Thornleigh at sea

Thornleigh has an interesting maritime history.

During the war, Thornleigh played its part in exporting fish to the mainland to feed the troops. There wasn’t a fishing hole on the reef that Phil Dignam didn’t know. Deep sea fishing was in Carl Dignam’s blood. He was an extraordinary boatman – he literally became part of the boat and even in the heaviest seas remained at ease and piloted the B Centauriso that she was always settled, never putting a foot wrong.

Thornleigh sported an array of big boats, little boats, rowing boats and sailing boats. Phil Dignam’s motor launch Tremoloplied the lagoon and brought flying boat passengers to shore. She is resting safely under cover on the farm.

Four of the old dinghies are still in the boatshed awaiting restoration. Two are sister ships and lovely rowing boats – the blue trimmed Petronellawas Philippa Dignam’s, the green trimmed Paw Paw was Patricia’s. Carl’s little one-man dinghy is there, and there is a beautiful clinker hull sailing boat build by Jim Fitzgerald.

Jim Whistler’s Wideawakewith Carl Dignam’s B Centauri behind her

Thornleigh’s boatshed and slipway was a busy place. The Island’s big boats were on and off the slips for their regular health checks. Phil Dignam’s Noddywith her little Stuart diesel engine lived in front of the boatshed and pottered along at six knots fishing all around the lagoon and the Island. In calm weather she would go all the way to the Pyramid, although that took a while. Carl Dignam’s B Centaurigot there faster, roaring along at 20 knots at full clip with a massive GM diesel under the bonnet. She was a magnificent sea boat, able to handle the worst conditions with ease.

Phil Dignam working on the Noddy, with B Centauri lying in front. Phil’s dachshund Mullygrubber maintains watch in the foreground.

These days the boatshed and slipway area are quieter places. Their historic value is recognised in the Island’s heritage list. The boatshed has been restored, the big cradle has been moved back into place onto the slipway area and the slipway winch has a new housing to protect it from the elements.

The restored cradle (foreground) and protected winch (background)

Drought Conditions on Lord Howe Island

Lord Howe Island is suffering from drought. Rainfall in 2018 was 500mm (20 inches) below the longterm average.

The Island has been hit hard this summer. In December we had only 8mm of rain, compared to the long-term average of 100mm, and 117mm in the previous December. There has been no rain at all so far in January and there is no sign of rain in coming weeks.

The Island does not have mains water. Thornleigh Farm, like many others, relies on rainwater. We have a significant investment in catchment, storage and drip irrigation facilitiesto collect and conserve water. Our water reserves have lasted all through December, but with no sign of an end to the drought we have decided to conserve our remaining supply and move the farm to care and maintenance. This means that we will not be able to supply our normal range of fresh produce.

Thank you for your support and understanding. We look forward to getting back to normal after good rains come.

Why don’t we use bore water?

Bore water is used on the Island but the water must be sterilised and desalinated for human use and irrigation. We have a lovely old well on the property. We can sterilise the water with in-line ultraviolet filtration, but we do not favour desalination because it requires large amounts of power and produces toxic waste as a by-product which is poisonous to land and marine life.

An Island Wedding

Congratulations to Brenden & Kira, who have worked tirelessly to rebuild this farm, and who were married here yesterday afternoon!

After a morning of heavy rain and thunder, the skies cleared a brilliant blue. Thornleigh Farm hosted over one hundred guests. They gathered in the paddock to witness Brenden & Kira exchanging vows over the well.

With their hands together, over years, Brenden & Kira built the place for their wedding.

When Brenden & Kira moved to Thornleigh, the spot where they were married was overgrown with weeds, utterly impassable, as was the rest of the property. Yesterday, it was the picture of manicured perfection.