State Librarian launches iconic tale of Western Australia
State Librarian and CEO of the State Library Margaret Allen will launch Lighthouse Girl by Dianne Wolfer at Westbooks in Victoria Park on Friday 27 March.
Lighthouse Girl is based on the true story of Fay Catherine Howe who lived on remote Breaksea Island off the coast of Albany during WWI.
Fay’s son, Don Watson of Bibra Lake, will be attending the launch along with a number of other family members. He said Lighthouse Girl for him was a very exciting and sentimental thing.
“It’s sort of made me aware of the things that happened in those days back before I was born,” said Mr Watson.
In October 1914 thirty-eight troopships from New Zealand and the eastern states stopped in King George Sound to take on coal and water. For many of the soldiers this was their last glimpse of Australian soil before heading to war.
Fay used semaphore to receive messages from the soldiers, then Morse code to transmit their words across Australia via the telegraph to loved ones. Postcards addressed: “To the Little Girl on Breaksea Island, Albany” began to arrive from the Middle East a few months after the ships left
Mr Watson and author Dianne Wolfer came into contact when they were independently researching the story of “The Little Girl on Breaksea Island” at the Albany Public Library.
Ms Wolfer said she spent three years researching archival material to develop an understanding of the era and to give her novel a historical basis. Many of the original materials are included in the book.
“As far as her life on the island is concerned and the hardships she went through … those facts are true,” said Mr Watson.
“When food was short she had to go out shooting rabbits and was a crack shot, she had to collect nettles on the island for greens … the conditions described in the book are very real,” he said.
Lighthouse Girl will be launched at Westbooks in Victoria Park on 27 March with a special Albany launch on 8 April at the Albany Town Hall. Dianne Wolfer and Brian Simmonds are appearing at the Subiaco Library on Monday 20 April.
The author, illustrator, Brian Simmonds of Duncraig, and Don Watson are available for interview.
- Fay Catherine Howe lived on Breaksea Island during WW1
- War was declared on her birthday on 5 August
- In October 1914 thirty-eight troopships from New Zealand and the eastern states stopped in King George Sound to take on coal and water.
- The ships held 30,000 men and over 7000 horses. From Breaksea Island, Fay had a ringside seat to watch history unfold.
- Some soldiers came ashore to march through Albany. Most stayed on their ships. The soldiers put messages into bottles. Some signalled to Fay, asking her to relay their messages home.
- In 1914 Breaksea Island was an important telegraph station.
- Fay used semaphore to receive messages from the soldiers, then Morse code to transmit their words across Australia via telegraph to loved ones.
- On 1st November 1914 at dawn the troopships formed a massive convoy to sail west to the Middle East and Gallipoli
- For many soldiers Albany was their last sight of Australian soil.
- Postcards from the Middle East began to arrive for Fay a few months after the ships left. Beautiful embroidered and photographic postcards. They were addressed: ‘To the Little Girl on Breaksea Island, Albany