With Clair Craig, Brookfield
“There were many flags at the lighthouse which the keepers used for signalling approaching ships. We children used to play under the flags when they were pulled down. I was never called on to help my father as there were Three Assistant Keepers to do that. During the era of 1912 – 1916 the Lighthouse staff were:
Superintendent: George P.Byrne
First Assistant: E.Harper
Oliver Birrell (later)
Second Assistant: Johnson
Third Assistant: Lockhard
“My mother worked in the office and she kept the records of the shipping. She was paid a small amount by the Marine Department. My mother always maintained high standards around the house. She always had damask tablecloth and serviettes, and for a time while she worked in the office she had a maid to help around the house.
“The keepers worked four hour shifts in the Watch House, on the lookout for approaching ships. My father, as Superintendent, always had a daytime shift. However, if a ship left a night, he was always notified by the keeper on watch by a knock on the window and the words “Steamer (NAME), departed North (or South) at (TIME)”. All this had to be recorded in the logbook in the watch house. My mother would then transcribe this into her log in the office. Also we had to give berthing instructions to the approaching ships such as “Berth at Dalgetty’s wharf or AUSN, or head upstream (or downstream) etc.” All this too had to be recorded.
“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.
“The Assistant Keepers did not come to these musical evenings. In fact my father never fraternised with his men. They used to call him “boss” and he called them by their surname, that’s why I don’t know any of their given names.”
Standing: Mr Johnson, Mr Maxwell. Sitting: Coney Reilly, Mr Byrnes, Henry Lockhard.
Photo courtesy Beth Lawler.
Extract from ‘Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.