It’s been nine years since I visited Breaksea Island in the very early days of my research for Lighthouse Girl. So much has happened since then…
When I last went out, the only way onto the island was via a swing ladder, then a hike from the jetty up to the lighthouse and cottages (just like Fay would have done to meet the monthly supply boat). Back in 2006, very little was known about Fay’s early life, but going to the island gave me a strong feeling for how things ‘might’ have been when she signalled to departing troops in 1914. After that first research trip, Lighthouse Girl took another three years to research and write.
Now there is a helicopter service to Breaksea, which makes things much easier! I was excited to go back to Breaksea with the team from Channel 9’s Destination WA to film a segment that will go to air on Sunday 16th April at 5.30pm on WIN and Channel 9 with presenter Tod Johnston.
The Albany weather was at its wild and woolly best. I didn’t think we’d be able to fly, but pilot Rainor of Skyhook Helicopters has nerves of steel. He is an amazing pilot. After multiple flybys of the helipad; which gave us great views of the cottages and lighthouse, Rainor decided it was safer to put us down on a granite slab further down the island.
The following clip shows how windy it was when we arrived. Forty knots plus.
We walked up the hill to the lighthouse, battling the wind to explore the ruin of the original lighthouse and the sturdy second lighthouse (now solar powered). After taking lots of photographs, fighting wind and rain to do an interview, we went down the hill to the restored lighthouse keeper’s cottages.
When I was at Breaksea in 2006 we camped overnight. I slept in a swag in the far room of the far cottage. I’ll probably never know which house Fay and her father lived in, but as I lay there listening to birds squawking in their burrows at night, I had such a strong sense of Fay having a link to the room I slept in. I had the same feeling this time.
I loved being in the cottage which might have been Fay’s, looking out the windows to views of Bald Head and the wild Southern Ocean, imagining again how her life might have been. Thanks to Keir Tunbridge for the photo of me in that room.
And also for this one of me and the lighthouse.
Thanks also to the intrepid team from Guru Productions for organising the trip. I can’t wait to see the complete story on Destination WA.
Glad you went back to that inspiring place Dianne.
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I visited Breaksea Island last year, my mother lived there as a little girl, her father was the lighthouse keeper, his name is William Chessher. We had beautiful weather and the Island is breathtaking, I am planning to go back, my mums ashes are there and that is where I would like to be.
Hi Jenny, thank you for your message and huge apologies for the slow reply. Somehow I missed a notification for your message…
I saw there is a listing for W.Cheshire in Stan Austin’s ‘Lighthouses of Albany’ book. The dates he lists are 1919-1922. Is that your grandfather? I don’t suppose you know whether his service crossed over with assistant keeper, James Watson, the man Fay ended up marrying? There is a gap in the dates and her descendants are keen to know…
Regarding the island and your wishes, it is indeed breathtaking out there. It feels like being part of the ocean & sky.
I didn’t know the ashes of a keeper’s family member rested there. That makes it even more of a special place. Thank you for sharing your family history.
Very best wishes, Dianne