|In this Issue|
Letter from the Editor
Welcome to the November Bulletin, edition 7/2003.
This edition contains historical memoirs from Madeline Leck, who grew up on Double Island Point in the early 1900s, some current news from the mid-NSW coast, and a report on the important role of the Point Lonsdale Lighthouse.
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!
Norah Head's "White Lady" turns 100
by Ian Roberts, Public Relations Officer, Wyong Shire Council
An historical display at the lighthouse during the week-long celebration attracted scores of visitors, including many former lighthouse staff from along much of Australia’s east coast.
Their stories of life atop these silent sentinels added colour and great significance to the Norah Head celebrations. In fact, the event became somewhat of a reunion of a lost trade, a gathering of a special breed: the lighthouse keeper.
On the actual anniversary, 15 November, hundreds of people lined up for a series of tours of the lighthouse and its grounds, as well as attending a centenary fair at a nearby reserve.
Organisers of the celebrations, the Norah Head Lighthouse Trust and Wyong Shire Council estimated at as many as 1700 people attended the centenary day, despite soaring temperatures.
Other events held in the week leading up to the centenary, included a veteran and vintage car rally; a special lighthouse art exhibition, a surfing carnival and a historic display at the lighthouse.
The centenary of Norah Head lighthouse is particularly significant because its beacon shines across some of Australia’s busiest shipping lanes, the sea link between Sydney and Newcastle, the two biggest cities in NSW.
These waters are also notorious as the scene of at least 50 shipwrecks, including the BHP vessel, Iron Chieftain, which was sunk during World War II by the same pack of Japanese submarines that attacked shipping in Sydney Harbour and lobbed shells into Newcastle.
Earlier in World War II, the Danish-built ship, Nimbin, struck a mine off Norah Head and sank with loss of life. These two events have ensured that the Norah Head area holds a central position in Australia’s defence history.
Norah Head lighthouse also boasts links to Edward Hargraves, the man credited with discovering the first payable gold in Australia. Hargraves, who lived nearby, lobbied colonial authorities for a warning station to reduce the number of shipping disasters along that stretch of coast.
Former local federal member and Federal Transport Minister, Peter Morris, who is the chairman of the Norah Head Lighthouse Trust, hopes the centenary will help generate greater interest and awareness of local maritime history. "This is a significant section of coastline and there have been some major shipping incidents in these waters".
The centenary attracted its share of VIP’s and guests at the official celebrations included NSW Minister, John Della Bosca; Federal MP, Jill Hall; NSW MLA Paul Crittenden, and the Mayor of Wyong, Greg Best.
Speaking at the celebrations, Councillor Best said Wyong Shire Council was pleased to have supported the centenary celebrations, by facilitating planning and providing $10,000 toward the cost of the activities.
Mayor Best also praised the work of the Norah Head Lighthouse Trust and thanked other primary sponsors, The Central Coast Herald and Delta Electricity.
Double Island Point Lighthouse
by Denise Shultz, President & Prism Editor, LoA
On Friday 18 May 1770, Captain Cook on his groundbreaking voyage of discovery saw the point "distant three or four leagues". He named it Double Island Point "on account of its figure. The land within this point is of a moderate and pretty equal height, but the point itself is of such unequal height that it looks lie two small islands laying under the land".
Indeed, the bird's eye view shows the point like a rocky island, joined to the mainland by a narrow isthmus of sandy dunes, pointing roughly north-east. Two kilometres NE lies the Wolf Rock, just one of the many dangers surrounding ocean poses to the passing shipping traffic.
That Double Island Point would be a good place to build a lighthouse became obvious as early as 1864, five years after Queensland became a separate colony, gaining independence from New South Wales. A few lighthouses were built during this period, among them Bustard Head, Sandy Cape and a challenging North Reef. The lighthouse at Double Island Point had to wait due to a lack of financial resources and government cost cutting.
