Pine Islet Lighthouse – 130th anniversary

Tomorrow (12 November 2015), a public meeting will be held at Mackay Marina with a view to reforming the Pine Islet Lighthouse Preservation Society. The Pine Islet Lighthouse was constructed in 1885, operating for 100 years before being decommissioned in 1985. The lighthouse was dismantled in 1986, rebuilt at Mackay Harbour in 1996, before it was moved to its present location at Mackay Marina in 2002.

Pine Islet Lighthouse, undated. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

Pine Islet Lighthouse, undated. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

The contract for the construction of the Pine Islet Lighthouse was awarded to W.P.Clark in June 1883, who had also been commissioned with the construction of a lighthouse at Double Island Point at the same time. The light was positioned on the summit of the south west Islet of the Percy Group – Pine Islet is situated 65 nautical miles south-east of Mackay in the Broadsound Channel of the Percy Islands. Work on the light was completed in July 1885. An article published in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin newspaper in 1927, describes the colour of the beam of light at Pine Islet to be “an angry red” and described the sequence of flashing – “It is a second-order fixed and flashing light – fixed for one minute, followed by an eclipse, then a flash and then another eclipse, the whole cycle being completed in two minutes”.

View from Pine Islet showing Rock Usland and Percy No. 2. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 91046

View from Pine Islet showing Rock Usland and Percy No. 2. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 91046

Hoisting supplies at Pine Islet Lighthouse, Queensland ca. 1906. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 194836

Hoisting supplies at Pine Islet Lighthouse, Queensland ca. 1906. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 194836

Like most lighthouses, Pine Islet Lighthouse’s past contains tales of heroics deeds. On December 28, 1899, during a cyclone, the ship Eclipse was sheltering from the storm when it struck Salmon Rock near Pine Islet. Harry Lockhart, one of the lighthouse keepers risked his life to save one the drowning crew by swimming out with a line in shark infested waters to rescue him. Four out of the five crew of the Eclipse were saved. Lockhart later received recognition from the Royal Humane Society.

Pine Island lighthouse 1931. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 202499

Pine Island lighthouse 1931. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 202499

Remote lighthouses like Pine Islet were certainly not the best of places to suffer from illness. In 1947, a doctor performed an emergency operation on Mrs Bradley, the wife of the acting head lighthouse keeper,  using instruments sterilised in cooking pots on the kitchen stove.

There are also tales of ghostly knocking and the sound of footsteps, believed to be the departed spirit of a keepers’ wife who was buried on the island in 1895.

Grave of Dorothea McKay on Pine Islet, undated. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

Grave of Dorothea McKay on Pine Islet, undated. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

If you’re interested in attending this important meeting and being involved with the reformation the Pine Islet Lighthouse Preservation Society, you can find details here.

Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland