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Grand Passage, NS  Lighthouse accessible by ferry.   

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Grand Passage Lighthouse

Grand Passage Lighthouse is located on the northern point of the Brier Island and marks the northwest side of the entrance to Grand Passage, which runs between Brier Island and Long Island. Passage Shoal and Cow Ledge Shoal are maritime hazards found in Grand Passage, which is made even more treacherous by tide streams that can run at a rate of up to five or six knots.

Original Grand Passage Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
The first lighthouse at Grand Passage was constructed in 1901 as a square wooden pyramidal tower, painted white and topped by an octagonal red lantern. A fog bell, supported by a framework near the light tower, was established at the station in 1904. During thick or foggy weather, machinery gave the bell single strokes at five-second intervals.

In 1905, keeperís dwellings were built for the two light stations on Brier Island, Grand Passage and Brier Island, by Mr. E. C. Bowers, of Westport, for a contract price of $3,150. Charles Buckman was the fist keeper of Grand Passage Lighthouse, serving from 1901 until his death in 1940.

While Buckman was keeper he picked up a bottle in November 1914 that contained a leaf from a memorandum book. One side of the paper was an Eastern Steamship Company's advertisement, and on the reverse was penned the following: August 8th, 1914 - German war ship off Coast of Maine.

In 1960, Wickerson Lent gave up his job as a fisherman and moved with his wife Madeline and their four young children into a dwelling at Grand Pasage. Having lost a leg in a boyhood hunting accident, Wickerson found that lightkeeping better suited him than trying to maintain his balance with an artificial leg on a pitching boat.

The three school-aged sons enjoyed their forty-five-minute, animal-studded walk to school each day. One day they returned home nursing a nearly-dead, red-tailed hawk, with a mouth full of porcupine quills. It must have flown over from the mainland following its encounter with the porcupine, as these animals were not found on Brier Island. The family did all they could to save the emaciated hawk, but it didn't make it through the first night. A taxidermist mounted the hawk for the boys, and they cherished it for years. The boys likely gained their fondness for birds and animals from their father, who assisted ornithologists in banding birds each fall and had a special license to collect rare specimens for the Museum of Science in Halifax.

It seemed that Sundays were mostly stormy, so the family typically stayed at home - easing their consciences by putting money in the mission boxes and listening to Sunday services on the radio.

Not too many months after moving to Grand Passage, the Wickersons received word that an assistant keeper was no longer needed since the light was being automated. After the parents had extolled all the advantages of returning to "civilization" to their disappointed children, they learned that the position of assistant keeper was available at Brier Island Lighthouse, five miles away. Though the move wasn't far, they did have to go from a home with electricity, indoor bathroom, but no phone to one with a phone, but without electricity or an indoor bathroom.

The original lighthouse at Grand Passage was demolished in 1968 and replaced by the current one, a white square concrete tower with a red lantern room connected to one corner of a square, flat-roofed, one-story building.

Lawrence F. (Pete) Welch had been keeper of Grand Passage Lighthouse, known locally as North Light, for four years when it was unmanned in 1988. The stationís fog bell can be seen at the post office in Digby, where it is part of memorial to those lost at sea.

References

  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, various years.
  2. "Lighthousekeeping - Not Light House Keeping," Madeline Lent, News on the D.O.T., July-August, 1961.
  3. Lighthouses & Lights of Nova Scotia, E.H. Rip Irwin, 2003.

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