Western Australia: 1869-1900.
Telegraph lines in the Southern Region.


The Southern region is defined for the purpose of describing telegraph line construction as being the area:

The first priority for the construction of telegraph lines in this region was to connect Perth with Albany. Albany had the only deep-water port in Western Australia and it was the first port of call for ships with mail. Even before the first line through Northam to York had been competed in Western Australia, the need had been identified to extend lines elsewhere in the Colony. In May 1870, with the significant encouragement of Governor Weld, the Legislative Council passed a resolution authorising additional line construction. The most immediate target for expansion was a line of telegraphs to Albany followed by a line to South Australia. There were of course other suggestions - including lines to to the Goldfields and a line to Broome (or even further north) to connect through Java to India and England.

An example of the first two suggestions is contained in letter to the Editor of the Perth Gazette of 31 December 1869:

"If there were a use of Telegraph from Albany to Perth, what would it cost? I don't know, perhaps the Telegraphic Company could tell, based on their experience of the profits - for there are profits - of the line between Perth and Fremantle.

At all events it would pay and, if once there were a line from Albany to Adelaide (a line by the way to which all the other Colonies would contribute), there would be Electric wires between Melbourne and Fremantle; and the direct and immediate results of that would be that, at least in the summer months, the Mail steamers would touch at Fremantle and so place the Eastern Colonies six days nearer India than they now are. Would this scheme be impracticable? Would it be even hard to accomplish? Would it be profitless when done? Most certainly not! For all these answers, we have experience to warrant our conclusions; and would it be of no benefit to be the first spot in Australia to receive Electric messages from Europe and Asia, and to be the spot whence Electric messages should be despatched?

These results are fairly within Governor's Weld's grasp and may be easily attained".

The main lines constructed in this region were:

    1. the line directly south to Bunbury and Busselton; Bunbury had been the site of a military outpost since 1829 as well as being a whaling base and the centre of a good agricultural region;
    2. the proposed line from Bunbury to Albany via Bridgetown.

      2.1: Extension to Bridgetown.
      2.2: Inclusion of Greenbushes and Balbarup.
    3. the line to Albany via Williams and Kojonup - the mail route.

      3.1: First concepts for the telegraph route to King George's Sound.
      3.1.1: Bannister.
      3.1.2: Williams River.
      3.1.3: Kojunup.

      3.2: Intermediate stations opened later:
      3.2.1: Arthur River.
      3.2.2: Mount Barker.

      3.3: Later events.

    4. a second line further east to Albany via Narrogin and Katanning in the Wheatbelt region.
    5. the line south from Busselton to Karridale.
    6. the line to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse.
    7. The Breaksea Island Lighthouse.
    8. Extension to Rottnest Island.


1. First line south to Bunbury and Busselton.

The original intention for the first line south to Albany was to construct the line from Perth to Bunbury and then via Bridgetown to Albany. As noted elsewhere, Albany had the only deep-water port in Western Australia and was the first port of call for ships with mail. The coastal route to Albany involved crossing the Darling Range inland from the coast - perhaps starting to the south-east just after Bunbury and before Vasse (Bussleton).

The Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company commenced work on the line to Bunbury within days after the company had absorbed the West Australian Telegraph Company. The line to York was still being constructed - having only commenced seven months previously.

The advertisement to the right shows some details of the Company's requirements for:

  • the line to York;
  • a coastal line through Pinjarrah to Bunbury;
  • an inland line from Perth to the Williams River area to Albany along the Albany (Mail) Road.
EMTC advert
Advertisement appearing in the Perth Gazette on 29 September 1871.

1.1: Perth to Pinjarrah.

The first post for the new line to Albany along the coast was erected at a major ceremony opposite the General Post Office on 13 February 1871. Details of the ceremony can be accessed in the Perth Gazette Bunbury

1.1.1: Perth to Armadale/Kelmscott.

One of the first reports of the construction was published in the Perth Gazette on 24 February 1871: "The Contractor for the erection of the posts along the lines of this company is doing his work both rapidly and satisfactorily ... On the Albany line the posts are erected to within two miles of the Canning Bridge". So even at that stage, the route for the line was moving away from the west coast and the ocean. From that general area (including what is now Cannington), the line was taken south and probably fairly close to the Darling Range. It would have therefore - after about 7 miles - passed through the original Kelmscott close to where Armadale now stands.


1.1.2: Armadale to Pinjarrah.

Progress was very fast. The Perth Gazette of 24 March 1871 reported "We learn that the erection of posts and clearing of timber in the several sections of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company's lines proceed satisfactorily, amounting now to about fifty milesThe line would probably have reached somewhere between Rockingham and Pinjarrah., and the Superintendent believes telegraphic communication with the whole of the Eastern districts and on the Albany sections as far as Bunbury, will be opened by the end of July. About forty men are employed cutting timber, clearing, sinking and erecting".

On 8 December 1871, the Perth Gazette reported :

"The remaining portion of the plant necessary for completing telegraphic communication throughout nearly the whole of the colony - at all events between the principal centres of population - and consisting of wire, insulators and all the other material requisite for the purpose, arrived here by the Palestine under a consignment to the Electro-Magnetic Company. As immediate steps are, as we are given to understand, to be adopted for the commencing of actual operations, we hope that, ere long, we shall see some of the unemployed hard at work on the undertaking and a little life and activity thus instilled into the labour market".

In January 1872, the rate of progress was reported as being 30 miles per week with a party of 18 men.

A major expenditure for the Post & Telegraph Department was repair and maintenance of the network. Unfortunately, the real funds required were not always allocated. As example of the many problems throughout the Colony, it was noted in the Legislative Council on 7 September 1882 that "the working of the telegraph between Bunbury and Perth was in bad condition - scarcely a day elapsed when there was not great difficulty in getting a message forwarded. The Superintendent had been asked as to the reason for this problem and had been informed that a junior telegraph operator at one of the stations was so deaf that he could not hear; he was otherwise a good boy and could perhaps be transferred to some other employment".

As an aside - the road between Pinjarrah and Bunbury had been drained and metalled independently by the Roads Department. The road from Perth to Pinjarrah was an easy road to travel although not metalled. The direct road from Fremantle via Mandurrah to Bunbury crossed the Murray inlet and required a strong ferry for passengers and the road had not been thoroughly made. Hence the construction teams had an advantage by taking the line inland to the west of the Darling Range through Pinjarrah.


1.1.3: Pinjarrah to Mandurah.

The West Australian Times of 5 August 1879 reported on an investigation into several suggestions about the extension of the telegraph lines: "In pursuance of a resolution passed by the Legislative Council last year, His Excellency the Governor appointed a commission to report on the best route and the probable cost of establishing telegraphic communication ... between Pinjarrah and Mandurah.... The commission consisted of the Surveyor General, the Director of Public Works, and the Superintendent of Telegraphs. In their report, presented to the legislature last week, the committee estimates that with regard to the extension from Pinjarrah to Mandurah, the cost of the line and a station at the latter place is estimated at £800 ...The commission add that, they are unable to find a single fact to lead them to consider the construction ... expedient".

A connection between Pinjarrah and Mandurah was again sought by residents in 1883. As an example of costs, a branch line from Mandurah to Pinjarrah was tendered at £17 15s per mile.


1.1.4: Pinjarrah to Jarrahdale.

"An interruption took place on the telegraph line between Jarrahdale and Pinjarrah on Wednesday last but communication was restored next day" (Daily News 1 March 1886)..


1.2: Pinjarrah to Bunbury.

The Bunbury area was named by the Governor in recognition of Lieutenant William St. Pierre Bunbury who developed the very difficult inland route from Pinjarrah to Bunbury.

