The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 4 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 2 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 3 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 4 of 4: 1929 – 1961

“After spending three years on the Island the Flatholm Lighthouse was made into a Rock Station [i.e. the station and its dwellings would be occupied solely by the lighthouse keepers, and their families would be shore based], this was in the year 1929, so once again we packed our own furniture and were naturally quite excited at the thought of living on the mainland again. The families and furniture were taken ashore in THV Vestal to Swansea in which town I was to reside for the next 4 ½ years. I had a very pleasant time in Swansea enjoying the facilities of town life and made many friends. This was only the second time in my life that I had lived in a town. During this period I had a child of my own so I had plenty to occupy my time whilst my husband was away doing duty at Flatholm Lighthouse and Lundy North Lighthouse.

I was very pleased when in 1933 we were transferred to Trevose Lighthouse. During the five years at Trevose I spent some of the happiest times of my life. All the station personnel were like one big happy family, a most enjoyable time indeed for me. During the summer months my neighbours and I spent many enjoyable hours on the lovely sandy beaches nearby taking the children with us, all as happy as skylarks, bathing, sunbathing, picnicking and playing open air games in the sun.

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

Trevose Head Lighthouse (Photo by Dave Wilkinson)

We spent quite a happy and comfortable time there for 2 ½ years then world war two ended and on the liberation of the Channel Islands my husband had orders to take up his appointment as Principal keeper to the Les Hanois Lighthouse, Guernsey. Away my husband went to do duty there leaving my son and I behind, for at the time the housing situation and travelling to the Channel Islands were very unsettled. I was left to make all arrangements with the Superintendent, Isle of Wight depot to have my furniture stored in Southampton pending my obtaining accommodation in Guernsey. In the meantime my son and I went into lodgings near the Lighthouse at Souter Point, remaining in these lodgings for seven months during which time I made numerous enquiries in Guernsey. Eventually I was fortunate enough to get a house on rental and in due course my son and I arrived in Guernsey and my furniture shortly afterwards.

We spent five very happy years there. During the last two years my husband was stationed at Sark Lighthouse. To me Guernsey was an ideal place to live, such lovely scenery, cliff walks, sandy bays and most of all the people were very sociable and entertaining – I made numerous friends and when the time came to leave the Island I was really sorry to go.

Sark Lighthouse

Sark Lighthouse

In 1951 we were transferred to Dungeness Lighthouse, so once again I was back to my old home as a child. I pictured Dungeness as I had left it, but of course over the years there was quite a big change in its appearance, especially in the increased growth of vegetation amongst the shingle and there were buildings on the headland. Of the local people living on the headland were quite a few I knew as a child at school which made me feel at home in a very short space of time and life went on very peacefully and happily for a year or so.

Then orders came for my husband to be transferred to St. Catherine’s Lighthouse, Isle of Wight. I was really disappointed with this news as I should have liked to have remained at Dungeness a little longer; like most of us one always feels a little heartache at leaving so many friends and a place one likes, but, this was not to be , so off we went to the Isle of Wight. We were at St. Catherine’s just under three years, quite a happy time spent there, liking it very much. But owing to family reasons my husband in 1955 applied for the post of Principal Keeper at Withernsea Lighthouse which of course is a man and wife station, the wife acting as a “female assistant keeper”. Arriving in that year at our present home at Withernsea, which is quite a pleasant place to live. I have had quite a happy time although kept very busy in one way or another. We have no fog signal and that’s one thing I do miss when it’s foggy weather. It takes such a great deal of getting used to that it makes one feel so conscious of something missing – as I had always been used to fog signals at all the stations I had previously resided at.

Withernsea Lighthouse

Withernsea Lighthouse

With all my life in the service as a light keeper’s daughter and keeper’s wife it has brought to my mind that I have lived and made my home at eighteen various places around England, including living on five different Islands, so have not done so badly travelling around at the expense of the Service and seeing quite a lot of England’s coastline.

