Mystery of man who became hermit of Pancake Creek 

ON an isolated stretch of Queensland coast there is a lighthouse accessible only by boat or amphibious vehicle.

The Bustard Head Lighthouse is one of the most inaccessible places in the country.

Nestled between the communities of Gladstone and 1770, it has been home to some of the bravest men and women in the country.

In his book ‘Lighthouse of Tragedies’, former lighthouse keeper Stuart Buchanan recounts many of the tragic tales that befell those who lived and worked on Bustard Head.

Just a stone’s throw away from Bustard Head is Pancake Creek.

It was here in this heartbreakingly beautiful vista that a former Gloucester local chose to make his home midway through last century.

Not much is known of Laurie Alexander Thompson, or as he became known to those living at Bustard Head, the Hermit of Pancake Creek.

He is mentioned several times in Mr Buchanan’s book as a reclusive man who seldom ventured from Pancake Creek after he was shipwrecked on the remote stretch of coast in 1951.

Now, a Queensland man is trying to piece together Mr Thompson’s life story and he is seeking assistance from members of the Gloucester public who may have known him.

In his research to date, Terry Arnold has discovered that the man who would become known as the Hermit of Pancake Creek grew up on a grazing property in the Gloucester valley.

After completing his schooling he became an engineer and fought in the First World War.

In about 1950 Laurie bought an 18m boat called ‘Duckwing’ which he used to catch fish off the Capricorn coast in Queensland.

The boat, already old, was constantly in need of maintenance and eventually began to take on water.

In 1951 the boat sank off Clews Point at Pancake Creek.

Marooned, Laurie saved the few possessions he still had and eventually built himself a shack.

It would be his home for the next 21 years.

Terry Arnold is the Pastor of the Hervey Bay Bible Church.

He first heard about Laurie Thompson when he read Mr Buchanan’s book shortly after a sailing trip to Pancake Creek.

“I’m a keen sailor and have sailed to Pancake Creek twice,” he said.

“When I first heard about Laurie I thought I’ve got to find out who this guy was.”

Mr Arnold has written several small books in his role as a pastor and says if he can find out enough about Mr Thompson another novel might not be out of the question.

“There’s a very interesting story in this,” he said.

Laurie was initially shunned by the lighthouse keepers, but eventually he gained acceptance and was granted permission to remain living on the headland.

He lived off the sea with his only companion, a mongrel dog called Pete.

“He used to go up to the lighthouse at Christmas and take a bag of lollies up there for the children,” Mr Arnold said.

“It’s the only time he ever really interacted with anyone during his whole time at Pancake Creek.

“Typically he was very unkempt, with long hair and a long beard, but every Christmas he would shave everything off. 

“After the festivities were over he would go back to his remote hermit existence at Pancake Creek.”

In February 1972 Laurie was found gravely ill in his shack by one of the lighthouse keepers.

He was transported by barge to hospital in Gladstone where he died a few days later on February 17. 

His ashes were returned to Bustard Head and buried near his shack, which later burned down.

Terry Arnold is looking for information from family or people who may have known Mr Thompson while he was still living in the Gloucester area.

Mr Arnold can be contacted on 0411 489 472 or email

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