No 2/2004 - April 2004

Lighthouses of Australia Inc


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Letter from the Editor

Welcome to the April Bulletin, edition 2/2004.

Work and family commitments of the Publication Committee will mean that the Bulletin will be published bi-monthly throughout 2004. With regard to my own commitments, I purchased my first home on 1 March 2004, (unfortunately not with a lighthouse view as I might have wished), but nonetheless, the responsibilities of home ownership will take over a significant amount of my time.

Hornby LighthouseThis Bulletin continues with the story of my lighthouse travels around Sydney in 2001. In this episode, we visit Macquarie, Hornby and Barranjoey lighthouses.Cape Moreton Lighthouse

In "The Griffins of Cape Moreton", Phil Shanahan, President of the Queensland Lighthouse Historical Society talks about his lighthouse-keeping ancestors, and how a gravestone was erected in their memory.

Sharon FieldenContinuing in the series, we profile Lighthouses of Australia Inc Committee member, Sharon Fielden. Sharon spent her childhood on various Queensland lighthouses, whilst her father served as a lighthouse keeper.Gannet chicks on the Margaret Brock Reef Platform

Good news with the Cape Jaffa Platform, also known as the Margaret Brock Reef Platform. A stay of execution had been granted.

MV Cape DonThe founders of the Saving the MV Cape Don Society are calling for parties to chip into a fighting fund, so that the Cape Don can be moved from Sydney to Newcastle for restoration.

The future of the Nobbys Head Lighthouse is still uncertain, with plans unveiled for a café to be built at the foot of the tower, and the keepers' cottages to be used for accommodation.

Aireys Inlet auction boardThe results of the two recent lighthouse-related auctions are reported:  Split Point Lighthouse keepers' cottages at Airey's Inlet, Victoria, and Swan Island, off the coast of Tasmania.Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

The Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse in Western Australia is celebrating its centenary in mid-April. All interested parties are invited to attend.

Lighthouse collectablesLoA is putting out another call to the manufacturers and distributors of lighthouse-themed collectors items, so that we can collate a database to supply to collectors and lighthouse buffs.

LoA receives many letters from readers, and some of them are published in the Bulletin. A brother and sister relate the story of their great-grandfather who was employed by the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service in the early 1900s. One reader is seeking information on a relative who was a keeper at Fraser Island, another recalls a family friend who allowed them to visit whilst he was on light-keeping duties at Point Perpendicular. The Cape Jaffa Platform battle receives some support from the UK, and we hear of a little bit more about the mysterious lighthouse newspaper, the "Lighthouse Mission".

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
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NSW Lighthouse trip - Part 2 - Macquarie, Hornby & Barranjoey

By Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor

In August 2001, my sister and I visited Sydney and saw most of the lighthouses in Sydney Harbour and environs. Part 2 of the story documents our travels to see the Macquarie, Hornby and Barranjoey Lighthouses. 

Part 1 published in the February 2004 Bulletin covered the lights around Sydney Harbour, whilst Part 3, which will be published in the next Bulletin, covers our adventures further south.

Barranjoey Head
Barranjoey Head

Barranjoey Head with the lighthouse right at the top, as viewed from West Head, Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

After having spent a whole day searching for Sydney Harbour lights, we decided to have a lighthouse-free day, heading inland through the Berowa Valley Regional Park, and then into the Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park, where we enjoyed the natural bush setting along with hundreds of other Sydneysiders on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. We drove to West Head (map), where there is a fantastic view across the Pittwater to Barranjoey Head and the Barranjoey Lighthouse

Driving round through the national park, we travelled through the affluent northern beach suburb of Palm Beach, to reach the carpark at Barranjoey Head. 

Macquarie Lighthouse
Macquarie Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

Surprised at the significant carpark fee of $9.00, Jen decided to remain in the car, whilst I took a short trek through the sand dunes towards the headland, looking for the access track to the lighthouse so that I could visit it on another day. Whilst I missed the track, which is located at the end of the beach on the Pittwater side, I did climb the big sand dune on the ocean side at the base of the headland, and marvelled at the small pocket of rainforest on the protected south side of the headland. I returned to the car, vowing to come back again in the next few days.

Macquarie Lighthouse
Macquarie Lighthouse

Me on the steps of the Macquarie Lighthouse, standing below the bust of Queen Victoria.
Photo:  Jen Eggleston

The following day we went to see Australia's oldest lighthouse, the Macquarie Lighthouse in Vaucluse.

The lighthouse is enormous - the attached building at the base of the tower has three doors on the western side, and all the features - the rounded domes of the roof, the cornices, window surrounds and doorways are elegant and impeccably maintained.  

