Pat Quinn MSS reflects on Tasman Island, a special place for MSS

Tasman Island cliff face and water

At the age of 84, I find myself reflecting on an exciting and satisfying life’s journey. As our local Sisters in Toowoomba age, I appreciate the bonds formed through a lifetime of pursuing a common vision. From our many years travelling to remote places, we share memories of challenging roads, interesting characters we met, frightening experiences and happy encounters. When I heard of the recent circumnavigating of Tasman Island, I recalled the journeys I made there and our colourful description of accessing the lighthouse families on top.

I was with different Sisters on each trip, and we were all terrified, but accepted the challenge. The lighthouse keepers on this island would have possibly been the most remote in Australia. Tasman Island is 980 feet high and was the highest operating lighthouse in Australia, manned by three families until 1977 when it was automated.

Reaching the island meant taking a ride on a fishing boat delivering supplies. Accessing the lighthouse was another matter! Given the wild weather, it was never possible to use helicopter. The ocean was too rough to have a jetty for boats. Access was by way of a flying fox basket hanging from a cable linking a rock in the sea to a landing (90 feet up the cliff!) We jumped from the fishing boat into a dinghy, then into the flying fox. On arriving at the 90-foot landing, we were told to lie side-by-side flat on a trolley that was drawn by a cable up to the top. We had no safety belts and began the trip horizontally. Soon we were vertical as the trolley climbed the cliff face, 900 feet to the top. It was a spectacular view, but we were terrified! And committed!

That same pioneering spirit in our Sisters when visiting Tasman Island, drove our missionary work throughout Australia. We were brave women. And now in our final years, we all still have that common spirit and history together. I am full of gratitude for such a life.

The photo above shows the landing from where the trolly travelled to the top of Tasman Island. Photo courtesy Mary Williams.

Below is the December 1967 edition of Highways and Byways newsletter, where Pat Quinn (then known as Sr Margarat Mary, on the left) tells the full Tasman Island mission story. Photo courtesy Bernadette Wallis MSS.


1967 page of Highways and Byways newsletter