Goods Island, located between Cape York and New Guinea and close to Thursday Island, is said to have been named by Captain Matthew Flinders, whilst travelling through the region. The name is said to have been bestowed in honour of his gardener/botanist on the voyage, a Peter Good. Over time, the present spelling of Goods came into more common usage, giving us the present name of the island.
Goods Island was identified from as early as the 1880s as an ideal location for a lighthouse, particularly in view of the increases in shipping at the time. A light at Goods Island, it was argued, would point out the position of the entrance to Normanby Sound and the Prince of Wales Channel, thereby improving safety for shipping. As a result, a temporary light was put in place in 1883 and maintained as part of the pilot station. The Queensland government Port master at that time, George Poynter Heath was however soon arguing for a more powerful light to be put in place, on a permanent basis.
The government eventually agreed to this and a new pilot station and lighthouse were constructed in late 1886/early 1887. A comparatively small structure, the lighthouse structure stands at around six metres in height. By contrast, the Sandy Cape Lighthouse stands at around thirty metres in height. The Goods Island Lighthouse building was also pre-fabricated making construction a relatively simple exercise, with the resulting structure very strong. An earthquake shook the foundations in October 1907, causing little damage, evidencing the strength of the building.
Goods Island also has another claim to historical note in that it is the location of one of Queensland’s earliest recorded sources of potential mineral wealth. In 1802, Matthew Flinders landed here and mentioned the potential for copper ore, noting in his diary that, “the stone is granite and porphery and in one place I found streaks of verde grease, as if the cliffs above contained copper ore”.
This photograph, dating from 1909, shows the lighthouse building still in its original firm, with the lighthouse keepers and family posing for the photographer. The light is now known as the Goods Island Rear Lead Light.
Brian Randall – Senior Librarian, State Library of Queensland