Guyon Island, known earlier as Guion Island, lies off the east coast of Cape Breton between the communities of Gabarus and Fourchu. The low-lying, treeless island is just a mile south of Winging Point, but as the nearest land is a wilderness area, the island seems very isolated.
In 1875, John G. Sinclair was awarded a $2,980 contract to construct a lighthouse on Guyon Island with a target completion date of August 1, 1876, but the light wasn’t exhibited until 1877. The Department of Marine published the following on Guyon Lighthouse shortly after it was placed in operation:
Revolving led light, attaining its greatest brilliancy every thirty seconds; eight No. 1 circular lamps, with 22-inch reflectors; iron lantern 9 feet in diameter, having twelve sides; plate glass, 60 x 30 inches. The lighthouse is placed about 230 yards from the west end of Guyon Island, Cape Breton County. The building is of wood, painted white, and consists of a square tower 54 feet high, with a dwelling attached.
The light is elevated 74 feet above high-water mark, and was put in operation on 30th June, 1877.
The contract price of the building was $2,980, and the lantern and lighting apparatus was furnished by Mr. Chanteloup, for $2,639.10.
The salary of the keeper is $400 per annum. The consumption of oil is stated at about 1 ¼ gallon per night.
Robert Winton was the first keeper of the lighthouse, and after one year his salary was raised to $450. Keeper Winton served until 1903, and then Joseph W. Hardy took charge of the light.
A combined boathouse and coal shed was built at the island’s landing in 1888. In 1908, the white lighthouse was given red stripes or bands to make it more conspicuous when snow was on the ground. A double-flash, long-focus reflector was installed in the lantern room in 1914.
In 1923, a fog alarm building was built on a rocky point south of the lighthouse, and a bridge was built to span an intervening gully. Oil engines and air compressors were installed in the building to power a diaphone foghorn that produces a four-second blast every minute when needed.
A new “standard combinedlighthouse and dwelling” was built next to the original lighthouse in 1927. The standard design of the time was a square, two-story dwelling with a lantern room centered atop its pitched roof. The dwelling had two vertical red stripes on each of its sides.
In 1936, a new fog alarm building had been built on the site of the original lighthouse, adjacent to the 1927 lighthouse. This would have made tending the fog alarm more convenient for the keepers, but the foghorn blasts would certainly have been more bothersome.
The present reinforced-concrete lighthouse was built on Guyon Island in 1964 along with two, one-story keeper’s dwellings. A larger type F diaphone, with its associated engines and air compressors, was installed on the island in February 1966, replacing the type B diaphone. Two months later, in April 1966, diesel generators were placed on the island, allowing a 1,000-watt bulb to be used in the lighthouse instead of an oil-vapor lamp.
An electric foghorn was installed in 1971, and the resulting reduction in workload permitted the station’s staff to be reduced from three to two keepers. A submarine cable brought commercial power to the island in 1981, but the station was switched to solar power in 1986 and automated. The dwellings and outbuildings were declared surplus and offered to anyone willing to remove them from the island, but nobody expressed interest.
Darin Guthro kayaked to Guyon Island in 2016 and produced a Youtube video showing the dilapidated condition of the boathouse, two keeper’s dwellings, and the lighthouse itself.
Guyon Island Lighthouse is best seen by boat, but a distant view is possible from land. From Fourchu, travel north on St. Peters Fourchu Road/Fourchu Road for 6.7 km (4.2 miles), and then turn east onto Belfry Road and follow it to its end to get a view of Guyon Island.
The lighthouse is owned by the Canadian Coast Guard. Grounds open, tower closed.
Keepers: Robert B. Winton (1877 – 1903), Joseph W. Hardy (1903 – 1912), E. Bagnell (1912 – 1924), D.S. McLean (1924 – 1935), W. McIntyre (1935 – at least 1937), J.A. Beaton (1965 – 1968), Bill Ringer (1973 – 1975), Bill Horne (1975 – ), Cornelius “Ken” Lahey ( – 1984).
Annual Report of the Department of Marine and Fisheries, various years.
Lighthouses & Lights of Nova Scotia, E.H. Rip Irwin, 2003.
Neil’s Harbour lighthouse will be the third lighthouse in our lighthouse series. Neil’s Harbour is a small settlement located between Ingonish and Dingwall on Cape Breton’s Cabot trail. Blessed with a sheltered cove, excellent conditions for drying fish, and close proximity to abundant fishing grounds, Neil’s Harbour was a popular fishing base for both Scottish and French settlers in the 1700s. Neil MacLennan, an enterprising merchant based in Westmont, would sail to the protected cove with his vessel laden with dry goods to trade with the fishermen. MacLennan became such an integral part of life at the cove that the fishermen began calling it “Neil’s Cove,” and over time the name became Neil’s Harbour.
