Thursday, July 29, 2010

Newsletter Available

The Swallowtail Keepers Society newsletter is available on the Grand Manan website:

The newsletter summarizes the activities of the last year, donations, grants, in kind, volunteers, etc.

Robert Foulis - inventor of steam fog horn

Saint John, NB, is celebrating their 225th anniversary and are recognizing people from that city that have made a difference. One of those is Robert Foulis,, a land surveyor and inventor. He designed a coded series of steam whistles to warn captains that land was near when visibility was severely reduced by fog. His invention that worked similarly to a tea kettle is ranked #30 in the top 50 Canadian invention. Partridge Island Light was the first steam powered fog horn in the area.
Read more:

Swallowtail didn't receive a fog horn until the 1960s, using a fog bell instead.

More Than a Pretty Face - Selena Leonard

The lighthouse stands on a lonely hill
The sight of which does my heart thrill;
To think of days that have long gone by,
When through the fog it's light would shine
And guide the men of the sea back hom
While on the ocean, to work, they roamed.
It's stalwart structure stood many a gale,
And the deep notes of the horn, in the fog, would hail;
Calling to it's bosom the men who fished,
Who worked so hard, for a better life wished.
It's profile, there, on the bank stands tall,
Representing to visitors what it means to all
Who've lived on the island, this seafaring shore,
It is safety, comfort, home and more....
More than a picturesque place to be
To those of us who live by the sea.
It welcomes us home when we've been "away"
A most pleasant sight to a very long day.
Yes,... there stands the lighthouse on it's lonely hill,
The sight of which does my heart thrill.

~ Selena Leonard, Sept. 2007

Great-grand daughter of Della and Wallace Taylor, lightkeepers at Swallowtail

Grand Manan Museum Lighthouse Life Evening

On Tuesday, July 27, the Grand Manan Museum held a "Lighthouse Life" evening with a number of guest speakers who had lived and worked at a number of lighthouses and fog stations around Grand Manan.

Howard Ingalls started off the night. He and his wife had been stationed at Swallowtail in 1957-1959. A wealth of information about the technical aspect of running a light station, tending the light at Swallowtail in the late 1950s was relatively easy because the light was electric. He did need to turn it off at dawn and on again at dusk.

He lived in both the original keepers house and the "modern" duplex. When the wind blew hard, he said the roof would lift on the old keepers house so much that you could see daylight. He couldn't understand why the roof didn't completely blow off. It was a real treat to have a new house that could be heated and wasn't in need of constant repair. The heat for the house was initially coal brought by the government steamers and winched up the hill on the tramway. This was also how all the building materials for the new house were landed. The boathouse had a large barrel stove in it and a Wisconsin engine and a Fairbanks winch to bring the car up the tram way. There was another winch further down the cliff where a derrick was located and supplies were winched from boats into the car and carried up the cliff. The boathouse was used as a workshop and also a place to store the dory which could also be winched up and down the cliff. Even a high water it was necessary to use the derrick to lower or lift items into the cove because the tram way did not go all the way to the water's edge. There are many records of the tram way needing repair after storms but that was also the case for the buildings and walkways which took the full force of storms.

He and Perry Ingersoll, son of Gilbert Ingersoll who was an assistant keeper at Swallowtail and also a casual keeper himself, related getting water at Swallowtail in the new house. The water was brought from Saint John by the government steamer and pumped into the cistern. There was a manual pump that was used to pump the water from the cistern to the attic and from the attic was gravity feed throughout the house. When an electric pump was installed, it greatly improved the ease of pumping the water to the attic. Although the keepers duplex was equipped with gutters to catch rain water from the roof, the wind blew so hard that very little rain was ever captured. This water could not be trusted as drinking water and cans of water were often carried onto the point. As Perry Ingersoll related, no one ever walked out to the point empty handed. A 308' well was drilled in 1966 at the top of the stairs. This provided water to the house but it took a long time to fill the cisterns and in the winter the line would freeze so the cisterns could only be filled during a warm period, above freezing. Perry remembered missing school one day when a load of "bad" water was brought from Saint John. It took quite a while to flush the cisterns, pump them dry, and replace with better water.

