FROM THE NORTHSIDE
Columnist Gordon Sampson is glad the Low Point lighthouse is being preserved.
A lighthouse is a beautiful sight to see.
In the late 1940s we used to row out to the South Bar Lighthouse and explore.
My brothers Murray, Gerry, and I used to bring Manny and Lloydy Keagan along in our rowboat and go for hours around the harbour.
Now and then when the water was very calm we would row to the Indian Beach and check the sandbar especially if it was low tide.
At low tide, the sand bar was no longer covered in water and there were many snails, conches, hermit crabs, starfish, and white clam shells to see after we pulled up the boat onto the bar.
Then it was off to the South Bar Buoy where we would climb onto the buoy if the waves were not too big. There we would peer down into the water to see what fish might be swimming around and sometimes we would see several dogfish (small sharks about a metre long) swimming around.
The buoy was always rocking to and fro and if it was wavy, the big bell at the top would gong so loud it was deafening.
We would then change oars and head for the South Bar Lighthouse (only found online as Sydney Bar Light) for more excitement. As we approached the south sandbar, different seabirds would fly into the air because we had disturbed them from their nesting places.
Finally we arrived at the iron ladder at the base of the lighthouse. The base (or wharf) was covered in iron and partially rusted. Before we started to climb, we tied the painter (the rope at the bow) to the second rung up in case the tide came up before we got back down. One after the other, we got up on the wharf and waited for the others to do so.
We walked around the perimeter to see the sights then came to the upper ladder. You really had to hold on because it was dangerous getting that high up; it took you all the way up to where the beacon was flashing night and day.
It was exciting. We’d hear the click of the big green light when it would come on and go off. And we were so high up, we could see all around especially the north bar at the Indian Beach, our house in Ward Four, North Sydney, Point Edward, Whitney Pier, South Bar, all the way to New Victoria and the mouth of the harbour.
Then we’d realize the danger we might be in and who might be watching. We’d climb back down very gingerly and wait at the spot near the lower ladder while each one of us climbed back down to the boat.
I was the oldest so I would undo the painter, throw it into the boat while holding the bow with my foot. I’d quickly jump into the boat and take the oars. I’d keep the boat steady near the bottom of the ladder while each of the other four explorers jumped in, one at a time.
Once we cleared the lighthouse, we would give the Keagans a chance to row the boat on the way back home.
In the meantime, if the waters got rough, we would point the bow into the waves for safety, not sideways because it might tip over, and head for the red buoy and then the Indian Beach.
Sometime after I came back from eight years in Quebec with my wife, Evelyn, and our three children, Anita, Mark and Carl, I was very disappointed to see that the lighthouse was gone. I couldn’t believe it. It was such a part of my childhood and our view of the harbour from Ward Four on the Northside.
It was a tall, red-and-white structure, so pleasant to the eye. A lighthouse is a beautiful thing.
And what a loss it is to the cruise ships passing by Point Edward and into Sydney.
That’s why I am so glad that the Low Point Lighthouse is being preserved. Debbie Lee Pearson, Larry MacSween and other members of the Low Point Lighthouse Society are very active in this pursuit. Along with Fort Petrie and the “Sailors’ Church” (formerly St. Alphonsus Church, often called the Stone Church), there will finally be at least one area developed on Sydney Harbour of interest to all especially the tourists.
This photo taken from the end of the breakwater at the Indian Beach shows the wharf (just to the left of the flag pole), which was the foundation of the South Bar Lighthouse.
Pictured above is the Low Point Lighthouse which is being preserved at present with funding from the federal government. The photo was taken from the beach at the bottom of Brown Street in New Victoria.