Access to the grounds of the lighthouse appeared to be unrestricted, although officially is only permitted on open days. The lightkeepers' cottages are well marked as restricted access, and appear to be privately owned or leased. Sydney Harbour Federation Trust occasionally run tours of the Macquarie lighthouse.

Hornby Lighthouse
Hornby Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

We traipsed through the rain along the clifftop reserve to the signal station, and then as time flew past, we realised we had very little time left to see the Hornby Lighthouse at South Head (map). The Hornby Lighthouse is located within Sydney Harbour National Park, and is accessed by a short walk along the headland via Camp Cove.

Macquarie Lighthouse at night
Macquarie Lighthouse is lit up at night

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

The circuitous walk to the Hornby Lighthouse leads past restricted Department of Defence land, a clothing-optional beach, and the lightkeepers' cottages. The lighthouse is very attractive, with red vertical stripes on the tower. It is located right on the tip of South Head, with amazing views across to North Head, Sydney Harbour, and the Pacific Ocean. There are also some fortifications on South Head built in the 1870s, designed to protect the outer harbour from any imminent threat.

Barranjoey Head Track
Rough 4WD track to top of Barranjoey Head

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

The rain was clearing, and a spectacular rainbow developed just out to sea from North Head. With the sun setting over the Harbour providing a picturesque view, we returned to the car. As we drove past the Macquarie Lighthouse, we saw that the tower is spotlit at night, so we stopped for one last photo.

View from Barranjoey Head
View from Barranjoey Head

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

The next day I went on my own to Barranjoey. The walk along the beach to where the headland starts is an easy stroll, and is little preparation for the strenuous hike to the top. But the views along the way are worth it, looking back over the spit of sand dunes that joins Barranjoey Head to the rest of the land. 

The main walking track follows the rough 4WD track to the top, and is made of large irregular rocks in some places. Another walk, enchantingly titled "Smugglers Track", tunnels through the rock and winds through the undergrowth via hand-carved steps, creating a quiet and dark atmosphere. This way to the lighthouse is steep, and easier to descend than climb.

Barranjoey Lighthouse
Barranjoey Lighthouse

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

Once at the top, the lighthouse and keepers' cottages have the most amazing views over Palm Beach, Pittwater, the Pacific Ocean and West Head. The tower and cottages were built using a beautiful sandstone, which has not been rendered or painted. The tower itself is relatively short, and is fenced off by a cyclone-wire fence. The keepers' cottages are built into the steep hill, and have very tall sandstone fences surrounding them. They were distinctly marked as "no access", so it was very difficult to see any detail of the cottages or their gardens. The foundations of a previous lighthouse can be seen further to the east of the lighthouse on the headland, and there is a grave of a former keeper not far from the lighthouse.

Barranjoey Smugglers Track
Convict-cut steps through rock on the Smugglers Track at Barranjoey Head

Photo:  Kristie Eggleston

Below the gardens, there was a narrow track leading to a big rocky outcrop looking back over towards Palm Beach. I scrambled up to the top with my lunch, and dreamt of owning a Palm Beach property as I watched the thunderstorm clouds over Sydney. I rang my boss on my mobile phone saying "Guess where I am right now...?", gleefully telling him to look at the LoA aerial photo of the Barranjoey headland to get an idea of how distant I was from work.

After a long while I thought I should be heading back. I took the Smugglers Track down, which gives leafy glimpses of Palm Beach, the big sand dunes on the ocean side of the headland, and the rainforest tucked between the headland and the sand dunes. As I returned to the car, I realised I had just had one of my favourite "lighthouse" days - one that will last in the memory for a long time.

...concludes in the next Bulletin.

Email Bulletin Editor

The Griffins of Cape Moreton

Written by Phil Shanahan, edited by Steve Merson with acknowledgements to Lawrie Kavanagh

Cape Moreton Lighthouse
Cape Moreton Lighthouse

Photo:  Grant Maizels

Cape Moreton lighthouse, near Brisbane, was constructed in 1857 from stone that was quarried and laid by mostly prison labour under the supervision of a contractor, Mr Faville of Sydney. It was the only manned Queensland lighthouse built in stone, and the first highway light established on the Queensland coast - although it was a couple of years before Queensland was separated in Dec 1859. The then NSW Government appointed William Brayden as Cape Moreton's first Superintendent.

That same year, Thomas Griffin married Mary Ann McKenzie in Brisbane. Thomas had migrated aboard the Vocalist from County Cork Ireland in 1856, aged 18, and had commenced work as a labourer. Mary, who was 19 years old, had not long arrived in Australia on the Glentomer, from Perth in Scotland. Both were unaccompanied by family members. They had ten children in the sixteen years they were together.