Each keeper had to supply furniture and food at each light or fog station and lived with their families. They were on call 24/7 and had two weeks a year for vacation. The modern system has changed the lives of light keepers. They work 28 days on and 28 days off and have everything supplied. Grimmer Ingersoll had a garden where he grew many of his vegetables. The large garden was located on Lighthouse Road. There was an annual moving of the garden tractor from off the point to the garden each spring and then back again when the gardening ended. The thin soil at Swallowtail didn't yield much produce. Once the concrete stairs were built (wooden stairs were there until the 1960s), the tractor could be winched up and down the stairs. The extra width to the stairs with the flat portion to one side helped when the tractor needed to be moved. Planks were temporarily placed over the stairs and the wheels could then run freely up or down the stairs. The only short coming of removing the tractor from the peninsula for the summer was that everything once again had to be carried by hand. The path had to be widened for the tractor and rocks were removed by pick-axe or dynamite!

Children often boarded with relatives to go to school, although the luxury of living at Swallowtail meant that there was access to the North Head village and school after hiking across the point, the bridge and the stairs, although Perry Ingersoll and Laurel Hinsdale, daughter of Grimmer Ingersoll and cousin to Perry, said that they sometimes headed off to school (in all kinds of weather), only to find it cancelled. Laurel clearly remembers the Groundhog Day Gale in 1976. Small pebbles were being carried through the air and hitting on the school house. The children were sent home but the wind was so strong that Laurel couldn't get home herself and her father came to walk her to the house. The wind was so strong they had to crawl the entire way. Whenever the weather was bad he would pick up the children at the school or at the bus stop and help them get home so they wouldn't be blown off the trail and potentially over the cliff edge. Communication was not as convenient as today but there was a crank phone which connected the garage at the top of the hill to the keepers house to the lighthouse.

When the Fish Fluke Point Light or Grand Harbour Light was decommissioned, Grimmer Ingersoll got permission to move the garage to Swallowtail. Penny O'Neill remembered having a trapeze in the building when her family lived at Fish Fluke Point. They also kept the rabbits they trapped in the building. Perry remembers being involved with his father Gilbert and Grimmer. Both had Jeeps, a Landrover and a Scout. They jacked up the building and removed parts of the floor where barrels were fitted to help the building float. They manoeuvred the building to the water's edge and towed it to Ingalls Head. Although when they started the wind was light, a stiff breeze was blowing by the time they started towing the building across Grand Harbour. They were not sure they were going to make it to Ingalls Head but fortunes prevailed and they were able to make the crossing. On the Ingalls Head side, they fitted wheels under the building and were able to tow it to the head of the Ingalls Head road and left it by the theatre until the next day. They only used both Jeeps on steep sections and had little problem getting the building almost to Swallowtail. The very steep hill did cause problems and they had to use both Jeeps and all the horsepower they had to get the building the last distance. The building was perched out over the knoll and Grimmer installed a hatch in the floor so he could work on vehicles.

The walls of the garage are covered in various colours of paint that Grimmer used to paint the interior of the lighthouse and the keepers house. He was known to mix colours together to come up with new colours and when he cleaned his brushes, the colours were added to the walls. The lighthouse was open to the public and the keepers were responsible for keeping it looking presentable. There was a guest book and furniture in the lighthouse on the second of the three floors. Each level was painted a different colour. It wasn't until the strobe fog detector system was installed in 1970 and a room built to contain the equipment that the lighthouse was then locked.

