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 Murray Harbour Range Front, PE    
Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.Active Fresnel Lens
Description: Murray Harbour is located a few miles northwest of Cape Bear. In 1908, the bar at the harbour was described as being about ¾ of a mile off the beach and about 73 metres (240 feet) wide with a covering of 3 metres (10 feet) at low tide. A buoy was placed just outside the bar, and from that point, when the Murray Harbour Range Lights could be seen one above the other, mariners could follow that line to reach good anchorage and the local wharves.

Early view of Murray Harbour Front Range
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
Murray Harbour Range Lights were first established in 1869 after John Brooks and other inhabitants of the place petitioned the island's government for a grant to erect lights at the entrance of the harbour. John Chapman and James Penny were each given £10 to construct the lights, while James Penny and someone with the surname Lumsden were paid to maintain them. The original front range light consisted of a white light displayed from a post at a height of thirty feet, while the rear light, also white, was displayed from the gable of a barn located about a mile from the front light.

A year after Prince Edward Island entered Confederation in 1873, the General Superintendent of Lighthouses visited the island and found the lighthouses and lighting apparatus were “very inferior,” and required a “large amount of repairs and improvements.” At that time, a new lantern, lamps, and reflectors were supplied for the Murrary Harbour Range Lights, and it was proposed that two open-framed towers, one on the wharf and the other on the beach, be erected instead of the “present arrangements.” It was also recommended that both lights be placed under the care of one person instead of two, as was the present case.

On June 22, 1876, William Mitchell, the agent for the Department of Marine and Fisheries on Prince Edward Island, visited the Murrary Harbour Range Lights and found that the lights were “not at all sufficient although they were being kept in good order.” No repairs were ordered at that time as a notice of tenders for new towers was expected to be published at any time. Mitchell did return in 1878 and place a new lantern on the front beacon after “hearing of the inefficiency of the outer beacon light.” Later that year, the Department at Ottawa provided plans and specifications for new range towers for which a sum of $1,500 had been appropriated.

Joseph Egan, of Mount Steward, received an $850 contract to build the long-awaited range towers for Murray Harbour. The work was started during the summer of 1878, and the range lights were completed that November.

In 1897, the timber block upon which the front tower stood had become unsafe so, as a temporary measure, the block was encased in hemlock boards before the fall gales. Large flat stones were embedded in the sand at each corner of the block, and upon these were put in place 6-inch posts. The corner posts of the tower were then bolted to these posts to hold the structure firmly in place. A new block was planned for the following year.

Lighthouse replaced on July 25, 2011
Photograph courtesy of Leah MacDonald
Arrangements were made in 1902 to reduce the height of the front range light by 3 metres (10 feet) so that the back light could be more easily distinguished.

Keeping the Murrary Harbour Rear Range Light was certainly a family affair as James Penny was keeper from 1878 to 1897, and he was followed by Robert Penny, and Robert Curtis Penny. The rear light was sometimes referred to as Penny’s Light, and the front light was also known as the Beach Light. Emerson MacLeod and Robert Curtis Penney were serving as keepers of the range lights in 1963, when the lights were electrified. They continued to serve as caretakers after electrification but at a greatly reduced salary.

The present front range light stands 7.2 metres (23.6 feet) tall, has a vertical red stripe on its seaward face, and displays a fixed red light. The companion rear range light stands 13.6 metres (44.6 feet) tall, also features a red stripe on its white tower, and exhibits a fixed red light at a focal plane of 17.8 metres (58.4 feet).

Storm surges in December of 2010, swept the front range light away, but the Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO) dragged the tower back to land and left it lying on its side. Life-long local George MacLeod, whose father used to tend the light, wants the tower repaired by the opening of lobster season, noting, "We don't have a lot to offer in the village, but that is one of our attractions."

Leah MacDonald, whose ancestors also kept the range lights, collected 1,700 signatures and formed the Beach Point Lighthouse Society in an effort to save the tower. The petition made it all the way to Gail Shea, minister of the Department of Fisheries, and after seven anxious months, a crane was brought in to place the tower atop a new cement foundation, a short distance from its old one. Moving the lighthouse from the parking lot where it had been stored to its new home took about two hours on July 27, 2011. After the move, a work crew replaced damaged studs, added support beams, and hooked up electric wiring. The tower received new shingles and a coat of paint before being reactivated. The total cost of the project was $75,000.

Keepers:

  • Front (Outer): Lumsden (1869), Abraham Daley (1878 – 1897), Lemuel McLeod (1897 – 1912), Lauchlin McNeill (1912 – 1929), Albert McNeill (1929), James Isaac Newton William (1929 – 1950), Emerson MacLeod (1950 – 1963).
  • Rear (Inner): James Penny (1868 – 1874), Malcom McFadyen (1875 – 1878), James Penny (1878 – 1897), Robert Penny (1897 – 1944), Robert Curtis Penny (1944 – 1963).

References

  1. Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, various years.
  2. Binder on the Lighthouses of Prince Edward Island, Carol Livingstone, 2002.
  3. "Beach Point lighthouse may be scrapped," CBC News, March 18, 2011.
  4. "Beach Point Lighthouse saved," July 29, 2011.

Location: Located along the shore in Murray Harbour.
Latitude: 46.02093
Longitude: -62.4783

For a larger map of Murray Harbour Range Front Lighthouse, click the lighthouse in the above map or get a map from: Mapquest.


Travel Instructions: From Route 4 near Murray River, go east on Route 18 (Cape Bear Road) to Murray Harbour, and then continue east on Cape Bear Road for 4 km (2.5 miles). At this point, Beach Road leads north to the Murray Harbour Range Front Lighthouse. In 2013, there was a sign where the road reaches the beach requesting that vehicles not be driven down to the lighthouse. Access by foot is still permitted.

The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.

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