Monday, November 18, 2013

Seacow Head Lighthouse

     I was recently out to the Chelton and Fernwood area of the Island - located between Bedeque and Bordon-Carleton.
     I went down to the Lighthouse, off Route 119 - my first time in this area.  Beautiful!

            It comes as a bit of a surprise to most people that walruses, for which Seacow Head and Seacow Pond are named, were abundant on Prince Edward Island during the late 19th century.
            Seacow Head Lighthouse was built during the summer of 1864 under a contract of 314 pounds by David McFarlane and John Rankin.  Besides the cost of constructing the tower, 86 pounds was paid for the land and right-of-way, Malcolm McFarlane was given 30 pounds for clearing the land, Thomas Robinson was paid 85 pounds for the lantern, and 300 pounds was expended for copper, lamps, glass and materials for the frame.
            The octagonal, heavy-framed lighthouse, 18.3 meters (60 feet) in height and measuring 3.4 meters (11 feet 3 inches) on each side at the base, originally stood on a  stone foundation and exhibited its light at a focal plan of about 27 meters  (88 feet) above the surrounding water.  Situated on the coast near the turning point for reaching Summerside Harbour, the Seacow Lighthouse serves as both a harbour light and a gulf light.
            Malcolm McFarlane served as the first keeper of Seacow Head Lighthouse starting in 1865.  In 1867, after MacFarlane was no longer keeper, two commissioners were appointed by the House of Assembly of Prince Edward Island to investigate charges against the former keeper.  The commissioners found that the evidence presented to support a charge that McFarlane had embezzled public property were so trifling that it would not have been sustained in a court of law, and thus Keeper McFarlane was cleared.
            In 1877, William Mitchell, the agent for the Department of Marine and Fisheries on Prince Edward Island, visited Seacow Lighthouse with the General Superintendent of Lighthouses of Canada and had five Sibler’s patent lamp and burners, with deep reflectors, placed in the lantern room.  At that time, the keeper, Peter O’Ronaghan, was living in the lighthouse, which was very uncomfortable, and Mitchell encouraged the Department to consider constructing a keeper’s dwelling.  Tenders were invited for the construction of the requested dwelling in 1879, and a construct for the sum of $777 was awarded to James Barclay of Ellerslie.  The new dwelling was built at the station in 1880.
            A new cast-iron lantern was placed atop the tower in 1902 replacing a worn-out, inferior lantern.  The tower was also reshingled, and a new platform deck built.  In 1906, the system of lamps and reflectors was replace by a fourth-order Fresnel lens, supplied by Barbier, Benard & Turenne, of Paris France.  The lens consisted of two groups of two panels each with each panel sub tendering 90 degrees in the horizontal plane.  Every ten seconds, second flash of 0.638 seconds, and long eclipse of 6.862 seconds.  The lens completed one revolution every twenty seconds, and petroleum vapour burner under a mantle was used as the illuminant.
            Seacow Lighthouse was automated on November 12, 1959, and the dwelling was sold on March 7, 1960 and removed from the site.  The tower was moved back from the eroding bank in 1979.
            Seacow Head Lighthouse appeared in the opening scenes of many of the episodes of Road to Avonlea, which was adapted from a few books by Lucy Maude Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables.  Seacow Lighthouse was also the model for Gus Pike’s Lighthouse that appeared in the series.  Two mock-ups of the Seacow Lighthouse, one of which was cut short for scenes that took place at the top of the lighthouse, were constructed in a field near Uxbridge, Ontario, for use in filming.
            When Tom Sheery, who owns the cottage adjacent to the lighthouse, learned the federal government was divesting Seacow Lighthouse, he visited his neighbours and obtained enough signatures to file an application for the structure.  “I went around to the residents of the community to see if there was enough local support, and 99 percent of them signed the petition,” said Sherry.  Interested residents formed Friends of Seacow Lighthouse and submitted a business plan to the government.  A public meeting was held at the lighthouse on July 18, 2013, and nearly the entire community of Fernwood showed up.  Though some had questions about liability and maintenance costs, all were unanimous that the historic lighthouse should be saved.
            Malcolm McFarlane            1865-1867
            Thomas P. Huestis              1867-1872
            James Wright                       1872-1873
            Peter (Pat’k) O’Ronaghan  1873-1917
            E. O’Ronaghan                     1917-1919
            Thomas J. Ranahan            1919-1946
            Walter Richards                   1946-1959
     Above information cf.
Below: Image cf. display at West Point Lighthouse.

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