Few things are as exciting to a lighthouse enthusiast as "finding" a "lost" light. It has been my privilege to be involved in several such finds over the past decade both here in New Brunswick and in neighbouring Prince Edward Island and each time is as exciting and rewarding as the first.
Prince Edward Island has one of the premier collections of lighthouses in Canada and I seem to make a trip at least once a year that involves visiting at least one or two. In August of 2003 however I made a trip that had nothing to do with lighthouses, or at least so I thought. While driving down a rural road in the Murray River area, nowhere near water, I had a fleeting image of what seemed to be a small lighthouse as I passed by. As crazy as it seemed I turned around and sure enough, there was a small range light sitting in a mowed area not far off the road. Behind it in an overgrown field was another taller lighthouse. Naturally I started knocking on the door of the nearest house and luckily found the resident at home. He informed me that although the lighthouse was next to his house, it and the property it sat on belonged to his neighbour across the road who did not appear to be home. As I was frantically writing down everything this gentleman could tell me, Mr. Boul, the owner of the lights drove up. After a brief introduction he was more than happy to escort me to both lights and to fill me in on what he knew.
Mr. Boul’s father had purchased the set of range lights in the mid 1980’s from somewhere in the Orwell Cove area and had them moved to their current location, however he did not know the actual name of the lights. Unfortunately since that time the towers have been allowed to deteriorate. Mr. Boul stated that he would love to fix them up but simply does not have the means.
Once I returned home I headed for the Coast Guard base in Saint John where I spent an afternoon with CG personnel pouring over old charts and LOLs. None of the descriptions seemed to match the towers that I had found so I documented them simply as “Orwell Cove range lights”. In 2006 while providing Russ Rowlett with some photos of the island for his website, I noticed that the Orwell Cove range lights were listed as “lost” so I sent along photos I had taken along with what little I knew of the range lights that I had found.
In January of 2007 I received an email from Russ informing me that a Mr. David Hunter of Orwell Cove in PEI had positively identified the lighthouses as being the old Douse Point range lights, formerly of Orwell Cove. Not only that, but Mr. Hunter had knowledge of yet another of the “lost” lights of the area, the Brush Wharf front range, also now privately owned. I could barely contain myself at this point so luckily it wasn’t long before Russ had me in touch with Mr. Hunter who was able to provide a wealth of information on the lighthouses of the area.
In writing of the Douse Point lights Mr. Hunter says;
“According to a book I have, the Douse’s Point range lights were automated using battery power in May, 1962, sometime afterwards power lines were run down to them, and they were decommissioned on March 9, 1984. We tried to buy them back then when they were taken out of service, but regulations wouldn’t allow it, as they would have been relocated too close to the spot where older charts showed them and it was deemed that moved only slightly, they could have led mariners using old charts onto the rocks... Not a good idea. Then one day, the trucks came and took them away, changing the view from our home forever. But we loved them, and it would have been so nice had we been allowed to buy them at the time… Back when Dad wanted to buy them; it would have cost little to move them, as they would have only needed to move a few hundred feet (at least the upper one). It is sad to see them going down hill so fast. When they were removed, they had just been painted, and were truly beautiful….”
Of the area’s lights he writes:
“To my recollection (and only from photos as it was before my time when it was moved off the wharf), there was only ever one light on the old Brush Wharf…I mentioned our trips down to light the lamps in the houses with Kenny MacLeod (who lived on the road now known as the Upper Cove Road), the last lighthouse keeper before they were electrified. Before him the keeper was Walter MacLeod also from just up the road (he lived right across from the old schoolhouse in the house now owned by Enman’s). He used to come down to light the lights with an old horse and cart. I remember it well, as his horse always was dressed up in an old straw hat with holes cut in the brim for its ears. Many times we took the same trip with him as well. Both men are now dead….
Kenny came down the same time each day (I don’t think he was the
official keeper — in fact, I believe his mother, Belle MacLeod was, but he was almost always the one to do it, and occasionally his brother Mac). Each day he climbed up to the light, filled the oil, trimmed the wick and set the lamp for the night’s operation.
Seems funny thinking back to it, but it was only seven years previous to the time when the lights were automated that electricity came to the Cove.
Anyway, the daily trips down to the lighthouses with Kenny are very fond memories. We were only here in the summer back then, but two months a year then became a lifelong memory.”
Armed with this information along with directions on how to locate the old Brush Wharf light, I could hardly wait until my planned trip to the island in May.
The day finally arrived and despite a forecast of showers I even had good weather. I easily located the neglected little lighthouse thanks to Dave and set about taking photographs. The owner was not yet up for the season and not a single person or car went by during my visit. This light is in even worse condition than the Douse Point range lights. The roof shingles are almost completely gone and the window is open so the structure is susceptible to all that our Canadian weather has to offer. The tree growing up against the door is testimony that no one has used the structure in some time. The only items inside are two buoys and an old wagon wheel, as forgotten as the decaying little lighthouse itself.
It is sad to see the condition all these lights are in today, especially when Dave recalls how beautiful they were when they were removed from their posts. They served the community of Orwell Cove well at one time and at least now they can be remembered by name in their last declining years.
This story appeared in the
July 2007 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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