Descendants of light keepers to help celebrate Seacow Head Lighthouse

Brett Poirier newsroom@journalpioneer.com
Published on July 15, 2014

Thomas Sherry, left, and Frank Gorham stand in front of the Seacow Head lighthouse.

©TC Media photo by Brett Poirier

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.

“It’s a part of our history,” says 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.

Sherry said they have been having positive negotiations with the department so far.

“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 descendants 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 medallist 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.