Eddystone Point Lighthouse
This striking pink granite tower is on a point that juts out into the sea. Being surrounded on all sides by sea, it is subject to its ferocity and whims.
Even though the main lights of Cape Otway, Cape Wickham and Deal Island were established in the notorious Bass Strait, north bound ships were still being wrecked by coming in too close to the northeast coast of Tasmania. The chief hazards were Victoria Rocks, Georges Rocks and Black Reef.
Even Captain Riddle, who was experienced in navigating the coast and played a role in the establishment of some lights, was wrecked on Black Reef.
When, in 1875, a hazardous rock was discovered just below the water line off St Helens Point it was decided to erect a lighthouse.
The choice was between Eddystone Point and Georges Rocks. Even though a light on Georges Rocks would be better to mark that location, Eddystone Point would be easier to access and build, would cover the whole area better and was thus selected.
The local granite was tested and found suitable for the construction a tower. By 1879 plans had been prepared and agreement was reached between the colonies over the sharing of costs. Still nothing further was done for another 10 years, even though the wrecks continued.
The tower was finally built and first exhibited in 1889. Kathleen Stanley in her book ‘Guiding Lights’ states:
“Though officially described as white granite and as pink granite painted white, the shaft of the tower has never been painted on the outside and retains its original grey colour. The door is approached by an imaginative and beautiful flight of steps in the form of a flying buttress.”
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The light was serviced by sea and over the years the landing areas took a battering with jetties having to be rebuilt several times.
Land access was difficult due to the terrain and sand drifts. Even today the road to Gladstone is unsealed and fair to middling. Ansons Bay, slightly to the south could be reached if it was possible to cross the Anson River.
By the 1930’s day-to-day stores were being obtained by car in Gladstone. Further, in 1928 saw the inauguration of a direct service from Gladstone to Eddystone by mail-car.
Heavy storms in the early 1920’s upturned the flaghouse, damaged the tramway, the jetties and the boats, and flooded the tower.
Wireless communication was installed in 1935.
The auxiliary light, which used to light Victoria Rocks, was taken out of commission at the time of electrification.
Bathrooms were installed in the keepers’ cottages after the Second World War which meant that “families no longer had to bathe in zinc tubs in front of the kitchen fire”.
The tower celebrated its centenary in 1989.
Some interesting entries can be found in Herbert Isaacs’ log at the outbreak of WW2:
30th August 1939
Headkeeper Eddystone Gladstone”Until you are further advised no visitor or unauthorised persons are to be allowed on Light Station. In special cases only permission for relatives to visit lightkeepers may be obtained through this office. Mrs Arnott is granted permission to remain on Station”
3rd Sept 1939
Headkeeper Eddystone Gladstone”Transmit following message to all British Merchant vessels with which you may be in contact during the next 24 hours. Message begins. ‘War has broken out with Germany you must not go to German or adjacent ports. Message ends”
Deputy Director Navy …”
Services such as doctors and priests were few and far between in the northeast of Tasmania. Kathleen Stanley gives an account of a Catholic priest, of French origin, who ministered the needs of people in this area toward the end of the nineteenth century:
“Such was his reputation for compassion for his fellow men of all creeds and stations that, when Kendrick’s daughter, Lucy, became very ill, there being no doctor in the area, her father had no hesitation in saddling his horse and riding off to seek counsel from Father Mary. His journey both ways along the St Marys-Falmouth ‘sheeptrack’ took a whole day and a night. On his return he carried, with Father Mary’s blessing, a bottle of medicine for his daughter and a bottle of brandy ‘to be useful’! Unfortunately Kendrick fell asleep on his horse and dropped and broke the ‘useful’ bottle. The medicine arrived intact and whether by reason of its virtue or good luck or simple faith, Miss Lucy was able to tell the story 88 years later.”
Of a later occasion, Bertram Jackson (the younger), son of headkeeper Robert Jackson, the tells of how his mother was “quite in a way” because he was six and he had not been christened.
Finally they were visited by the Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, Bishop Montgomery, (Field-Marshall Montgomery’s father) as part of a tour of light stations. He recalls the occasion:
“There was the Bishop in his beautiful robes, and with a big, beautiful white beard in our house. There was me wondering what it was all about, and my little sister in the doorway making out she knew more than I did. Mother got him a bowl of water and a towel and everybody seemed to gather round. After the ceremony, Mr. Bertram Jackson remembers, the Bishop gave him a “beautiful baptismal card with a big golden cross.”
Many other lighthouse mothers’ worries for their children were relieved by the Bishop’s baptisms of their children on this tour.
George Isaacs, grandson of Herbert Isaacs who was headkeeper in the late 1920’s and during the 1930’s tells of his early childhood with his grandfather at Eddystone Point.
Of living with his grandparents:
“Grandma used kerosene for lighting etc. and we travelled by horse and trap. The fishing was unreal as from the jetty you could catch unlimited supplies of crayfish.”
And of going to Eddystone he recalls:
“My sister and myself travelled from Hobart to Eddystone on the Lady Loch (the lighthouse supply ship) and I can tell you it was a rough trip. All I can recall is the bush honey was hanging in the cotton sheets and the beautiful bush honey was allowed to drain into containers.”
Finally of one of the many tragedies:
“Uncle Alan died of a tiger snake bite whilst rabbiting. They managed to get him to Scottsdale by car. Even though serums were available they still didn’t have the understanding on how to use them and after a few days he died. The people of Gladstone, Derby and Scottsdale were so helpful which was appreciated by all”.
|Location||Lat: 40° 59.5804' S
Long: 148° 20.8620' E
|Current Optic||920mm f.r. catadioptric|
|Construction||Grey round granite tower with white Chance Bros. 12' 1.5 " diameter lantern|
|Range||Nominal: 26 nm Geographical: 18 nm|
|Character||Fl. W. (2) in 15 secs|
|Light Source||120V, 1000W, T.H., 3000hr|
|Power Source||240V AC mains|
|Notes||As at August 2012|
NB: Information is historical data and is not for navigational purposes.
The lighthouse is in the Mount William National Park. It can be reached by unsealed roads of a fair condition from St Helens or Gladstone (32 kilometres). Extreme care should be taken to avoid wildlife on these roads.
The lighthouse grounds are open all year round. No tours are available.
No lighthouse accommodation is available
The Tasmanian Conservation Trust and the Tasmanian Branch of National Trust have expressed concerns about demanning and lack of occupation of the site. Further, the reserve has since been transferred to the Tasmanian National Parks & Wildlife Service and the cottages are now vacant.
We need your help in compiling a list of keepers for this lighthouse. If you have any information then send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include this lighthouse’s name, the keepers full name and what years they were keepers. Also include the same information for any other lights they were on.