No 7/2003 - November 2003

Lighthouses of Australia Inc


PO Box 4734 Knox City VIC 3152 Australia

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Letter from the Editor
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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.

Norah Head Lighthouse Centenary

Double Island Point Lighthouse

Point Lonsdale Lighthouse

Montague Island Lighthouse plans

Norah Head Lighthouse celebrated its Centenary earlier this month. Hundreds of people toured the lighthouse and attended other events held to commemorate the occasion.

Another feature of this edition is an introduction to the Double Island Point Lighthouse in Queensland by Denise Shultz, the LoA President. Double Island Point is going to feature in a few editions of the Bulletin and Prism over the next few months, as we chronicle the memoirs of Madeline Leck.

The first instalment of Madeline Leck's memoirs memoirs reveals aspects of her mother's difficult life as the wife of the Assistant Lightkeeper at Double Island Point.

Following our tradition of profiling the committee members of Lighthouses of Australia Inc, my own profile features in this edition of the Bulletin. 

The LoA reports on a great story that tells how lighthouses still save lives

Winsome Bonham has been keeping LoA Inc abreast of developments at Newcastle by sending us newspaper accounts about the future use of Nobbys Head Lighthouse.

Winsome Bonham relays news of preservation efforts in Nelson Bay in NSW. Old lantern room has a new life.

The Cape Byron Trust is researching the lives and families of lighthouse keepers at the Cape Byron Lighthouse in New South Wales.

The Beacons of the Sea: Stories of Australian Lighthouses exhibition presented by the National Archives of Australia has finished at Port Adelaide, and will next be on show at Albany in Western Australia.

We have a few letters from readers: two offering information and photos about their relatives who were keepers at Maatsuyker Island; one who is seeking information about a relative who was a keeper in Queensland; and news from the Northern Territory Library, which received a donation of rare photos of NT lighthouses.

Double Island Point Lighthouse

Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor

Nobbys Head Lighthouse

Cape Byron Head Lighthouse

Maatsuyker Island 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!

Kristie Eggleston
LoA Bulletin Editor
Email Bulletin Editor


Norah Head's "White Lady" turns 100

by Ian Roberts, Public Relations Officer, Wyong Shire Council

Norah Head Lighthouse Centenary
Norah Head Lighthouse with signal flags at the centenary celebrations

Hundreds of people line up at Norah Head Lighthouse on 15 November 2003 for tours during the centenary celebrations.
Photo:  Ian Roberts

She’s known locally as the ‘White Lady’ and Norah Head Lighthouse, between Sydney and Newcastle, donned its finery recently to celebrate 100 years of operation.

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.

Norah Head Lighthouse
Norah Head Lighthouse Centenary booklet

Photo:  AMSA

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.

Norah Head Lighthouse Centenary
Norah Head Lighthouse on the Centenary invitations & poster

Photo: Wyong Shire Council

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.

Norah Head Lighthouse
Norah Head Lighthouse on the cover of the Wyong Shire Council 2002/03 Annual Report

Photo:  Wyong Shire Council

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.

Ian Roberts
Public Relations Officer
Wyong Shire Council
Email Ian Roberts

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Double Island Point Lighthouse

Photo:  Denise Shultz

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.

Double Island Point Lighthouse entrance gate
Double Island Point Lightstation entrance

The entrance gate to Double Island Point Lightstation is closed to vehicles, only the rangers can still drive all the way to the lighthouse. It is a steep climb, but leaving their 4WD down on the beach, a lot of visitors still make the journey today.
Photo:  Denise Shultz

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.

Double Island Point Lighthouse cottages
Double Island Point Lightstation cottages

The two cottages that stand near the lighthouse today were built in 1932 and are made, like a lot of other Queensland lighthouse accommodation buildings from the era, of timber frames with fibro walls.
Photo:  Denise Shultz

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.

Email Denise Shultz

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?

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Double Island Lighthouse and cottages

Note the washing hung on the verandah of the cottage on the left - the weather was too bad to hang it outside.
Photo courtesy:  Madeline Leck

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.