Between 1871 and 1891, the population of Neil’s Harbour and nearby New Haven swelled to 430, due to an influx of Newfoundland fishermen looking for better fishing grounds. To mark the entrance to the harbour, the Department of Marine established a lighthouse in 1899 on the outer edge of the headland that protects the harbour. The following description of Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse was published that year:
The lighthouse is an enclosed wooden building square in plan, with sloping sides, painted white, surmounted by an octagonal iron lantern painted red. It is 34 feet in height from its base to the ventilator on the lantern. The lighthouse stands on the ground elevated 46 feet above the high-water mark and is 65 feet back from the edge of the bank.
The light is fixed red, elevated 73 feet above high water, and visible 8 miles from all points of approach by water. The illuminating apparatus is dioptric of the seventh order.
The work was done by Mr P. McFarlane, of Baddeck, under contract for $725.
Angus A. Buchanan, who also served as a member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, was hired as the first keeper of the lighthouse on August 14, 1899, as an annual salary of $150. In 1910, Keeper Buchanan was given a hand-operated foghorn that he was required to sound in response to signals from vessels during periods of limited visibility. George Sweet, Jr. replaced Buchanan as keeper in 1911 and was in charge of the lighthouse for the next twenty years.
On November 2, 1956, a 200-watt electric light bulb replaced the oil lamp that had been used in the lighthouse, and six days later, Walter Bragg, who had been the keeper of the lighthouse for over twenty years, was out of a job.
In 1964, a time clock was used to turn the light on and off, and a standby twelve-volt, battery-operated light was used in case of power failure.
For several years, Scott Hatcher operated an ice cream shop in the lighthouse during the summer. Scott went away to school in Halifax, but after finding city life wasn’t for him, he returned to Neil’s Harbour. The village’s volunteer fire department had previously sold ice cream out of the lighthouse starting in 1999, but Scotty Hatcher took over the operation in 2003. Scott’s brother, Tim, and girlfriend, Skye MacDonald, also helped run the shop.
In 2015, Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse was declared a heritage lighthouse under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act that was passed in 2008, and ownership of the lighthouse was transferred to Neil’s Harbour-New Haven Community Development Association. Renovations of a heritage lighthouse must meet strict heritage building requirements, and a heritage lighthouse may not be demolished unless there is no reasonable alternative. The development association has been running the ice cream shop since 2016.
Neil’s Harbour-New Haven Community Development Association entered the lighthouse in “This Lighthouse Matters,” a crowdfunding competition sponsored by National Trust for Canada and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society in 2015. Twenty-six lighthouses in Nova Scotia competed for online votes in three different categories: High Tide, Ebb Tide, and Low Tide. The top three vote-getters in each category were given monetary awards that totalled $250,000. Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse came in second in the Low Tide category and won $10,000. Using the prize money, rotten wood in the lighthouse was replaced and a leak in the lantern room was repaired.
Keepers: Angus A. Buchanan (1899 – 1911), George Sweet, Jr. (1911 – 1931), Walter Bragg (at least 1936 – 1956).
The following character-defining elements of the Neil’s Harbour Lighthouse should be respected: — its location on Neil Head in Neil’s Harbour, Nova Scotia; — its current, as-built form and proportions, based on the standard design of square, tapered, wooden towers; — its square, wooden frame structure with tapered sides rising from a square base; — its straight cornice that supports a square gallery; — its simple metal railing surrounding the gallery; — its octagonal metal lantern with six glazed window panes and a pyramidal roof and vent; — the white maple leafs painted on the two non-glazed window panes; — its white clapboard siding; — its sole entry, pedimented door; — its interior layout, featuring a ladder and trap door which give access to the light; — its stone foundation; — its traditional colour scheme, consisting of white for the tower and cornice, and red for the lantern and gallery railing; and, — its visual prominence in relation to the water and landscape.
Louisbourg Lighthouse is the second lighthouse in our lighthouse series. It is an active Canadian lighthouse in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. The current tower is the fourth in a series of lighthouses that have been built on the site, the earliest was the first lighthouse in Canada.
Construction began on the lighthouse in 1730 to assist navigation to the Fortress of Louisbourg. It was completed in 1734. A fire in 1736 destroyed the lantern but the stone tower was unharmed and a new lantern was installed in 1738. Lighthouse Point played a decisive role in both the Siege of 1745 and 1758 as, once captured, it provided a commanding gun battery location to bombard the fortress. This lighthouse was badly damaged in 1758 during the Final Siege of Louisbourg and abandoned by the British after they demolished the fortress. Stonework ruins from the first tower are still visible at the site.
