Out of the fog: A lighthouse gets its heritage status

When you could see them, the sunsets at the Long Eddy Point Lighthouse on Grand Manan were always magnificent, says Barry Bagley, the last keeper.

Bagley, who worked at the lighthouse from 1983 to 1989, said the fog was always thick on that side of the Island.

If the light or the foghorn ever broke, he said, "you just prayed that nobody come ashore."

The Long Eddy Point Lighthouse, on the northern tip of the Island where the coast of Maine is visible on a clear day, was recently designated a heritage site under the federal government's Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act.

Must be kept up

The act conserves and protects federally owned lighthouses that have significant heritage value.

The legislation also says the lighthouses must be reasonably maintained. When a lighthouse receives heritage status, its ownership must be transferred to a community or an organization to ensure long-term conservation.

The Swallowtail Keepers Society will now take over maintenance of the Long Eddy lighthouse, leasing the property from the Village of Grand Manan.

The group's chair, Laurie Murison, said the heritage status protects the property and reminds people of the lighthouse's contribution to safety in the Bay of Fundy waters.

"They may not be as important currently with navigational aids but historically there was a lot of necessity for them and they saved a lot of lives," she said, adding that smaller vessels and kayakers still rely on the lights in an emergency.

"If your phone battery dies and that's you navigation program, you are then at the whim of your own abilities and the fog can close in very rapidly around Grand Manan."

Foghorn station

Murison said the Long Eddy lighthouse started out as a foghorn station in 1874 after a shipwreck on the coast in the late 1850s.

The lighthouse was added almost a century later, in 1966.

Bagley was its last keeper, though residents of the island tended the foghorn station, living in a nearby building.

The two-storey home is now private property but the lighthouse is still active.

Murison said the society will use funds from the federal government and its own fundraisers for some minor repairs on the lighthouse and its deck, which looks out over the water and provides tourists with a good view of seabirds below.

The group also wants to create an interpretive map, so tourists can identify other lighthouses nearby.

"At night, it's interesting to go up there because you can see lots of other lighthouses," she said.

Popular with tourists

To date, the government's website lists 92 designated heritage lighthouses, five of them in New Brunswick.

The others are the Cape Jourimain Lighthouse in Botsford, on the Northumberland Strait, the Sand Point Lighthouse overlooking the St. John River from the Kingston Peninsula, and the Machias Seal Island Lighthouse, not far from the Grand Manan coast.

The Inch Arran Point Front Range Lighthouse in Dalhousie also received heritage status in 2017.

Murison said the lighthouse at Long Eddy will remain active for now. She could not say whether the society will one day open the building for tourists, though the site is already popular with birdwatchers.

Bagley remembers artists visiting the lighthouse when he worked there.

"It's a great place for the tourists to come and look over the bank and see Maine across the harbour there," he said.

Otherwise, Bagley said, working at the lighthouse was not that exciting. 

It stood out because it was the only one with a red light on the Island, so ships could recognize the different light patterns.

He joked that he cleaned a lot of windows in those five years.

"There used to be a few small boats around there. ... Nothing major, no. It was just one of those quaint little spots."