It has been my life throughout having known no other. I have always felt life is what one makes it and I can sincerely say with such a varied and interesting life I have been quite content and happy in the Service which up to the time of writing is 57 years. Quite often I have turned to my husband with a smile and said that when he retires I think I deserve to be superannuated from the Service like him, but I am afraid that is being very optimistic.”

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 3 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 2 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 3 of 4: 1926 – 1929

“Some months later in May 1926 my husband had orders to transfer to Flatholm Lighthouse, then classified as a land light, but which was on an island in the Bristol Channel – a station which was considered by the keepers in those days as the worst land light in the Service. At this time my husband was off on the South Bishop Lighthouse, so the news of my husband’s transfer was brought to me at my house by a keeper sent from the Neyland Depot. This was at the time rather amusing for the keeper said that he had some bad news to tell me, I asked “Whatever can that be?”. He replied “You are being transferred to Flatholm Lighthouse” so I said “That’s a land light, isn’t it?” “Yes”, was the reply, “Well” I said, “you could not have given me any better news.” I had to laugh to see his expression, he was absolutely dumbstruck. “Well, well” he said, “you are the first person in the Service I ever heard say they were pleased to go to that place.”

Flatholm Lighthouse and Fog Signal House

Flatholm Lighthouse and Fog Signal House

As I have mentioned before, in those days we had to do our own packing, and being used to it needless to say I started packing right away. When my husband came ashore from the Rock he was surprised to see that almost everything was packed ready for moving.

In due course we arrived at Flatholm Island via Cardiff having been taken to the Island with our furniture by THV Triton. At this time Flatholm Lighthouse was a three years station.

At first we were nine adults only on the Island including the resident caretaker and his wife who looked after an Isolation Hospital there. We soon settled down on the Island and in all we were a very happy community. Most of the young people made the best of things in spite of the solitude.

The caretaker of the Island was also the only boatman and of course was recognised by the Service for bringing our main and food stuff etc. from the mainland which was once per week weather permitting.

My husband was allowed ashore once a year on three weeks’ annual leave taking me with him, of course, so you can imagine how delighted I was to set foot on the mainland if only for a brief period each year. This annual event being the only time I could visit the shops for buying many personal necessities to take back with me to the Island, and naturally as far as funds would allow in those days I always enjoyed our annual holidays, sightseeing and shopping sprees.

The crossing to and fro from the Island could be very tricky at times, as the tidal currents were very strong around the Island. The boatman’s boat was only a 16ft sailing boat and run single handed. Many a time the boatman on his weekly trips to Cardiff would, owing to bad weather, be delayed several days at a time, both from the Island and at Cardiff, so one had to put up with many disappointments but these were soon forgotten when the boat arrived with our mail etc.

I shall always remember my first winter on the Island, as the weather was unusually severe. The boatman went ashore to Cardiff on the 16th of November and did not return until 23rd January owing to continuous gales. The first three weeks we did not mind so much, but with Christmas drawing near we were all getting very concerned whether we should get a boat with provisions and mail for Christmas. Our stock of perishable foods was very low and we were also right out of cigarettes and tobacco.

There was now a baby on the Island who was being fed on Nestles milk. We all gave our tins of milk to the keeper’s wife with the baby, so now the rest of us were all out of milk. At the time I also had a mechanic lodging with me. Christmas came and went and still no boat as the weather continued to be very bad. We had, by this time, run out of perishable goods, such as butter, bacon, yeast etc. We now had to make baking powder bread, for fresh meat we managed to catch a rabbit now and again. On the night of January 22nd all on the Island got together and had a talk about the food situation. It was then decided as the baby was now left with only two tins of milk we should have to inform the District Superintendent via Penarth Coastguard station by Morse lamp of our plight, but during the evening the wind seemed to moderate so that the Principal Keeper decided to wait until the morning before sending any message. All on the Island were up bright an early the next morning. The wind and sea had gone down considerably but we were still doubtful whether a boat would make the crossing. Suddenly, one of the keepers shouted out “I think I can see our boatman coming out of Cardiff harbour.” Fortunately the wind and sea was moderating all the time. Everyone was excited now looking through our glasses watching the boat coming. The boat was being tossed about quite a lot, but once it got near the Monkstone [beacon] we knew the boatman would make it to the Island’s landing beach. Realising this the men went to get the donkey and cart to carry the provisions etc. from the landing to each house, this being the only means of transport on the little Island.

