional connection to the lights of Rottnest and Fremantle, which are visible to me as I leave early for work and when we go out at night....

My husband John has an interest in military history and so when we go on holiday trips, we find that military establishments are often situated close to lighthouses. A shared interest in local history has certainly made our travels around West Australia more interesting than just sightseeing. When visiting other places, it is always rewarding to speak to people who have a passionate interest in their own local history.

I currently work part time at Beaconsfield Primary School, teaching Visual Arts and co-ordinating our Information Technology Project, which involves the management of the system and helping teachers to incorporate the meaningful use of IT into their student's daily timetable. We introduce the students to a variety of software programs and show them how to create web pages, amongst other tasks.

I enjoy the continual challenge of the learning curve that is Information Technology. As my children become more independent and with more time, energy and enthusiasm to offer, I look forward to the opportunity to contribute further to Lighthouses of Australia Inc. As Secretary for the current committee, I am aware of being part of a strong and close-knit unit that is dedicated to the preservation of our lighthouse icons and the social history that is associated with them. 

It was with Malcolm's encouragement that I took the step of putting up my own Lighthouses of Western Australia website. It will be updated with photos and details from our last three trips (South West, Great Southern and Batavia Coast) and I look forward to going away again.

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South Mole Lighthouse
South Mole Lighthouse

This photo shows part of the mechanism used to winch the submarine nets into place after a ship passed in or out of the heads during WW2.
Photograph:  Pauline O'Brien

The lights situated on the rock breakwaters at the head of the Swan River and are called North Mole Head and South Mole Head, operating as guiding lights to the entrance of Fremantle Harbour, near Perth. As part of the local celebrations of the South Mole Light's 100th Anniversary in July this year, we took some of our young students to visit the "Beacons by the Sea Exhibition" and out to the end of the North Mole to view the South Mole Light up close.

Beaconsfield kids at Exhibition
Beaconsfield Primary School students at "Beacons by the Sea Exhibition"

Photograph:  Pauline O'Brien

This excursion provided knowledge and inspiration for the students to respond to a thematic project that we developed as part of the Harbour celebrations - to create a lighthouse of their own that could be later used by the Maritime Museum Education Staff. 

The Challenge
The senior students created clay models at school, while the younger ones did drawings and collage artworks. They looked carefully at what makes up a lighthouse and started first with a rough plan - indicating the inclusion of a tower, veranda and balcony lamp room with glass windows, so the light can be seen, and of course a light with something lens-like to magnify it so it can be seen a long way off. They drew a door for the lighthouse keeper to get into the tower, and windows to see out from the steps of the spiral staircase inside.

Beaconsfield Primary School students at South Mole Lighthouse
Beaconsfield Primary School students at South Mole Lighthouse

The red lighthouse on the North Mole is visible in the distance. Planned at the same time, but not installed until 1906 when the north mole earthworks were considered to have sufficiently settled.
Photograph:  Pauline O'Brien

The students learned that while the South Mole Light was made of cast iron panels brought out from England and built out on the Mole, they also learned that stone, brick, concrete and steel girders could also be used to build a tower. They also knew that "for a lighthouse to stand up against the wind and waves, its foundations must first be 'built down' before building the tower on top". 

Lighthouse models
Lighthouse models built by Beaconsfield Primary School students

Photograph:  Pauline O'Brien

The challenge was for each student to create a model of the lighthouse using recycled materials. We encouraged the involvement of their family at home, but the student's ideas were to be incorporated into the design wherever possible. The simplistic view of a young child is precious - they didn't need to have a battery operated flashing light installed - a twist of coloured paper for a flashing light was just as good. 

The purpose was not so much to build an identical scale-model, but to enjoy and learn. In the process of being involved, they discovered the existence of lighthouses, their importance to the safety of shipping, and that the South Mole Light had been flashing a welcome light continuously for 100 years. 

Beaconsfield Primary School students at South Mole Lighthouse
Beaconsfield Primary School students at South Mole Lighthouse

Photograph:  Pauline O'Brien

I brought my love of lighthouses to school and shared my commitment with the kids - to promote, protect and conserve our lighthouses for the sake of history. 

Visit the Beaconsfield Primary School website with our own National Web Design Award Winning pages: 'Guiding Lights' which explains cool solutions to the hot problem of ships crashing into our coast.

A Reminder to Parents
May your holiday destinations be changed forever - when deciding on where to go for your next coastal holiday, ask the question, "Is there a lighthouse there that we can go and see?" Surprise the kids with an exciting experience that they will remember forever. Show them some local and maritime history that they will appreciate.

