Today we farewell Don Watson, the son of Lighthouse Girl, Fay.
Don will be sadly missed. He and his family have been part of my ‘Light series’ writing journey from the beginning and we have shared many wonderful moments since.
In 2005, after reading a newspaper article written by Ron Crittall about WWI troops gathering in Albany in 1914, I became curious about Fay Howe, the Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper’s daughter. A paragraph in the article mentioned Fay relaying final messages for the soldiers, then later receiving postcards from them thanking her. They were addressed to, ‘The little girl on Breaksea Island’.
I wanted to find out more. The article mentioned ‘Perth man, Don Watson’ so I began searching phone listings. After several wary replies to my question, ‘Are you related to a Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper?’, eventually I found the right D. Watson. Don and his lovely wife, Peg, invited me to lunch and so began our friendship and shared Lighthouse Girl journey.
Although the WWI postcards have been lost to history, Fay’s son, Don, remembered reading those beautiful embroidered postcards as a child and was able to tell me about the messages. Since then we have seen Fay become a giant.
And her story has also been adapted for stage, commemorated in song, gifted to a Prime Minister, inspired a TV documentary and two US podcasts, as well as countless library displays, school shows and Book Week costumes.
Research for Lighthouse Girl then led to linked titles; Light Horse Boy, In the Lamplight and soon to be published (March 2022) The Last Light Horse. More information about Fay and these events can be found in previous blog posts: Fay’s Life, Book to Play, Giants, More Giants, even more Giants and the very last Giants.
Fay’s son was a generous, family-oriented man who volunteered with many organisations. Knowing Don and his extended family has been a great honour. May he now rest in peace with Fay and all those long ago soldiers.