The other keeper’s wife and myself hurried indoors and made our fires up in readiness to cook ourselves what, we called afterwards, “a smashing dinner”. Everyone was on the beach to meet the boat – you can imagine how it did our eyes good to see all the provisions, parcels and mail. What a day that was, everyone smiling and looking more cheerful than we had for many days. After we had had a good cooked dinner, the rest of the day was spent opening Christmas parcels, reading letters and all of us enjoying a jolly good smoke.

Flatholm Lighthouse

Flatholm Lighthouse

Another little episode I experienced at Flatholm gave me at the time quite a big headache – I was now the oldest woman on the Island being 22 ½ years old. I was living at the cottage by the Fog Signal House four minutes’ walk from the Lighthouse Tower. Early one morning at 4 a.m. I was awakened by a loud tapping on the bedroom window. I asked who was there, the other Assistant Keeper of the station answered and said would I come at once to his wife as she was very ill, I replied “You get back to her, I’ll be up to her as soon as possible.” On arrival I found his wife was in bed on the verge of having a miscarriage. I attended to her to the best of my knowledge, and informed the Principal Keeper that a Doctor was needed. The weather was very bad at the time and a message had to be signalled ashore for the Doctor. In the meantime I had the Keeper’s wife on my hands for three days and nights, trusting to providence I was treating her rightly. The Doctor eventually arrived and how relieved and pleased I was to see him. Anyway, the patient though ill was fairly comfortable and the Doctor seemed pleased and complimented me on the way I had looked after her. After this event, life for me went on very happily and peacefully for a few months and the came another worrying time.

The boatman’s wife was taken ill and I was sent for. I did all I could for her that afternoon and night but in the morning she was so poorly that she had to be taken ashore in her husband’s 16ft boat to Cardiff with myself in attendance. I accompanied her to her flat and sent for the Doctor and arranged to leave her in the good hands of relatives. Fortunately the weather was fine and I returned to the Island the following day with the boatman. After landing he informed me that he would be returning to Cardiff the next day and asked me if I would look after his place for him. I replied, yes certainly, but I was wondering how I would get on looking after all his chickens, 60 in all, with quite a number of them nesting, six goats to feed and milk daily and to cap it all a lady dog which was soon to have puppies. The best of it was I had never milked goats in my life. Oh what a game I had trying to get milk from them the very first time. I tried on the eldest nanny first. It took me an hour struggling away before I managed to draw any milk. Eventually I got the knack of it and managed to do the other five goats. I often have a good laugh to myself when I recall to mind these little incidents. Added to all this the other Assistant Keeper’s wife became poorly again, and went ashore with her baby to see the Doctor. Within two days the boatman returned with the Keeper’s wife and baby and a mechanic for the station, but the Keeper’s wife had only returned to collect together some extra clothes as she had to return to Cardiff again and remain ashore at least four months as another baby was coming along and things were not going too well with her, and would I look after her baby whilst she was ashore. To crown it all I also had to lodge another mechanic. Well, well, I thought, here I am only just 23 years of age and not so very long married myself. What worried me most was I never had any experience with the handling of babies before, I really thought I should go grey overnight.

