Cape Everard Lighthouse in Victoria is now known as Point Hicks Lighthouse. The reason why is explained in a link at the end of this article.
From The Argus, January 10 1935
STEAMER CAPE YORK TAKES TOYS AND STORES
Although the Christmas and New Year festivities are already only a memory for most people, keepers and their families living on Victoria’s lonely lighthouses will not receive their Christmas gifts until next week, when the Commonwealth lighthouse steamer Cape York will make her quarterly call at Wilson’s Promontory, Cliffy Island, Cape Everard, and Gabo Island. Each year the Christmas visit of the Cape York is awaited eagerly by the children of the lightkeepers, for among the stores and cargo landed at each station are toys, books, and confectionary.
The driving force behind the gifts for the children was Miss Esme Alice, of Elsternwick, an inner city suburb of Melbourne. Each year since the early 1920s she had organized an appeal for toys, sweets and Christmas stockings to be sent around the Victorian and Tasmanian lighthouses via the ‘Santa Ship’.
At Cape Everard the festive air was emphasized when the presents were unloaded onto a horse-drawn sled for the final stretch along remote Ocean Beach. In the following photo, Keeper Mr Hardie’s daughter Monica is shown giving her big sister Betty a ride.
In June 1936 the Hardies experienced a traumatic event. Betty (16) and Monica (14), became lost while searching for cows which had wandered into the bush. The girls were barefoot, and only lightly dressed. They spent the first wet, freezing night huddled together on a bed of bracken. On the second night they built a rough shelter against a tree, but when it collapsed they were too exhausted to do anything but lie under the fallen boughs until daylight. Meanwhile around a hundred volunteers on horseback were trying to find them.
On the morning of the third day the weather cleared enough for the resilient sisters to find their way home unaided. They were suffering from severe exposure and covered in lacerations. Unfortunately there was no way to get word to the searchers, and several became lost themselves!
‘The three men…struggled to the Cape Everard lighthouse at 10.00am today, worn out and hungry and with their clothes badly ripped by contact with rough scrub. Many times they were completely bushed and all at different times narrowly escaped being trapped in the numerous basins of deep mud along their route. These mud basins are deep enough to swallow up a horse and his rider. (The Brisbane Telegraph, Friday June 5 1936)
Almost all the searchers had their clothes ruined, a big loss in the depths of the Great Depression. Those in work had also willingly given up several days’ pay, but fortunately a public fund was set up to assist them.
When Betty’s condition suddenly deteriorated a decision was made to transport her to the coast, the first stretch on an improvised stretcher. To make matters worse she could not lie down, due to what was feared to be pneumonia, but which turned out to be pleurisy.
From the Bombala Times, June 12 1936. ‘…..for the first five miles the girl was carried strapped in a chair. The rest of the journey was made by motor lorry, over a track so bad that eight cars were bogged on it. The lorry in which the girl travelled was bogged 17 times, but was hauled out by 30 men with ropes. Several times they had to lift it bodily out of the mud.
Sister D.E. Todd, of the Bush Church Aid Society, spent a night at the lighthouse attending Betty Hardie and her sister Monica, 14. When Sister Todd travelled from Cann River (by horseback) she had to wade several miles through a swamp to reach the lighthouse.’
The nurse also walked alongside Betty on the long trek to hospital. Mr and Mrs Hardie later spoke of her as ‘a heroine’.
A special postscript.…..Christmas 1937
LONELY LIGHTHOUSE CHILDREN SACRIFICE CHRISTMAS TOYS
A touching story of self-denial by two children who lead a lonely life at the Cape Everard lighthouse is told in a letter received by the marine branch of the Department of Commerce. It was addressed to the lighthouse engineer (Mr. J.M. Cowlishaw)
The letter read as follows;
‘Some toys are sent from Miss Alice at Christmas time. If there are any toys or books for us this Christmas, could you please send them to the children at the after-care home for paralysis patients.’
It was signed by Beryl Hardie, aged 10, and her brother Bruce, aged six years, Betty and Monica’s younger siblings. After the drama of 1936 I guess the youngsters were just grateful to have their older sisters with them, safe and sound in their unique home.
On Christmas night that year the children witnessed an unexpected visit to Cape Everard. It was not the ‘Santa Ship’ but the freighter Saros, which ran aground on a reef directly below the lighthouse. The fog had been so thick that the light was simply not visible until it was too late. After initial fears for the crew they were safely transferred to another vessel.
NOTE – Even today the 47 kilometre journey from Cann River to the lighthouse is a challenge.
FOR THE HISTORY OF THE LIGHTHOUSE, CLICK HERE.