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Watcher on Lake Huron – The historic Kincardine Lighthouse

May 2023

The Kincardine lighthouse is one of the many former lighthouses that used to guide ships as they traversed in and out of harbours on the Great Lakes. Built in 1881 near the mouth of the Penetangore River at Kincardine Harbour, it’s an eight sided, red and white clapboard tower that stands 74-feet in height, sitting atop the light keeper’s house and built on a stone foundation. The lighthouse is topped off by a red iron lantern and balcony.

With its fishing and salt-shipping industries, Kincardine Harbour was a busy shipping port at the time.

Prior to 1922, the light house keeper needed to manually wind up the clockwork-like mechanism, that used a system of weights and pulleys to rotate to lens. Additionally, the keeper had to carry buckets of kerosene, used to illuminate the light, up the 69 stairs inside the light house, twice a day. This all changed in 1922, when the light was converted to an electric light.

While there are still many light houses along waterways, the advent of GPS and other modern navigation technology used on ships saw the importance of light houses diminish significantly. Many light houses have either been demolished or sold to preservation societies or local governments.

The Kincardine Light House ceased operation in 1977 and three years later, it was leased to the Kincardine Yacht Club. It now operated as a marine museum and is open for tours from Canada Day to Labour Day.

The Lighthouse Blues Festival takes place near the lighthouse in July each year.

Despite their reduced importance, the Great Lakes still has over 200 active lighthouses guiding ships around the nearly 11,000 miles of coastline.

Lighthouse Keepers

In its 104 years of service, there were seven light house keepers in Kincardine:

  • William Robert Kay, 1874–1899
  • Thomas McGaw, Jr., 1899–1913
  • William G. Temple, 1913–1928
  • Donald Martin, 1928–1929
  • Oran Westell, 1929–1955
  • Myron Hall, 1955–1956
  • Alonzo Burley, 1956–1978

Sources: Kincardine Lighthouse – Wikipedia, Great Lakes Lighthouses – GREAT LAKES CRUISES, Kincardine Lighthouse – Kincardine Yacht Club (kyc.ca).

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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