Descendants of lighthouse keepers gather for 2014 celebration

Brett
Brett Poirier
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SEACOW HEAD — Guiding sailors to shore, warning ships of danger and serving as a landmark for locals, the Seacow Head Lighthouse is much more than just a lighthouse.

Thomas Sherry (left) and Frank Gorham stand in front of the Seacow Head Lighthouse. The two will host descendants of past lighthouse keepers at an 11-day celebration starting on July 25 on the Island. 

“It’s a part of our history,” said Thomas Sherry, a board member of the Friends of Seacow Head Lighthouse Inc. “It’s always been here. Hopefully it always will be.”

Keeping the light on isn’t always easy, especially with the federal government wanting to wash its hands of many Island lighthouses.

In 2010, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans put more than 1,000 Canadian lighthouses up for sale or allowed local groups to take over the beacons.

The lighthouse at Seacow Head was one of them.

The community group representing the lighthouse has been in discussions with the department about retaining its rights.

“We’ve been having positive negotiations with the department so far,” said Sherry. “Having the government step away completely isn’t what we want. There’s upkeep that needs to be done.”

A rusty door, chipped tiles and lots of scraped paint — today’s lighthouse isn’t how the men and women of previous generations remember it.

Dating back 150 years, the lighthouse has seen eight keepers in its history and their ancestors are soon to be on P.E.I.

To celebrate the past, the group will host an 11-day event, beginning July 25, that welcomes those related to former keepers.

“We’ve been researching the family trees of the lighthouse keepers and found most of their living descendants,” said group member Bill Kendrick.  “Several are coming from the United States and parts of Canada as well as many who still live on the Island.” 

The event will include a birthday and retirement party for Senator Catherine Callbeck and a guest appearance by two-time Olympic gold medalist Heather Moyse.

During the celebration, friends and families of past lighthouse keepers will gather to share stories that were handed down to them.

Frank Gorham will have a few tales to tell. He has a long list of relatives who have maintained the lighthouse in past generations.

Gorham has been a town crier in Amherstburg, Ont., for 30 years, but spends his summers on the Island. He said the lighthouse has become an important part of his stay.

“My wife’s mother spent a lot of time here because her relatives lived in the home attached to the lighthouse,” said Gorham. “There are a lot of memories.”

Dressed in full period attire, Gorham tolerates the heat to teach youngsters a thing or two about history and to have a little fun.

“I always bring my uniform wherever I go because I never know when I’m going to get a chance to put it on and yell at people.”

Much like a town crier, a lighthouse has become a thing of the past.

With improved technology, sailors no longer need to look for that light, but that doesn’t deter Gorham.

“I like to keep history alive whenever I can.”

For information on the “We’ll Keep the Light On” event, visit seacowheadlighthouse.com

For further information, contact Bill Kendrick at billkendrick@island-images.ca or 902-439-2711 or Tom Sherry at tsherry@gmail.com or 902-887-2721.

 

newsroom@journalpioneer.com

Organizations: Seacow Head Lighthouse, Department of Fisheries and Oceans

Geographic location: Iceland, United States, Canada Amherstburg

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  • kyle
    July 14, 2014 - 05:48

    The headline - "Decedents of past lighthouse keepers gather to celebrate 150 years" announces a new low in tourism kitsch. Digging up bodies to be gawked at. Wouldn't it have been in better taste to have invited descendants? They probably would have more money to spend anyway.