A lightkeeper's life was not easy and the whole family joined in whether it was learning how to light the light, run the fog horn or just general maintenance. The work was not easy and the living standards varied depending on where the light house was located. Swallowtail was considered one of the better locations. But along with the light and fog horn duties, the keepers had to fill out weather reports, maintenance reports, paint, make minor repairs, welcome visitors and as a courtesy, the fog bell at Swallowtail was rung every time the ferry went by.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

150 Views of Swallowtail

The Grand Manan Museum has a wonderful retrospective display of images of Swallowtail light called "150 Views of Swallowtail." Anneke Gichuru, the curator of the Museum was asked last fall if a display of Swallowtail could be developed. She had already planned a display for the centre hall but was enthusiastic about a display in the Elmer Wilcox Room. In addition, the Visitor Information Centre would be moving and that room would be empty. A huge wall mural of Swallowtail Light adorns one wall and it made sense to include that room in the display.

Anneke talked about the display every where she went and was rewarded with a great variety of art work from photographs to hooked rugs to collages to beach glass window to dishes to tole to quilts. A large quilt was made by Hildred Ingersoll when she and her husband and family lived at Swallowtail. Grimmer was the last light keeper at Swallowtail. The quilt is made from the maple leaves from the flags that flew at Swallowtail. Initially she was doubtful that she would get 150 different objects but in the end, there could have been many more. She turned down several offers after the display was complete as more and more people heard about the display. As Anneke so keenly noted, there are not many buildings that could be photographed over and over and not be the exact image. The ever changing face of the peninsula from morning to evening, stormy to clear skies, throughout the seasons, keeps Swallowtail fresh. Iconic in its stature, the peninsula and light tower are a powerful force.

The brass fog bell from Swallowtail is also on the Museum property, sitting beside the front steps to the Deep Cove School House behind the Museum. The bell will be moved back to Swallowtail and become the centre piece of a tribute to the lightkeepers of Swallowtail Light in the near future.

150 Views of Swallowtail is certainly not something to be missed if you are on Grand Manan. The Grand Manan Museum is located in Grand Harbour. It is open most days with the exception of Sundays for a modest fee. The Museum has two floors, a reading room and also houses the Grand Manan Archives:

Lighthouses Deemed Surplus by Federal Government

It was not totally unexpected but the magnitude of the mass disposal of lighthouses across Canada by the Federal government was shocking, 480 lighthouses and 490 aids to navigation, usually beacons on wharves and range lights. Discussions have occurred over the years with the Village of Grand Manan and Fisheries and Oceans about the lighthouses on Grand Manan and the possibility of turning them over to the Village.

The Telegraph Journal ran a story in June about the implications when the press release from Fisheries and Oceans was discovered, The press release was dated May 29 when the Historic Lighthouse Bill came into effect. Passed two years earlier, anyone interested in lighthouses assumed it would be a positive move because originally a budget for the maintenance of the lighthouses would finally be included. However, that money never materialized and a clause was added that allowed the government to dispose of lighthouses deemed historic. The government is giving groups or individuals forming a group two years to apply for any of the surplus lighthouses. Each group must present a business plan. The aids to navigation (i.e. the light and fog horns) will be maintained by the government but they do not plan to perform any maintenance on the buildings that house these aids, literally letting them crumble. If no one comes forward to take over the surplus structures, the government will retain ownership, replacing structures that are deemed unsafe with skeleton towers, metal frames that can support the light and fog horn. See the Fisheries and Oceans website for more details about the surplus lighthouses:

On Grand Manan we have five lighthouses deemed surplus, Swallowtail, Long Eddy Point, Southwest Head, all on Grand Manan, Long Point on White Head Island and Great Duck Island. It will be interesting to see what will happen. Swallowtail Keepers Society will certainly be keeping abreast of the regulations and will do everything possible to prevent lighthouses from being abandoned.

Commemorative Canvas Bags

Commemorative canvas bags are being sold this summer to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Swallowtail Light and to raise funds for the restoration of the keepers buildings. Designed by Linda L'Aventure, the bags are going fast. Linda attends every Farmer's Market on Saturdays from 10 to 1 and bags can also be found at a number of locations on the island. At $12 they are a great price and heavy enough that they will last for years. The image is from a painting of Swallowtail that Linda has owned for many years.