Things didn't start to move until January 1883, when George Heath, the chairman of the Queensland Marine Board visited the site and proposed a third order light to be placed on the headland. The plan was promptly approved by the colonial government and W.C. Clark, who already built Bustard Head and Low Isles Lighthouses, was successful in his bidding. He failed to finish another two lighthouse (Dent Island and Cape Cleveland) which were also contracted to him, on a the account of bankruptcy. For the sum of £6900 he was to build both Double Island Point and Pine Islet Lighthouses. The progress was once more delayed. The power of the light was to be increased from fourth order to third but though the treasurer approved of the improvement, the £1000 in budget needed to cover the cost of it was forgotten. Only after this error was amended could the building go ahead, and finally in October 1884, the timber framed iron clad lighthouse was put to operation.
At first, there were three keepers who lived with their families in cottages close to the lighthouse, but in 1932 it was decided to build new dwellings and also reduce the number of keepers to two. Double Island Point is one of the windiest places, which might have been the reason for relocating the new cottages further away from the lighthouse, sheltered behind the hill. Today, only remains of foundations are what are left of the original cottages.
The lighthouse itself, though devoid of its original third order lens, remains popular with tourists who drive north from the bustling resort town of Noosa along spectacular Teewah beach, stop to admire the twisted remains of the wreck of Cherry Venture and continue a couple of kilometres to the lightstation's gate. Those who make the climb are rewarded with being, at least for a while, a part of a very special place.
My interesting life at Double Island Point Lighthouse
Memoirs by Madeline Leck, edited by Denise Shultz & Steve Merson
Editor's Note: Madeline Leck grew up on Double Island Point lightstation in Queensland in the 1910s, when her father was Assistant Lightkeeper. In this first part of her story, we chronicle some of her memories of her mother's difficult life on the lightstation. Madeline is now in her 90s and LoA is grateful to have had the opportunity to record a vast amount of her recollections of life on the lighthouse, as well obtain copies of photographs from this era. (Some of the photographs reproduced here have been digitally enhanced). Further recollections will be published in both Prism and the Bulletin.
How different life was back then, especially for women. With their husbands keeping the night watch and consequently needing to sleep part of the day, as well as doing mechanical repairs around the station when not on night duty, the women got little help around the house. Generally these women had a large family to look after and not a single kitchen appliance to help with the task of cooking and cleaning. Madeline remembers how her mum coped with five children at an isolated place, and despite experiencing severe heartache, managed to keep the family happy.
What is it like being a mother at the lightstation?
Nothing of any great importance seemed to ever happen on Double Island Point lightstation. For the men, life revolved around their work and in their spare time there was fishing, hunting and general maintenance. The women spent their time looking after their households, and having a baby was the one big event.
A month before the due date, our mother would take us to stay with her parents in Maryborough, so she could regularly visit her doctor. We quite enjoyed holidaying with our grandparents. My father could not leave the lighthouse, and he was quite happy with his two free days a week.
About a month after giving birth, mother would be strong enough to return to the lighthouse. It was a seven-hour trip by sea on the monthly stores boat, with all the provisions aboard. We were well known to the crew, and they were ever so kind to mother, knowing she was a poor sailor. They always had a cup of tea ready and tried to make her as comfortable as possible. She was a quiet and gentle lady and the crew had the highest respect for her.
Without modern appliances, keeping house was hard work. Mother boiled her laundry in kerosene tins that were first scalded and washed clean of any trace of kerosene. The open laundry was at the rear of the house and the tins sat on the bench. When it was windy, we would often hear a mighty loud noise, clang, clang, clang, as our poor mother's wash tubs sailed down the hill to the rocks below the lighthouse. It was Dad's job to go down and retrieve them.
To iron, mother had to heat Mother Potts irons on top of the wood stove, but despite that, her ironing was always perfect. Mother always kept us neatly dressed, even though there were only three families in residence and no visitors were expected to drop in.
When my father was on night duty, he would retire shortly after lunch to get his sleep before going on watch at 10 pm, so we had to keep quiet. Mother would give us our evening meal at around 5 pm, then a bath, and dressed in our pyjamas, she would take us for a walk along Rainbow Beach before bedtime.