Australian News

Saving MV Cape Don

My name is Chris Nicholls, and I am a member of the "Saving the MV Cape Don Society", a society whose purpose is to assist in accordance with best practice maritime heritage guidelines in the restoration, refurbishment and conservation of the historic Lighthouse Tender MV Cape Don as a part of the maritime history of Australia.

We note that in a recent letter to your newsletter from Frank Alliss entitled "Seeking assistance to save lighthouse tender Cape Don" (No 4/2003 - August 2003), Frank raised the issue of the plight of the MV Cape Don. You may be interested to know that his pleas have been answered and we are underway in the task to restore her to her former glory. If you and your readers would be interested, I would be happy to keep you informed of our progress.

MV Cape Don
MV Cape Don today

The Cape Don at Sydney Harbour is to be restored by the "Saving the MV Cape Don Society"
Photo:  Chris Nicholls

I have attached a picture of the Cape Don as she is today.

Here is a potted history of the background to the MV Cape Don and the Society's intent:


MV Cape Don was built in 1963, one of a unique class of ships purpose-built to service navigational aids (including manned lighthouses) primarily around the West Australian coastline. As such, she was built as a mini-liner, with the lavish passenger accommodation necessary to carry technicians, relief lighthouse crews (sometimes whole families) and officials, sometimes for quite prolonged periods. 

Cape Don was retired in the 1980s when Australian lighthouses were automated, and has had a fascinating history since then including as a prop in a major film (Low Tide). She was about to be refurbished as a small cruise ship for touring the Mediterranean when a downturn in world tourism two years ago caused the collapse of the company that owned her. She is now lying untended and deteriorating in Sydney Harbour at a remote wharf. We have decided that she deserves to be saved from the breakers and have formed a group called the 'Saving MV Cape Don Society'.

MV Cape Don

MVCape Don, c.1963.
Photograph: Fremantle Ports

Our plan is to restore Cape Don to full operational status. It is intended that the vessel will be towed to Newcastle where she will be restored under expert supervision by volunteers, from apprentices and other work experience people under a scheme to help unemployed Newcastle youth. 

When recommissioned, we hope that Cape Don might again explore the more remote ports and coastlines of Australia, in research and/or community assistance expeditions. Projects we have in mind include a voyage to the Gulf of Carpentaria to install water purification plants for remote settlements, and an expedition to Vanuatu to search for the lost Spanish settlement of New Jerusalem on the island of Espiritu Santo.

The Society’s efforts are being sponsored and assisted by the Australian Heritage Fleet - a like-minded organisation responsible for the restoration of the Lady Hopetoun and James Craig (amongst a fleet of other vessels) in Sydney.

For further information please contact:

Derek Emerson-Elliot
Phone: +612 6291 9653

or Chris Nicholls
Mob:  0418 487 322
Phone: +612 6295 6456
Email Chris Nicholls

A Big Country Revisited - Keepers Of The Light

On Tuesday 21 October 2003, at 8:00 pm, the ABC presented a program that explained that the era of manned lighthouses in Australia had come to an end, and we saw how the changes had affected one particular lightkeeper. Some lighthouses evoke deeply-held sentiments for reasons relatively few people understand - how do you describe the utter isolation on remote rocky outcrops, and the daily responsibility of maintaining a guiding light for mariners in some of the wildest waters of the world? 

And how do you convince the powers-that-be that our historical lighthouses - these proud icons of our maritime heritage - are worth preserving in their original state for future generations?

Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse
Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse

The Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse is Australia's most southerly, located off the tip of Tasmania.
Photo:  Jeff Jennings

John Cook was head lighthouse keeper at Maatsuyker, Australia's most southerly lighthouse. Perched on the edge of the Southern Ocean and framed by Tasmania's majestic southwest coast, wild gales and storms would often make access to this island impossible for months.

In 1975, A Big Country explored the lives of lighthouse keepers and their families on Tasmania's remote Maatsuyker and Tasman Islands. This way of life was passing, with lighthouses being shut down or automated.

Twenty-eight years on, A Big Country Revisited - Keepers of the Light finds the rigors of lighthouse keeping have taken a toll. Like Maatsuyker, John's purpose has been superseded by the new technologies and we see a man who is aging and tired, unable to revisit his beloved lightstation. Emotionally, John doesn't seem to have come to terms with the loss of his isolated former life.

