Grand Manan lighthouse featured on new Canada Post stamp

The Swallowtail Lighthouse is one of the first things you notice when travelling by ferry to Grand Manan Island. And it's one of the last things you see as you leave the island to return to the mainland. 

Now, it'll be seen on postage stamps all across Canada.

"It's essentially the icon for Grand Manan," said Laurie Murison, chair of Swallowtail Keepers Society, a group that preserves and restores the historic lighthouse.

This week Canada Post announced in a news release, the lighthouse would be featured on a stamp. It's part of the Crown corporation's From Far and Wide series, which consists of stamps that feature nine "breathtaking vistas" from across Canada.

There's something about having that image on a stamp. - Laurie Murison, Swallowtail Keepers Society

Murison learned the New Brunswick lighthouse would be featured in Canada Post's latest stamp collection back in September.

"A lot of people have very strong emotions for the lighthouse itself."

The volunteer group formed in 2008 and they took over the lighthouse from the federal government in 2013.

With significant water damage and only five big rocks holding up the lighthouse, Murison said it was starting to show signs of a lot of deterioration.

A critical part of the island

The lighthouse hasn't had a light keeper since the mid-1980s.

"It's a very critical part of Grand Manan and to see it potentially disappear was not something that the people wanted," said Murison, who's a marine biologist from western Canada.

Canada Post

"In North America we tend not to necessarily hold some of our older properties in high regard," she said. "It's always modernization. Tear it down and build something new."  

But the lighthouse isn't just another one of the island's pretty features. 

Lighthouse built to save lives

It also saved many lives with its light, fog horn and the actions of the light keeper.

Swallowtail was petitioned to be built in 1857 following the wreck of the barque Lord Ashburton, a cargo ship that collided with the northern tip of the island during a storm in January of that year.

At the time, there weren't any fog horns or lighthouses on the northern coast of Grand Manan.

Twenty-one of the crew died in the wreck.

"It was just devastation, people frozen on the beach. Just absolutely gruesome how bad the wreck was," Murison said.

The cliff face that surviving crew members clung to is now called Ashburton Head.

The lighthouse was built in 1859 and was lit a year later to help mariners navigate through storms and fog on the Bay of Fundy.

 

That makes this year the 160th anniversary of Swallowtail lighthouse coming into operation, making the new stamp more special.

"There's something about having that image on a stamp," said Murison.

In the summer, people can tour the lighthouse. It also features a museum so people can learn about its history.