On 30 March 1871, the Fremantle Herald noted "The activity and judgement displayed by Mr. J. Flemming in forwarding the Electric Magnetic Telegraph Company's lines, is beyond all praise. It is expected that the communication with all the eastern districts will be completed before the 1st of August, including a section of the Albany line as far as Bunbury - even if never used, the outlay of money at this present time is a great relief to the working classes".

On 31 January 1872, the line in the Wheatbelt region connecting to York was completed and so the Electro Magnetic Telegraph Company was able to deploy work on the Southern line via Pinjarrah to Bunbury.

On 28 February 1872, a year after the first post was erected for this section of the Southern line, communication between Perth and Bunbury was opened.

The Perth Inquirer of 28 February 1872 reported on the Annual Meeting of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company which had been held in the Town Hall on the 6th February. The Directors' first Annual Report was submitted to the shareholders, embodying a brief statement on the progress made in carrying out the provisions of the Company's prospectus. The following extract from the Report will be interesting to our extra-colonial readers:

"The posts are all erected in the Southern Districts section between Perth and Pinjarrah and Bunbury and the wiring party, under the Superintendent, Mr. Fleming (who deserves the highest praise for the celerity with which this service was performed on the Eastern Line) are now engaged in erecting the wires and insulators on the line to Pinjarrah and Bunbury, which latter place may be expected to be in communication with Perth in about a month's time ... A dividend of 6 per cent per annum for the half-year ending 1st September last, was paid to those shareholders who paid up their shares in full and a second dividend at the same rate will be payable on the 1st March next, which will be distributed to all the shareholders in proportion to their shares and from the dates they have paid their respective calls".

There were two roads running south - a coast road and one under the Darling Range. The telegraph line south was constructed along the inland road.

Some time later, in July 1878, the Governor was "pleased to set apart" land as a public reserve comprising one hundred acres for a roadside well near the 1,266th telegraph pole between Pinjarrah and Bunbury.

In late 1879, the mail from Perth was scheduled to arrive at Bunbury at 4:00 pm on a Friday. It then proceeded the 30+ miles to Busselton which it reached at about 12:00 noon or 1:00 pm on Saturday - 20 hours travelling time at a "fearful" speed of 1.5 miles per hourNearly 2.5 kph..

A second line between Perth and Bunbury was completed in August 1897. It was constructed along the railway line. The opportunity was taken to upgrade the original line as well. In this way, uninterrupted communication between the two places was almost guaranteed.

"The Eastern telegraph lines, connecting Perth and Fremantle with Guildford, Newcastle, Northam and York together with the Southern lines, connecting Pinjarrah and Bunbury, are now fully opened to traffic which, we believe, exceeds the anticipations of the promoters of the undertaking. The number of messages transmitted during the months of January and February amounted to 1,486 and this number will, without doubt, be greatly exceeded as the Telegraph gets into general use.

The Southern Times of 31 August 1891 provided further details of the duplication::

"The work of constructing a second telegraph line to Perth along the railway was completed some weeks ago, and since then the Telegraph Department has had the advantage of a duplicate telegraph line from Perth to Bunbury. Opportunity has been taken of this relief to thoroughly overhaul the old line to Perth, and that has now been placed upon a most efficient footing. The advantage of a duplicate line will be that it will be next to impossible for both the lines to break at the same time, and so a permanent service will be secured, and at the same time, in the event of a heavy press of work, the department will be able to avail themselves of the facilities which will be afforded by the additional service. The extension of the service to Donnybrook and Vasse will be completed next week".

The area was relatively quiet in those days although Bunbury had received a major boost from the shipments of materials for the telegraph lines along the south-west coast. Nevertheless, even the March 1909 Bunbury Herald suggested that "the whole population in those days seemed to fish all day and play euchre all night, except Sunday, which was religiously spent under the purview of the Rev. David Buchanan, the respected Congregational parson of those free and easy times".


1.3: Bunbury to (Vasse) Busselton.

This extension was constructed after the decision that the Government would take-over the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company - announced about June 1872 and completed in June 1873. It must have been a period of uncertainty for many involved.

On 1 November 1872, the Perth Gazette noted that "The tenders for telegraph posts between Vasse and Bunbury went up last Saturday. We are anxiously looking forward to the time when this line is in full working order". On 7 December 1872, the Fremantle Herald noted that "The telegraph extensions to Geraldton from Newcastle and from Bunbury to the Vasse will be proceeded within the course of a few weeks". By March 1873, the telegraph posts between the two places in the Southern Region were all but erected and the wiring party was about to commence its work. Unfortunately the Fremantle Herald of 22 March 1873 reported:

"After a long interval Mr. Jas. Manning has been once more to visit us and to pass or examine some public works. He has been obliged to condemn a large number of telegraph poles (about 75) on the Bunbury line as well as to find fault with the clearing. I think a careful inspection must endorse his opinion. Some of the poles are a perfect disgrace to a district boasting of its timber. The foundation of the (Bunbury) Telegraph and Post Office will be laid almost immediately".

Some difficulties did arise - the Fremantle Herald noting on 26 April 1873 that "The contractors for the work of extension of the telegraph line between Vasse (Busselton) and Bunbury are only awaiting the arrival of the wire from England to complete their work". The correspondent for the same newspaper noted in a despatch of 4 August 1873 that "the wire for our telegraph has not arrived yet so that I am still without the means of flashing to you the intelligence of the arrival of the "Wild Wave" and other matters of equal importance ". On 4 October the Herald updated its readership with the news that " The telegraph wire is on its way down in the Argo; there is some chance therefore of the Vasse becoming civilized before long".

The first lines opened communication from Perth to Vasse (Busselton) via Pinjarra and Bunbury in November 1873. On 13 December 1873, the Fremantle Herald reported that "the Telegraph has now been in operation for ten days and must have done some good already, if we may judge from the fact, that during the first week no less than 70 messages were sent and about as many received".

The extension of a second line from Bunbury to Vasse was completed in December 1892.

Along the coast, many intermediate Telegraph Offices were opened during the 1890s at places including Donnybrook (Preston), Dardanup and Capel (Coolingup). A branch line from Mandurah to Pinjarra (rejected in the 1878 inquiry) was also opened - it having been tendered at £17 15s per mile.

A line to Collie was constructed from Bunbury in 1898 (a year after the town was gazetted). It is not known whether this line was just to link to the coal fields there or whether it also served to link with the first line at about Mount Arthur. One account at least seems to indicate the telegraph line to Collie was almost an after-thought following the construction of the railway to Collie in February 1898. Certainly any link was independent of the Collie-Narrogin rail link 20 years later.



2: The proposed Bunbury to Albany via Bridgetown line.

Bridgetown had been gazetted as a town in 1868 . Bridgetown was at the centre of a major agricultural area and a number of important buildings had been constructed in the town including a school, a Post Office and two hotels. Later, in 1892, it too was to be subjected to a gold rush for a short period. The cost of the line between Bunbury and Bridgetown was tendered at £18 10s per mile with re-wiring as required at £1 10s per mile.

The Annual Meeting of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company on the 6th February 1872 was informed:

"It was the intention of the Directors at one time to have carried the line to Albany via Bunbury and Bridgetown and tenders were called for the work. But upon having the line surveyed by the Electrician from Albany to Bunbury, such insuperable difficulties presented themselves and Mr. Fleming's report was so opposed to that route, that the directors felt themselves bound to agree with Mr. Fleming's recommendation, more especially as the Government also signified their opposition to this line. The Directors decided to carry the line as proposed in the first instance, and as laid down in the prospectus, viz., along the mail road to Albany. The contractor is bound under a heavy penalty to have the posts erected to Albany by the 1st July and, as the wiring party will follow him closely, it is hoped that six months' work at the farthest will finish the undertaking". (Perth Inquirer, 28 February 1872).