The closest this ex-lightkeeper can get to a lighthouse now is to visit his last posting at Cape Bruny where he was caretaker after it was automated. We travel with John and one of his former colleagues, Tony Parsey, as they make a nostalgic visit after 10 years away.

Production Details:
Writer/ Producer/Director: Ron McCulloch
Series Producer: Graeme Duckham
Executive Producer: Dasha Ross

Cape Bruny Lighthouse
Cape Bruny Lighthouse

Photo:  Robert Campbell

Lighthouses of Australia Inc. received some letters that praised the ABC's story: 

Robin Wendleman writes: 

"It was a great show and brought back memories to many of us. Bloody automatic lights! I am certain that the day will come when a catastrophe at sea will make the powers that be rue the loss of people on the lights. I hope not, but I feel that it's inevitable. "

Armand Schepis thanked Malcolm Macdonald for having told him about the documentary being screened:

"I watched it with tears running down my face. John Cook echoed my sentiments - how sad to see the deterioration of Maatsuyker & Tasman. Such beautiful, rugged and historical islands where I spent approx four years of my life."

Christian Bell remarked what an excellent episode it was. 

"Good to see how they let the pictures do a lot of the talking and how understated the narration was. It certainly has a "filmic" feel to it. The earlier footage used (had the quality of stuff shot on 16mm) and the modern digital stuff was well matched."

For those readers who also saw the program and enjoyed it, we suggest that you offer your compliments to ABC Feedback and a well-placed comment regarding the issue of lighthouse preservation.

If this story has touched you and you are not already a member of Lighthouses of Australia, we invite you to join now! Support the preservation, protection and promotion of historical Australian lighthouses, and recognise the irreplaceable contribution that the lightkeepers, and their families, the crew of the lighthouse ships, the service technicians, support staff and administrators have made to the maritime, architectural and cultural heritage that our children will inherit. Your financial support is important and necessary for this work to continue. Thankyou. 


Norah Head Lighthouse Centenary

Norah Head Lighthouse

Norah Head Lighthouse celebrates its centenary in November 2003.
Photograph: Ian Clifford

The Centenary of Norah Head lighthouse will be officially celebrated on 15 November 2003.

Planning has been underway for several months and a special centenary news section has been established on the Wyong Shire Council website.

Events being considered include an Air Force flyover, an antique car rally, a street parade, and school writing and art competitions. The centenary planning group has also put out a call for former Norah Head lighthouse keepers and their families who would like to be involved in the activities.

For more information, contact:

Peter Morris 
39 Pillapai Street
Charlestown NSW 2290
Tel: 61 2 4943 0822
Fax: 61 2 4920 8310
Email Peter Morris

New book - Lighthouses of Australia: A Visitors Guide

Lighthouses of Australia: A Visitors Guide
Lighthouses of Australia: A Visitors Guide

John Ibbotson's stunning new lighthouse book.
Photograph: John Ibbotson

John Ibbotson has produced another excellent book on Australian lighthouses, which serves as a travelling companion to those who are coasting around Australia. Clear and concise information in a robust and conveniently-sized publication, with the author's trademark high-quality images.

This is not a coffee table book; it is an ‘out and about’ book! It guides us to scenic lighthouses like Cape Bruny and Cape Du Couedic as well as other structures (e.g. Cape Jervis and Cleveland Point), which leave you guessing as to what motivated their design. 

What inspires John Ibbotson? It requires an abundance of passion, a strong commitment, and an enormous amount of energy to produce such a book. Lovers of Australian lighthouses can now enjoy the long-awaited result of John's labour.

The Visitor's Guide contains:

  • 180 stunning colour photos
  • 8 location maps
  • A description of each lighthouse
  • Directions on how to get to the lighthouse
  • Commercial and charter operator names and contact numbers (for lights off the beaten track)
  • Visiting hours
  • The costs involved
  • Whether accommodation is available in the keepers' cottages
  • In addition to an index it also contains a 100 different definitions and facts about lighthouses
  • A foreword by The Hon Joe Hockey MP (Commonwealth Minister for Small Business and Tourism)

The details for obtaining access to various lighthouses are very clear, and accommodation details included. There are seventeen lighthouses in Australia that currently provide regular accommodation in the old keepers' quarters. Some others have accommodation close-by but not in the keepers' cottages.

They are:

This book is a good companion for selected coastal trips and fits snugly into most glove boxes. The publication was fully produced within Australia.

John Ibbotson
John Ibbotson, lighthouse photographer

Photo: John Ibbotson

On the very last page, John even whets our appetite with a photograph of a somewhat unusual lighthouse inclusive of a hint to a scheduled 2005 book on offshore lights!

