Redbill: from Pearls to Peace -
Life and Times of a Remarkable Lugger

by Kate Lance

20 May 2005: Redbill wins Western Australian Premier's Book Award in Non-Fiction

The judges' comments were: Built in 1903 for the Broome pearling industry, Redbill went on to an eventful life that spanned nearly a century and some major historical events. It was requisitioned by the navy during World War II, took part in Greenpeace protests in the Pacific, and was used to raise funds for the East Timorese. At various times it was crewed by troubled teenagers, crocodile farmers, ecologists and others who all fell under its spell. One of those captivated was Lance, who chronicles with warmth and affection its remarkable adventures.

In February 2004 the Fremantle Arts Centre Press published my book Redbill, the story of a wooden boat meandering through one hundred years of history, from pearling to WWII, from Greenpeace to a devastating cyclone.

The book had a strange origin. I originally trained as an astronomer, but became involved in Internet system administration in the late 1980s. I was taking time off in 2000; burnt out, and doing yoga for a bad back. One day my teacher mentioned his time on Redbill and I became fascinated by the story.

I originally planned to write up just a little of the lugger's history, but once I discovered the pleasures of archival research I was hooked, and the book was the result. It was a fantastic experience.

The FACP did a lovely job of the book, but its format meant that it was not possible to reproduce the photos as clearly as the originals. Many of them are of great historical interest, so I've put copies on this site with better detail and in colour where relevant. (Note, these images are not print-quality, they are here for information only.)