Some developments in planning were highlighted in the Perth Gazette of 1 March 1872:

"The Electro-Telegraph Company, under the judicious supervision of their indefatigable Superintendent, Mr. J. C. Fleming, have pushed forward the wiring to Bunbury via Pinjarrah so that the communication with Perth is now opened. The line to Albany is not progressing as fast as could be desired, owing chiefly to the heavy clearing required. The intention to carry the line to Albany via Bridgetown has been abandoned and it will now follow the main Perth and Albany Road".

The same issue of the Perth Gazette 1 March 1872 recounts details of a court case EMTC Vs Contractors.


2.1: Finally the extension to Bridgetown.

The residents in and around Bridgetown were suffering from increased competition for their produce - from Albany and from the other Colonies. They were also isolated geographically. A correspondent for the Inquirer noted on 2 July 1879 that "it is time something was done to remove the many drawbacks and disadvantages this large and growing district labors under. We have no doctor, neither a justice of the peace, nearer than Bunbury — over sixty miles. We are now worse off in this respect than we have ever been; yet Bridgetown itself contains over twenty householders, besides several stores, public houses, and other establishments".

The West Australian Times of 5 August 1879 reported on an investigation into several suggestions about the extension of the telegraph lines:

"In pursuance of a resolution passed by the Legislative Council last year, His Excellency the Governor appointed a commission to report on the best route and the probable cost of establishing telegraphic communication ... between Pinjarrah and Mandurah, and Bunbury and Bridgetown. The commission consisted of the Surveyor General, the Director of Public Works, and the Superintendent of Telegraphs. In their report, presented to the legislature last week, the committee estimates that with regard to the extension from Pinjarrah to Mandurah, the cost of the line and a station at the latter place is estimated at £800; and the cost of a line between Bunbury and Bridgetown is set down at £2,550 The commission add that, they are unable to find a single fact to lead them to consider the construction of either of these extensions expedient".

In the Legislative Council of 18 July 1884, Mr. Venn gave notice that, on Monday next, he would move that a humble Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor, praying him to place upon the Estimates for the next year a sufficient sum to defray the cost of erecting a telegraph line between Bunbury and Bridgetown. In 1886, a line was extended to the south-east from Bunbury to Bridgetown - despite its rejection in the 1879 Report. The line by-passed Greenbushes.


2.2: Inclusion of Greenbushes and Balbarup.

In 1890, the residents in and around Greenbushes began to consider the importance for then of connecting with the telegraph line between Bunbury and Bridgetown. Their locality had expanded rapidly after the discovery of significant amounts of tin in the general area. With mines, there was always the danger of accidents - for example:

"On Monday afternoon last an old respected miner named Cullenam had his leg broken close to the ankle by the falling of a "black boy" which was being cut down. Steps were at once taken to send a message to Bridgetown by the Mail Coach, but as the latter was a little after time it is feared it would be too late for a telegram to be sent to Dr. Laffan that night. This forcibly shows the necessity of a Telegraph Office at Greenbushes, also the importance of a resident Medical Officer in the Blackwood" (Southern Times 15 September 1890).

There was however, a rivalry with BlackwoodTenamed Balbarrup in 1872. to the south of Bridgetown. At a meeting in Bridgetown on 28 August, 1890 several resolutions were brought forward and passed. One was::

"3. That in view of Mr. Atkins having offered to erect at his own cost a suitable building the Government be requested to at once accept his offer and appoint a Post master and Telegraph operator, and open an office on the field.

4. That as the present Greenbushes townsite is totally unsuitable, it be abandoned, and that the Government establish a strip of land about two chains wide on each side of the Bunbury-Blackwood road, extending from the 50 mile post to the 53 mile post, and sell the same as building blocks"
(West Australiam 5 September 1890).

At the annual dinner of the Wellington Agricultural and Pastoral Society, the Hon. John Forrest was the guest, In his remarks, Mr. Forrest stated that "The Greenbushes Tinfields have now proved to be of a payable and permanent character 175 tons having been brought into Bunbury up to date ... The recent difficulty experienced in bringing into Bunbury the large quantities of tin ore owing to the almost impassable state of the roads during the winter months brings us face to face with the necessity for the extension of the Bunbury Boyanup Railway to be immediately proceeded with. We have not perhaps felt the full benefit of the export of throwing to the fact of returns for same having been delayed on account of the great maritime strike throughout the whole of the colonies. We are glad to hear that there is every probability of a Post and Telegraph Office being established at the tinfields". Those remarks wre followed up by the Southern Times on 1 December 1890 with "Great satisfaction is expressed amongst the Tinfield population at the prospect of the establishment of a Telegraph Station at the Greenbushes which, it is understood, both the Hon. John Forrest and the Postmaster-General favour".

Soon after, in the Legislative Assembly on 29 February 1891, £100 was allocated for a Postmaster and Telegraphist at Greenbushes. Nevertheless a lack of communicattion from the Government led to dissatisfaction and responses such as:

"It is true the Southern districts are to have a share in the new Loan but I notice that a mere nothing is being done for Greenbushes and the Blackwood district. Time after time we have pointed out the urgent need for a Telegraph and Post Office and the only satisfaction yet given is an empty promise, and so I suppose we shall be neglected for another year. Still it is a great shame and our member, Sir James Steere, should worry the Government until this reasonable request has been granted.

In cases of accident or illness, we have to ride to Bridgetown and then telegraph to Bunbury for medical assistance. Can another district from which the Government directly or indirectly have received such handsome returns be singled out in the colony which has been so persistently ignored? Dr. Laffan several times tried to bring the Tinfield to the front but he was only snubbed for his pains and was told he was too officious. After demonstrating so often that it is a valuable discovery, it seems incredible that the Government have hitherto neglected us in every conceivable way. No Post Office, no Telegraph Office, no Policeman, no Mechanics' Institute, no Resident Medical Officer — can anybody depict a more God-forsaken spot in the colony, bearing in mind the amount of money won from the earth within a comparatively short space of time, and yet we are situated on the Queen's highway and between the towns of Bunbury and Bridgetown. We must get the Political Association to battle for us and agitate until we get what we want".

Further developments were reported on 16 April: Tenders were accepted to supply furniture for the Telegraph Office,Greenbushes: £15." Finally, in the Southern Times of 20 April 1891: "The long wanted Post and Telegraph Office will soon be a reality as the building for the purpose will soon be completed and, when opened, it will be a great boon to the place". On 24 April in the Inquirer:

"Our new Post Office is now finished. It is certainly a substantial piece of workmanship. Not only is the timber (jarrah) of which it is built as sound and good as there is to be seen anywhere, but Mr. Pilkington has done his work well in putting it together. No doubt it will be a great boon to the inhabitants of the tinfield and settlers around; it will also bring us telegraphic communication, and we hail its advent with thankful hopes, and though it is only a step in the right way of much that we are in need of, it is right that we should thank our member, Sir J. Lee-Steere, for having secured these privileges for us".

On 6 May 1891, the West Australian published the news that the Post and Telegraph Office at Greenbushes had been opened - no further details. It appears as if the date was Tuesday 5 May 1891.