Ten years later, Thomas Griffin was serving as a lightkeeper at Cape Moreton. He had previously been a boatman at the Pilot Station at Bulwer on Moreton Island. Mary had given birth to six children by then, two of whom had died. Their first child Catherine was born in 1860 and died soon after, Thomas arrived in 1862, Annie in '63, William was born in '65 but only lived ten months, John came in '67, and Mary Jane was born in '69, just before the family moved to the lighthouse. Caroline was born there in 1871, and Florence, who was born the following year, only lived for six days. She was the first death at Cape Moreton. Mary's next pregnancy produced young Robert just one year later, in late '72. He survived just twenty-four days and was buried alongside his sister. The last child to be born was Edward, in 1874. 

Thomas Griffin at Cape Moreton
Thomas Griffin, lighthouse keeper at Cape Moreton, c. 1869-1883

Photo:  Phil Shanahan

The greatest tragedy to befall this family occurred on the 8th August 1876, when Mary Ann Griffin died in childbirth at the young age of 37 years. Her husband Thomas buried her the next morning, leaving him with six children aged between 1 and 14 years old. As a consequence of this situation, it became mandatory for pregnant women to return to the mainland six weeks before a birth was imminent. A public school was opened on 31st August 1876, to educate the children of the lightkeepers and visiting workers. The role call had eighteen names the first year. 

Thomas continued on as a lightkeeper for at least another seven years, until he was faced with yet another death. On the 3rd February 1883, his youngest son was kicked by a station horse and died the next day, as medical help was not readily available. Edward was buried with his mother.

Thomas must have decided it was time to leave the Cape and everything that had happened. Soon after Edward's death, records reveal that he signed on as Seaman on the government ship Lucinda. His son John also served on board as a Ship's Carpenter.

Thomas Griffin died at 80 on 26 August 1917 and is buried at Bulimba Cemetery.

Cape Moreton Headstone
Gravestone at Cape Moreton Lighthouse

Photo:  Phil Shanahan

Phil Shanahan is Thomas's great grandson, and the President of the Queensland Lighthouse Historical Society. His keen sense of history is born out of a young life spent on lighthouses in Queensland where his father, Thomas James Shanahan served as a Lightkeeper from 1929-1944. Phil knew that his great grandmother was buried at Cape Moreton, as he had a photo of the grave. Enquiring as to whether the graves still existed, Phil was told they had been swept into the sea during a great storm.

In October 1994, Phil decided to erect a commemorative plaque to his forebears who had been interred on the lighthouse reserve at the Cape. He obtained permission from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to do so, through Dennis Conroy, Administrative Officer Navigation Services. 

Using old photos and maps, Phil and a group of friends established that there had been a massive sand blow many years ago and the grave sites had certainly been eradicated. So, they positioned the headstone as close as possible to the original location. That was that, so it seemed...

Three years later, Dennis Conroy contacted Phil Shanahan with some interesting information. Michael Aird, Curator, Australian Aboriginal Studies at the Queensland Museum had sought help from AMSA to establish the identity of human bones that had been in storage at the museum for 32 years. The Head Lightkeeper at Cape Moreton, Hal Cleese, had discovered the bones near the lighthouse in 1965, and thought they might have been Aboriginal, but elders had told museum staff that the Cape was not a traditional burial site.

Phil Shanahan at Cape Moreton grave
Phil Shanahan in quiet reflection in front of the new gravesite for his distant forebears at Cape Moreton

Photo:  Phil Shanahan

Later examination proved them to be the remains of a European woman and a juvenile, no doubt Mary and her last surviving son, Edward. The remains of the two babies originally buried beside their mother would have been too fragile to have remained intact after so many years. 

Phil returned to Cape Moreton, accompanied by the spirit of his great grandmother, great uncles Robert and Edward, and great aunt Florence. In the shadow of the lighthouse, far above the high water mark, the remains were again buried with the respect and dignity they deserve. 

Phil Shanahan can be contacted for information regarding Queensland Lighthouse Service records.

Phil Shanahan
Queensland Lighthouse Historical Society
PO Box 177
Buddina Qld 4575
Ph/Fax: 07 5444 4864
Email Phil Shanahan

LoA Committee Member profile - Sharon Fielden

Sharon Fielden
Sharon Fielden Lighthouses of Australia Inc Committee Member

Photo:  Sharon Fielden

I was 6 years old when my parents Robyn and Gordon Braid sold their house in Melbourne and packed my 5 year old brother Peter and I into a caravan for a trip around Australia

We stopped at Gladstone, Queensland to visit my Aunt Sandra and her then husband Tony Cini on Cape Capricorn Lightstation. Dad was offered a six week stint on North Reef as a relief keeper.

While he was there, he accepted a permanent position. What started out as a way to earn money to continue the caravan trip turned into almost 20 years on 7 Queensland lighthouses.

First Pine Islet (my sister Leeanne was born), then Sandy Cape, Lady Elliot, Cape Capricorn, Booby Island, Cape Cleveland and Double Island Point.

