There’s something majestic yet mysterious about the lighthouses that still play a major role in keeping safe shipping that plies the Australian coastline. And given that the length of this sprawling coastline is 34,218 km, it’s a big job.
Fingal Head lighthouse, the most northerly of New South Wales lighthouses, is situated on a headland that’s becoming familiar to people who visit this blog. We're fast learning that there are many sides to this lovely little area which is not far from my home.
Fingal is probably one of the smaller lighthouses in Australia but it still plays a useful role, standing on one of the most easterly points of Australia with deep water offshore. The structure itself is only 7 metres high and it's 24 metres above sea level.
This is the western side of the present building.
The original lighthouse was established in 1872 to help guard shipping against a large number of dangerous reefs in the area.
According to the Tweed Historial Society, entries from the log book of the Tweed River Pilot Station under the date of Monday, 19th February 1872 noted that trees were felled for the Fingal Head light, and a pole structure of approximately 30 feet high was erected to hold the light, a fixed kerosene lantern.
A daughter of Mr William Arnold, the first lighthouse keeper at Fingal Headland described the 1872 lighthouse as being shaped like a large meat safe, mounted on a wooden structure resembling a pigeon loft.
A hut was constructed for the keeper, who had to previously row from the Tweed Heads Pilot Station each day, and light the lantern at sunset.
This notice on the western side of the the present building carries a reference to the date of the original structure not the new one.
In October 1878 the Maritime Board of NSW decided to build a new modern lighthouse, and the first structure was replaced with a sandstone tower and attached oil room with a four room cottage for the keeper a short distance away. The ruins of the keeper's residence are today still 20 metres northwest of the lighthouse.
In 1920 the first light was converted to unmanned automatic acetylene operation and all buildings other than the tower were demolished.
This section of the 1878 lighthouse is today the oldest existing public building in the Tweed Shire.
Picture Tweed River Historical Society
Mr Arnold remained as keeper after the new building was constructed, and he was pictured here with his granddaughter around 1900, before the structure was partially demolished.
This is the view today from the front of the lighthouse whose rays reach eight nautical miles seaward due to the addition of electricity in 1980.
All photographs on this site are copyright to June Saville unless otherwise attributed.
Are lighthouses still used to aid shipping where you live?
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