In 1896, the line to Bridgetown was extended to Balbarrup to the homestead of John Giblett and his three daughters who had been responsible for the postal services to the entire district since the early 1860s (as summarised in a wonderful account by John Steward for the ABC). This extension was questioned by some. For example, the Bunbury Herald of 16 November 1895 carried the comment:

"The telegraph line to Balbarrup is drawing near to a completion and will be finished in about three weeks time. The Government do some strange things. They construct a line to Balbarrup where there are only a few settlers but the Upper Blackwood, where there are nearly double the number of people, they ignore. But it is easily to be seen which way the cat jumps. There is splendid land around Jayes and the Upper Blackwood and if we had a line there, it would become too public". (p.3)

3. The line to Albany via Williams River and Kojunup (The Perth-Albany mail route).

The description of the construction of this line encompasses stations which are now categorised either in the Wheatbelt region or in the Southern region. The line, which was of great early importance to the development of telegraphs in Western Australia and to the other Colonies, is described here in full (regardless of the present artificial region).

Some descriptions used contemporaneously for this line and the stations on it was "The Intercolonial Line":


3.1: First concepts for the telegraph route to King George's Sound.

From the late 1840s, there was an established route for the mail between Perth and Albury. After many difficulties in construction and with the journey, the route from Albury to Konjunup was changed to become a coastal route through Bunbury and hence to Perth. By using convict labour, the direct route for the mail road was completed in the early 1860s.

In terms of opening communications to the south of the Colony, there was no more important destination that King George's Sound (Albany)King George's Sound referred to the harbour while Albany was the settlement on the western shore.. It had been the port for mail and news services between the Eastern Australian Colonies and England.

The line from Perth to Albany was commenced at 5:00 pm on 13 February 1871 with the formal ceremony to erect the first telegraph line. This deed was done by the Governor who was requested to do so by the newly formed Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company. A description of the ceremony is published in the Fremantle Herald.

After the line of telegraphs had been opened to York about 20 January 1872, it was then possible for the Telegraph Company to transfer some men on the construction gangs:

The Perth-Kelmscott (Armadale) line of telegraphs was constructed in 1871. As noted above, the plan had originally been to continue the line between south from Kelmscott through Pinjarrah and Vasse before erecting a line to the south-east over the Darling Range via Bridgetown and Mount Barker to Albany. That proved to be difficult especially given the high priority of reaching Albany as quickly as possible because of the need to communicate about the mail and news coming from England.

Hence another route to Albany had to be found and the basis of that route was the existing Perth-Albany Road (with all its faults) and the inter-twined mail route.

There were several possible routes along which to construct the telegraph line across the Darling Range. Each of these possibilities needed to assess the ease with which the line could cross the heavily timbered and mountainous terrain. The further north the line was constructed, the easier was the crossing. It was not however desirable to cross the Range too close to the Guilford-Northam-York line because it would tend to duplicate the areas covered previously and there was an opportunity to service other settlements even though the principal objective was to reach Albany as soon as possible.

It was therefore decided to construct the line:

This route approximately followed the mail route to Albany which in turn followed one of the old Aboriginal trade routes to where Albany is now.The main route for the mails from Perth to Albany was via Kelmscott, Bannister (about 45 miles from Perth), Williams River, Arthur River and Kojunup and then through Mount Barker to Albany. For that same reason it was also the most common track to follow on horseback.

The Perth Inquirer of 4 October 1871 reported this decision to change the route as follows: "We understand that it has been decided by the Electric Telegraph Company to connect the metropolis with Albany by the wire along the main line of road instead of by Bunbury via Bridgetown as was first proposed. The line to the Southern districts will be a tributary one".

The Perth Gazette reported on 1 March 1872, "The Electro-Telegraph Company, under the judicious supervision of their indefatigable Superintendent, Mr. J. C. Fleming, have pushed forward the wiring, to Bunbury via Pinjarrah, so that the communication with Perth is now opened. The line to Albany is not progressing as fast as could be desired, owing chiefly to the heavy clearing required. The intention to carry the line to Albany via Bridgetown and Albany has been abandoned, and it will now follow the main Perth and Albany Road".

The main objective of this construction approach was not to open intermediate telegraph stations but to connect Perth with Albany as quickly as possible. The Office at the Williams River was the exception - opening on 18 July 1872. The Correspondent of the Fremantle Herald noted:

Telegraph Stations at the other intermediate places were not opened until later - Kojunup (1875), Bannister (1881) and Arthur River (1882).


3.1.1: Bannister:

Nothing much to see there The line reached Bannister about January 1872. After a nine year wait, a Telegraph Office opened to the public in 1881 - for reasons now unknown. The Telegraph Operator was a young lady from the district whose main task (apparently) was to notify the Observatory about the daily rainfall. The Bannister office would have worked as an intermediate station after 1872.

The Annual Meeting of the Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company on the 6th February 1872 was informed:

The line to Albany is not progressing as fast as the Directors could wish, only about 40 miles having the posts erected thereon. This has been owing chiefly to the heavy clearing required. But the contractor will now be able to push forward faster as very little clearing will be required on the Sound Road after leaving the Bannister. (Perth Inquirer, 28 February 1872).

A line from Bannister to Wandering was also completed in 1894.


3.1.2: Williams River.

The Perth Inquirer of 27 March 1872 kept its readers up to date with the following report: "The work on the south eastern line, connecting the mail packet station at Albany, 256 miles distance, progresses and we understand that a temporary station will be opened at Williams River about the end of next month. This will give us English and Intercolonial news at least one day earlier, until the line is carried through to Albany, when we shall benefit by three days earlier intelligence than the mail conveyance brings. The introduction of the Telegraph is altogether a great improvement in our local affairs, and we are assured it will be felt more and more a public convenience throughout the Colony".

A communication dated 1 July was sent by a correspondent at Williams to the Fremantle Herald (published 13 July 1872):

"Wait till telegraphic communication is established between here and Perth and I will send down weekly despatches as the events, accidents and offences which may from time to time occur in this flourishing and extensive settlement. At present I am dependent upon the regular but infrequent postal services for the transmission of my epistle or upon the more irregular if more constant means of communication with the great metropolis afforded by teams taking sandalwood ... Here at the bridge, on which I am sitting as I write, we are 101 miles from Perth - a considerably shorter distance than from London to Birmingham - and yet we have only a monthly mail. Advance Australia! particularly the Western portion of it though the prospect is not of the brightest. How shall we poor people between earth and heaven - I mean between Perth and Albany - send and receive letters when the mail service from India ceases to call in at any of our ports. By telegraph perhaps, and that reminds me that I have one piece of good news to communicate, namely that the telegraph posts are all erected as far as this place, and I hear that the wires will be soon up. You shall have the first message sent if I can possibly raise the money to pay for it. Have you perhaps made any arrangement with the Government to be allowed to receive telegrams free of cost?"

The Fremantle Herald of 20 July 1872 also gave a progress report of the construction to the south: "The progress of the telegraph construction party on the Albany has been seriously hindered by the severe and inclement weather of the past few weeks but, through the untiring efforts of the indomitable and indefatigable superintendent Mr. Fleming, the works are now so far completed as to allow of telegraphic communication as far as the Williams River where a temporary station has been erected. The first message between there and Perth was transmitted on Thursday last and the line is now open for public business. This will enable us to receive English and Colonial news twenty four hours earlier than heretofore".

On 29 November 1872, the Perth Gazette reported an incident showing incidentally that the Williams River - Perth line of telegraphs was in full operation:

"The following news was conveyed by Mr. J. J. Harwood to the Williams from Albany, and telegraphed to Perth:

"The Fanny Nicholson struck a large sperm whale outside the grounds and came into Frenchman's Bay on Thursday. On Friday night it blew heavily; both chains parted; ship and whale went ashore. It is rumoured that she is breaking up. She was out seven months from Hobart Town and had taken 54 tons of sperm oil".

