Point Malcolm Lighthouse

Point Malcolm Lighthouse

Australia's only inland lighthouse.

The lighthouse was named after Neill Malcolm who had taken up land in the area in 1839, which became Poltalloch Station. The lighthouse and keeper's cottage were constructed by Richard C. Trenouth, builder of Strathalbyn. Trenouth, born in Holmbush, Cornwall in 1830 came to Strathalbyn in 1857. He built many of the fine buildings of Strathalbyn and other places, the majority of them still there today.

Among some of the better known are the tower of St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, the most photographed building of Strathalbyn, the Institute Hall, Church of Christ and the Church of England, all in Strathalbyn. The Institute building at Mount Barker was also his work. He died on 14 December 1901.

On 5 July 1877 it was reported that Trenouth's contract for 605 pounds for the construction had been accepted by the South Australian Government. When completed, the light was turned on for the first time on 1 February 1878 and it became lighthouse number 19 to operate in South Australia. Its tower was 7 metres tall and the original light revolved every ten seconds using 32 litres of mineral oil per month. The light could be seen for up to 16 kilometres.

The whole thing seems to have been a non-event as it was only reported in the Southern Argus. Its reporter stated that he had no doubt that the light would be of great service to steamers crossing the lake at night, more especially the overland mail steamers. The other papers either did not know about it or weren't interested. As often unloaded cargo at the nearby jetty was stolen it was also hoped that the Marine Board would give the lighthouse keeper authority over the jetty as well.

It was a completely different story a few days later when the Jervois Bridge in Port Adelaide was opened. In November 1887 the lighthouse was upgraded when the lamp was changed to a fixed white light. The lighthouse operated until 1931 to mark the narrow passage between Lakes Albert and Alexandrina. It also served as a navigation tool for traffic on the lakes.


The lighthouse, about 1885

During the early days of settlement and transport, isolated farms, homesteads and settlements used river transport such as peddle steamers and barges to move supplies. Fishermen and their boats, as well as cargo steamers regularly used the lakes and the Murray to send their goods to inland towns, often as far away as Mildura, Echuca or to towns on the Darling in Queensland.

Travellers between Adelaide and Melbourne often used boats of any kind to get across the lakes and reduce the long and hazardous road trip. By the early 1900s the paddle steamers Jupiter, Milang and Meningie carried passengers, goods and mail several times a week between Milang, Narrung and Meningie.

View across the lake

Lighthouse keepers, among them Frederick Gardner were and had to be, self sufficient and were sometimes able to produce a surplus for their own and family's needs. They would store it and other perishables in a small cave until picked up by the first available boat for transport to nearby settlements.

The light was finally turned off in September 1931 as only very few vessels still used the lakes. An automatic light has been installed instead to guide both commercial and recreational traffic using the lakes and river. After more than 132 years Australia's only inland lighthouse and the nation's smallest, is still providing a useful service.

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