The curse of the Bustard Head Lighthouse.
Lighthouse Keeper M J Rooksley in front of the lighthouse and the original cottages, Bustard Head Lighthouse, Queensland 1902
Bustard Head Lighthouse is located on the southeast tip of Bustard Head, a headland about 20 kilometres northwest of the town of 1770, Queensland. Built in 1868 It is still active but bears the scars of a tragic past and a disturbing history.
It had been a difficult lighthouse to build and the town now known as 1770 was out of the way and far from everything. Building materials had to be dragged across two tidal creeks to the lighthouse site. Intended as a beacon of safety on Queensland treacherous shores, the lighthouse construction was nonetheless was marred by tragedy. A workman was struck on the head and died whilst working on the remote building. His passing was followed by shipwrecks, a suicide, drownings, an abduction, a murder, and several other freak deaths.
In 1887 Kate Gibson, the wife of the Bustard Head lighthouse keeper, disappeared. Some days later her children made a gruesome discovery . Kate was lying in a pool of dried blood, with an arm folded across her chest and a horrible, gaping wound across her neck. Her husband Nils, who returned from a trip to the northwest to learn of his wife’s disappearance, realised one of his razors was missing from the family’s cottage. Days later, it was found under a tree root at the site of the body, covered in blood.
Her death was ruled a suicide and she was buried on the Bustard Head grounds. There is no lack of company for her in that graveyard. Few have lived at the lightstation, the site which includes the Lighthouse and keeper’s home, but a disturbingly high number of people have died there.
Just two years after Kate's death, tragedy struck the Gibson family and the lighthouse once more. Nils, his 20-year-old daughter Mary, assistant Lightkeeper John Wilkinson, his wife Elizabeth and a repairman named Alfred Power set off from Bustard Head on a sailboat. They didn’t make it far. As the boat powered 450m clear of the shore, it capsized, throwing everyone into the water. Alfred, Elizabeth and Mary all drowned. Nils, who managed to make it back to land, never found his daughter’s body.
In 1897, Milly Waye, born at the Lighthouse, never had a chance to leave it, a year later she was scalded with boiling water by accident. The infant suffered “excruciating pain” for nine hours before she finally died. In 1912 tragedy struck again, this time in the form of an unsolved crime. Edith the daughter of the lighthouse keeper was abducted whilst returning home and the man with her shot.Several weeks after Edith was abducted, another of the light keeper’s daughters, 21-year-old Ethel, died after suffering an epileptic fit.
Nils Gibson died from cirrhosis of the liver six years after his daughter Mary drowned and another infant, seven-month-old Henry Phillips, died from “constitutional weakness.”