Point Lowly Lighthouse
The Point Lowly Lighthouse was built to mark the west side of the entrance to Port Augusta at the northern end of Spencer Gulf.
The South Australian Chronicle and Weekly Mail of Saturday 29 May 1880, reported that at Port Pirie on 26 May, the Queen's Birthday, most of the residents went off for the day, either to the Jamestown sports, the football match at Gladstone, the cricket match at Warnertown between a scratch team from Port Pirie and the Warnertown Cricket Club, or to Port Augusta. The excursionists by the Star of Hope steamer to Port Augusta left on Sunday morning and returned on Tuesday evening.
The return trip was quite exciting, for as the steamer cleared Point Lowly a high wind was blowing and the little steamer having only a few hundred bags of wheat as ballast she was tossed about to a great extent. As she shipped some seas, the deck being of iron, the passengers who had not secured themselves were thrown down, and with everything moveable rolled or slid from side to side.
One young woman was seen making frantic efforts to seize hold of the cabin door as she shot past it to and fro and after three attempts secured it, and made good her escape into the cabin, where the women and children were stowed. Added to this, the captain's collection of flowers and pots in a ventilating recess in the roof of the saloon, were thrown down onto some of the women, who came to the conclusion amid the roar of the wind, the flapping of the sails, the rattling of the iron tackling, and the stentorian commands of Captain Wilson, that the Star of Hope was coming to grief.
As it turned out, none of the passengers went overboard or drowned. Unfortunately, this wasn't always the case. Many ships were wrecked, lost their cargo or sank, and over the years many lives have been lost too. It was for these reasons that there had been talks for some years, about erecting a lighthouse at Point Lowly.
When agreement was reached to go ahead with it, there were many differences of opinion about the spot where to put it, the material to be used, the total cost of the project, the height of the tower and the strength of the light.
When a decision of some kind was finally made, the Register of 19 November 1880 could report that the President of the Marine Board thought that a wooden pile structure with a third-class light would meet the requirements for a cost under 6,000 pounds. Captain Smith said at a proper time he would recommend a first-class light to be placed on Point Lowly. The President remarked that if the Eastern Shoal lightship was removed within ten miles of Point Lowly, a third-class light would be sufficient there.
By the end of 1881 the Marine Board had inspected the Borda, Althorpe, and Port Augusta lights, and also decided upon a position for the Point Lowly lighthouse. A few months later it was reported that a third-order revolving light was to be shortly fixed at Point Lowly. It would be sufficient for all ordinary purposes, and would be visible at a distance of four or five miles beyond the Eastern Shoal. In answer to Captain Smith, the Board observed that it would be a similar light to that now fixed at Beachport.
At the same time the Board recommended that the lighthouse should be constructed of wood 'in consequence of the scarcity of water and lime'. It had also decided to build a lighthouse at Carpenter Rocks which, when completed, would make the South Australian Coast the best lighted in Australia.
Several ads appeared in the local papers for tenders to do the job and in May four tenders were received' After some weeks it was reported that the tender of Port Germein contractor DJ Virgo, of 3002 pound, 14 shillings and eight pence had been accepted.
Virgo lost no time and advertised for six masons and two stone cutters to get started immediately. Luck was against him though. On 12 July 1882 the Express and Telegraph reported that the Parara ketch, was driven ashore about a quarter of a mile north of Point Lowly during a heavy northerly gale on Monday. She was loaded with building materials, lime, bricks, fresh water, and timber from Port Germein for the Point Lowly lighthouse for Mr Virgo, the contractor. The cargo was not insured.
Luckily, the ketch was. She was later discovered flying a distress signal, with her stern higher on the rocks than her bow, which was under water. After a while she broke adrift, and was smashed on shore. The crew got a line ashore and got off safely. Virgo had other problems as well. He had asked that the jetty dues at Port Germein might he reduced for goods intended to carry out Government contracts. He complained that the jetty dues bore very hardly upon him. The Board however told him that it 'could not see their way to alter the by-law relating to dues at Port Germein'.
Early in September, with little work done, the Board announced that a revolving light of the third order would be exhibited on 1 December 1882 from a tower to be erected on Point Lowly. Two months later, it informed the public that a new lamp would arrive on the Harbinger. By this time though, Virgo had 'thrown up the job' and the Government intended carrying it out themselves. It was said that the difficulty experienced was the selection of suitable stone for the work, and that the stone from Manoora, which was being used, was not suitable.
The contract for the Point Lowly lighthouse should have been completed in November, 1882, but in consequence of the slow progress made and the inability of the contractor to proceed with his work in a proper manner, the department finished the work in early 1883. On completion the buildings consisted of a lighthouse, a store 16 feet by 15 feet, two cottages, tanks, and outhouses.
In January 1884 the place was visited by the Board who reported that 'the keepers of the lighthouse there had done some good work during the year in making a road between the lighthouse and the cottages, and a small breakwater to provide a boat landing-place'. This was considered very gratifying, as it showed the interest the keepers took in their work. The steamer anchored at Point Lowly until Sunday evening, when it crossed over to Port Germein, where it stayed for the night.
Although the Board was impressed with the lighthouse keepers, it was not prepared to pay for a telephone or telegraph connection between Point Lowly and Port Augusta or a cable to Port Germein, which they had requested. A year later, shipmasters from Port Pirie suggested that the lighthouse be raised by 10 feet. Some even wanted 30 or 40 feet. It was also proposed to have a red light fixed and that there should be at least two pilots on duty. After all it was here that the gulf narrowed and navigation became difficult.
In 1886 the request for a telephone connection was mooted again and once more denied by the Treasurer. Later that year the height of the lighthouse was also discussed and it was suggested that it should be visible from a distance of at least 30 kilometres. On 11 November a vessel was chartered for an excursion across the Gulf to the Point Lowly lighthouse. About sixty ladies and gentlemen availed themselves of the opportunity, and a very pleasant day was spent. The lightkeepers were exceedingly kind to their visitors, and with pardonable pride took them up the tower and explained the working of the lamp.
Several of the keepers stayed at their post for years and lived happily with their families in those fairly isolated and lonely places. Among them was John Boyes who had started his career at the age of 18. In 1898 he was at Cape Jaffa and three years later at Neptune Island followed in 1909 by a placing at Point Lowly. He joined the AIF and served in England and France during WWI.
The Light which had a focal plane of 23 m (75 ft) and a white flash every 5 seconds, was automated in 1973. Its round sandstone tower with lantern and double gallery is painted white. Originally 15 m (49 ft) in height, the tower was extended in 1908-1909. After deactivation in 1993, the Whyalla City Council purchased the light station and reactivated the light.