Book Launch

The book was launched at an exhibition held at the Aspects Gallery in Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula, south-east of Melbourne, over 3-19 October 2003.

Apart from launching the new book, John was also introducing his 2004 Lighthouses of Australia calendar, and exhibiting a number of lighthouse prints, all of them enlargements from his successful previous book Lighthouses of Australia - Images From the End of an Era.

John Ibbotson at his exhibition
John Ibbotson at his exhibition of lighthouse photographs

John Ibbotson with some the fabulous photographs from his previous lighthouse book.
Photograph: Denise Shultz

John himself was present at the gallery on the 11th and 12th October, talking to the public and signing the copies of his latest book - hot off the press.

The thirty or so lighthouse prints are of spectacular quality and completely show their artistic aspect when enlarged and framed. The prints are available for sale from John at the contact address below.

The retail price of the book is $39.95 (inc. GST) but LoA members as well as buyers who are ordering the book based on hearing about it through LoA Inc will get a $5 discount - giving a price (including postage in Australia) of $35.00.

The new book can be purchased from the author by contacting John Ibbotson:

Email your address and credit card information
Phone with your details to +613 9808 5474
Mail a note and cheque to the author at 4/19 Elm St, Surrey Hills VIC 3127, Australia
Download and print out an order form from
ISBN: 0 9581214-1-9
Publisher: Australian Lighthouse Traders
Title: Lighthouses of Australia: A Visitors Guide
Author: John Ibbotson (author, photographer, designer, publisher, distributor)
Binding: Hardback
Size: 210mm x 160mm (8.3" x 6.3" ) with 264 pages
Subject: A book on how to visit 150 of Australia's 'classic' lighthouses

Reviews by Steve Merson, Denise Shultz & Marguerite Stephen


Researching lightkeeper Walter Christofferson at Double Island Point Lighthouse

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Double Island Point Lighthouse

Photo:  Ken Gott

Dear LoA,

Am trying to find date of Walter Christofferson's commencement of lightkeeping at Double Island Point Lighthouse. His daughter, Madeline Leck places it at 1908 whereas Shirley Buchanan puts it at 1913. As I am writing a book on the Christofferson's time at the lighthouse and Madeline is now finding it a little hard to remember details, I wondered if anyone can confirm this date one way or another. 

Harry Foster was the Head Keeper at this time, with McDonald being the second lightkeeper. Madeline places their year of departure as being 1920. The copy of the Double Island school register that I have managed to track down is in bad condition and the dates are illegible.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

Hannah McNamara
Email Hannah McNamara

Researching Benjamin & Colin Bishop, lighthouse keepers in WA

Point Moore Lighthouse
Point Moore Lighthouse

Photo:  Annette Flotwell

Dear LoA,

I have an interest in researching information re my grandfather and uncle who both were lighthouse keepers along the Western Australian coast in the early to mid 1900s. I would appreciate any help you may be able to provide by way of web sites or record keepers.

Grandfather's name was Benjamin Bishop and his son was Colin Bishop. My mother Lorna Bishop, daughter of Benjamin, was born at Point Moore Lighthouse in 1920.


Ian Willock
Email Ian Willock

Hi Ian,

Thanks for your letter. Please advise your current email address, as it seems your original address is no longer valid. 

There is a booklet put out by National Archives that indicates where records from various states and eras are kept.

Lighthouses in Australia
Maggie Shapley 1991
An Australian Archives Publication
ISBN 0642166250

Have you contacted the Geraldton Historical Society?

Glenis Thomas
Geraldton Historical Society
Email Geraldton Historical Society


Steve Merson
Chief Editor LoA Inc.
Email Chief Editor

Researching Captain John Thomas Jarman & Jarman Island Lighthouse

Jarman Island Lighthouse
Jarman Island Lighthouse

Photo:  John Ibbotson

Dear Lighthouses of Australia,

My name is Christine Jarman Sloan and I have been researching Captain John Thomas Jarman, Master Mariner, for about five years, after whom the Jarman Island Lighthouse is named. I am in the final stages of preparing a document for publication which focuses on Captain Jarman, his maritime career, and his ship the Tien Tsin. I have established contact with descendants of his second wife in Australia and England.

I have read the copyright notice on your site, and with my publication hope to cover my research costs over the past five years. The book is not an in-depth historical look at North Western Australia - but rather a diary like account of the Captain and his ship (with some very interesting entries) which may be of interest to genealogists in addition to his family connections. I do not expect there to be a demand for many copies.