Every Friday, mum baked - her bread, cakes, biscuits and tarts were absolutely scrumptious. She also made her own jams, pickles, chutney and preserves as my father would not eat anything out of a can and we were taught to do likewise. Dad often remarked, "If you saw how it was made, you would not want to eat it".
Our only entertainment was a wind-up phonograph, but sometimes our mother would sing for us. She had a wonderful voice and could play every musical instrument from accordion to the tiny Jew's harp. She was also an excellent dancer, having learnt to dance from the age of three.
I often marvel at the way mother and father accepted life. Dad loved the work related to the sea, indirectly saving lives. Mother, silently taking part, was a very quiet, reserved lady, who never much cared for the company of outsiders. Content with her responsibility of husband and children, she had more than enough work to fill her days.
On one of our regular walks along the beach, mother came upon a bottle with a note inside, written by a soldier sailing off to World War I on a troop ship. The writer asked the finder to post the letter enclosed on to his mother whose name and address was supplied. Mother complied with the soldier's request and in return, the soldier's mother sent her an enlarged studio photo of her son, the author of the bottled message. We never learned if the soldier was fortunate to return to his loved ones.
Mother's brother Charles, affectionately known as "Mexie", also enlisted to fight for king and country in WW1. Like others who were keen to go, he had put his age up to 21. A civic send-off was organized by the citizens of Maryborough for these young men. Unfortunately, because the authorities could not organise a boat to bring her ashore, my mother was the only member of her family who could not attend the send off for her brother. She never saw Mexie again. He was wounded at Gallipoli and died of wounds in a hospital in France. A caring nurse found his parents' address among his personal papers and wrote them a lovely letter.
After being denied the opportunity to attend her brother's farewell, Mother grieved to such an extent that her health suffered. Her voice was affected and she could not speak a word for two weeks. Her speech returned briefly, and then abruptly disappeared again. The doctors declared that her vocal chords were all right.
Interestingly, they said that Mother lost her voice because of a dream about her brother - in the dream, Mexie was riding a white horse while she rode another horse beside him. When Mexie started to gallop out of sight, she tried to call out to him to wait but could not utter a word. It was three long months before Mother could speak again.
On one occasion, a ship had got into strife near Double Island Point, and two crew were reported missing. While on watch, my father spotted two men climbing the treacherous cliffs under the lighthouse. He immediately raised the alarm and all came to their rescue. When brought up from the rocks, the shipwrecked sailors were exhausted, cold and hungry. Their clothing had been completely torn off them and their bodies were very badly gashed and bleeding from being thrown against the shore in the rough seas.
Too weak to understand what was happening, they were brought to the cottage. Mum's heart went out for the unfortunate seamen. She saw to their comfort, bathed and dressed their wounds, gave them nourishing food and made them comfortable. She also gave them Dad's clothes to wear, until they could be supplied with their own. Given plenty of rest, they were gently nursed back to health by Mother. She was like Florence Nightingale. The two men were most grateful for the care that was given to them. Later, their families wrote and expressed their gratitude. As a result, a lasting friendship was formed between the families involved.
Mother occasionally accompanied my father to visit our very dear friends and nearest neighbours, Mr Elliott Gorman and his wife Mary, who was previously our governess. Returning from one such visit, my father had a narrow escape in a landslide. I remember him saying that the sea was slowly eating into the shoreline at Inskip Point and eventually it wouldn't be there any more.
It hurt us to see how terribly seasick Mother always became. We were returning to the lighthouse and the sea was too rough to cross the bar. The captain decided to drop anchor and the steamer was pitching, tossing and rolling like a cork. Mother was on the top deck, so violently seasick that I could not bear it. For her sake, I wanted to stop the rocking of the boat, so I went below decks, took hold of both handrails with all my might and tried to steady the ship. Despite my efforts, mum's seasickness did not subside.
My dear father passed away in October 1954, aged 73 years. My dear mother, God bless her, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Christmas morning 1975, aged 90 years and 4 months.