The Inquirer of 8 January 1873 provided some (delayed) confirmatory details of this line: "During Thursday and Friday last communication on that portion of the Albany line between Perth and the Williams River was interrupted in consequence, it is supposed, of an earth-connection occasioned by a fallen tree. Bush fires have been raging along the line for the past week between the 27-mile and 36-mile posts, and in several detached places towards the Bannister, which probably have done more or less harm to the line. We understood that the Superintendent of Telegraphs (Mr. Fleming), having arranged official matters connected with the newly-formed station at Albany, is now on his way to Perth, and has, very likely directed the necessary repairs referred to".


3.1.3: Kojunup:

Had been an important staging place on the road to Albany. It was also the site for a military barracks from the late 1830s and that presence had been important until it was phased out by 1870.

Kojonup had become the centre of a large wool producing area and a staging place on the road to Albany. A Police Station was established as the military withdrew and (of course) a hotel was constructed. Being about 250 kms from Perth, Kojonup was in a good position to serve, in the first few years, as a repeater station. After fulfilling that role, Kojonup opened as a Post & Telegraph Office in May 1875.

Soon after that opening, the Inquirer of 16 June 1875 noted that "A telegraph office has been opened at Kojonup. Telegraph extension to Beverley is agitated by the settlers there and is likely to be granted". That would be an important line because it would be a common telegraph station between the line through Williams to Perth and the line through to Beverley and York.


3.2: Intermediate stations opened later:

In the early 1880s, intermediate Telegraph Offices were opened along the line. Most stations were added because they served a special need in a district. For example, Arthur River was an important wool growing district located 24 miles from Williams and 35 miles from Kojunup. It was also important for its supply of sandalwood. The Telegraph Offices at both the other places were difficult to access so, in November 1881, a petition was raised seeking a telegraph office on the Jarrahdale-Kojunup line. It was noted that "in cases of sickness or accident, the line would be invaluable. From a financial point of view also, a telegraph station would be more remunerative than country stations usually are from the fact that the settlers only receive one mail a fortnight".


3.2.1: Arthur River:

On 18 November 1881, the West Australian reported:

"A movement is now on foot for obtaining the supply of a long felt want in this really promising district - a Telegraph Office. The nearest stations at present are the Williams (24 miles) and Kojonup (35 miles) distant. A memorial, signed by the principal settlers will be presented to His Excellency in due course and it is greatly hoped that it will have the desired effect. The advantages to this district of telegraph communication will be manifold. In cases of sickness or accident, it would be invaluable. From a finanncial point of view also, a telegraph station would be more remunerative than country stations usually are from the fact that the settlers only receive one mail a fortnight".

On 27 January 1882, the same source followed up its article with "We have sent in a memorial respecting a Telegraph Office for this place and are anxiously waiting the result, the want of telegraphic communication being felt more and more every day. It is suggested that, if possible, a person should be placed in charge of the Telegraph Office here - supposing it to be granted - who should have power to issue cart, carriage, dog and sandalwood licenses. At the present time, when any such licenses are required, a journey either to Kojonup or to the Williams is found necessary, taking the better part of two days to accomplish. No doubt this might be satisfactorily arranged as I have suggested, greatly to the advantage of the neighbouring settlers".

On 14 July 1882, GOOD NEWS: "His Excellency the Governor has been pleased to grant us our wish in regard to a Telegraph Office, and it is to be hoped the necessary steps are being taken for the opening of the same


In a article devoted to other matters, the Western Mail of 19 August 1893 included "With a population of 540, counting whites only, it is strange how few conveniences the Arthur possesses. No doctor nearer than thirty odd miles, no Justice of the Peace in the distriot, no Government school worth calling by the name, and in fact nothing that constitutes a modern community except the Post and Telegraph Office of which we have two in the district - the one lately opened at Wagin filling a want long felt. It is to be hoped the Postmaster-General will at once make this office a Money Order offioe. Mr. Annear, the Postmaster and Telegraph operator, is evidently the right man in the rjght place, and we feel he will give satisfaction to all".


3.2.2: Mount Barker.

Mount Barker was the last stop on the mail route from Perth to Albany. Any delays at Mount Barker or at Kojunup would result in the mail missing the ships to England or to South Australia and beyond. On 20 March 1883, the Western Australian noted "The fact that our last mails for the Eastern colonies narrowly escaped being left behind, is only another proof of the necessity for a telegraph station at Mt. Barker. Could it be known at Albany when the van has passed the 30-Mile, the time of its probable arrival would be calculated with accuracy, instead of which, as things are now, the progress of the vehicle after it leaves Kojonup is completely unknow, and the steamer's departure cannot be put off for long on a wholly uncertain conjecture that it will soon reach the town".


3.3: Later events.

Tenders were called at the end of 1885 for the construction of a duplicate Perth-Albury line and work began on the duplicate line in February 1886. The cost was tendered at £742 19s with new poles and/or new struts as required at 5s each.

Telegraph lines - especially those in harsh environments - need to be constantly inspected and repaired. "An official inspection of the posts along the Perth-Albany telegraph line has been made previous to the work of duplicating the wire being commenced by the contractor (Mr. J. Elsegood). The result is that over seven hundred posts have been condemned as unfit for future use and these will be replaced without delay. Hitherto sawn square posts have been used but it has been found that the round posts last longer and therefore they will be substituted for the decayed square ones along the line" (The Inquirer 17 March 1886).


4. A second line further east to Albany via Narrogin and Katanning.


5. The line from Busselton to Karridale and Cape Leeuwin.

In the Legislative Assembly of 11 February 1891, "The Colonial Treasurer said the principal object in proposing a line from the Vasse to Cape Leeuwin was to connect the lighthouse they hoped somerset at the Leeuwin with their telegraph system, without which it would be useless. There were other objects of considerable importance. The line would go from Busselton to Quindalup where there was a large timber station, from which many applications had been received by "he Government for telegraphic communication. From Quindalup it would go "4100 1 the present'Mute, by the Margaret River to Hamelin, where Mr. M C. Davis had a large timber station, and thence to the lighthouse The second session of the first Parliament under Responsible Government was opened on Monday 7 December 1891 by His Excellency the Administrator and in his speech he noted that the survey of the line from Busselton to Hamelin was in progress.

The second major extension of the line from Busselton commenced in 1892. The Southern Times reported in the 17 September 1982 edition that "the contractor for the telegraph poles for the Vasse-Leeuwin line has commenced carting in the poles and they are now being brought in and laid along the road from the Vasse. Fortunately the weather has been on the whole favourable for the contractor".


The first six miles were reported to have been poled and wired by the end of December 1892. On 18 January, 1893, the Bunbury Herald reported:

"The Karridale telegraph line I hear is making good headway. Great complaints, however, are being made about the way the bushes have been left alongside people's fences, endangering them of being burnt should a bush fire come along, or a stray match be thrown down ; nothing could save a large quantity of fencing along the Quindalup Road. It is reported that Mr. Yelverton has written to the Government, informing them of the danger his tramway is in from the same cause".

The Inquirer noted, on 17 March 1893, "The question is often asked — when is the telegraph office at Quindalup to be opened? The line has been erected thus far for upwards of two months, yet nothing has been done towards its utilisation. I believe that the Director of Public Works promised Mr. Yelverton that there should be no unnecessary delay in opening the line once it was finished to Quindalup".

The Quindalap Telegraph Office was finally opened on l4 April 1893.

Margaret River and Karridale.

Karridale was the centre of major timber operations cutting down the large Karri trees. By the end of November 1892, all the poles from the Vasse to Karridale had been laid along the line and were ready for inspection. The West Australian of 5 December 1892 noted that "the telegraph is to be extended immediately from the Vasse to the Hamelin. During the recent Agricultural Show at the Vasse, a start was made, it is stated, in honour of the visit of the Governor to the South. It is understood that the line will be finished about Christmas time". Ah! No year was given.