A new square wooden lighthouse with a black stripe was built by the government of Nova Scotia in 1842. The lighthouse was a large 2+1⁄2-story wooden building supported by a massive masonry base. It included the keeper’s dwelling in the base of the light. A fog horn building was added in 1902. This lighthouse was destroyed by fire in 1922. The foundation remains visible today and has been excavated and stabilized by Parks Canada archaeologists.
An octagonal concrete lighthouse decorated with neoclassical architectural features was built in 1923. The tower is a twin of the Georges Island Lighthouse in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The Louisbourg lighthouse was destaffed in 1990. The lighthouse is a popular lookoff point and in 2008 became the start of a coastal walking trail, the Louisbourg Lighthouse Trail. Interpretive plaques mark the ruins of the previous lighthouses.
Low Point Lighthouse (32 min (27.6 km) via NS-28 W from Back Home Bed and Breakfast) (also known as ‘Flat Point Lighthouse’) is an historic Canadian lighthouse marking the eastern entrance to Sydney Harbour at New Victoria, Nova Scotia, near New Waterford, Nova Scotia. This is one of the earliest and most important light stations of Nova Scotia, one of the first dozen beacons in Nova Scotia to be lit to guide mariners, a classic red-and-white lighthouse still operated by the Canadian Coast Guard.
This lighthouse and station are located on low lying, flat point of land that thrusts over 0.6 kilometres (0.37 mi) out into Spanish Bay. The point has been called both Low Point and Flat Point since at least 1882. The Lighthouse and Light station have been entered into the official lists of lights under either name, and often both. Locally, both names are still in common use. The name was formerly approved as Flat Point on June 1, 1909. It was changed to Low Point on October 1, 1953.
Low Point Lighthouse Plan
The round, iron, first-order lantern remains atop the lighthouse tower, the last classic lantern of this type still in use on an operational lighthouse in Nova Scotia.
Low Point and Low Point Lighthouse, cir. 2016
Sydney Harbour, a sixteen-kilometre-long, Y-shaped inlet, is the maritime hub of Cape Breton. Year-round ferry service to Newfoundland is offered from Sydney, and cruise ships and container ships also frequent the harbour.
In 1832, Robert Gammel and others petitioned the House of Assembly of Nova Scotia for a lighthouse on Low Point to mark the entrance to Sydney Harbour. Roughly 600 vessels called at the harbour each year at the time. The legislature approved 500 pounds for the project, and when the lowest tender came in at 770 pounds, the Lieutenant Governor advanced the additional sum required so that the lighthouse could be built as soon as possible. An octagonal tower, whose sides were alternately painted red and white, was completed on Low Point in November 1832, along with a dwelling for the keeper. The lighthouse was just the ninth built by the government of Nova Scotia.
Low Point, situated on the eastern side of the entrance to Syndey Harbour, is both low and flat, making a light there even more critical. Over the years, the point has been known as both Low Point and Flat Point. Government records referred to the point primarily as Low Point up until 1908, and then switched to Flat Point in 1909. In 1953, Low Point became the official name, and that is how it appears on the Canadian Coast Guard’s List of Lights today.
Michael McKeagney was appointed the first keeper of the lighthouse in November 1832, but the following month he failed to exhibit the light during a heavy snowstorm, and a passing ship reported it. McKeagney didn’t deny the charge. Rather, he admitted that he didn’t think the it was fit for a dog to turn out that night. Robert McNab replaced McKeagney the next June and was in charge of the light until 1865. McNab’s letter of appointment from the Commissioners of Lighthouses of Nova Scotia in May 1833 included the following instructions:
The house to be lighted every night at sunset and the light to be kept up until daybreak. The lamps to be trimmed at least twice during each night at such hours as will most equally divide the time. The lantern and other parts of the house to be kept clean and in good order. Any glass that may be broken to be immediately replaced. A supply of glass and putty will be furnished for that purpose.
A journal of all particular circumstances to be kept and a report to be made to the Commissioners quarterly, or more frequently if necessary, in which you are to state the quantity of oil and other materials consumed and the supply remaining on hand together with any remarks you may think necessary on the general state of the lighthouse.
You are at all time to have an assistant on the spot.
Your pay will be one hundred pounds per annum and an allowance of fifteen pounds per annum for fuel.
Photograph courtesy Library and Archives Canada
In 1833, a heavy gale of wind blew off the lantern room’s lead roof. The light was out for some time, but was placed back in service after a new iron lantern room and lamp were received. During the winter, the temperature was so cold, often dropping to twenty below zero, that the keeper found it difficult to keep the oil used in the lamps from congealing. He used pans of hot coals to try to keep the light going, but this damaged the lamps.