Peter and I moved to Townsville for work when our parents were transferred to Cape Cleveland but we took every opportunity to visit. My husband Mark and I were married at Double Island Point.

For me, lighthouse doesn't just mean the lighthouse tower. Its the amazing places I grew up, the lush or desolate surroundings, the tropical fish or the feral animals, the smell of a lighthouse or seaweed, the colour of a cyclonic sky or a sand dune.

Its also about the people. Souls searching for an adventure or solitude, as much pioneers as our forbearers, taking nothing for granted. There will be no more and they can't be forgotten.

Peter told me of the lighthouse website. I was amazed that someone had put so much effort into categorizing lighthouses and it was certainly a thrill to see our old homes on the screen.

Our parents have finally fulfilled their dreams of travelling Australia and are currently in Western Australia.

Email Sharon Fielden

Australian News

Cape Jaffa Platform news - possible stay of execution

Gannet chicks on the Margaret Brock Reef Platform
300 pairs of gannet chicks on the Cape Jaffa Platform

Photo: Robert Mock

On 27th February, the South Australia Department of Environment and Heritage said that it was not feasible for them to take over control of the platform, as there was too much risk.

On 2nd March, Rory McEwen was quoted on the ABC as being prepared to chain himself to the platform if necessary - a significant display of support from a State Government Minister. This report received full state radio news coverage.

Birds Australia might be a powerful ally. The March edition of their award-winning magazine, Wingspan has a feature article on the Cape Jaffa Platform.

Cape Jaffa Platform
The main central eight-inch pile of the Cape Jaffa Platform

Photo:  Robert Mock

On 3rd March, John Hunt and Robert Mock spent two hours in perfect tide and weather, diving around the base of the platform with an underwater camera and studying the integrity of the piles, braces, clamps and underside of the wooden decking.

The full diameter of the piles remains. There is a broken clamp around the main central eight-inch pile, which can be fixed, and the timber looks good from underneath. The maintenance platform (installed later than the original structure) was a stand-alone assembly with smaller piles and is posing some risk to the main structure as it breaks down, as it carries some beams at the mid-level of the main structure.

Cape Jaffa Platform
The full diameter of the Cape Jaffa Platform piles remains

Photo:  Robert Mock

On 9th March, AMSA representatives Gary Prosser (Manager Navigation Safety) and Allan Crossing (Engineer) were present at a meeting at Kingston Council Chambers, to discuss the future of the platform. Fifty-five supporters for the preservation of the Cape Jaffa platform attended - the largest gallery the Council had ever had on any issue. AMSA presented for an hour and Robert Mock briefly presented the conservation argument.

Council moved to ask AMSA for a 12-month delay and Council would help to convince the State Government to transfer control over from AMSA. This motion was carried by all councillors present, to great acclamation from the gallery. A turning point in the campaign!

Cape Jaffa Platform
Cape Jaffa Platform beams

Photo:  Robert Mock

On 10th March, ABC radio interviewed the CEO of Kingston Council, who indicated that Kingston Council would pick up the process from this point and attempt to persuade AMSA to delay for the year any moves to demolish the platform.

Council will invite AMSA, Federal and State Government, and local reps to meet at Kingston to determine the method of reducing risk for the State. It seems improbable that the complete platform as it stands can be preserved. There are many different options and combinations to make the platform less risky for the State.

CEO Stephen Rufus suggested that a sign would be needed at the Cape to inform visitors about the platform.

Photos of the platform are still available, although they are selling like hot cakes. There are some polo shirts at $35. Gail and Ian Hetherington have sold a lot of photos and frames and will take orders.

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It is official - a stay of execution. The platform lives! Congratulations to everyone involved and thanks for your interest.

A celebration might well be in order, and the venue will be the BBQ facilities at the Cape Jaffa Caravan Park on a weekend between Easter and Anzac Day. The weather will be great and we can have a run out to the platform and discuss its future and meet the rest of the team. More on this soon...

Send your ideas for ways in which to contribute to the day's socialising. Robert Mock will supply some wine. Accommodation is available for up to 6 adults. The lighthouse itself could be opened...

The 150th anniversary of the construction of the Lipson Beacon is another excuse to celebrate.

1 April - We believe that John Anderson has announced in a press release that AMSA would not be pulling down the platform for 12 months, and in the meantime a way of reducing risk would be explored. Hand-over to the State agencies is probable.

2 April - ABC Radio 5MG ran a story today and The Coastal Leader will run another story this coming week. Carol Whitelock's programme on State Radio ABC will have a sizeable piece on Monday 5 April at 2.30pm.