I was now the only woman left on the Island, the boatman’s wife being still ill on shore. Her husband, the boatman, remained ashore whilst his wife was ill and only visited the Island at weekends to bring our mail and provisions and to take our mail, and grocery orders by return for the following week, weather permitting. What with looking after my husband, lodger, baby, the boatman’s house and all his farm family of chickens, goats, dogs with puppies, and donkeys and in addition with the men on the Island often visiting me to tell me of all their little troubles, I sure had a hectic time of it. But with it all the men were very good to me and assisted all they could in one way or another. In fact I think I had more jolly good laughs at the time than I ever had before or since listening to their jocular remarks and advice on how to do this or that, but oh how I wished sometimes for another woman’s company. I was the only woman on the Island for four months before the other Keeper’s wife returned to the station with her second child – one can imagine how pleased I was to see her.

The following 12 months passed away more or less uneventfully excepting for the occasional overdue boat to which one got accustomed. We were a small community on a very small island, but we were all a very friendly and jolly crowd making our own amusements with the usual game of cards of an evening and often picnicking in the centre of the Island, all joining in the fun and making life as pleasant as possible. But sometimes I would look across the channel to the mainland rather pensively watching the trains and cars travelling to and fro along the coastline and the lights of the towns twinkling away at night made one wish one could walk ashore whenever one felt like it.”


Mrs. Trezise’s story will continue in the very near future.

60th Anniversary of the Rebuilt Trinity House on Tower Hill

21 October 2013 marks the 60th anniversary of the day that HM Queen Elizabeth II reopened the rebuilt Trinity House for business after it had been destroyed during the Blitz of the Second World War.

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953

HM Queen Elizabeth II reopens Trinity House London 21 Oct 1953

THE LOSS OF THE HOUSE

Before the Second World War was declared, the Elder Brethren of Trinity House arranged to evacuate not only the staff, but also most of the valuable contents of the house on Tower Hill. The silver plate and the most valuable paintings were safely removed to the vaults beneath the Tower of London’s Jewel Tower, with the remainder of the paintings sent to Bayham Abbey in Kent.

Knowing that the 18th century Trinity House comprised timber-built rooms connected by wooden stairs and passages, the Elder Brethren had, from the very first days of the war, organised themselves and their staff into trained fire-fighting parties who were on duty both day and night.

By late 1940 the paintings stored beneath the Tower were showing signs of damp, and so another house was found for them in Northumberland. They were temporarily brought back to Trinity House on 28 December 1940 for repairs, and were due to travel north on the 30th.

On the night of 29 December, however, Trinity House fell victim to the most severe of the air attacks on London. When incendiary bombs landed on the wooden beams of the house, fire fighters were able put out the first fire caused by the bombs, but the shortage of water prevented their efforts to extinguish subsequent fires.

On the morning of 31 December 1940 the staff found the whole of the Wyatt building and the offices at the back with their walls more or less intact, but the interiors completely gutted; apart from the separate East Wing, the only surviving portion of the building was the basement wine cellar. Many archives, rarities, fine models, hangings and paintings were destroyed, save for the paintings that had been at Bayham Abbey, and some archives and books that had gone to the countryside.

But normal business had to be resumed, and a number of interim offices were leased over the following years, as the various Departments occupied spaces at the Swedish Chamber of Commerce, Tower House, Hopetown House in Lloyds Avenue, the General Steam Navigation offices in Trinity Church Square, London House in Crutched Friars and Ocean House in Great Tower Street.

THE HOUSE IS RESTORED

Professor (later Sir) Albert Richardson initially submitted plans for building a new house, but the Brethren were determined to not only reinstate Wyatt’s building as it had been, but also to demolish the old Pilotage Service office building and build in its place a new library, grand enough to host functions and banquets, laid with carpet of the same pattern used in cabins of ships of the line at the end of the 18th century, as well as offices and sleeping quarters elsewhere in the building. In addition, an entirely new seven storey office block was built at the rear, with laboratories, a research department and recreation rooms.

Wyatt’s building restored at last, the house was reopened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on 21 October 1953 — Trafalgar Day.

