JOHN ALBERT EDWARD LAWSON
BORN: Scotland, 1881 Died: Townsville, 1920 Service: Royal Australian Navy — HMAS Penguin; World War I — received a gunshot wound to the lung and contracted malarial fever.
After returning from serving in World War I, John Lawson took a position as lightkeeper at Gatcombe Head, near Gladstone, and later at Bay Rock, in Cleveland Bay.
Around 1910 he had served as a seaman in the navy, attached to HMAS Penguin, and a love of the sea may have been a factor in choosing to become a lighthouse keeper. John lived in a small cottage on Bay Rock with his wife, Jeanie, and their five children.
In March 1920 tragedy struck the family when Lawson went to Townsville for a medical appointment in connection with his war pension.
He caught a ride back to Bay Rock on the sailing boat Rialto.
A freak wind of “hurricane force” came from a southerly direction and overturned the boat.
Leslie Wells, William Barrie and Alfred Burgess decided to try to swim to safety.
John Lawson, George Putt and Harry Ellis clung on and waited for help to arrive. Despite extensive searches, no trace of the men or their bodies was ever found.
An inquest ruled their deaths as accidental drowning.