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History of Lighthouse Keepers in Australia

CATEGORY : Lighthouses Australia

Posted by Tony Sheer on Jun 22, 2012

The Australian coast is home to many lighthouses of great beauty and historical significance, none of which are manned by lighthouse keepers any more. These days it is more common for the caretaker's cottage to be put to use as an atmospheric guest house in a unique and stunning location. But what happened to those professionals committed to the important career of protecting lives at sea?

The Australian lighthouse keeper's job used to involve building an intimate knowledge of the special sequence of signals necessary to warn sailors of craggy rocks, rough seas and oncoming land. Each different station had a different language of light to communicate with ships at sea. The caretaker of the building was often a highly committed individual who knew that his job often meant the difference between life and death.

The history of the Australian coast is a fascinating one, not just for the grisly shipwrecks and occasional tales of piracy, but also for the for the romance of the lone caretaker toiling away in his tower, providing a beacon of hope to those lost at sea, as well as those wilder characters capitalising on a life changing opportunity.

The first caretaker at the historically significant Cape Otway station on the Great Ocean Road, Lieutenant Lawrence, was dismissed for mismanagement and foul language. After the Lieutenant  dishonourably left the job, his place was taken Henry Bayles Ford, who stayed on as the superintendent for thirty years. He was accompanied by his wife Mary Anne, a colourful character who raised seven children at the coastal outpost, nursed injured sailors back to health and regularly intervened in the maintenance of the tower and beacon.