|Chantry Island, ON|
Description: Chantry Island is situated just over a mile southwest of the entrance to the Saugeen River at Southampton, and barely submerged rocks and shoals extend another mile beyond Chantry Island, posing a dangerous threat to mariners.
Construction on the Chantry Island Lighthouse, one of the six Imperial Towers built by John Brown, began in 1855, and it was first illuminated on April 1, 1859. The 26-meter-tall (86-foot-tall) circular tower and the nearby one-and-a-half story keeper’s dwelling were both constructed using limestone blocks.
Duncan Lambert was the first official keeper at Chantry Island and brought to the position many years of maritime experience. In 1854, he was first mate aboard the steamer Bruce Mines, when it sank near Stokes Bay, and was largely responsible for ushering the crew into two small boats and safely seeing them to Owen Sound, a voyage of over a hundred miles. During his time as keeper, Duncan Lambert rescued several individuals from ships wrecked near Chantry Island. His son, William McGregor Lambert, was listed as an assistant keeper starting in 1863, and replaced his father as head keeper in 1880.
During the 1870s, the "Long Dock" was constructed at Chantry Island to form a harbour of refuge. The dock consisted of two long breakwaters, one extending from the eastern side of the island, and the other reaching seaward from the mainland. The narrow opening between the ends of the breakwaters was called the "Gap," and in 1870 range lights were erected to guide mariners into the protected anchorage. Keeper Lambert was responsible for the front light, located in a tower at the end of the Chantry Island breakwater. The rear range light was located on the mainland and today is known as the McNab Point Lighthouse.
Jean Davies was a friend of Keeper John Klippert’s daughter Ruth and often visited the station in the 1930s. In an interview for Fo’c’s’le Magazine, Mrs. Davies remembered the hard work required at the station. “Every night we had to climb to the top to light the light,” she told Weichel. “He had to pump it up and light the gas. Of course, there were beautiful prisms as I recalled, and when we climbed to the top he’d say, ‘Now you girls keep your fingers off that glass.’ He was meticulously clean... He also had a range light he had to light, on the end of the dock at the end of the island. It was a long way to go. He had an old bicycle and he’d get on it and pedal away down on those boards and out onto the old dock to light the light. I feel really blessed. I have such happy memories.”
Jean Davies wasn't the only guest staying in the stone keeper's dwelling. “They had bats in that house!” she recalled. “Oh! I spent half my weekends running around with a broom batting down bats... I remember one time we knocked over a lamp, which wasn’t very good...”
Chantry Island Lighthouse was automated in 1954, and three years later the island was declared a Federal Migratory Bird Sanctuary. When Jean Davies returned to her childhood vacation spot after being absent from the island for many years, the condition of the keeper's dwelling made her “heart sick.” With no upkeep, the dwelling roof, and a good portion of its walls and floors had all collapsed.
In 1998, the Supporters of Chantry Island, now known as the Southampton Marine Heritage Society, was formed to work towards the restoration of the light station. The society has raised over $600,000 as of 2008 and has restored and furnished the keeper’s dwelling, rebuilt the boat house, restored the privy, and planted historic gardens.
The wood required to rebuild the dwelling was not commercially available in the area, so thirty-one giant hemlock trees were harvested, milled, and transported to the island. Bill Robinson, a mason, rebuilt the walls of the dwelling, and the hemlock lumber was used to construct a new loft, floors, and the roof. A grand opening for the restored lighthouse was held on the island in August of 2001. Besides caring for the Chantry Island Lighthouse, the Marine Heritage Society watches over the Saugeen Range Lighthouses and the McNab Range Lighthouse, which was restored in 2008.
Located on the eastern shore of Chantry Island, roughly 1.5 km (1 mile) offshore from Southampton. The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard and leased to the Town of Saugeen Shores. Grounds/tower open for guided tours.
The lighthouse is owned by the Coast Guard and leased to the Town of Saugeen Shores. Grounds/tower open for guided tours.
Pictures on this page copyright Kraig Anderson, used by permission.