LoA Committee member profile - Kristie Eggleston
Over the last few editions of the Bulletin, we have been introducing the Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA) Committee Members to readers. Now it is my turn.
I officially became involved with LoA at the beginning of 2003, after Malcolm's "retirement" in December 2002. Malcolm was not only maintaining the website and corresponding with readers & members, but was also preparing and publishing the monthly Bulletin. When he retired as Bulletin Editor, the only Australian lighthouse newsletter being published was the hard copy Prism every two months, as prepared by the LoA President, Denise Shultz.
I read in the first Prism for 2003 that the Committee were seeking assistance with publishing a regular newsletter on the LoA website. I had been a member of LoA for some years, and every month looked forward to receiving the Bulletin. I realised the importance that an online newsletter, in some format, be resurrected for internet readers, and I volunteered my services to the LoA Committee.
Initially, the existing edition of the Prism was converted to an online newsletter, rather than preparing and sourcing separate news to create a different newsletter, and accordingly, the first three editions of Prism for 2003 were published online in this fashion.
With the champion work done by the Chief Editor, Steve Merson, we were able to source, edit and prepare sufficient information and photos to separate the Prism and the Bulletin back into different publications. The Bulletin is now published monthly, and mostly contains items of news, preservations efforts, and current issues, whilst the Prism has now become the vehicle for detailing lighthouse memoirs and historical references.
Pinpointing how and where my fascination with lighthouses began is difficult because there is no obvious reason. I have no personal connection to lighthouses, no lighthouse-keeper skeleton in the family cupboard, but the interest is very real. I have been to many lighthouses around the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian coasts, but have never seen a lighthouse from the seaward side at night - and therefore actually seen the light functioning as intended.
In 1999, I began photographing lighthouses around Victoria, and have visited most of the major lights in this state, the SE coast of South Australia, including Kangaroo Island, and the NSW central and south coasts. A fear of flying has prevented me from travelling any further.
I have published my own Victorian photos online, located at http://au.geocities.com/aust_lighthouses/, and hope to add the photos of NSW and SA lights to the site some time in the near future. I have just returned from a lighthouse trip along the south coast of NSW - covering the lights between Nowra and the NSW/Victorian border - a report on my trip will be included in a future Bulletin.
Whilst preparing the Bulletin for the LoA has been significantly more work than expected, it has been very rewarding, and the opportunities to share my obsession with other lighthouse enthusiasts have been fantastic. I am now on the LoA Committee as Bulletin Editor, and hope to be able to continue contributing to this tremendously worthwhile project to preserve, promote and protect our lighthouses well into the future.
Lighthouse to the rescue
by Steve Merson, Chief Editor, LoA
It is gratifying to read about lighthouses saving lives. The communications officer at Point Lonsdale Lighthouse who picked up a long range distress call from a yachtsman in trouble was acting in the time-honoured capacity of the traditional role of lightkeepers - to provide a real link between mariners and the shore.
LoA Inc would like to bring attention to an account of the rescue, released by the Port of Melbourne Corporation, to promote awareness of the job being done by precious few people these days.
We commend Peter Saunders, the Victorian Channels Authority and the State Government for "keeping the ship afloat" after the Commonwealth decided to close down the Cape Schanck (“Melbourne Radio”) communications station in July 2002. Mariners welcome the return of a listening watch in these waters, and are grateful to the people who maintain this watch.
For more information, contact:
Nobbys Head Lighthouse - future use
by Steve Merson, Chief Editor, LoA - sourced from Newcastle Herald
A future use for the Nobbys Head lighthouse is due to be announced in December, according to Chris Oxenbould, Newcastle Port Corporation Chief Executive. Seven initial expressions of interest had been culled down to a shortlist of four tenderers who are all from the Hunter region.
The Port Corporation wants the Nobbys put to safe public use, while protecting the historical buildings and preserving the authenticity of the site for future generations.
