Our enduring light: Memories of Seal Rocks lighthouse

RECENTLY on the cover of the NRMA’s ‘Open Road’ magazine was a fine picture of Seal Rocks lighthouse.

The article mentioned that it is one of only two that have an exterior stairway.

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This lighthouse is certainly a treasure that has been keeping our coast safer since its construction in 1875.

Colonial architect James Barnet was the one to determine Sugarloaf Point as the lighthouse site.

Many vessels were lost due to the rocks which were not evident in high wind and a force 12 gale: the height of the waves obscured them.

A road had to be formed to Bungwahl on the Myall Lakes.

A 457 metre jetty was built to receive the building materials.

|Not only the lighthouse was built, but also a head keeper’s quarters, a duplex for two assistant keepers and a signal house – all of brick with iron roofs.

The building materials came by sea from Sydney, but local residents George and John Bramble moved them from the jetty to the cliff tops with their bullock team.

Bramble relatives still live in our area.

The lighthouse remained on kerosene until 1965 when electric power lines were brought through from Pacific Palms.

We have a local resident in Tea Gardens whose memories go back to the early 1950s when his father was a lighthouse man.

Peter Chappelow told me that the head keeper was usually older and often a World War II veteran.

There were three shifts which were rotated to give everyone an equal share.

Keepers also were responsible for the upkeep of the dwellings and the surroundings.

Morse code was used to communicate ships to shore.

All passing ships were required to sail within eight miles of the lighthouse so they could be identified and recorded – this information was then radioed to Sydney.

Peter and his young brother who had just started school were mailed ‘School of the Air’ packages each month to help them in their isolated situation.

He attended Bungwahl school, being driven in the U.S. Army Blitz truck over a bush track.

There were about fourteen students and one teacher to cope with pupils from Kindergarten up.

The lighthouse children amused themselves with fishing and swimming: the biggest event of the year was the Bulahdelah Show.

Today it is a pleasant drive along Lakes Way to visit Seal Rocks, so named for the colonies of fur seals that lived there.

Our local Historic Society members enjoy visiting the area and dwelling on its significance.

Our Thursday Walkers also consider it one of our favourite places to hike, usually ending up having lunch on a parklike area below the light while watching for whales or maybe a seal.

By Anne JOHNSON, Tea Gardens Family Research and Local History Inc.

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