Bray's Legacy a Story of Valour

The Observer (Gladstone, Australia), April 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

Bray's Legacy a Story of Valour


THE first lightkeeper at Boyne Island lighthouse was David Bray, who served for 30 years tending the light. Previously, he had been lightkeeper at Gatcombe Head on Facing Island where he served 13 years. On his retirement from employment, it was said that he was a man of courage, endurance and perseverance.

David Bray was born on May 15, 1859 in St Peter's Sandwich, Kent, and joined the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman in 1877. He served on a number of vessels from 1877 to 1880, when he moved to the HMS Superb. After being made Able Seaman, he gained medals for serving on the Superb in the Egyptian wars in 1882, when the ship took part in the bombardment of Alexandria. David's naval records described his character throughout his years in the Royal Navy as very good.

Before Federation and the founding of the Royal Australian Navy, several states of Australia had their own navies. In Queensland it was the Queensland Marine Defence Force (QMDF). The QMDF purchased two gunboats, the QMDF Paluma and the Gayundah, words from the Aboriginal language meaning Thunder and Lightning. Built in 1884 in England at Newcastle on Tyne, the gunboats were ordered by the Queensland Government because of the fear of a war with Russia. Both ships were 120 feet long, had a beam of 26 feet and their draft was 9 feet 6 inches. Weighing 360 tons, they both had a maximum speed of 10.5 knots.

Admiralty decided that Paluma would better serve the purpose of a survey ship in the northern waters of Australia so, after undergoing her sea trials, she was converted. The crew which brought her to Queensland was a RN surveying crew under the White Ensign. David Bray arrived on this ship in Queensland in 1885. Paluma's sister ship, Gayundah, also arrived in 1885 under the Blue Ensign, later sailing under the White Ensign. After serving later in the Australian Navy, in 1921 Gayundah was sold as a gravel barge. In 1958 she was beached at Woody Point on the southern Redcliffe Peninsular to provide protection to the cliffs and tourist road.

Paluma was sold in 1916 to Victorian Ports and Harbours Department and renamed Rip. She served until 1949 as a lighthouse tender, and was broken up in Melbourne in 1950.

David Bray, meanwhile, with his naval background, was the ideal person to work as a lightkeeper, and in 1887, he took up the position of lightkeeper at Gatcombe Head. …

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