Robert Mock
Ph: 08 8752 2743
Email Robert Mock

Previous Cape Jaffa (Margaret Brock Reef) Platform articles

Saving the Cape Don

by Chris Nicholls, MV Cape Don Society

MV Cape Don
MV Cape Don today

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

Chris Nicholls, Secretary of the MV Cape Don Society Inc. is passing the hat around so that former members of the crew can chip in towards a fighting fund for the MV Cape Don - to prepare her for the passage from Sydney to Newcastle

The ship cannot stay where she lies now. The NSW Waterways require her to be moved within the next few months, at the very outside. Newcastle offers a sound wharf where there is a good berth with access to shore power, fresh water and security.

Committee members have purchased a large portable generator, tools, wiring, lighting equipment, an immense amount of cleaning gear, galley appliances and utensils, spending thousands of dollars of their own to get the Cape Don to the improved state she is in today. 

But current Society funds are insufficient to pay for the preparation of the ship for sea. She needs to be sealed up, decks cleared and insured for starters. Then it could cost more than $10,000 just to charter a tug to take her up there as a dead tow. 

The other option is to get the main engine operating and at least two of her auxiliary generators on line, and steam her up the coast. This may be a better proposition, but it will still need a large slush fund and plenty of volunteer crew.

A Trust for ownership of the ship will soon be in place, to provide a mechanism for corporate sponsorship. Meanwhile, voluntary donations are keeping the ship from hitting the sand. The MV Cape Don Society acknowledges former crew for their years of service with the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service, and is appealing to their love of the ship, to dig deep and save her. 

Perhaps a meat raffle down at the local pub, or a hat passed round at a gathering of shipmates - any extra funds that can be raised will go towards the cost of getting the ship to Newcastle. Once this has been achieved, authorities and sponsors may then come on board in support of such a dedicated effort from people who are interested in keeping the Cape Don afloat and working.

The Cape Pillar and Cape Moreton have both gone to the breakers and the Cape Don is the last of these wonderful ships.

Chris Nicholls
MV Cape Don Society Inc.
15 Landsborough Street, Griffith ACT 2603
Ph: 02 6295 6456 
Mob: 0418 487 322
Email Chris Nicholls

Previous MV Cape Don articles:

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MV Cape Don Society - Press Release

25 February 2004

Return of the MV Cape Don to Newcastle means jobs for the Hunter Valley

An agreement struck between the Hunter Valley Training Company and MV Cape Don Society Inc. will see the MV Cape Don, a former lighthouse and navigational aids support vessel, return to her port of origin in Newcastle for restoration.

Plans are to tow the Cape Don to Newcastle from her current berth in Sydney Harbour in late March hopefully in time to take part in the National Maritime Festival held by the Newcastle Port Corporation. Her berth in Newcastle will guarantee that hundreds of trainees and apprentices from the Hunter Valley area will receive work and on-the-job training. She will be berthed at Lee Wharf, near the centre of the city, and parts of her will be open for inspection by the public even during restoration.

Chairman of the Hunter Valley Training Company, Milton Morris AO, said that the task of restoring 74 metres of rusting ship did not daunt him. "The Heritage Division of the Hunter Valley Training Company has already taken on some pretty challenging tasks," he said. 

"Projects we have already completed include the restoration of several steam locomotives, vintage cars, heritage buildings, and even a cannon that had not been fired for over a century. In shipbuilding, we helped restore the tall ship James Craig as well as several smaller craft. The Cape Don is huge and will give us some very real challenges - but we have taken on challenges before!

The MV Cape Don (2,200 GRT) was built in Newcastle in 1963, at a time when the Newcastle State Dockyards were producing some of the most advanced ships in the world. After being sold out of the Lighthouse Service in 1990, the Cape Don had a chequered career when the vessel was variously the subject of a scam to raise money from the Barcelona Olympics, a tramp sailing the vast stretches of the Pacific Ocean, and more recently while moored in Sydney Harbour, a haven for members of the Cave Clan - a group of urban adventurers who invade and occupy deserted public land and structures.

Derek Emerson-Elliott, President of the Cape Don Society Inc, said that the partnership with the Hunter Valley Training Company guaranteed that the Society's dream of getting the ship up and running as a working museum celebrating Australia's rich maritime heritage and available for useful public work around Australia's coastline, would become reality. 

"When we saw this very special and completely Australian vessel lying sadly derelict and abandoned in a Sydney backwater - and destined for the breakers or to be sunk as part of an artificial reef - we decided to do something about it. Now we have members from all over Australia, including ex-crew of Cape Don, lighthouse enthusiasts, and maritime historians who know the ship's true worth", said Mr Emerson-Elliott.

"That many trainees and apprentices from Newcastle and the Hunter Valley area will benefit from the project adds a very special dimension," he added.


