Yesterday I was fortunate to return to Breaksea Island, long ago home of ‘lighthouse girl’ Fay Catherine Howe. The weather was perfect. After circling the island, Rainer our pilot landed on the helicopter pad just below the lighthouse.
We circled the ruins of the original lighthouse then walked down the hill to visit the old cottages. Each time I visit I have a strong sense of Fay in the furthest keeper’s cottage, particularly in one of the front rooms.
Just before this visit there’d been robust discussion, accompanied by some impressive forensic laptop studies of several old photos at the Albany History Collection. We were looking at a photograph of a young woman outside this furthest cottage. I’d always hoped it was Fay, but had been told it was an earlier keeper’s wife, however… it now seems it may actually be Fay. More on that in a later post. The young woman is standing by the cottage steps (below), with two donkeys, dogs and goats.
A highlight of the trip was hiking down the old zigzag donkey track to the jetty. I hadn’t been to the jetty since the original research trip over ten years ago, long before there was the helicopter option. There have been a few changes; with a safety cage around the swinging boat access ladder, but otherwise it all looked similar.
Part of the zigzag track
Looking back to Albany
On the way to the jetty
It was great to see Elephant Rock again as that appears in the story.
Our allocated island time whizzed past and soon it was time to climb back into the chopper for the short trip back to the mainland. I’m already looking forward to next time.
GSG’s new boarding house has been named Breaksea House to honour Fay Catherine Howe, the ‘lighthouse girl’ who signalled to the departing Anzac nurses, troops and horses in 1914.
I was honoured to present signed copies of my books to boarding house student leaders; Emma Taylor and James Gonzales.
GSG has also purchased original artwork by illustrator, Brian Simmonds. The image appears on page 94 of Lighthouse Girl and shows Fay searching the Albany Advertiser for news about the troops in the Middle East. This lovely charcoal illustration will now grace the walls of the new boarding facility. I hope to see it when I visit for an informal book chat.
The full school assembly was a terrific occasion, welcoming the 2016 student leaders who then offered a badge to each Year One student, celebrating their new beginnings.
Fay’s story continues to touch a chord with readers, particularly those living in WA. I often wonder how Fay would feel to know that so many people remember her…