“Following the tradition of our Family, which I hope will be long maintained, my Father was an Elder Brother of Trinity House, and, as you know, had intended to open your new building. I am therefore especially glad that I can today carry out his wishes, and join with you in celebrating your return to your historic home. This new building is a noble replica of the old House, so tragically destroyed, and is one of which the City of London can be justly proud. The Corporation of the Trinity House has a great record of public service and of charitable benefaction. For centuries, its members have been the Good Samaritans of the sea. I should like to take this opportunity of telling all those who have ever been associated with our Lighthouse and Pilotage services how deeply I appreciate their work and their devotion to duty on which depends the safety of those who sail the seas around these islands.”

HM The Queen, 1953 Trinity House re-opening ceremony

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 2 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of Mrs. Trezise’s story can be read here.

Part 2 of 4: 1920 – 1925

“November 1920 we were transferred to Hartland Point Lighthouse. The nearest railway station, Bideford, was 18 miles and the village of Hartland 5 miles. Another out of the way place but this I did not mind so much as I was always fond of the countryside and cliffs.

I was now 17 years old and once again the only young girl on the station, which was rather disappointing to me, as with all the Lighthouses I had already been to I never had a girl companion. Anyway I soon settled down. The grocer delivered our main groceries once a week, but every Saturday I walked to the village of Hartland, 5 miles, to fetch meat from the Butcher and other oddments which were needed. After a week or so of this my parents bought me a bicycle. As it happened there was a single keeper on the station who offered to teach me to ride the cycle, which the keeper said was his doom, as a few years later he became my husband. The bicycle was a blessing to me as it saved me many a long walk. To get to the nearest town one had to walk to Hartland, the nearest bus service. I very often cycled the 18 miles to Bideford and back for, a day’s outing and shopping which, [during] summer time, to me was quite enjoyable for it was such nice scenery along this part of North Devon.

Hartland Point Lighthouse

Hartland Point Lighthouse

On one of my cycling excursions to Bideford and accompanied by the single keeper, who also had a cycle, we started off in glorious sunshine, arrived in Bideford and obtained various articles which my mother required and then had lunch. During our lunch the sky clouded over so we decided to collect our parcels, put them on the cycles and to make our way home – 18 miles to ride. During this return journey it commenced to rain heavily with an increasing wind. By the time we arrived within a mile of the Lighthouse we were soaked to the skin and the wind which was head on was blowing with such gale force that we had to leave our cycles at the nearest form. The farmer’s wife loaned us two large baskets to put our parcels in and then we made our way on foot over the headland to the approach road leading to the Lighthouse. The walk down this road I shall never forget, the wind in our faces and blowing with such force that we had the utmost difficulty in reaching the Lighthouse. We were being blown in all directions, with the rain beating into our faces that we could hardly see. The large baskets we were carrying were swinging about like ladies’ handbags. It took us well over half an hour to walk this last half mile. When we got inside my home, we were utterly exhausted and to make things worse some of the small parcels were missing out of the baskets. After a short rest we braved the elements again, retraced our steps up the approach road hunting for the missing parcels which we found were blown to the top of the road. We struggled back again and weren’t we pleased to get back into dry clothes and have a refreshing cup of tea. So ended what we thought was going to be a perfect day’s outing.

After a few visits to the village of Hartland I was introduced to a young girl of my own age. We liked and took to one another right away and became very firm friends, the first girl friend I’d ever had. She had a cycle and we had many happy times together visiting each other’s homes, going to occasional Whist Drives and dances, and I got to know a great many friends, in fact, I experienced some of the happiest times of my life while living there.

We had been at Hartland 2 ½ years when my father received orders for transfer to the Maplin Lighthouse. In those days keepers still did their own packing up of furniture to be ready for transport. Anyway, my father and I started packing up, a job which both of us liked, my mother was useless at it. Eventually we finished packing and waited for final orders when to leave. At that time the Trinity Service maintained a certain amount of essential furniture in the Lighthouse cottages so while waiting we utilised this furniture and our own necessary requirements such as cooking utensils, bedding and crockery which one always kept in readiness to take as personal luggage when travelling as more often than not one arrived at one’s destination a week, sometimes up to three weeks, before the furniture arrived. In those days it was usually transported by rail. However, we had been waiting three weeks, all packed up, when a letter arrived cancelling our orders and instructing my father to remain as a large reconstruction programme of work to the buildings was to be carried out. Two single keepers were being sent to relieve the other two married assistant keepers (the previous single keeper had left the station some 18 months before), so this meant unpacking again which as it happened we were not sorry to do, as my parents and I did not really want to live in the London area.

