John Gladstone Steele:
During 1856, with vessels now entering Moreton Bay via the northern entrance between Bribie and Moreton Islands, the New South Wales Government erected the Cape Moreton lighthouse, a stone tower 23 metres high and 120 metres above sealevel. This lighthouse, with its original lens, is still in use. (1)
The stone for the lighthouse and the light keepers’ cottages was quarried at first from the immediate neighbourhood of the works, but it was found to be of bad quality underneath the hard top and the remainder was obtained from a nearby hill. The lantern was of iron with 16 sides. The government schooner carried the lantern and many of the other items for the lighthouse from Brisbane to Moreton Island, landing them at
the pilot station whence they were transported overland to the site. Such an important and interesting event did the operations of the new light prove to be that pleasure cruises to view the lighthouse were run on the steamer Breadalbane, taking about 100 passengers from Ipswich and Brisbane, with music and dancing enjoyed on board while in the river. (1)
‘When shipping approached from south or north the Watch House at Cape Moreton would signal (with flags during the day, Morse at night) “Do you want a pilot?” If the ship required a pilot to guide it into port, we then notified them on board the pilot boat, which was anchored near us at the Yellow Patch in the shelter of the island, and they went out to meet the approaching ship. The pilot would then board the ship and guide it up to Brisbane, the entrance being rather hazardous due to sand banks. After berthing he might stay in Brisbane for a few days break before rejoining the pilot boat. The pilots lived aboard, so they were always glad to visit us for a break on dry land. We used to watch them coming up the narrow track to the Cape. We always knew Captain Scott by his attire of white duck pants and a black coat. He would stay with us for a few days. We had an upright piano in our house, which my father imported from America in 1900. Both my mother and Captain Scott were good pianists, and they loved playing duets together.‘ (2)
In 1946 I was employed as a lighthouse keeper at Cape Moreton for 12 months. The army was still using Cowan then and I went over to Moreton on one of their 300-ton cargo carriers. There was a wharf at Cowan then and we tied up there. The ship Cape Moreton used to come down to North Point once a year and send ashore an army DUKW to replace the gas bottles at the North Point Light and to carry out maintenance on the petrol motors used to turn the Cape Moreton Light.
They’d finished using kerosene lights before I was there, and although the light’s lens was turned with an electric motor, there was no electricity installed in the house for lighting or refrigeration. Our stores were delivered to Bulwer or Cowan every 28 days, and any fresh meat we got, if it hadn’t already gone off, we had to eat straight away. Then it was a matter of killing a goat or catching fish for any fresh meat. Fishing was fabulous on Moreton then. Tere was no one around except the lighthouse keepers and the army at Cowan, who were just about to leave when we arrived. (1)
‘It’s the sort of life I have liked – it’s never been too quiet or too isolated for me. I think you have got to be the type of person who loves Nature and loves the quiet and doesn’t want to be rushing around to discos and all that. I reckon I am a good advertisement for the lifestyle on Moreton Island. I can still look after my own house, keep the garden in reasonable order, cook and teach my neighbours how to crochet.’ (2)