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Mrs Foster (wife of Headkeeper) and her companion at Double Island Point Lighthouse

While the Headkeeper Mr Foster and his wife did not have any children of their own, they had an Aboriginal girl who lived with them. When she died, she was reportedly buried at Double Island Point.
Photo courtesy:  Madeline Leck

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. 

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Madeline Leck's parents at Double Island Point

Madeline's parents bring the stores back to Double Island Point lightstation from Inskip Point, where they were usually unloaded from the store ship in bad weather.
Photo courtesy:  Madeline Leck

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. 

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Pebble Gully

The place Madeline and her family called Pebble Gully was very popular with children. However, the steep climb down was considered dangerous and they were not allowed to go there without being supervised by an adult.
Photo courtesy:  Madeline Leck

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. 

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Mary Gorman, Madeline Leck's governess

Mary Gorman, neé Hinds, was Madeline's governess before she married Elliot Gorman, the lightkeeper from Inskip Point. They had four children.
Photo courtesy:  Madeline Leck

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.

Double Island Point Lighthouse
Madeline & her sister Ivy

Madeline (front) and her sister Ivy, at the side of their house on Double Island Point, with dog Whiskey. Ivy passed away in 1992 aged 82.
Photo courtesy:  Madeline Leck

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

Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor
Kristie Eggleston

LoA Bulletin Editor
Photograph: Jen 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.

Cape Schanck Lighthouse
Cape Schanck Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

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.

Kristie Eggleston at Pt Perpendicular Lighthouse
Kristie Eggleston at Pt Perpendicular Lighthouse

Photo: Jen Eggleston

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, 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.

Email Kristie Eggleston

Australian News

Lighthouse to the rescue

Point Lonsdale Lighthouse
Point Lonsdale Lighthouse

Photo:  Ed Kavaliunas

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:

Tim Muir
Harbour Master & Manager, Marine Operations
Victorian Channels Authority
Tel: +61 3 9612 3512
Email Tim Muir

Nobbys Head Lighthouse - future use

Nobbys Head Lighthouse
Nobbys Head Lighthouse

Photo: Grant Maizels

by Steve Merson, Chief Editor, LoA - sourced from Newcastle Herald

LoA Inc reported on the call for expressions of interest for use of Nobbys Head Lighthouse in the August 2003 Bulletin.

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

Port Stephens restored lantern room
Danny Carroll & Colin Stewart, Lions Club President, with the restored lantern room

Earthmoving contractor Danny Carroll rescued the structure from the local tip 30 years ago.
Photo: Port Stephens Examiner

by Steve Merson, Chief Editor, LoA - sourced from Port Stephens Examiner & Newcastle Herald News

The original lantern room from Port Stephens Outer lighthouse at Fingal Bay has been incorporated into the rooftop of the new tourist information centre at Nelson Bay

Port Stephens lantern room
The lantern room is lifted into place atop the Visitors Centre

Photo: Port Stephens Examiner

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 Head Lighthouse
Cape Byron Lighthouse

Photo: Erik

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. 

Montague Island Lighthouse plans
One of the documents on display in the Beacons by the Sea exhibition:
plans of Montague Island Lighthouse

Photo: National Archives of Australia 4957044

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:

Opens Closes Location
1 August 2003 23 November 2003 South Australian Maritime Museum, Port Adelaide
9 December 2003 4 February 2004 Western Australian Museum, Albany
February 2004 April 2004 Western Australian Museum, Kalgoorlie
April 2004 June 2004 Western Australian Museum, Geraldton
June 2004 July 2004 Port Pirie Regional Art Gallery, Port Pirie
To be confirmed   Tasmanian Museum and Gallery, Hobart
December 2004 January 2005 Burnie Regional Art Gallery, Burnie
February 2005 April 2005 State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
May 2005 June 2005 Eden Killer Whale Museum, Eden
July 2005 August 2005 Lady Denman Heritage Complex, Huskisson
September 2005 October 2005 Museum of the Riverina, Wagga Wagga
November 2005 January 2006 Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney
February 2006 March 2006 New England Regional Art Museum, Armidale
March 2006 May 2006 Matthew Flinders Gallery, Bribie Island
June 2006 July 2006 Bundaberg Arts Centre, Bundaberg
August 2006 October 2006 Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Darwin


Robert William Garroway - first keeper on Maatsuyker

Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse
Maatsuyker Island Lighthouse

Photo: Jeff Jennings

Dear LoA,

My great grandfather, Robert William Garroway, was the first keeper on Maatsuyker.

