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Monthly Bulletin
January/February 2005 - Vol 8 No. 1


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Seeking details for lighthouse keeper in Victoria - Matthew Edward Mabbitt
Whalers Bluff Lighthouse
Whalers Bluff lighthouse
Photo: Winsome Bonham
Margaret Mabbitt writes to us asking: 

Matthew Edward Mabbitt was a lighthouse keeper at Whalers Bluff from about 1890. He also served at Cape Everard (Point Hicks), Cape Schanck, and Wilsons Prom, which was his last station, leaving about 1909.

Are the personal records of lighthouse keepers available somewhere? I would like to find the exact dates for each lighthouse.

Email Margaret Mabbitt

Loa Inc. Secretary, Pauline O'Brien replies:

Hello Margaret, 

The Keeper's email is currently being forwarded to me for distribution - your particular enquiry is forwarded to the Victorian representative. We are excited about the re-structuring of our organisation, and we encourage people living locally within each state to take the opportunity to interact more closely with the State reps and other Loa Inc. members. 

Thank you for the information that you have provided, as every snippet helps to build the bigger picture. 

I notice from our database, that you are not currently a member, so am taking the liberty of attaching an application form should you wish to become more involved in our attempts to promote, preserve and protect our maritime history.

David W. Weatherill, LoA Inc member, advises that the quickest way to access the NAA records is by using their search engine, RecordSearch. Read on. Please advise us of any results that may add to our records or make an interesting article for our readers. 

Log on to the NAA website http://www.naa.gov.au and register (with a username and password) as a Researcher - this enables you to keep track of your searches and order photocopies or digitised copies of records while online. As a Guest you cannot do this.

Cape Schanck Lighthouse at dusk
Cape Schanck Lighthouse at dusk
Photo: Kristie Eggleston

There are a large number of records relating to lighthouses, and although not all the records held by the NAA are found in RecordSearch, more references are being added. The search engine is being refined to make it even more "user friendly". 

Due to weekly routine maintenance, RecordSearch is unavailable for searching between 2am and 3.30am Monday to Saturday and from 11pm Saturday to 5am Sunday (AEST).

When you find a file that you wish to download, click on the box labeled, "Request Digitised Copy". The request goes to the NAA central repository where the record is digitally scanned and added to the specific record. Requests take up to 2-6 weeks to complete, depending upon the record and its availability, but the process will soon be faster. This is presently a free service, but NAA may charge a fee in the future. 

When the digitised copy has been made, a large "r" appears at the top right hand corner of the record. Click on this "r" and the record will be loaded for you to read and print, if you so wish. The NAA does not tell you when it is up on RecordSearch, so the researcher must periodically check the record.

When searching the records held in RecordSearch, help is available via the "Help" button and a link to "Tips on searching". These resources are useful, offering advice on how to narrow your search to a specific lighthouse so that you do not have too many files to read. The search engine is constantly undergoing development, and suggestions for "quick pick" boxes may be adopted in the future. 

Searches for records can be made via a topic, person's name, record type, location of record, or Reference Number of the record if known. The researcher can exclude or include any search terms they wish. It may be better to run a search on the specific lighthouse name, but different results will show if the researcher keys in the name of the island or geographical location.

Point Hicks Lighthouse
Point Hicks lighthouse in stormy weather
Photo: Greg Beck

Note the differences below with Cape Otway and Deal Island.

* Lighthouses - 1255 records
* Lighthouse Victoria - 79 records
* Cape Otway - 266 records
* Cape Otway Lighthouse - 165 records
* Deal Island - 43 records.
* Deal Island lighthouse - 10 records

NOTE: Only about 10% of records are on RecordSearch. 

Researchers can approach the NAA for a more specific check for detailed records by visiting their local state or territory Reading Room, or by writing to the Reference Section:

National Archives of Australia
P.O. Box 7425
Canberra BC ACT 2610

Ph: 1300 886 881 or email your record to ref@naa.gov.au (this is the only email address to use)


The Victorian headquarters are in Burwood, where the records are stored, and the search centre is located at the Melbourne Archives Centre, 99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne 3051 [Ph: (03) 9348 5600]. NAA shares its search room facilities with the Public Records Office of Victoria, allowing researchers to access both state and federal records. It is always worthwhile to check state archives. 

Seeking details for lighthouse builders in South Australia - James & Luke McNair
Cape Northumberland Lighthouse
Cape Northumberland Lighthouse from the air
Photo: Australian Heritage Commission
Hi Steve,

I was wondering if its possible to track down the builders of some of the early lighthouses?

I have been told that my early pioneer relatives built a lighthouse somewhere in South Australia. They were James & possibly Luke McNair, James was a stonemason.

I have also been told there is a plaque in front of it with their names inscribed.

Sorry it sounds a bit vague but I'm relying on second hand info. Any info would be great, thanks very much.


Brenton McNair
Email Brenton

Dear Brenton,

Thanks for your letter Brenton. Your letter has been forwarded to our SA state rep for further research. 

Results sometimes occur when we publish letters/enquiries in the Bulletin & Prism. 


Steve Merson
Email Steve

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