MV Cape Don Society Inc.: 
Derek Emerson-Elliott
Tel: (02) 6289 6577
Mob: 0439 711 201
Hunter Valley Training Company: 
Milton Morris
Tel: (02) 4932 4222
AH: (02) 4953 1965

Further details and pictures of the MV Cape Don available on

Nobbys Head Café

By Steve Merson, Chief Editor, courtesy of the Newcastle Herald

Nobbys Head Lighthouse

Nobbys Head Lighthouse is located on a small islet linked to the mainland by a causeway at the entrance to Newcastle Harbour
Photo: Grant Maizels

Nobbys Head will be re-developed as a commercial venture by a Newcastle-based investment company. Plans are yet to be completed, but it is understood that an 80-seat cafe will be built at the foot of the 1857 lighthouse tower, open to the public for breakfast and lunch and available for private evening functions. The three white-washed cottages will be renovated and enlarged to three bedrooms each for overnight accommodation.

An "interpretive centre" will be incorporated into the finished design. It is intended that the displays will pay tribute to the headland's history and its use, before and after European settlement.

Aerial view of Nobbys Head Lighthouse

Nobbys Head Lighthouse, signal station and cottages as viewed from the air.
Photo: Newcastle Port Corporation

Neil Slater heads up the Nobbys Lighthouse Consortium and states that the restoration and improvements will be ecologically and historically sensitive. It is expected that the refurbishment will be completed by the end of this year and will cost around $2.4 million.

The reserve has limited open areas surrounding the buildings, so the site will be off-limits to most private vehicles. A shuttle will run during the day, ferrying passengers from Newcastle to the lighthouse facilities. The cliff edge is unstable and limitations will be imposed on pedestrian traffic, particularly at night.

The commercial use for the site should offer a balance between the aims of maintaining the heritage structures and providing the community safe access to an icon that most people have only seen from a distance since the walled beacon was erected there 147 years ago.

Previous Nobbys Head articles:

Email Steve Merson

Auction results - Split Point Lightkeepers' cottages and Swan Island

by Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor

In the February 2004 Bulletin, we reported that two of the keepers' cottages at Split Point, Airey's Inlet, in Victoria were being auctioned, and Swan Island, just off the coast of Tasmania, was also for sale.

Aireys Inlet Lighthouse and Keepers' cottages
Split Point Lighthouse and keepers' cottages

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Aireys Inlet auction board
Split Point Lighthouse at Airey's Inlet

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The week before the auction, I visited the Split Point cottages whilst they were open for inspection, having never seen them before. 

The cottages were quaint, with antique furniture in many rooms, and a magnificent display of lighthouse, maritime and local history photos and pictures decorating the first room of the larger cottage.

From outside, the building looks like a very large home, but is split inside into two separate residences, although access between the two is possible via several internal doors, and via the verandah, both front and back. The dividing doors separating the two cottages are very small, and appear to have been simply cut out of the wood panelling which make up the walls.

Aireys Inlet bedroom
Main bedroom in larger cottage at Split Point

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Aireys Inlet bedroom
Internal window between rooms in the Split Point keepers' cottages

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Another architectural oddity was that there were a few sash windows in internal walls of the cottage which opened like an external window between rooms. For example there was an open window between one of the small bedrooms and the kitchen. Perhaps the cottage was renovated and extended at some time during its past, and these windows used to be on the outside wall of the building.

Whilst much of the furniture and decor was old-fashioned, the renovated kitchen and lounge room and the modern items like clock-radios and TVs overrode any sense of history. It was not easy to imagine life as a lighthouse keeper living in these cottages from times gone past.

The following weekend I attended the auction, where there was an enormous crowd of at least a couple hundred people. A camera crew from Channel 7 were in attendance, and their helicopter was parked in the gardens of the main lighthouse keepers' cottage.

Aireys Inlet auction
The crowd at the Split Point keepers' cottages auction

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The cottages had been advertised as being offered on separate titles, with an estimated purchase price of AU$700,000 for the smaller, less renovated cottage and AU$800,000 for the larger cottage. 

Aireys Inlet Lighthouse and Channel 7 helicopter
Camera crew take off over the Split Point Lighthouse after the auction

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

The auctioneer offered a bottle of champagne to the person who was brave enough to put in the first bid, and after a long wait, someone offered $700,000. The auctioneer then indicated that the properties were being sold as one entity, and put in a bid on behalf of the vendor of AU$1.45 million. The crowd went quiet, and some appeared to be surprised that it was being sold as one lot.

Eventually someone upped the bid to $1.47 million, where it stayed, and was eventually passed in. The crowd slowly dispersed, and the camera crew returned to their helicopter, circling around the lighthouse tower and heading off back to Melbourne, to file a story on city residents buying up seaside property.