We also have raffle tickets available for a silver lighthouse pendant designed by Pam Charters and matted photographs donated by Sara Wormell. Tickets are available from Linda, the Grand Manan Museum, Surfside Motel, and Pettes Cove Arts.

Lobster Roll Dinner and Music

Although the day began with thick fog and the Sail Past to celebrate Swallowtail Light's 150th anniversary had to be cancelled, the lobster roll dinner and music went ahead without a hitch on July 10. This is an annual fund raiser for Swallowtail Keepers Society and had added importance this summer with the 150th Anniversary of the lighting of Swallowtail Light for the first time. We moved to a larger venue this year, the Grand Manan Curling Club, and were rewarded with increased attendance and were completely sold out.

This event would not be possible without the efforts of many people and the donation of all the food. Laura Buckley (Inn at Whale Cove Cottages) arranges the food component and her amazing crew are making the lobster rolls and tossing the salad as the plates are taken to the tables. This year strawberry shortcake was chosen for the dessert and the cream was being whipped as the desserts were going out.

Lobster rolls being prepared for the dinner

Many, many thanks to the kitchen crew - Laura Buckley, Fredonna Dean, Megan, Emmy, and Jana Greenlaw (who also shelled all the lobsters), and Laura's guests from Whale Cove Cottages, the Trotz family (Frank, Sarah, Anna and Susan) who volunteered to help on their vacation. Swallowtail Keeper Society members also helped with setting up the tables, selling tickets, serving and bussing the tables: Theresa and Lloyd MacFarland, Kevin Sampson, Sharon and Claude Ingalls, Pam Charters, Sue Stymest, Kirk Cheney, Linda L'Aventure, Laurie Murison and summer student Robyn Guptill.

Lobster rolls going out of the kitchen

The lobster was all donated, over 220 lbs of live lobster from three lobster fishermen, Neil Morse, Glenn Foster (whose great-uncle was one of the lightkeepers at Swallowtail and his great-aunt Elodie tragically died while lighting the flame for the light in 1936) and an anonymous donor. The salad greens were donated by Walter Wilson, the rolls by Dale and Betty Russell (Save Easy), Ce Bowdoin made all the biscuits for the strawberry shortcake and the strawberries were provided by Marilyn and Peter Cronk, Nora and Ed Parker (Compass Rose B&B), Mike and Joanne Ingalls, Linda L'Aventure and Brenda McLaughlin (McLaughlin's Inn). Whipping cream was donated by Nora and Ed Parker, Laura Buckley and an anonymous donor. Laura also provided many sundries.

Pam Charters arranged the musical line-up with Dinah Romig acting as emcee as well as performing. Dinah spent summers growing up on Grand Manan with her family in their summer home in Grand Harbour. She is a member of the Cape Cod Fiddlers. John McDonald, Kate Richardson, and Halie Bass also performed. Before the Mast were non-stop energy and would have sung all night. In fact they did, continuing the evening of music at the Grand Manan summer home of one of the members. For more information about the a cappella group dedicated to preserving and promoting songs of the sea, check out their website:

Before the Mast performing

A slide show of images of Swallowtail was shown throughout the event and included historic and modern images as well as the work that has been done in the last two years on the buildings. The money raised will be used to restore the keepers buildings at Swallowtail.