The Inquirer of 24 December 1892 reported that "The work of erecting the Karridale Telegraph line is proceeding apace. The party had reached as far as Quindalap House at midday yesterday". The line through Quindalap was then extended south to the Margaret River. On 1 February, 1893, the Bunbury Herald reported that "the  Karridale telegraph line, I hear, is finished to about some 4 or 5 miles beyond Mr. Yelverton's furthest landing, or within 5 or 6 miles of the Margaret River". Construction reached that area at about the end of February.

The Inquirer and Commercial News then reported, on 17 March 1893, "Nothing fresh has been heard about the whereabouts of the telegraph constructing party since they reached the Margaret River. The other day it was reported that several poles had been burnt down by bush fires. This has arisen, it is stated, through the careless manner in which the fallen timber has been left on the track". It had been hoped that the line would reach Karridale by the end of March but progress was interrupted by trees being blown down across the line about 22 March.

The telegraph line reached Karridale about the beginning of April 1893.


6. The telegraph line to the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse.

In the Legislative Assembly of 12 February 1891, Mr Parker said he agreed with the Premier that "the principal object in proposing a line from the Vasse to Cape Leeuwin was to connect the lighthouse they hoped to erect at the Leeuwin with their telegraph system, without which it would be useless. There were other objects of considerable importance. The line would go from Busselton to Quindalup where there was a large timber station, from which many applications had been received by the Government for telegraphic communication. From Quindalap it would go along the present route, by the Margaret River to Hamelin, where Mr. M. C. Davis had a large timber station, and thence to the lighthouse".

On 12 February 1892, the Daily News reported that "The survey party under Mr. Bazier has finished surveying the line of telegraph to Cape Leeuwin". In mid-January 1893, the Loan Estimates were being discussed in the Legislative Assembly. In part, funds were allocated to the completion of the Vasse to Cape Leeuwin telegraph line. Soon after - in May 1895 - a tender was awarded to Messrs Davies and Wishart to construct the Karriedale to Cape Leeuwin telegraph line for £255.

Cape Leeuwin is the most south-westerly mainland point of Australia and a lighthouse was constructed there in 1896 - making it essential to have telegraphic communication with Perth.

The lantern and lighting apparatus for the lighthouse was shipped to Perth by the steamer Gulf of Siam (Wagga Wagga Express, 23 January 1896). It arrived in October 1896 but the equipment was not installed immediately.

The West Australian of 7 November 1896 had the following information:

"A notification has been published stating that on and after the 10th December 1896, a light will be displayed from the new lighthouse on the extreme point of Cape Leeuwin. The light is revolving, of the Faux Eclairs, or lightning flash lights type, and will show a single flash of white light every five seconds; duration of flash one-fifth of a second, eclipse four and four-fifths seconds. The tower is cylindrical in form, 135ft. in height from base to vane, and is of a natural stone colour. The focal plane of the light is 185ft. above high water and the light will be visible all round the horizon from a distance of 19 miles in clear weather. The subsidiary light formerly advertised will not be exhibited. The approximate position is latitude 34 deg. 22 min. south and longitude 115 deg. 8 min. east". 

The opening arrangements were reported by the the Perth Inquirer of 27 November 1896 as follows:

"The ceremony of turning on of the light at the new lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin will be performed by Sir John Forrest on December 10 in the presence of a small but select company. On account of the difficulties of obtaining accommodation in the neighborhood, only a few invitations have been issued. Mr. M. C. Davies, of Karridale has asked about 20 people to make his home their headquarters at the time of the ceremony. The party will leave Perth on the evening of December 8 for Busselton, arriving there early next morning. They will thence drive 65 miles to Karridale, stopping at the Margaret River for luncheon. Karridale will be reached that night and, on the following morning, the journey will be continued - the distance from there to Cape Leeuwin being 20 miles. The opening celebration will take place soon after the arrival of the party on the scene and, after this function has been performed, luncheon will be partaken of and probably a few formal speeches made. The party will then return to Karridale and will probably spend a portion of the following day (Saturday) inspecting the famous local caves. Perth will be reached on Sunday the 12th".

The Daily News of 11 December 1896 reported the opening ceremony as follows:

December 10.

The Perth visitors arrived a Cape Leeuwin at midday and, as they reached the lighthouse, which stands on a rocky point running from the mainland, the formal proceedings began. Sir John Forrest, accompanied by Lady Forrest, Messrs. F. H. Piesse, and S. Burt, Bishop Riley, Sir George Shenton and a large number of others, ascended the spiral staircase to the lantern tower, &c, and under the guidance of Mr. T. Taylor, the representative of Messrs. Chance and Co., of Birmingham, the makers of the magnificent light, ignited the wicks of the lamp.

Mr. Taylor then minutely explained the mechanism of the light, which is a marvellous piece of work. Quite as delicate as the works of a watch is the apparatus that causes the light to revolve and the enormous lantern, which is composed of numbers of prisms with the 108-candle power lamp inside, slowly turns round and flashes a light equal to a quarter of a million candle power, towards all points of the compass at regular intervals. The light will be visible in ordinary weather at a distance of about 20 miles.

Shortly afterwards Mr. G. T. Poole, Assistant Engineer-in-Chief in a brief speech requested the Director of Public Works to take possession of the lighthouse on behalf of the department and the Government. The Director of Public Works, requested Sir John Forrest to dedicate the lighthouse to the world at large. It would, he said, be of great help to those mariners who were accustomed to visit the colony, especially in time of storms.

The Premier thanked Mr. Piesse for the very kind manner in which he had asked him to dedicate the lighthouse for public use and he assured them that it was very gratifying to him to have the opportunity of doing as they desired. He referred to the desire of the colony to have a lighthouse there. The successive Governors had endeavored to bring about the work, and the late Sir Frederick Napier Broome had sought the cooperation of the other colonies in the carrying out of the work, as at that time the colony was unable to undertake the work itself. In the 1890 Loan Bill, an item providing funds for the erection of the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse appeared. In February, 1891, he asked the Legislative Assembly to grant the necessary funds for the work. So it would therefore be seen that nearly six years had elapsed from the time when the Legislature acquiesced in the vote until the work was completed. Various things contributed to the delays, but of all the difficulties the question of the site was the most troublesome. Many other delays had occurred, but all the difficulties had been overcome the work having been completed with the colony's own funds (Cheers). It was not a work for this colony, which had no large merchant service of its own. The ships that came here were owned in other parts of the world, and he would therefore repeat that the construction of the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse showed that this colony, with its own resources, had desired to do its duty, not only to its own people, but also to all the nations of the earth. (Cheers.) Sir John then read a declaration embodying the terms of the dedication, as follows : On behalf of the Government and the people of Western Australia, I dedicate this lighthouse, erected at Cape Leeuwin, the extreme south west-point of the Australian continent, to the world's mariners.

The Bishop of Perth (Dr. Riley) then offered up the following prayer: That this light may be a light of hope for those in danger and distress, and a light of welcome for those who come to these shores, and for ourselves we pray that as we toss upon the stormy main of life we may always see before us burning brightly the light of truth and at last reach the haven where we all would be. Sir George Shenton added his congratulations. The Director of Public Works then handed over the charge of the lighthouse to the chief harbormaster Capt. Russell. Capt. Russell replied and the dedication ceremony was completed".