About three months later reconstruction work commenced when in full swing between 40 and 50 men were at work on station which included building a sea wall and knocking down part of the high headland nearby which had been very dangerous for those using the approach road, many a morning when I walked up this road to the nearby farm for our milk huge boulders of rock and rubble which had loosened from the cliff top had fallen on to the road. In these conditions it always kept one ever watchful whenever going up and down this road. Up to now my life at Hartland Point had been quiet but now with all this reconstruction work the place soon began to look like a breakers yard, what with all the masonry, debris, dust and lorries flying around. My mother and I certainly had a busy and hectic time of it as we were the only women on the station. When work on the houses was in progress we were always moving from room to room until each particular part was completed, so one can imagine how happy things were. But I must say all the workmen were very nice and considerate under the circumstances. I had many a good laugh and exciting incidents such as minor injuries to the men which were frequently happening. My father and I would have made good nurses for almost every day one or other of the workmen would be calling at our door with either injured fingers, bruised limbs, foreign matter in the eyes etc. which we attended to. Mother always kept plenty of hot water and bandages ready for such needs. I always remember one outstanding incident for me, one of the men was struck on the head with a piece of flying rock which almost severed his ear. When brought to the house the greater portion of the ear was hanging down. We did the best we could for him such as cleansing and stopping the bleeding. In the meantime a lorry was at the door to take the injured man to the nearest hospital at Bideford 18 miles away. It was left to me to accompany him and I had to hold the ear in position until we arrived at the hospital where it was stitched together. Eventually this man got well again and returned to his old job of work at the lighthouse.

Close upon this incident I was preparing for my forthcoming marriage which was to take place in the month of August. My parents were greatly concerned how to arrange the Wedding Reception for me as under the then existing conditions it was impossible to hold it at the Lighthouse. It was arranged therefore to hire a marquee locally for the occasion which was erected in a field near the approach road to the Lighthouse. Permission was given to use the field by a very friendly neighbouring farmer. The fixing of my Wedding date was left in abeyance until after the arrival after the arrival of my husband to be, who was an assistant keeper on the South Bishop Lighthouse. He was relieved on the 17th August and arrangements were quickly made for my Wedding to take place on the 20th August 1925. For me this great day passed off very well indeed, and after spending our honeymoon in Cornwall we returned to Neyland in Pembrokeshire, at that time a Trinity House Depot. We arrived on the Friday night and my husband was due to go off to the South Bishop Lighthouse on the following Monday September 5th, so the weekend was a busy one for me preparing for my husband’s departure with the usual custom of cooking a few delicacies, gathering clothes together to take off with him on the rock and ordering from the shops meat and main groceries etc., I had to visit the wives of my husband’s colleagues to collect their letters and parcels for their husbands who were on the rock, the bulk of the relief gear being collected and put aboard the relief Tender the previous day in readiness for the departure of the relief the following morning. My husband, of course, left on the Monday with the relief.

South Bishop Lighthouse

South Bishop Lighthouse

Needless to say I was none too happy about all this being just under 22 years of age and the first time I had ever left home. I was now alone, a stranger in new surroundings, which I must admit made me feel a little lonesome, and with the thoughts of only one letter from my husband during the next two months. Unfortunately this particular winter was very rough one and in the first five months of my marriage I saw my husband for 17 days only owing to overdue reliefs. This I thought was not a very good start to my young married life.”