No single submission met all of the project's objectives, so further negotiations are being conducted with the respondents. It is expected that the successful tenderer will be announced when the corporation releases its annual report in the first week of December.
More information is available in the Newcastle Port Corporation press release (dated 28 October 2003).
Salvaged light a beacon for tourism
by Steve Merson, Chief Editor, LoA - sourced from Port Stephens Examiner & Newcastle Herald News
The Port Stephens light was built in 1862. The original kerosene light was converted to acetylene in 1922 and the light was de-manned at the same time.
The octagonal-shaped bronze and copper structure was removed from the lighthouse during the changeover to mains power in 1973, and rescued from the scrap heap by Danny Carroll, an earthmoving contractor who recognised its heritage value. Being a member of the Port Stephens Historical Society, he arranged for it to be stored in trust until the right opportunity arose to have it displayed.
The lantern room has been restored to its original condition through the skill of the members of the Nelson Bay Lions, who spent around $15,000 and more than 300 man-hours over eight months, cleaning, repairing, re-assembling and painting the historic turret.
It will now become a focal point of the new building with new glass panels installed in the framework and a light suspended inside.
Cape Byron Trust researching lightkeepers
by Sally Watterson, Cape Byron Headland Reserve Education Officer, Cape Byron Trust
Cape Byron Trust is currently researching the lives and families of the lightkeepers at Cape Byron lighthouse.
We are interested in seeing photos of the Keepers and their families during their time at Cape Byron, particularly images that show the interiors of the Keepers Quarters and the stables and family 'events' that were held at the Cape.
Letters that describe aspects of their life would be highly regarded. We would like to know of objects from the lightstation, such as ornaments, tools, furniture, uniforms, flags, signs, badges, ancillary equipment, or any items that reflect the prime purpose of the facility and represent the era.
Our intention is to draw on the information that is contributed, to create a list of contacts and eventually develop a display that describes life on the Cape Byron Lightstation.
Please call Sally Watterson, Cape Byron Headland Reserve Education Officer on 02 6685 8565, or email Sally and we can call you back.
We hope to hear from you!
Beacons by the Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses - off to Albany
by Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor, LoA
The Beacons By The Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses touring exhibition presented by the National Archives of Australia finished its show at the SA Maritime Museum on 23 November 2003.
The next location is at the Western Australian Museum at Albany, where the exhibition will be on show from 9 December 2003 until 4 February 2004.
Structurally unique, romantic and intimately linked with Australia’s maritime heritage, lighthouses have maintained a strong hold over the imagination of many Australians. Designed to guide ships, they have become icons of safety and stability.
Developed by the National Archives of Australia, this exhibition of photos, architectural drawings, diaries, log books and oral histories documents the stories of lighthouse keepers and their families, and the dramatic events such as shipwrecks and rescues that took place around these majestic structures.
The exhibition dates are reproduced from the National Archives of Australia website below:
It is up to those of you who believe in the Preservation, Protection and Promotion of Australia's lighthouse heritage to throw your hat into the ring, whether it just be a financial member or direct involvement on the committee, web pages, the Bulletin or some other aspect that could enrich the site.
Application for Membership Form
Printer-friendly versions with credit card payment authorities that can be mailed:
Sorry. We no longer take online applications.
Cheques must be in Australian Dollars.
How can you help
If you have or know of material that Lighthouses of Australia (LoA) could use, we would love to hear from you. Contact LoA with the details, or send us some feedback.
What you can help with is:
For more information about how you can help LoA, visit the How You Can Help page.
New Pages & Links
New Pages for Australia:
New Links for Australia: Volunteer needed to help with links for Australia
New Links for World: Volunteer needed to help with links for World
Thanks to the following people for their help with this edition of the Bulletin:
Thanks to all the people who have put links to the site, and those who let LoA use their photos.
Past Bulletins: Past Monthly News, Preservation or Access Bulletins can be accessed from the Bulletin Index.
Contact Lighthouses of Australia Inc: Contact details for various queries to Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc).
Contact: Email Bulletin Editor
© 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Lighthouse Computer Training & Development