Girls story will be told with puppets

Don Watson with a painting of his mother Fay.
Don Watson with a painting of his mother Fay.

Cockburn resident Don Watson’s mum, Fay Howe, was known as the little girl who lived on Albany’s Breaksea Island between 1906 and 1915.

It was on the island in 1914 the teenager made her mark, signalling in Morse code to the departing soldiers bound for Egypt, the Dardanelles and Gallipoli. To many, she was their last memory of Australia.

She made such an impression that it wasn’t long before beautifully embossed postcards began arriving from the Middle East, addressed to ‘the little girl on Breaksea Island’.

Her story will be retold as part of next year’s Perth International Arts Festival, with French street theatre company, Royal de Luxe, using its acclaimed Giants to bring the story to life.

Mr Watson (83) said it was incredible his mum was to be recognised in such a unique way.

‘I was quite surprised when I found out; fancy imagining my mother as a six-metre tall puppet’,’ he said.

Mr Watson said life on the island was tough. Rough conditions meant visits to the main land were few, while rough seas hampered boats ferrying across important supplies. It did however allow Fay to learn a few tricks.

‘The island was where my mother learnt about lighthouses, signalling and things like that,’ he said.

‘She was adept at Morse code and (flag signalling system) semaphore.’

On November 1, 1914, she used those skills to signal to the 36 ships departing King George Sound.

‘They would have gone out single file, it would have taken almost a whole day for the ships to sail out and that’s why they wrote to her; she was the last person they spoke to,’ Mr Watson said.

More than a million people are expected to attend when the giant puppets roam Perth. It will cost more than $5 million but Tourism Minister Liza Harvey said it would attract thousands of visitors and inject millions into the economy.