Happy Birthday Swallowtail - 150th anniversary

Swallowtail’s birthday July 7 started out with fog which is so typical for Grand Manan and one of the reasons the lighthouse was constructed. The fog was so thick that the fog horn had been active all night and the lighthouse was shrouded in fog. However, with sun in the forecast, the fog lifted around the lighthouse and on the Swallowtail peninsula as people headed out for the official flag raising and salute to this grand old lady who has seen so many storms and stood the task of defending the coastline for mariners. It was estimated that over 100 people either made the trek out to the lighthouse or remained at the top of the hill.
Burton Small, strong supporter of Swallowtail and instrumental in organizing the Seminole Florida Rotarian working visit in September 2009 when they helped paint the keepers buildings at Swallowtail

Although we had wanted to be able to give tours of the inside of the lighthouse, Canadian Coast Guard regulations prevented this from happening. People had to be content with walking around the structure with its now peeling paint and crumbling stone foundation, exposed after the soil remediation project to remove the lead paint that had accumulated in the soil after years of scraping and painting the lighthouse and keepers house. Despite the lack of maintenance by the Canadian Coast Guard - the Grand Manan Rotary Club raised the money to have the lighthouse painted in 2004 - the tower is still strong but will need work soon.
Theresa MacFarland and RCMP Constable St. Laurent.
Members of Fishermen's Friends preparing to sing O Canada
At the appointed hour (2 p.m.) members of the Grand Manan Choir, Fishermen's Friends, sang O Canada and the flag was broken by the RCMP Constable St. Laurent. The Honourable Fisheries Minister, Rick Doucet, and member of the legislature for Charlotte-The Isles which includes Grand Manan, and the Honourable Minister of Wellness, Culture and Sports, Hédard Albert represented the province. The Honourable Mayor Dennis Greene represented the Village of Grand Manan. Theresa MacFarland represented Swallowtail Keepers Society.
Crowd gathered for the breaking of the Canadian Flag at Swallowtail

The flag pole had been relocated to the boat house where it had been located when the keepers house was built in 1958, prior to the construction of the concrete and iron stand on a rocky knoll by light keeper Grimmer Ingersoll. Unfortunately, time had taken its toll on the ironworks and it had corroded to a point that it would no longer hold a flag pole upright and had broken off during the winter. The boat house location for the flag pole had been discovered in an old photograph and it was felt that this would be a good alternative. It also suddenly made sense why there was a cleat on the boat house - to tie off the lines on the flag pole.

Celebrations then moved to the Grand Manan Museum for the official opening of the “150 Views of Grand Manan” a pictorial retrospective of Swallowtail lighthouse. The display is absolutely amazing and was put together by the curator Anneke Gichuru through word of mouth. The display is composed of photographs, drawings, paintings, hooked rugs, china, beach glass art and a quilt made from the maple leaves from the Canadian flags that flew at Swallowtail. As Anneke noted, to find 150 different images of the same building that all invoke a different emotion or mood is highly exceptional. It is no wonder that Swallowtail is the one of the most well known and most reproduced icon for Grand Manan. The Museum offered free admittance for the afternoon and many took the opportunity to wander around and take in the other exhibits.

A wonderful cake, also decorated with an image of Swallowtail was cut and enjoyed by the approximately 65 people who attended the reception. A floral arrangement selected from Swallowtail added to the ambiance in the Elmer Wilcox Room. People were encouraged to reminisce about their memories of the lighthouse and enjoy the display. Marty Klinkenberg wrote about the day in the Telegraph Journal:

The Honourables Rick Doucet and Hédard Albert took the opportunity to announce funding for the restoration and improvement of the keepers buildings. The provincial Built Heritage awarded Swallowtail Keepers Society with up to $30,000 and Regional Development Corporation another $25,000. Swallowtail Keepers Society needs to raise $10,000.
Honourable Hédard Albert, Theresa MacFarland (Swallowtail Keepers Society), Honourable Rick Doucet

Fundy Community Foundation

After the reception, the Annual General meeting of Swallowtail Keepers Society was held. A review of the last two years in a PowerPoint presentation was given by Kevin Sampson. A new co-vice chair was elected.

I regretfully could not attend but would like to thank everyone for their efforts to make the day a great success.  We would also like to thank the Fundy Community Foundation for their generous donation to make the Anniversary celebrations possible.