Footnote:  The auction result was reported in local newspapers, The Geelong Advertiser and The Echo - the cottages were sold for an undisclosed figure over AU$1.5 million.

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Swan Island aerial
Swan Island from the air

Photo: Elders Real Estate

Swan Island, 3km off Tasmania's northeast coast, sold for close to AU$2 million a week before auction to a unnamed middle-aged couple from New South Wales.

They have no immediate plans to develop the island and want to retain it for their own enjoyment. An article published in the Melbourne newspaper, The Age, on 14 March 2004, indicates that while the new owners wish to remain anonymous, they intend to live on the island, and continue to run the tourist guesthouse there.

The island was put on the market in 2002 for AU$1.8 million, but failed to sell. This time, the interest was significantly greater, with much publicity in print and television media.

Email Kristie Eggleston


Cape Naturaliste centenary

by Leon Chidlow, Lighthouse Manager, Cape Naturaliste

Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse

Photo: Ian Clifford

An open day to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Cape Naturaliste will be held at the lighthouse on Sunday, 18 April 2004, at 9.30am. All are welcome.

Past keepers and their families, lighthouse department staff (past and present), and those people with a special interest are invited to submit any information that may help to celebrate the occasion.

Lighthouses of Australia Inc Secretary, Pauline O'Brien, will be setting up a LoA stall, as will a number of other organisations, including the Department of Conservation and Land Management and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Contact: Leon Chidlow (lighthouse manager)
c/- Dunsborough Tourist Bureau
Seymour Boulevarde
Dunsborough WA 6281
Tel: (08) 9755 3955
Email Leon Chidlow

Lighthouse collectables

By Steve Merson, Chief Editor

Lighthouse collectables
Lighthouse collectables

Photo: Kristie Eggleston

Attention collectors and producers of lighthouse images and icons, and managers/caretakers of lightstations that have brochures and miniature models of their lighthouse.

We receive numerous enquiries from our readers, asking where photos, postcards, miniature models etc. of Australian lighthouses can be obtained. Some enquiries come from overseas and we believe many people are keen to add to their collections of lighthouse paraphernalia.

If there are any thematic collectors groups, manufacturers or distributors who wish to forward their contact details to us, we will keep your details on file to direct interested buyers of such memorabilia to you. 

Email Steve Merson


Percival Turner: Lightkeeper at Cape de Couedic

Percival Turner unloading supplies at Cape Borda
Percival Turner unloading supplies at Harvey's Return, Cape Borda Lighthouse, Kangaroo Island

Photo courtesy:  Rowena Watson

Dear LoA,

Our great grandfather Percival Turner was employed in the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service from about 1905-1932 after a career in the South Australian Navy. Perc' was stationed at various lighthouses around South Australia, and he served at some lighthouses several times during his career.

When Perc' was at Cape du Couedic on Kangaroo Island, his daughter Olive (our grandmother) was about fifteen. She was watching the supply ship unloading her family's possessions and stores, when she witnessed the following incident: A horse was being used in conjunction with the flying fox to pull the large baskets with their belongings up the cliff, but the basket was overloaded and the horse was unable to take the load - the poor creature was dragged backwards and over the cliff edge, plunging down to the sea along with all the contents of the basket.

Signalling ships at Cape Borda
Signalling ships at Cape Borda Lighthouse

Photo courtesy:  Rowena Watson

The lightkeepers tried for several days to try and recover the goods but most were lost for ever. We don't know how the family survived until the next supply ship arrived with more supplies, as they only came every 3 months.

For years, our grandmother had been telling us of this occurrence. As a diver I decided I might try to search the sea-bed for the family treasures. To assist in my research for this dive we went to the archives in Adelaide in the hope that there may be some records in which the weather conditions etc were logged. We considered it highly probable because the lightkeepers were involved in official lighthouse duties at the time. Bingo! The actual event had been noted in the lighthouse log book. 

Unloading supplies at Harveys Return Cape Borda
Unloading supplies at Harvey's Return, Cape Borda Lighthouse

Photo courtesy:  Rowena Watson

Our interest has evolved from there and we plan to make another trip to the archives to continue our research. Some of the log books from Kangaroo Island were out receiving conservation treatment at the time of our visit. We hope to be able to compile a complete record of his whereabouts throughout the period he was on the lights. It could be a big task!

An interesting aspect of this story is that while Peter was planning this dive he was "visited" by Perc' who delivered a very clear message for him not to do it, as he considered it far too dangerous. Peter was most definitely NOT a believer of the supernatural and the visit scared him almost witless. It actually took several visits from Perc before Peter was convinced that he should not attempt the dive and so he scrapped his plans. 

Curiously, some information was relayed to Peter during these visits - specific information that was confirmed later through reading further in the log books. Spooky!


