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Press Release: Historic characters acting up at Cape Otway Lightstation

Issued: 19 December 2009

ACTORS will bring to life the fascinating true stories of Cape Otway characters every day during the summer holiday season.

The Cape Otway Lightstation’s Scott Felstead, a writer and director, has researched historical records, court cases and biographical information to bring a parade of characters back to life.

From January through to Easter the actors will perform the stories of Henry Bayles Ford who won the Superintendent’s job, a watch that lasted 30 years from 1848.

Ford’s extraordinary wife Mary Anne Ford, will also be portrayed by an actor.

Mary Anne gave birth to seven children at the remote outpost, nursed shipwrecked sailors and tended the lighthouse when her husband’s assistant keepers disappeared to join the Gold Rush. She waited up to 12 months for supply ships to drop off their rations.

Lightstation visitors will also meet Rose Ann Hyland, who was one of a handful of survivors from the female convict ship Neva which was wrecked on reefs north of King Island in 1835.

“Rose Ann Hyland is important because she was one of six survivors in the disaster which claimed 224 lives,” Mr Felstead said.

“She gave evidence at an inquiry held to ascertain the need for a lighthouse at Cape Otway,” he added.

“We don’t know her crime, but lots of women committed crimes so that they would be transported – it was the cheapest way to start a new life.”

James Lawrence, the very first lightkeeper at the Cape will also make an appearance.

“Lawrence was sacked for effecting repairs for which he was not qualified,” Mr Felstead said.

“An assistant lightkeeper also gave testimony that Lawrence swore at some people in an ‘ungentlemanly manner’.”

Lawrence, something of an unsavoury character is noted as being a womaniser and “fond of the bottle”.

Other characters in the Cape Otway summer re-enactments include Charles La Trobe, the first Governor of Port Phillip, who helped forge a road to Cape Otway, and the French Commander Nicholas Boudin who failed to make territorial claims on behalf of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Katherine Evans, the wife of an assistant lightkeeper, will also appear. Two of her children, both infants who died within 12 months of each other, are buried in the Cape Otway cemetery.

Mr Felstead said actors would perform the stories of the Cape characters throughout the day during the summer holiday season.

For more information please call Lightstation manager Paul Thompson on 5237 9240, email keeper@lightstation.com or visit www.lightstation.com

CAPTION: Actors Janice Haynes and Robert Kelty will perform Characters of the Cape at Cape Otway Lightstation daily from January through to Easter.

The picture at the grave shows Janice Haynes in character as Katherine Evans at the grave of one of the Evans’ family’s children. The graves are at the Cape Otway Cemetery.

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