Dianne Wolfer is an award-winning children’s author who lives on the south coast of Western Australia. A teacher who has worked in Tokyo, Japan, as well as in Nepal in addition to schools in her native Australia, she pens novels for children and young adults that focus on life in modern Australia and Pacific countries. Her 2009 book Lighthouse Girl won the 2010 West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award for Picture Books and has been adapted into a stage play.
Lighthouse Girl tells the poignant true story of Fay Catherine Howe, who was the daughter of the lighthouse keeper at Breaksea Island in Western Australia. Around 30,000 soldiers left Australian shores to fight in World War I, and in late 1914 a fleet of 36 troop ships left Albany bound for Egypt and Gallipoli. Fifteen-year-old Fay was adept at signal communications, and as the men waited on their ships to leave Albany, she communicated with many of them using semaphore flags or Morse code. She relayed their messages to Albany, and from there they were routed to the men’s families.
The sight of Fay Howe waving to them from the island became a symbol of hope for the departing soldiers. For many of those men, their contact with Fay was their last connection to their home country. Dozens of them wrote cards and letters to Fay from overseas, sometimes addressed to the “little girl on Breaksea Island.”
This is part one of two. Part two also includes an interview with Faye’s son, Don Watson. It will be posted on January 6.
Listen to the podcast here:
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Jeremy D’Entremont is the author of more than 20 books and hundreds of articles on lighthouses and maritime history. He is the president and historian for the American Lighthouse Foundation and founder of Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses, and he has lectured and narrated cruises throughout the Northeast and in other regions. He is also the producer and host of the U.S. Lighthouse Society podcast, “Light Hearted.” He can be emailed at Jeremy@uslhs.org