Keeper Cascaden had a family of seven children and was responsible for one mammoth flat-wick lamp set in a seventeen-inch reflector inside the rear tower’s iron lantern room.
In 1878, a pier and boathouse were erected at the outer end of the breakwater to help Keeper Lambert maintain the front light, after Darius Smith, the Superintendent of Lights above Montreal, had reported the following the previous year:
The range light on the end of the breakwater is of trellis work, painted white, 12 feet square at the base, has an iron lantern 4 feet square, and has one flat mammoth flat-wick lamp with 17 inch reflector; and shows a red fixed light, and is in first class order.
The upper portion of this range light requires to be enclosed, to enable the Keeper in bad weather to stay in the lighthouse; also the lantern requires to be cut or changed, so that two panes of glass may be inserted, one to the south for the use of vessels entering the piers, and one to the east to show up the channel to the eastward.
The breakwater is at present without any protection for the Keeper in bad weather, and is most dangerous, as the sea rushes over it, making it almost impossible to pass along. I would recommend that iron posts with a chain should be placed the whole length of the pier, which is 2,260 feet long, the posts should be about 15 feet apart and to screw into the pier.
A steam fog whistle was established atop Southampton’s brick waterworks building in 1905 to help mariners enter the harbour. The building was situated just south of the mouth of the Saugeen River, and the whistle gave two five-second blasts every minute.
Laura Macaulay provided the following recollection of her trips to the rear range light in the 1920s, when her grandfather John Buckley was serving as keeper:
To the right of the door was a huge metal tank filled with coal oil, (kerosene), it had a distinct odour. A supply boat would come in once or twice a year. It had to anchor in the lake and the coal oil was brought in smaller amounts. There was great excitement when the supply boat arrived. Grampa would fill a container with the coal oil; he knew exactly the amount he needed.
We followed him up two flights of stairs, he pushed up the trap door, we had reached the important thing. There was a large Coal Oil lamp with a dirty chimney because it had burned out earlier. He filled the lamp, cleaned the chimney and checked the wick. One more job – the huge silver reflector behind the lamp had to be polished. Finally he lit the lamp and everything was finished for another day. I don’t remember him ever missing a day.
When the front range light was discontinued in the late 1950s, the rear range light remained active as Southampton Harbour Light until at least 1971. By 1974, the tower was back in operation as McNab Point Lighthouse and was equipped with a marker radiobeacon that operated on a frequency of 306 kHz.
In 1988, the Canadian Coast Guard placed aluminum siding over the exterior wooden shingles. This cost-saving move resulted in moisture collection under the siding and dry rot. The siding was removed by the Marine Heritage Society in 2008, and new shingles were placed on the tower to correct the problem. After receiving a new coat of paint, the tower is again in fine condition, though the light was discontinued in 1989. The Marine Heritage Society hopes to eventually return the light to service as a private navigational aid.
On August 3, 2012, the Honorable Peter Kent, Canada’s Environment Minister and the person responsible for Parks Canada, designated the Saugeen River Range Lights and McNab Point Lighthouse in Southampton, and St. Paul Island Southwest Lighthouse in Dingwall, Nova Scotia the first heritage lighthouses designated under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act passed in 2008. “I’m delighted to feature these four noteworthy examples of Canadian lighthouses as our first designated heritage lighthouses,” said Minister Kent. “With the help of local communities, the Government of Canada hopes to protect as many examples of these important symbols of our seafaring heritage as possible.” Concerned citizens have demonstrated their determination to preserve the lighthouse and are worthy of having it included in the first batch of heritage lighthouses.
Head Keepers: David Cascaden (1877 – 1882), John Lee (1882 – 1904), James Brown (1904 – 1916), John Buckley (1916 – at least 1923).