Light duty: The lighthouses of Victoria
Meet the keepers past and present who have called Victoria's lighthouses home.
Lighthouses are veritable candles rising from the frosting of the most delightful vistas, the star turns in jigsaw puzzles and children’s television shows, portals to a sense of solitude that seems as endless as the horizon.
For Max and Doug Huxley, the lighthouses of Victoria and Tasmania are part of their marrow. Many are places they once called home. “The peace and quiet,” Max Huxley, now in his mid-80s, says of what he loves most about these beacons from a simpler age. “And the freedom. I hate cities.”
Little wonder. Max and older brother Doug were the children of lighthouse keepers. Born on King Island, they spent their earliest days on Swan Island off Tasmania’s north-east tip, their pre-school years on Deal Island 75 kilometres south of Wilsons Promontory, then lived at Cape Schanck, Gabo Island and Cape Otway.
Their childhood memories are wound as tightly around lighthouses as the stripe around a barber’s pole.
On Deal Island a passing Tiger Moth would spasmodically drop bundles of newspapers and comics, a precious connection to a distant world. Doug remembers one comic in particular, a futuristic, space-age fantasy full of pointers to an unimaginable future that in many ways has been realised in his lifetime.
At Cape Schanck they clambered down the cliff face to fish and explore the beach and rocks below, rode their bikes 15 kilometres to school in Boneo, watched holidaymakers descend each Christmas before retreating weeks later to their bustling Melbourne lives, leaving a treasured tranquility in their wake.
On Gabo Island they caught the mail boat to school in Eden and Mallacoota, boarding with locals for months at a time.
At Cape Otway, where during World War II the air force had a radar station and a navy detail signalled passing ships, they would hitch a ride to Apollo Bay in a supply truck, spend the week at school, then bounce their way home each Friday afternoon. “The Great Ocean Road in that stretch was just a loggers’ track in those days,” Max recalls.