IT has taken 11 years of unpaid hard work and big financial support from himself and his late wife, Shirley, for Stuart Buchanan to rebuild the Bustard Head Lighthouse Station north of Bundaberg.
It was officially dedicated in March when Buchanan finally achieved the last step in his ongoing crusade to rebuild the lighthouse station ... opening the refurbished lighthouse tower to the public.
If it hadn’t been for Buchanan’s hard work over the past 11 years, to say nothing of his seemingly endless fights with bureaucrats and the occasional environmentalists over that time, Bustard Head would today consist of the lighthouse surrounded by heavy bushland. That was the government plan when lighthouses across Australia were de-manned and became automatic.
The two vandal-destroyed Bustard Head lighthouse keeper's cottages would have been removed along with the four work sheds and the surrounding area allowed to grow back to bushland.
But today the cottages and sheds are in prime condition thanks to three years of endless work by Buchanan and great help from another lighthouse keeper, Dudley Fulton, over the past year.
Buchanan opened the lighthouse to the public for the first time after finally gaining permission. I was up there and the inside of the lighthouse is bright and beautiful like the rest of the surrounding buildings, no doubt as good as it was when it became the first lighthouse on the Queensland mainland in 1868.
It has become a major tourist attraction, with LARC vessels taking people from Town of 1770 (37km south), several times a week.
The tourists are taken all over the headland but the major attraction is a visit to the museum, established in the front cottage by Buchanan.
The payment for the museum tour is the only money that comes into the Bustard Head Lighthouse Association, managed by Buchanan.
At the start of the redevelopment in the early 2000s Buchanan’s late wife Shirley donated $130,000 to the association.
And when my old sailing mate Stuart, Dudley and my wife, Jan, and I went up to the station in March, Stuart sprinkled Shirley’s ashes across the fields from the lighthouse tower.
Why did Stuart spend so much time rebuilding the light station after it was destroyed by vandals in the mid 1990s? Because he was the lighthouse keeper there with Shirley for five years. They loved the place and Shirley was totally supportive for Stuart to rebuild the station. When he finally defeated bureaucrats to start work on rebuilding the cottages, Buchanan moved up there, living in the totally destroyed front cottage, sleeping on the floor in a small tent as the rain came pouring through the destroyed roof.
At the start of rebuilding Buchanan had plenty of volunteer workers.
But that all changed after a few months because he was too hard a worker and expected the volunteers to do the same.
Stuart worked from daylight to after dark seven days a week and soon found out that volunteers weren’t as tough. After the first few months he was working by himself. I used to go up for a week or two every couple of months and could put up with him because I used to sail with him on his yacht, Pluto.
One time I arrived there for a couple of weeks and found Buchanan looking like death warmed up. He was still working alone, daylight to dark.
I insisted he get on the LARC which brought me up and go and see a doctor at Town of 1770 or Agnes Water. He came back the next day still looking crook because he had Ross River Fever.
He started taking the doctor’s pills and kept on working daylight to dark.
He spent almost two years working mostly alone until another former lighthouse keeper, Dudley Fulton, joined him. They got on very well because they are both hard workers and love lighthouses.
After three very hard years, Buchanan finished rebuilding the light station with great help from Fulton for the last year.
All photos by Lawrie and Jan Kavanagh