Mrs. Trezise’s story will continue in the very near future.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Wife, Part 1 of 4

The following account of one woman’s life as both a daughter and a wife of men serving in the Trinity House lighthouse service was published in the April and July editions of Flash magazine in 1961.

This fascinating recollection was written by Aurelie Trezise, wife of Cyril Trezise BEM. Cyril (b.1900, d. 1970) joined Trinity House as a Supernumerary Assistant Keeper in 1919 and retired in March 1962.

Part 1 of 4: 1903 – 1920

“At the time of my birth in November 1903 my parents were stationed at Bardsey Island Lighthouse off the coast of Wales, at that time a land light. My mother had made full arrangements to go ashore at Pwllheli, on the mainland but, owing to continuous gales it was impossible for the small sailing boat to cross over in time. Hurried arrangements therefore had to be made on the Island which at that time had a population of around 45 people, but no resident Doctor. One of the inhabitants, a lady of 70 years of age, said she would come and act as mid-wife to my mother.

Bardsey Lighthouse

Bardsey Lighthouse

The Island Veterinary Surgeon (who was really an amateur vet) said if things should go wrong he would come and do his best for her. As things turned out however, I was brought into the world safe and sound. I was told in later years that those happenings caused a great deal of worry and excitement on the Island.

When I was 13 months old my father was transferred to Dungeness Lighthouse. I now pass on until I was around 5 years old when I commenced school at Dungeness. On the station were five other children, all boys older than myself and being the only girl a “misfit” with the boys. I can well remember being taught to walk on “Back-Stays”. “Back-Stays” were oblong shaped slats of wood with leather straps attached for fitting to the feet. There being no roads in those days the “Back-Stays” were commonly used for making walking much easier and quicker upon the shingly headland. As the school was one mile from the Lighthouse one can imagine what it was like walking to and fro in all weathers in this manner, but one soon got used to it.

Another recollection I have of my early childhood at Dungeness is of a very severe winter with heavy snow storms and we children on the Station building a large snow man which stood up for over a month inside the station grounds and of which we all felt very proud. Then word went round that the Superintendent was making a visit to the Station so our poor snow man had to be knocked down as the then Principal Keeper would not allow it to be standing there when the Superintendent visited, much to our dismay and disappointment.

Dungeness Lighthouse (pre 1961 tower)

Dungeness Lighthouse (pre 1961 tower)

Some months later another Principal Keeper was appointed to the Station, whom the children thought was rather a “fusspot”. We were not allowed to play around the grounds inside the boundary wall of the Station, but had to be outside on the shingly headland and whenever the Elder Brethren or Superintendent paid a visit the Principal Keeper told all the parents that we were to be sent off the Station and to keep clear and not return until after the Ensign was lowered after the inspection. He would also not allow the Keepers wives to have any washing hanging on the clothes line after 1 p.m. at which time all had to be taken down including aIl clothes posts. I often smile to myself whenever these little incidents of years ago recur to mind.

When I was seven years old my parents were transferred to North Foreland (1910). We were only there 10 months. My brother and I had more or less a quiet time there. We had a walk of 2 ½ miles daily to school.

From there we were next moved to Sennen, Land’s End in 1911. I still think of what a dismal night it was when we arrived there around 8 p.m. We were all very tired after a long day’s travelling and my father at the time was none too well. We were given the keys of our house by the Principal Keeper ashore. There was such a gale and rain that we were more than pleased to get into our new home. What a disappointment it was to me in the morning to find that I was amongst boys again. So once more there was no girl playmate for me. Land’s End was rather bleak but on the whole I enjoyed myself there especially when we visited Sennen Cove. We used to delight in watching the Fishermen with their catches of fish, and playing on the nice sandy bench. Whilst there I well remember my father being sent off to Longships Lighthouse for a duty of six weeks, but owing to continuous stormy weather he was off on the Lighthouse for 19 weeks before being relieved.