I have a bit of a story on him (10 pages or so) and the light; and some photos (amateurish). You probably have all this but get back to me if you wish. I am away for periods of up to 3 weeks at a time so may take some time for contact.

Jol Harvey
Email Jol Harvey

Hello Jol,

Thanks for your letter. Yes, we are very interested to read your story about your great grandfather. Please forward everything you have on him, including original photos or copies. (Send as attachments, scanned at 300dpi and save as TIF or JPEG file).

No doubt you have seen our web page devoted to Maatsuyker.

John Cook, who served at Maatsuyker, and has many records of the Tasmanian lights, confirms that indeed Robert William Garroway was the first Superintendent there, after he was transferred from Cape Wickham early in 1891. For three months after he arrived, he was instructed in the operation of all aspects of the apparatus and trimming the wick lamps.

The assistant keeper and his family arrived on 13 May 1891 and the light formally exhibited for the first time on 1 June 1891.

We are keen to read what you have, Jol, that might add to our records and provide material for an interesting article in the Bulletin and Prism.


Steve Merson
Bulletin & Prism News Editor
Email Steve Merson

Seeking information on John Henry Sellwood - QLD lightkeeper


My name is Dorothy Kenzler, (nee Sellwood) my father John Henry Sellwood was a keeper of the light on several lighthouses off the QLD coast somewhere between 1947 and 1970.

I have been going through the Internet but cannot find any information. Can you please put me in the right direction?

I would appreciate any help as I am trying to put a series of childrens' books together.


Email Dorothy Kenzler

Hello Dot,

Thanks for your letter. Here are a couple of leads for you to research your father's service records:

Contact Phil Shanahan, who is the president of the Queensland Lighthouse Historical Society.
PO Box 177
Buddina Qld 4575
Phil Shanahan
Phone/Fax: 07 5444 4864

Shirley and Stuart Buchanan
PO Box 90
Samford Qld 4520
Ph: 07 3289 1827

Shirley is a past-president of the QLHS and Stuart is an author who has written a book called The Lighthouse Keepers, in which he has lists of the QLD lightkeepers.  

There are two minor references to Sellwood in The Lighthouse Keepers:

1.  Sellwood A. started in Queensland in 1969
2.  Sellwood Jack H. started in Queensland in 1951

Otherwise, you can go to Queensland State Archives (phone 07 3875 8755) or the Archival section of AMSA - Brisbane office (phone 07 3253 2600) with your enquiry.

Please let us know when you intend to release your children's books.


Steve Merson
Bulletin & Prism News Editor
Email Steve Merson

Cape Hotham Lighthouse photos

Cape Hotham Lighthouse
Cape Hotham Lighthouse

Photo:  Winsome Bonham


The Northern Territory Library (Parliament House, Darwin) has received a photographic donation that includes a series of photographs of the construction of the Cape Hotham Lighthouse in 1928. I would be happy to communicate with you regarding access to these images once we have processed the collection, which will include making these images available on the Internet.

I am hoping that you may be able to assist me. The series also includes photographs of what I think reads "East Vernon" lighthouse construction also in 1928. Do you know of this lighthouse and/or have any information that could help us to describe the images? I am particularly interested in where it is located. 

Thanks in anticipation.

Linda Winzar
Northern Territory Library
Ph: (08) 8999 3929
Fax: (08) 8999 6920
Email Linda Winzar

Dear Linda,

We are certainly aware of both the Cape Hotham and East Vernon lights and early photographs would be a great help in adding web pages for each of them on the Net.