I would ask if there is any way I might be able to secure the use of Jarman Island Lighthouse photos and information for a nominal fee to use in my publication. Should the book exceed my research costs I would be happy to make a donation to your project.

Kind Regards,

Christine Jarman Sloan
Email Christine Jarman Sloan

Dear Christine,

Should you wish to use any photographs of the Jarman Island Lighthouse from the LoA website or the online Bulletin in your publication, we will need to refer you to the photographer to seek permission.


Steve Merson
Chief Editor LoA Inc
Email Chief Editor

Seeking information regarding light/signal station on Betsy Island

Dear LoA,

I am interested to know if there's any information available on the early light/signal station located on Betsy Island. I am a frequent visitor to this beautiful spot and have been curious about its history for many years. 

Thanking you in anticipation.

Paul Davis
Email Paul Davis

1920's letter from Alfred Griffiths - lighthouse keeper at Cape du Couedic

Cape du Couedic Lighthouse
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse

Photo:  Mardi Saker


I know nothing really about Australia, except what I learnt at school in England. I was born in Birmingham not far from where my great-uncle grew up. 

I have a letter from my great uncle Alfred Griffiths to my grandfather dated April 1920. Alfred was the light house keeper at Cape du Couedic at the time. He was born in Birmingham, England in 1882. After serving with the British Navy during the Boxer rebellion, he must have travelled to Australia and joined the services there. He fought for the Anzacs in the 1914-18 war. 

This was the last the family ever heard of him, other than the letter. We are researching our family history, and in my father's eyes this uncle was very much a "character". I would like to know more about him and what happened to him, but I have no idea where to start. I could send you a copy of his letter if it would be of any interest to you. It gives a little insight into life at the lighthouse. 

Yours in good faith.

Many thanks,

Mrs Ann Owen
31 Canterbury Road
Penn Wolverhampton WV4 4EQ
Email Ann Owen

Cape du Couedic Lighthouse
Cape du Couedic Lighthouse

Photo:  Bob Duthie

Dear Ann,

Thanks for your enquiry.

First of all there is a booklet put out by National Archives that indicates where records from various states and eras are kept.

Lighthouses in Australia
Maggie Shapley 1991
An Australian Archives Publication
ISBN 0642166250

The lighthouse at Cape du Couedic is now under Parks SA (Flinders Chase National Park) and they seem to have a bit of information about past keepers. Try contacting Rosemary Collins (Dept of Environment & Heritage) who is the Information Officer with NPWSA at the Flinders Chase Visitor Centre on Kangaroo Island.

We have just been informed that Graham Arriola of Adelaide has compiled a list of South Australian Keepers from 1850 onwards. I am sure that not only will he be willing to help you with your enquiries, but he would also be interested in the information you have about Alfred Griffiths.

We will publish your letter, as this seems to get results too. 


Steve Merson
Chief Editor LoA Inc
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Thanks to

Thanks to the following people for their help with this edition of the Bulletin:

  • H.O. Balfe (information)

  • Robert Campbell (photograph)

  • Ian Clifford (photograph)

  • Bob Duthie (photograph)

  • Annette Flotwell (photograph)

  • Ken Gott (photograph)

  • Brian Hansen (information)

  • John Ibbotson (photographs & information)

  • Jeff Jennings (photograph)

  • Ed Kavaliunas (photographs)

  • Peter Morris (information)

  • Chris Nicholls (photograph & information)

  • Pauline O'Brien (photographs & information)

  • Mardi Saker (photograph)

  • Kim Shimmin (photograph)

  • Denise Shultz (photograph & information)

  • Tony Wark (information)

  • David Llewellyn Williams (photographs & information)

  • 4Cs Enterprises (photo)

  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) (photographs)

  • Fremantle Ports (photograph)

  • "The Commonwealth Lighthouse Service - Its Formation & Early Development" by Michael Komesaroff (information)

  • "From Dusk till Dawn - A History of Australian Lighthouses" by Gordon Reid (photos and information)

  • Smith's Weekly (information)

Thanks to all the people who have put links to the site, and those who let LoA use their photos for thumbnails.


Got any news, experiences
or queries about lighthouses?
Steve Merson, News Editor
Contact Steve Merson

Chief Editor, LoA Inc.
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Photograph: Lynda Merson

Got any comments
or questions about this Bulletin?

Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor
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Bulletin Editor, LoA Inc.
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Photograph: Jen Eggleston

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