Soon after this my father was transferred to St. Anthony’s Lighthouse in 1912. To my dismay we travelled there on Christmas Eve. I was now 10 years old. That Christmas I remember well as we had to make do with the personal things we brought with us in our luggage as our household furniture never arrived at the Station until well into the month of Janaury. In those days it was brought by the Trinity House tender from Penzance to the Lighthouse landing.

Once we settled down in our new home my brother and I really had a very happy time during our stay there. We attended St. Anthony school a distance of 2 ½ miles from the Lighthouse. We had to walk to school and of course we took our lunch with us.

Shortly afterwards my brother left school and started work. Now I was on my own being the only child on the station. Within six months unfortunately for me St. Anthony school closed down and I had to attend the school at a place called Gerrans five miles from the Lighthouse, which made quite a long walk on my own (10 miles) daily. My brother had a 10ft rowing dinghy and when he commenced work he gave the boat to me. At this period the 1914-18 war broke out and owing to war restrictions I had to register the boat in my name and give it a number (347). It was a proud day for me, being so young, to have a boat of my own and in which I spent many happy hours.

Near the Lighthouse there was a large Army Camp. I mention this as I had to pass through this camp every day to go to school. It was a headache to me especially in the winter time as I was always given a fresh counter sign daily so as to pass eight different sentries through the camp. Sometimes the counter sign would given was a little difficult to remember. I often laugh now as sometimes returning home from school I had forgotten the word and if new recruits were on sentry they would hold me up before I could convince them that I was from the Lighthouse; it generally ended up by having to call out the N.C.O. of the guard to verify who I was. The sentries who knew me used to write the counter-sign word on a piece of paper for me. I used to enjoy going to the Army Y.M.C.A. concerts accompanied by my mother and occasionally I played the piano for the C.E.M.S. [Church of England Men’s Society] Sunday services.

St Anthonys Lighthouse

St Anthonys Lighthouse

At St. Anthony we had to keep a good stock of food in, which was obtained at Falmouth. I often rowed my dinghy across the river to Falmouth about six miles distant to get odds and ends for those at the Lighthouse during the summer months. Normally the weekly groceries were brought from Falmouth to a small cove called Place House landing by ferry boat and my brother and I would walk 2 ½ miles to this cove to meet the ferry taking with us a small home-made hand cart. After we had collected the groceries we would return home pushing and pulling the hand cart. In the summer time we enjoyed doing this, but in the winter time we used to grumble between ourselves, especially in bad weather, but we still had to do it. Anyway, our parents always compensated us with a few coppers, which of course we expected and which satisfied us.

While at St. Anthony I remember quite well going to the Cinema for the very first time in Falmouth at the age of 13 years.

I now move on to our short stay at Lowestoft Lighthouse in September 1918. It was a big change for me to live in a town as up to now I had lived in isolated places. It was rather amusing the first night we were there, we were unpacking our luggage when a knock came on the door, it was the police warning us we were showing a light out of the window so we had to take more care after that.

We were only at this station for eight months so there is not much to relate concerning our stay there, excepting I went to the Theatre for the first time in my life and thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked our short stay at Lowestoft but preferred the country to town life.

Our next transfer was to St. Bees in 1919. I was now 15 years old and had left school. I was at home assisting my mother who was not in good health. My schooldays had been very happy ones, the only drawback I found was that owing to frequent transfers I had to attend five different schools which was really a set back for me regarding education in comparison with facilities the young ones of today have.

My start at St. Bees was very nice as I was very fond of walking and roaming the beaches. Now came my first winter at St. Bees. The station was quite a distance from the village and town, and I was wondering how I should get on in my leisure hours of an evening outside of home entertainment, knitting, playing the piano, etc., as I was the only young girl in the neighbourhood. I was not of the nervous type so my parents allowed me to walk to Whitehaven about five miles away to do some shopping and go to the first house of the theatre which every week I looked forward to. Otherwise my life at St. Bees was the usual daily routine at home, as previously stated, my mother was in poor health.”


Mrs. Trezise’s story will continue in the very near future.