Rowena Watson
Email Rowena Watson
Peter Dart
Email Peter Dart

Enquiry: Lightkeeper Victor MacDonald at Sandy Cape

Sandy Cape Lighthouse
Sandy Cape Lighthouse

Photo:  John Ibbotson

Dear LoA,

I understand my grandfather was a keeper on Fraser Island around the 1920s. His name was Victor Hamilton MacDonald.

My mother was born in 1924 and grew up on Fraser.

I would be grateful for any information available.


Max Sky
Email Max Sky

Hi Max,

Here are the McDonalds (no Mac's) listed with Queensland Lighthouse Historical Society and Stuart Buchanan's book, The Lighthouse Keepers:

MCDONALD Murdoch 1887

This list may be incomplete and does not specify which light they served on. However, you can contact the QLHS:

Phil Shanahan
Queensland Lighthouse Historical Society
PO Box 177
Buddina QLD 4575
Phone: (07) 5444 4864

Malcolm Macdonald
Email Malcolm Macdonald

The Lighthouse Mission
In the last issue of the Bulletin, we had a letter from a reader seeking information about a publication called the Lighthouse Mission, a religious newspaper distributed to lighthouses in the late 1800s. The following response was received.
Dear Craig,

I believe that the newspaper that you refer to was published by a religious organisation of the same name that was based in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

I am trying to trace more details or locate copies of the newspaper. I would be interested to hear what you manage to find out.


Peter Williams
Peter Williams Associates
Milford Marina
Milford Haven
Phone: 0 1 646 698 825
Fax 0 1 646 692 896 Intercode 0044
Email Peter Williams

Support for the Cape Jaffa Platform from the UK

Cape Jaffa Platform
Cape Jaffa Platform

The Cape Jaffa Platform on Margaret Brock Reef with a solar-powered beacon as photographed in 2001.
Photo:  David Hurburgh

I am Doug Ord, webmaster of a website called Aspects of South Shields and I fully support those concerned South Australians involved in the quest to save the former Cape Jaffa Lighthouse platform on the Margaret Brock Reef from demolition. 

Here in South Shields UK I feel an affinity with the residents of Cape Jaffa through the memorial at Cape Jaffa that commemorates the loss of the steam tug Nyora in 1917. 

This fine tug was built at South Shields. The Cape Jaffa lighthouse, including its foundation platform was built nearby at Gateshead. I congratulate those who were instrumental in saving the Cape Jaffa lighthouse through its relocation in 1975 and hope a compromise can be reached to save the structure on the reef. It would be a great shame if the platform was scrapped, as future visitors would have no sense of place or location where these brave acts took place.


Doug Ord
Email Doug Ord

Memories of Bernie Weber - keeper at Point Perpendicular

Point Perpendicular Lighthouse
Point Perpendicular Lighthouse

Photo:  Ian Clifford

Dear LoA,

Back in 1956/57 I was a Royal Navy radio mechanic. I was based at Nowra Air Station but lived ashore in Nowra with my wife. 

We became friendly with Bernie Weber and his wife. He was a temporary keeper at Point Perpendicular and some weekends he invited us to stay out at the lighthouse when he was on duty. 

In those days he had to wind a weight up the tower in order to turn the light around. 

I don't suppose the ol' fella is around any more - he was retired when we knew him. 

We used to marvel at the thickness of the walls of the keepers' houses. 

I'm pushing on a bit myself now so I don't suppose I shall see the lighthouse again, but I have vivid memories of our visits there and the grandeur of the scenery.

John Hemming
Email John Hemming

Join Lighthouses of Australia Inc.

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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.

Please email Keeper or fill out the Feedback Form

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 
  • A bit of the background of these lights 
  • Technical history or operational data (such as how many flashes, etc)
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For more information about how you can help LoA, visit the How You Can Help page.

New Pages & Links

New Pages for Australia:

Cape Moreton Lighthouse

Cape Moreton Lighthouse, Queensland

Thanks to

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

  • Leon Chidlow (information)
  • Ian Clifford (photos)
  • Jen Eggleston (photo)
  • Sharon Fielden (information & photos)
  • David Hurburgh (photo)
  • John Ibbotson (photo)
  • Lawrie Kavanagh (journalism)
  • Grant Maizels (photos)
  • Robert Mock (information & photos)
  • Chris Nicholls (information & photos)
  • Phil Shanahan (information & photos)
  • Rowena Watson (photos)
  • Elders Real Estate (photo)
  • Newcastle Herald (information)
  • Newcastle Port Corporation (photo)

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

LoA News/Story Manager
Photograph: Lynda Merson

Got any comments
or questions about this Bulletin?

Kristie Eggleston, Bulletin Editor
Contact Kristie Eggleston

LoA Bulletin Editor
Photograph: Jen Eggleston

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