With Clair Craig, Brookfield

Cape Moreton Light (photo courtesy Rebecca Heard)

            “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.”

“A Fine Collection of Hats!” The keepers at Cape Moreton Light early 1900s. 

Standing: Mr Johnson, Mr Maxwell. Sitting: Coney Reilly, Mr Byrnes, Henry Lockhard. 

Photo courtesy Beth Lawler.

Extract from Moreton Bay People – The Complete Collection’.

The Lighthouses of Cleveland Point

On a site at the tip of Cleveland Point stood the original Cleveland light. Originally placed there in 1847, it was little more than a wooden pole holding a kerosene lamp. The pole was erected at the expense of Francis Bigge on the understanding that the Government would provide the oil and a person to look after the light. This job fell to the local police constable who looked after it, cleaned the lamp, lit it every night, took it down every morning, and stored it by day in a small sentry box at the base of the pole. To do this, he had to walk half a mile (0.8 k.) each morning and night. However primitive this may have seemed, the light served its purpose of guiding rafters and sailors moving between Brisbane and the Logan Rivers for 17 years.

This light was replaced in 1864 by the more substantial wooden tower (now relocated, as a memorial, to the SW corner of the Cleveland Point reserve). Alfred Winship, the local Customs House officer and first postmaster at Cleveland, was appointed the first keeper of the new lighthouse. He was replaced by James Troy in 1877. Troy was a carpenter and had been employed at Francis Bigge’s sawmill on Cleveland Point. When the mill was demolished in 1867, he had used some of the bricks to construct a new home for himself and his family midway along Cleveland Point. From here, he and his family tended the light at Cleveland lighthouse, morning and evening, from1877 until 1926, thus creating an Australian record in lighthouse keeping for one family. During this period, the illuminant was changed from kerosene to acetylene gas.

From 1927 until 1951 the lighthouse was tended by Charles Klemm. The illuminant was changed to electricity in1934. The wooden lighthouse remained in use until the laser light was commissioned in 1976.

Lighthouse Cleveland Point c1954

The wooden lighthouse remained in use until the laser light was commissioned on the same spot in 1976. The wooden lighthouse was moved to its present site.

Laser light, Cleveland Point

Perhaps, by 2009, and due to bay craft having their own navigation systems, a working lighthouse on Cleveland Point was deemed unnecessary, for in that year it was removed to make way for a movie set, the third in the Narnia series, ‘The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’. Watching the filming was a great interest to locals.

‘Dawn Treader’ at Cleveland Point 2009

After the removal of the ‘Dawn Treader’ at the end of filming, the Point was relanscaped and the old lighthouse renovated as a tourist attraction. The only working lighthouse today remains the Lighthouse Restaurant – where locals and patrons come from all over Brisbane and beyond to enjoy a cup of coffee or a seafood meal.

Lighthouse Restaurant, Cleveland Point