It was not long before agitation to improve communication from the various Western Australian lighthouses began. For example, the Daily News of 6 March 1897 outlined the problems as follows:

"The inaccuracy of the Fremantle Post Office shipping board and the lack of method in reporting movements of vessels, coastwise and intercolonial, are a matter of unvarying public adverse public comment. The public would be convenienced if the arrivals at Albany, Geraldton and off Rottnest were immediately posted on a shipping telegraph board. This latter could be accomplished by a telephone from a signal station to a post-office. A system of direct telegraphic shipping intelligence - coastal at say 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., intercolonial at 9 a.m. - would be of immense public benefit, and some such methodical system as ruling in eastern colonies should be adopted in the shipping port of W.A. (Fremantle). The (Steamship Owners) Association congratulates the Government on the completion of  Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse and hopes soon to learn that a regular system of telegraphic reports of passing vessels will be arranged".

The Telegraph Office at Cape Leeuwin was not unfortunately opened until February 1898.


7. The Breaksea Island Lighthouse

Breaksea Island is a small island in King George's Sound off Albany. The original lighthouse was built by convicts in 1858. In 1902, the cylindrical granite tower which we know today was constructed.

The Perth Inquirer of 5 August 1885 detailed the laying of the cable to the Island as follows:

On Thursday morning, the 16th July, the mail steamer Parramatta arrived at Albany from Colombo after a very quick passage of 10 days and 9 hours. She had on board the telegraph cable for Breaksea Island. This was discharged into the schooner Walter and Mary by the torpedo men of H.M.S. Opal, and was completed by 5 p.m. The next day the cable was tested by Mr. E. H. Innes and Lieutenant Moore of H.M.S. Opal, and it was found the insulation was perfect.

At 2 o'clock on Saturday morning, the steam launches Loch Lomond and Perseverance, accompanied by the steam pinnnace of the Opal, started for Nanarup with the schooner in tow. Through the courtesy of Captain Brooke, at the request of His Excellency the Governor, he had consented to send an officer and a number of men to lay the cable. Accordingly just before 3 a.m. the launches left the harbour with 25 blue jackets under command of Lieutenant Moore; Captain Butcher, Harbor Master, and Mr. E. H. Innes, telegraphist, accompanied the party. The schooner, with the cable on board, was towed at the rate of about four knots, and the wind being from the north, it was resolved to commence to lay the cable from the mainland.

Just before daybreak the vessels reached the point fixed upon, a sandy beach between Herald Point and Nanarup Boat Harbor, where a strong post had been placed to which to lash the end of the cable. After breakfast was over, the sun was just rising and a party of bluejackets were sent into the boat harbor to land and take the end of the line attached to the cable. The man-of-war's dingy then took a line which, after two or three failures, was thrown on shore. The surf on the beach was very heavy, so that the boat had to remain outside the breakers. The line was caught by the men on the rocks and carried to the post. The first time however it caught on the rocks, and a fresh line had to be past on shore. This was done, and the end of the cable buoyed was cast off from the ship and was soon hauled ashore.

The mainland shore end was then made fast to the fixed post and, to the other end on the schooner, a small battery was attached to test the insulation. This was found correct and the party on shore embarked again leaving two men behind. No sooner had they left the shore than the galvanometer showed that something was wrong. This was however found to be the end of the cable touching the land and establishing the connection. By signals from the schooner, this was soon rectified and, with little delay, the launches were ready with their tow lines fast and the anchor was weighed. The vessels then proceeded at the rate of about two knots direct for Breaksea Lighthouse, the cable being paid out from the hold over a derrick to the stem, where an admirable brake had been fixed under the superintendence of Mr. Beal, carpenter of the Opal. The galvanometer was still attached to the end onboard, which would indicate the slightest leakage or defective portion of the cable when it touched the water. The instrument was carefully watched by Mr. Innes and showed that the insulation was perfect all the way across.

At one o'clock, after making a curve round Michaelmas Island, the schooner's anchor was dropped within twenty yards of Breaksea landing place. The distance traversed had been about four miles so there was quite half a mile of cable to spare as it was four and a half miles long. There was no difficulty in effecting a landing at Breaksea, as there was little swell, and the boat could go up to the steps. After cutting off the surplus length, the end was landed and hauled taut and lashed to the jetty. This was completed at 3 pm., when Lieutenant Moore, with the steam pinnace and crew, steamed back to the mainland, while Mr. Innes landed at Breaksea with instruments to complete the test.

In the meantime, the launches, with the schooner in tow, had started for town. About a mile from Breaksea Island one of the pipes of the Loch Lomond burst and the Perseverance had to do all the work towing the Loch Lomond as well. This caused very slow progress and it was past seven o'clock when the town was reached. Just as the schooner dropped anchor off the coal jetty, the steam pinnace came up and Mr. Innes reported that the insulation of the cable was perfect and had stood every test.

The promptness with which this work has been carried out is very creditable and we trust that the Government will act with equal despatch in having the land lines completed and connection made between the lighthouse and the telegraph office. The length of cable cover will be quite sufficient to complete the line across the entrance to Oyster Harbor and lay a second line for the Breaksea telegraph.

On 1 September 1885, the Albany Mail reported that "Tenders are to be sent in by noon tomorrow to the Government Resident's Office for the erection of the land connections with the  Breaksea Island Submarine Cable from Oyster Harbor to Nanarup and from the landing place at Breaksea to the lighthouse".

It was not long before operational difficulties became evident. For example, the Albany Mail of 19 January 1886 reported "Now the telegraph cable is laid from Nanarup to Breaksea Island and two wires have to cross the entrance of Oyster Harbor at Emu Point, it is necessary that some means of transit should be offered at the latter place for horses, in order to save the long journey entailed by going round by the Kalgan Bridge. If a break occurs in the line on the East side of Emu Point, it is necessary for the lineman to travel nearly 40 miles to do work at a point only seven miles from the town. Two days ago, a couple of men had to cross Emu Point to repair the new Breaksea line. They had been there the week before but, being unable to cross the strait, returned. Hearing there was a boat at the Point they went there last Sunday. The boat was seen at the hut on the other side but they could make no one hear. After waiting a couple of hours, one of them swam across and fetched the boat. This was a plucky action, as the place is infested with sharks and the tide runs very strongly. We suggest that the Government should spend about £150 on a punt at this strait, which would be a convenience to travellers to the eastward as well as a ready means of obtaining access to the Harbor".

Further complications were reported by the Albany Mail in May 1886: "The Superintendent of Telephones (Mr. W. J. Hancock) has been for some time in Albany in connection with establishing telephonic communication between Breaksea Island and Albany. The Public Works Department have made a mess of the undertaking and incurred far greater expense than necessary. At first it was intended to have the usual Morse instrument, but it was subsequently decided to have communication by telephone and the land lines were run on the telegraph poles for 7 miles, 5 miles of new line also being laid. Mr. Hancock, who is a telephonic expert, has represented to the Government that telephone wires on telegraph poles do not work satisfactorily, as the strong electric current on the ordinary telegraph wires, interferes with that for the telephone. Consequently it has now been decided to run the Breaksea wire on independent poles to the Harbourmaster's house and thence to the telegraph station. This will cause another month's delay. The Breaksea end of the line will, however, be finished on May 5".

On 28 May 1886, the West Australian reported the next stage in the saga:

" The Director of Public Works yesterday received a most satisfactory telegram from Mr. Hancock who has been engaged recently in establishing communication by electric cable between the lighthouse and signalling station on Breaksea Island and Albany. It was the Director's desire that the communication should be telephonic, as much the simplest and least expensive. A submarine cable had not, however, we understand, ever before been practically utilized for this purpose, and when Mr. Hancock started upon the work, failure was freely prophesied and some anxiety as to the result was felt.

This has now been wholly removed and the practicability of Mr. Wright's proposal proved, for Mr. Hancock was in a position yesterday to report that from Emu Point, where the cable reaches the land, he had been able to converse with ease by telephone with the lighthouse residents, and even to distinguish one voice from another. The success of the experiment is now considered to be fully established.