We only have one current day photo of Cape Hotham, but AMSA has provided us with three images from their collection.

Cape Don Lighthouse
Cape Don Lighthouse

Photo:  John Ibbotson

If there are any local accounts or historians that can help us get the background on these two lights it would appreciated. I very much doubt the current East Vernon Light is the original so we would be most interested in your images.

As a separate issue, does the library have any photos, accounts or references to the cyclone that hit the Cape Don Lighthouse at 0430 hrs on 25 Dec 1959 as we have been trying to track down this incident for several years to complete an article for our newsletters.

A written account was passed on to us several years ago from the former Australia Lighthouse Association (ALA), which is now part of Lighthouses of Australia Inc (LoA Inc). Unfortunately, it had been mis-credited - the credited author knew nothing of it when we contacted him. We have contacted former members of the ALA to try to resolve this, but the real author remains unknown. We hope this account might be helpful to you.


Malcolm Macdonald
Email Malcolm Macdonald

Lionel Rex Coleman - Lightkeeper at Maatsuyker Island

Rex Coleman - Lightkeeper at Maatsuyker Island
Rex Coleman with his wife Nell & son Gavin

Photo:  Brian Coleman


I have been looking at your pages regarding lighthouse keepers. In your listing for Maatsuyker Island, Coleman is mentioned - he was my uncle. His name was Lionel Rex Coleman (known as Rex). Born 30-12-1909 at Westbury Tasmania, the sixth of seven children. 

He served in the Royal Australian Navy during the period between the two World Wars. He was discharged shortly before WW2, and entered the Lighthouse service shortly afterwards. I am not sure of the dates for his service on Maatsuyker, but it was during the 1940s.

Rex Coleman - Lightkeeper at Maatsuyker Island
Rex Coleman as a sailor upon the Vendetta, before he was a lightkeeper

Photo:  Brian Coleman

He later went to Low Head, and died on 15-9-1954 at Low Head, aged 44 years. One of his sisters, Nita Coleman, was married to Harry Dargaville who was employed by the Launceston Marine Board, and worked at the Low Head Pilot Station, where Rex also lived during his service at Low Head.

I was very fond of my Uncle Rex, he would write to me from all parts of the world during his Navy days. He was a sailor in the Vendetta. We lived in Devonport Tasmania, where the family had moved to from Westbury. The last time I saw him was in Hobart in 1942.

I hope this is of interest to you.

Yours sincerely

Brian Coleman
2/18 Tamarisk Rd
Narre Warren VIC 3805
Phone (03) 9796 6180

Email Brian Coleman

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What you can help with is:  

  • Location and correct names of lighthouses in Australia (currently have 115 on our research list and we believe the figure should be around 200) 
  • Good quality recent B&W or colour photos 
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New Pages & Links

New Pages for Australia:

Burrewarra Point Lighthouse
Burrewarra Point Lighthouse
New South Wales
Low Isles Lighthouse
Low Isles Lighthouse

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

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

  • Winsome Bonham (photo)
  • Brian Coleman (photos)
  • Jen Eggleston (photos)
  • Erik (photo)
  • JH (photo)
  • John Ibbotson (photos)
  • Jeff Jennings (photo)
  • Ed Kavaliunas (photo)
  • Madeline Leck (information & photos)
  • Grant Maizels (photo)
  • Tim Muir, Victorian Channels Authority (information)
  • Ian Roberts, Wyong Shire Council (information & photo)
  • Denise Shultz (information & photos)
  • Sally Watterson, Cape Byron Trust (information)
  • AMSA (photo)
  • Newcastle Herald (information)
  • Newcastle Port Corporation (information)
  • National Archives of Australia (information & photo)
  • Port of Melbourne Corporation (information)
  • Port Stephens Examiner (information & photos)
  • Wyong Shire Council (photos)

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


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

LoA News/Story Manager
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Photograph: Lynda Merson

Got any comments
or questions about this Bulletin?

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

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