William Condon, Superintendent of the Board of Works, inspected Low Point Lighthouse in July 1857 and found the light to be a poor one. The lantern room was in good order, but the lamps were old and defective. Keeper Robert McNab informed Condon that it had been nineteen years since any repairs of consequence had been made to the station. After new lamps were installed the following year and repairs made to the lantern room, the light was much improved. A new lantern room was installed in 1863, but when John H. Kendrick inspected the station in 1865, he reported the lantern room was “entirely too small, the sashes being very thick, and the glass too small.” Given the large fleet of vessels calling at Sydney, Kendrick felt the eight lamps, set in twelve-inch reflectors, were too few in number for a light that “should be second to none in the Province.”
A larger, twelve-sided lantern room, which had a diameter of nearly ten feet, was finally installed atop the lighthouse in 1877. With the extra space, thirteen mammoth flat-wick burners could be accommodated. To support the larger lantern room and to keep it from causing the tower to topple over, sixty tons of ballast were placed in the bottom of the tower and an enlarged deck was installed up top. While this work was being carried out, a temporary light was shown from a tower window, sixteen feet below the lantern room. The cost of the lantern room and apparatus was $1,640.73.
In 1903, a fog alarm building was built on Low Point between the lighthouse and the keeper’s dwelling and marine signal flagstaff. The rectangular, wooden building stood thirty-four feet from the edge of the point and housed the equipment for a steam fog whistle. A ten-inch whistle mounted on the roof was placed in operation on January 1, 1904, giving a ten-second blast every minute when needed. The total cost for the fog alarm building and equipment was $4,600.
Low Point Lighthouse received its beautiful, circular lantern room in 1908 along with a third-order, double-flashing Fresnel lens. To receive the lantern room, a new deck had to be installed atop the tower. The Fresnel lens changed the light’s characteristic from fixed white to the following pattern every five seconds: 0.25-second flash, 0.75-second eclipse, 0.25-second flash, 3.75-second eclipse. A lamp that burned petroleum vapour under an incandescent mantle was used inside the lens to produce a light of 100,000 candlepower.
A temporary building was built on the point in 1908 to house air compressors for a diaphone foghorn in order to test the desirability of replace the existing steam fog whistle. Authorities must have decided to stick with the steam whistle, as a new boiler was installed in 1914, and a second-hand boiler from Cape Forchu was installed in 1919.
Erosion has been an issue at Low Point for some time. Protection work to prevent shore erosion was put in place in 1915 at a cost of $3,223.76, and this work was repaired in 1917 for $1,434.06.
The octagonal, concrete tower that stands on the point today was constructed in 1938. The lantern room and lens from the old wooden lighthouse were transferred to the new tower. In 1953, a dwelling for an assistant keeper was built and commercial power reached the station. A dwelling for a second assistant keeper was added in 1962 when a diaphone foghorn was established on the point.
After an electric horn replaced the diaphone foghorn with its oil engines and compressors in 1970, the position of second assistant keeper was eliminated. An unused dwelling was sold and removed from the station in 1977, and an old two-storey dwelling was removed in 1987, after the staff was reduced to just one keeper in 1979.
In October 1984, a rotating airport beacon replaced the Fresnel lens in the classic lantern room. James H. Jobe was the only keeper on the point from 1979 until the station was de-staffed in October 1988. James and his wife Jean leased the surviving dwelling on the point from the government and remained closed to the lighthouse for some time.
The Low Point Lighthouse Society was awarded $75,000 in July 2015, after Low Point Lighthouse won the High Tide category in an online voting competition called This Lighthouse Matters. The National Trust for Canada and the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society teamed up to create the crowdfunding competition that awarded $250,000 to the top three vote-getting lighthouses in three categories: High Tide, Ebb Tide, and Low Tide.
The society, formed in 2012, initially thought that erosion at the point was their top priority, but later decided that the damage the freeze-thaw cycles were having on the concrete tower needed to be addressed first. Using the money won in the competition, contractors were hired to perform a complete resurfacing of the lighthouse in 2017-2018.
Head: George McKeagney (1832 – 1833), Robert McNab (1833 – 1865), John G. Peters (1865 – 1910), C.M. Peters (1910 – 1929), Clifford McGillivray (1929 – 1931), John A. McIntyre (1931 – 1945), Joseph W. Campbell (1945 – 1948), Theodore G. Lohnes (1948 – 1952), James D. O’Neill (1952 – 1970), J.A. MacDonald (1970 – 1971), Melvin Tanner (1971 – 1978), James H. Jobe (1978 – 1988).
Engineer: Thomas O’Niel (1904 – 1912), Daniel Campbell (1912 – 1935).