Pioneers remembered THE Douglas region lost two of its most loved pioneers in recent weeks with the passing of one of Australia’s longest serving lighthouse keepers Ernie Lone and Derrick Goodman, a revolutionary cane farmer. The pays tribute to their con
WHEN Ernest Lone applied to the Commonwealth Lighthouse Service in 1956, little did the self-styled boat builder and Gladstone wharfie know he was destined to become one of Australia’s longest continuous serving lighthouse keepers.
Ernie’s first posting was North Reef - a tiny, isolated atoll about 99km from Gladstone - where he lived in single men’s quarters separated from his young family who remained on the mainland.
After a stint of 10 months, Ernie transferred to Lady Elliott Island with his wife, Bev, and two children, John and Sue.
John recalls a “very unique and somewhat difficult lifestyle”. But despite the isolation and lack of communication, Ernie loved his life as a lighthouse keeper. So, too, did his family.
“It was a life many men and women could not adapt to but mum and dad thrived on it,” John said. “I remember the first time dad went to give me a haircut with the manual clippers, he took off a chunk of flesh from behind my ear. I bled like a stuck pig and mum gave him the biggest blast. I never let him near me with those clippers again.”
In 1960, Ernie and his “lighthouse family” moved to Low Isles which the children remembered as “paradise”. The stint was short-lived, only 10 months, before a promotion earned Ernie the position of head keeper at Double Island Point for six years.
He never forgot Low Isles and returned there in 1967 to serve out the rest of his career in the comparatively modern setting of a new home, 240-volt power 24 hours a day, electrical appliances, gas stoves and later, even the wireless telephone. Stores and mail came every fortnight and the couple left the island only once a year for annual leave.
Ernie retired with an OAM after 29 years service and moved with Bev to their new home at 35 Alchers Drive, Mossman. Perhaps because many residents had already met them during fishing trips to Low Isles, the Lones were immediately welcomed and did not have to wait the mandatory “20 years to be accepted as locals”.
From his lifelong love of woodwork, Ernie graduated from an assembly line of toy trucks, trains and rocking horses for grandchildren and local kids to making whirley gigs and other decorative items which adorned the front fence and became a colourful icon of the town.
Ernie hardly missed a meeting of the Mossman RSL sub-branch, having served 816 days during World War Two. Anzac Day and Remembrance Day were special days in his calendar and he looked forward to school visits where he talked to children about the meaning of those events.
“Dad was a good man. He was honest and never, ever swore and was always ready to help anyone out,” John said. “Not only was he a gentleman, he was a gentle man and very proud of his family.”
Ernie passed away last Thursday. RETURNING from a honeymoon to sleep on pineapple boxes in a cane barracks may not sound like a glamorous start to a relationship, yet for Derrick Goodman and his new bride, Margaret, it was the beginning of an enduring love spanning more than 50 years.
When family and friends gathered recently at a funeral to farewell Derrick, his son, John, described him as “a bit of a larrikin with a taste for celebrating anything that included a good laugh and cold beer”.
But, it was a strong love of his family and growing up in Mossman for which Derrick Robert Parish Goodman was remembered best.
Born in Port Douglas in 1921, he was the youngest of five children of parents, Walter and Florence. Derrick grew up living in one of the Mossman Mill houses and went to school locally.
He walked most places in those early days except when competing in tennis tournaments. The Goodman brothers established quite a reputation as the team to beat across the Far North, and the preferred mode of transport for getting to matches was by horse.
As a 20-year-old, Derrick enlisted in the army with his mate, Bob Johnston, and spent five years in B Company, 2/25 Battalion, 7th Division of the Australian Infantry Force. He was elevated to the rank of sergeant as he served in the Middle East, Borneo and Papua New Guinea on the Kokoda Trail.
He returned home in 1946 to lease a block of land from W.S Johnston at “Drumsara” where he learnt how to grow sugar cane. Later, he bought a settlers’ block at Killaloe, south of Mossman, and cleared it for cane.
It was here the family home was built after his marriage in 1959 to Margaret, or “Maggie”, who was a nurse at Cairns Base Hospital when they met. Together, they raised Jane, John, Sally and Judy in a strong family unit which later proudly extended to include 10 grandchildren.
Derrick was a competent, hardworking cane farmer and along with Eric Waugh and Colt Dwyer, was instrumental in getting cane growers together to form the first green cane harvesting contract in Mossman. It proved a telling move with the advent of trash blankets along the non-irrigated coast changing the future of the industry.
His commitment to Legacy meant much of Derrick’s time was spent visiting war widows and their children, coordinating the annual Legacy Button Day and instigating the famous Anzac Day “Dugout” at the Mossman Golf Club where more funds were raised. Later, Derrick and Margaret moved to Newell Beach for a period of living in “suburbia” before making the difficult decision to leave Mossman and those “beloved hills” Derrick admired so much, to adjust to life at Farnorha in Cairns.
Derrick passed away peacefully on December 28. As was the case all his life, his family was close by.