The story of the Lighthouse Girl – in February 2015, the City of Perth was treated to what can only be described as a visual spectacular when “The Giants” roamed the streets.
Operated by a very fit team of what seemed like miniature sized humans in comparison to these huge puppets, one couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed with the sheer enormity of these human-like creatures.
My favourite, of course, was the Little Girl Giant, as her story is in fact, all about my very own grandmother. Her name was Fay Catherine Howe, but she was more commonly known as ‘the little girl on Breaksea Island’.
The Lighthouse Girl – My Grandmother
Fay Catherine Howe, was the daughter of a lighthouse keeper and was born in 1899 at her parents’ home at the base of Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in Augusta, Western Australia. In 1906, the family moved to Breaksea Island, which is 12 kms south-east of Albany. Her mother passed away in 1914, so Fay then looked after her father.
It’s a fascinating and ever-so-inspiring story of a young girl who waved to departing troops from the shore. At the young age of 15, she responded to signals sent by the many soldiers who were leaving to fight in World War 1.
Messages were sent from their loved ones and Fay would then forward their replies in Morse code to be printed as telegrams. For many, it was the last point of contact for these young men who were only in their late teens and early twenties, bound for Europe and Egypt.
Life on Breaksea Island
Fay’s youngest son, Don Watson (my father), has often told me how his mother was quite handy with a gun, often shooting mutton birds and rabbits when the supply boat was delayed due to bad weather. Life on Breaksea Island was very isolated with their only companions being pigs, a couple of donkeys and a dog.
Fay fell pregnant to an assistant lighthouse keeper by the name of James Watson a year after the Anzac’s set sail. They married and settled in Perth where they went on to have a total of five children. 3 lived until to a very old age.
Don said that his mother never talked too much about her time on the island, but she obviously left an imprint on the minds of those young men departing Albany’s King George Sound. There was a large collection of cards filled with stories, sent straight from the battlefields. Obviously, many never returned to their loved ones.
I am so very proud of my grandmother and what she achieved all those years ago. Having that strong connection with ‘The Giants’ when they visited Perth is indescribable. It was definitely a weekend to remember and visitors will be talking about it for many years to come.
The Lighthouse Girl – Book
Based on the true story of Fay Howe, this gentle tale brings to life the hardships of those left at home during the war — waiting, wondering, hoping.
Lighthouse Girl Book was shortlisted for the 2009 NSW Premier’s History Awards and the WA Premier’s Awards. It won the children’s choice 2010 West Australian Young Readers’
Book Award and is an ASLA recommended reading text for the National History Curriculum.
‘Full of evocative illustrations, sepia photographs and news clippings, Wolfer’s book transports. A great one
for early and older readers alike’ —Frances Atkinson, The Sunday Age
The Lighthouse Girl – Play
The Black Swan Theatre Company have since produced a play which will combine The Lighthouse Girl and The Lighthorse Boy in April this year. Last but not least, there is also industry talk about making a story into a film.
The Lighthouse Girl
An inspiring story about a wonderful lady – my Grandmother
Tracey Timmins owner Mandurah Wine Tours and Charters.