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Medway Head, NS  Lighthouse accessible by car and a short, easy walk.   

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Medway Head Lighthouse

The lighthouse on Medway Head was known as the Port Medway Lighthouse until that name was transferred to the tower built on the wharf at Port Medway in 1899. Thereafter, the structure marking the western side of the entrance to Port Medway Harbour was known as the Medway Head Lighthouse.

The first lighthouse on Medway Head was a combination dwelling and tower constructed in 1851 and shown in the historic photograph on this page. Note the dark rectangles on the dwelling that served as a daymark.

1851 Medway Head Lighthouse
Photograph courtesy Nova Scotia Archives and Records
The lantern atop the dwelling was a three-sided window glazed with 17 x 11 inch glass panes separated by iron sashes. Four lamps and three twelve-inch reflectors were being used in the lantern in 1874, requiring roughly 160 gallons of oil each year. In addition to the lighthouse, two other buildings, measuring 25 x 15 feet and 22 x 11 feet, were found at the station in 1874. One of these structures was used to store oil, and the other served as a boathouse and woodshed.

The first keeper of the lighthouse was I. K. Perry who served for just two years until Elson Perry took over in 1853. Elson Perry kept the light for thirty-nine years, ending his service in 1892.

Four different lighthouse have stood on Medway Head. The first combination dwelling and tower was replaced by a similar structure in 1927, but this new two-story dwelling had a hipped roof with a central octagonal lantern room. It was into this lighthouse that Keeper Douglas R. Smiley and his wife Muriel moved in 1959. The Smileys must have been surprised to find that the dwelling lacked inside plumbing and central heating.

Muriel Smiley recalls that on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, carpenters and plumbers arrived to update the dwelling with modern facilities. On October 9, 1964, cement was poured for a new dwelling at the station, and the Smileys moved into this four-bedroom residence in February 1965.

The Smileys began their lighthouse career at Beaver Island, where they arrived in 1952 with four kids. Seven years later, when they left for Medway Head, they had eight children, and by the time their service was over, they had raised a total of fourteen children.

On April 10, 1966, Department of Transport workers installed a new fiberglass tower on a cement pad to replace the 1927 lighthouse. This circular tower was white with a red band around its middle and another one near its top.

The 1927 lighthouse was sold in 1980 to Alden Wamboldt of Massachusetts, who was required to remove the structure from the property. Fortunately, the lighthouse was moved just a short distance from its original site to a hill overlooking the station, allowing visitors to easily photograph two lights in one picture.

On April 19, 1983, the fiberglass tower was replaced by the present pepper-shaker tower, and three years later the station was de-staffed following the retirement of Douglas Smiley after twenty-eight years at Medway Head. Douglas Smiley passed away in 1988 at the age of sixty-four, but Muriel was still regaling people with the stories of her life at a lighthouse as late as 2007, when she shared her experiences with a gathering of over fifty members of the Liverpool Seniors’ Club.

Alden and Roberta Wambolt had a memorial sign installed on the current lighthouse to honor the keepers of Port Medway. It reads:

I thank God for the lighthouse
I owe my life to Him
King Jesus is the lighthouse
And from the rocks of sin
He has shown his light around me
That I might clearly see
If it wasn't for the lighthouse
Where would this ship be?

Keepers of Port Medway
Elson Perry1850-1892
Israel Foster1892-1908
Will Atkins 1908-1910
Jonas Whynot 1910-1934
Stan Hubley 1934-1956
Russell Hunick 1956-1959
Douglas Smiley 1959-1987

A ceremony held at the lighthouse on June 11, 2014 celebrated the transfer of the tower and property on which it stands to the Medway Head Lighthouse Society. Substantial repairs were made to the lighthouse in 2015.


  1. “Seniors club hears Medway lighthouse story,” Armand Wigglesworth, novanewsnow.com, October 22, 2007.
  2. Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, various years.
  3. Lighthouses & Lights of Nova Scotia, E.H. Rip Irwin, 2003.

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Pictures on this page copyright Wilfried Kalinowski, Rich Schoeller, used by permission.
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