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Cape Naturaliste
Admiralty Reference # 1790
1904 - present
Celebrating a Century of Service
21/04/2004 to 18/04/2004
The last West Australian Lighthouse to be demanned in 1996.

Leon Chidlow (Custodian/chief guide of the Light for the Busselton/Dunsborough Tourism Bureau) truly achieved his goal to "make it a day to remember" for the families and descendants of former Lighthouse Keepers who had spent time at Cape Naturaliste.

Many locals and tourists to the area dropped in on the open day for a look around. The entire Light Station grounds were open for the whole day, including the second lighthouse keeper’s cottage, which is used as a shorefront and Museum, and the third lighthouse keeper’s cottage (normally closed), which was used to house the various displays including our LoA Inc. and MV Cape Don displays in the designated “Lighthouse Room” which also contained a wonderful collections of articles on the early Lighthouse Keepers and their families.

As part of the LoA Inc. display I also had the scanned images of Ralph Meakin’s pre 1971 slides, including some of the MV Cape Don, which drew memories of what it meant to have the Lighthouse Tender call with supplies and to tend to the light. Many were interested to know that the MV Cape Don was the last of her line which has not been scrapped and is under the care of the MV Cape Don Society who have volunteers working on her restoration.

The CWA which did a roaring trade in delicious Devonshire Teas and sandwiches, were set up in the kitchen of the house. One older lady was just standing there watching them at work and turned to me and said, “I am trying to imaging my Mother standing at that stove cooking. We lived in this house.” I overheard two other ladies talking about when they lived in that house (at separate times), that the “Whale Room” had been their bedroom with up to four children sleeping in the one room!
 

Once within the grounds, it was only a gold coin donation for the chance to climb up for a great view over the surrounding country and ocean from the balcony, albeit without the normal fully guided and informative tour with a guide. No whales on show though at this time of the year. Then on the way back down, you had a chance to take in all of the paraphernalia of the interior of a Lighthouse. 

There are only three Lighthouses in Western Australia which are open to the public, Cape Leeuwin, Cape Naturaliste and Vlamingh Head, so for many it is a unique holiday experience to be able to go inside and up the stairway for a closer view of the ever turning lens.

It is amazing to compare photos taken at different times to see just how much regrowth of flora there has been in recent years.
 

 

Extra activities for the day included olden day favourites such as apple bobbing and the telling of ghost stories, alongside more modern activities such as face painting, helium balloons and a sausage sizzle. Others manned a stall with a variety of souvenirs up by the Lighthouse itself, and of course, its not a Birthday unless there is a cake.
 

There were also ex Keeper’s family members and invited guests from as far away as the Eastern States. Dr Greg Feeney the head of AMSA in Canberra (pictured right) was there to speak at the formalities. It was wonderful to meet John Ibbotson (author of Lighthouses of Australia – The End of an Era ) who in his usual style was cramming in visiting as many lights as he could while over in the West. John’s day started at 5.30am out at the Cape hoping to get some sunrise shots, but the weather wasn't being very cooperative at that stage!! (pictured left with Pauline O'Brien, Secretary of LoA Inc.)

Fortunately it didn't actually rain, and besides a bit of wind and cloud just makes it feel more like Lighthouse hunting weather doesn't it? By the time of the official ceremony, there was a beautiful blue sky although the wind fairly whistled through the microphone during the speeches.

 


 

Others to speak were the granddaughter of Baird, an original keeper, who read two heartfelt poems, Representatives of the local Tourism Association, Leon Chidlow who acknowledged the wonderful team effort which had enabled the day to take place, and lastly Barry House the local MLC, who spoke movingly of how important the Lighthouse as a symbol of the region has been to himself and his family. The highlight apart from cutting the cake and singing Happy Birthday! was the replacement of the time capsule, due to be opened again sometime in the future. The original time capsule had included coins and press clippings from the day it was opened and more again from when it was opened in the 1960s.

We all had a wonderful day and simply could not believe how quickly the time went.

The Centenary celebrations provided a wonderful opportunity for people to come together and reminisce. New contacts were made, old friendships renewed, childhood acquaintances rediscovered and life stories swapped. The mood was very much one of wanting to preserve the history of Lighthouses, not just Cape Naturaliste, as many of the families had spent time at a number of different Light Stations. While our motto is “Preserve, Protect, Promote” I believe it is vitally important that it is not just the physical buildings that we are talking about but also the preservation of the entwined histories of the Lighthouse and the various families who spent part of their lives there.

Cape Naturaliste is a beautiful Lighthouse in a glorious setting.
If you are travelling down in the South West of WA
be sure to put it on your itinerary of must things to do.

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