The cable at Emu Point is not yet connected with Albany, but this work is being pushed forward as rapidly as the supply of poles available permits. This Breaksea signalling station has for years been urgently required. It will prove of the greatest value to the shipping of our neighbours, will considerably add to our revenue from telegraphs and, indirectly, cannot fail also specially to benefit Albany".

On 29 June 1886, the Acting Colonial Secretary announced that Breaksea Island had been connected to Albany by cable and that vessels could henceforth be reported. On 21 July, the Perth Inquirer reported:

"telephonic communication is now established between Breaksea Island and the Pilot Station. The wires run on separate poles from Emu Point. A prison party, under Warden Passmore, are now engaged in erecting a new line of poles from Nanarup to Emu Point. Recently Mr. Hancock, Inspector of Telephones, went to Breaksea and adjusted the instrument and all vessels that have come in during the past few weeks have been reported by telephone to the Harbor Master at the Pilot Station".

The Albany Mail of 31 July 1886 gave the following report:

"The telephone cable to Breaksea Island is now completed, communication having been established with the telegraph office by way of the pilot station. The cable runs from the island to Nanarup and the wire on separate posts to Emu Point, across which passage it is conveyed on high poles, giving sufficient room for small vessels to sail under. From Emu Point the line runs direct to the pilot station watch-house, where there is an instrument. The harbor-master can now communicate with the telegraph office or with Breaksea, and the light keeper and telegraph clerks can communicate directly with each other. All steamers and ships now arriving and passing the Sound are signalled, and the lightkeeper has a copy of the commercial code of signals by which he can read the numbers of any passing vessels if they fly their flags.

The establishment of Breaksea as a signal station is therefore complete and its advantage will be at once apparent to the maritime world. On Wednesday Mr. Hancock, Superintendent of Telephones courteously invited our representative to inspect the instrument at the Telegraph Office and speak to Breaksea. He was able to do so, and the lightkeeper recognised his voice. The loud ticking of the Morse instrument in the office rather interferes with the distinctness but the words were quite audible. When the place is quiet every syllable is heard clearly".

Captain H. K. Toll was appointed Lighthouse Keeper at Breaksea Island in August 1886. He also had an assistant Light Keeper plus a reserve assistant (Albany Mail, 25 August 1886).

The Western Mail of 25 December 1886 noted the importance of Breaksea Island, King George's Sound as follows:

"The value of Breaksea Island as a signalling station will henceforward be considerable.

It is the first land made by inward-bound mail steamers after passing Cape Leeuwin. There has long been a lighthouse on the island, but until it was connected with the mainland by cable the signals exhibited by vessels as they went by were only useful to enter in the lighthousekeeper's book, and could not be transmitted to the eastern ports of Australia. All P. and O. steamers are telegraphed from the Sound because they turn aside to land mails at Albany; but Orient steamers until lately were not heard of, though spoken with by the Breaksea signalman, until they arrived within sight of Cape Borda, Kangaroo Island, where they bear up for Adelaide.

The steamer Orient was signalled off Breaksea Island on Saturday, and thus persons expecting friends or letters or cargo had time to prepare for the landing of mails and passengers in Adelaide on Monday. After this we shall have as early notice of the coming of Orient, Messageries German, and other mail and passenger carrying steamers from Europe as we have hitherto had of P. and O. steamers. The cable across the Indian Ocean keeps us in daily communication with London, so we are not so dependent as we used to be on the mail steamers for important news.

But in time of war the sea and land lines of telegraph may be interfered with and Breaksea Island is the first point at which news coming by water can be dropped by steamers which desire to avoid turning out of their course to call at Albany. Hostile men-of-war may be seen off the Australian coast by mail steamers, and they will be able to hoist signals, putting us all on our guard, as they pass the lighthouse. Breaksea Island will besides be an excellent station in itself for detecting the approach of ships of war. The enemy will either have to give King George's Sound a wide berth, or risk being observed and reported. The first requirement of men-of-war on entering Australian waters will be coal; and the only outlying ports at which it will be obtainable, provided they are strong enough to seize it, are Albany, where supplies are stored, and the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, which is the site of working mines. Without coal, a powerfully-armed fleet would soon become helpless from its inability to move about; and herein lies one of our safeguards against attack".


8. Extension to Rottnest Island.

This 19 km2 island about 18 km west of Fremantle has been used for many purposes - for agriculture, as a prison for Aboriginal people, as a military site and to inter foreitn aliens. It is also known for its quokka population (which led Willem de Vlamingh to name the island "Rats' Nest Island" in Dutch).

The foundation stone for the Lighthouse on Rottnest Island was laid on 25 April 1895. On 1 September 1900, "after the work of fixing the light in position was completed, on Saturday afternoon a number of the leading residents of the Port accepted the invitation of the chief harbor master (Captain Russell, R.M.) to be present at the opening ceremony" (The Inquirer 7 September 1900).

It was a settlement which needed to be close for the people of Fremantle in particular. In the Speech of the Governor Sir Harry Ord to open the Legislative Council on 30 July 1879, he said:

"it is the duty of the Council to consider the advisableness, not to say imperative necessity, of laying down at once a short cable between Fremantle and Rottnest Island whereby the shipping interests of tbe Port would be advantaged materially, and the islanders would not then find themselves in so unprotected a condition as at present, located as they are in the midst of a considerable number of native prisoners, who might take it into their heads to revolt some fine day or night quite unexpectedly, and overcome them".

By 30 July 1897, the Western Mail and other newspapers had been calling for the establishment of a telegraph line to help prevent loss of life to the significant number of maritime vessells who were using the Fremantle Port. The telegraph link would work during day and night and regardless of weather conditions whereas the present system of using a heliograph had very obvious limitations.

In March 1898, the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce yet again discussed the question of cable communication between Fremantle and Rottnest. The latest catalyst for the discussion was the inaugration of a mail service. This service made it critical for incoming steamers - day of night - needed to execute their business quickly and leace as soon as possible. Of course there were all the other reasons of safeth, etc which had been discussed at length in many forums.

Luck ran out and, in July 1899, the City of York was wrecked within two cable lengths of Rottnest. The discussion is included elsewhere. The article points out the discussions had gone on for quite some time but the Government had priorities different from saving the lives of people and maintaining the happiness of many more associated people as well as the considerable losses of property. "but the Government wanted to spend £20,000 on an unnecessary ball-room for our toy-Governor Smith, a similar amount upon an equally unnecessary observatory, in which Gastronomer Cook amuses himself, to the disgust of intelligent people, and a further amount upon an asylum for wild animals—a second Government House ball-room in many respects—and it could not suffer the country's funds to be squandered upon such a necessary matter as that of providing cable communication between Fremantle and Rottnest Island". Later in July 1899, the W.A, Premier stated that if it was found impossible to install telegraphic communication with Rottnest Island by the Marconi system, cable communication would be immediately provided - a distance of 12 miles. This announcement was followed up in November: "As a result of tbe experiments in wireless telegraphy between Rottnest and the Mainland, Mr. Stevens, the electrician of the Telegraph Department, says that it will be necessary in the near future to establish a wireless telegraphic station at Rottnest in addition to the cable service" (Murchison Times 4 November 1899).

On 8 March 1900, a cable between Fremantle and Rottnest was opened to enable communication by telephone.

In January 1906, the Fremantle Harbour Trust Commmissioners agreed to a proposal to erect a wireless telegraph station on Rottnest - given that a plan to erect a number of such stations throughout the Commonwealth was being considered. Finally a compomise was reached and tenders were called in December 1907 for wireless telegraphy installations at a number of places throughout Australia - including Rottnest. The list of stations in the Coastal Radio Service did not however include Rottnest.