The first lighthouse was built in 1858 by English convicts using pre-made cast iron sheeting rising it at the centre of an octagonal stone keeper’s cottage; in 1889 two keeper’s cottage were built. This lighthouse was replaced in 1901 by a cylindrical granite tower built on the rear still active and in good condition.
Before some 30,000 soldiers sailed from Australian shores to fight in World War I, many kept their eyes focused on this tiny, rugged island. Fay-Catherine Howe, a lighthouse-keeper's daughter, who became well known among the confined Anzacs., lived on this tiny island.
Proficient in the art of Morse Code, 15-year-old Fay relayed messages to the troops from their loved ones as the men waited to set sail. She would then send their replies in Morse code via telegraph and undersea cable, back to Albany, where they were transferred from office to office and printed as telegrams. This was the soldiers and their families last opportunity to communicate with each other.
In doing so, she became a cherished symbol of home, the last glimpse of it for many. Although she never met or even spoke to the soldiers, her efforts inspired an untold number of them to write her postcards from the front.
Fay became known as 'The Lighthouse Girl' She is the inspiration to Dianne Wolfer's book 'Lighthouse Girl' and provides part of the narrative for the Little Girl Giant and she roams the streets of Perth in the amazing Royal De Luxe Theatre’s performance of The Giants. See Dianne’s personal gallery or follow this link for photographs. An Interview with Dianne and the team from Channel 9’s Destination WA on Breaksea Island gives further insights into Fay’s story and shows evocative scenes from the island. ‘The Lighthouse Girl’ by playwright Hellie Turner and Black Swan Theatre opens in Albany/Perth in April 2017.
Breaksea Island is a class ‘A’ nature reserve for the protection of plants and animals. Apart from the lighthouse, the only other buildings on heritage-listed Breaksea Island are a couple of cottages, deserted since restoration attempts in 2009. The Upgraded facilities on Breaksea Island have helped create interesting local experiences with helicopter scenic flights departing from Albany's Historic Whaling Station. Breaksea Island was also the venue for Taste of the Great Southern picnic with the finest local beer or wine and canapés provided by Fervor focusing on native Australian ingredients.