Comparison of Lightkeeper Wages 1942 – 1956

Comparison of Lightkeeper Wages 1942 – 1956

Comparison of Lightkeeper Wages 1942 – 1956 with the Average Working Man of the Same Period.

Employee Record for Thomas Moran – photo Christine Booth

In the photo on the left is a photocopy of the “Employee’s Record” (1942 – 1956) for Thomas Moran, lightkeeper at Barrett Rock lighthouse, an isolated station just outside Prince Rupert harbour, British Columbia, Canada. 

Unfortunately his pay scale for his starting date in 1942 is missing. The first indication of his salary is 1 Jan. 1947, a maximum (max) amount of $1824.00 per annum. 

In 1947 the average weekly wage for a male person working as a labourer in the manufacturing industry was $2933.00 per annum – about $1100.00 per annum more than a senior lighthouse keeper working in isolation for seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day, every day of the year! (see portion of the table below from the Historical Statistics of StatsCanada – full page in comma-separated values (CSV) format is available here.)1

From this wage he had to support his family and pay an assistant keeper (if one was required). He also had to pay a relief keeper if he wished to leave the station for holidays or medical problems, or required extra help during the summer. 

Year      Male salaried employees
             Annual   Weekly   Hourly
1956      4,918     99.05     2.51

1955      4,636     93.50     2.36
1954      4,499     90.99     2.31
1953      4,327     86.43     2.19
1952      3,985     82.60     2.07
1951      3,852     77.55     1.94

1950      3,507     69.35     1.73
1949      3,317     65.37     1.60
1948      3,147     63.47     1.54
1947      2,933     60.21     1.46
1946      2,680     53.21     1.27 

This inequality continued until just recently (August 2005) when the lighthouse keepers were granted a substantial 10.5% increase to bring them closer to an employee working in town. Click here to see an image copy stored on this website of the present wages for lighthouse keepers from the Collective Agreement with the Treasury Board (TB) of Canada. Click here for the actual TB website page.

Additional Employee Records of Thomas Moran

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It is amazing that these records still exist after the burning of all the files at Digby Island in the 1960s.

“Some labels still stood out on the charred, curling folders: Green Island, Lawyer Island, Boat Bluff, Cape St. James . . . all the rest of the northen lights. Half a century of human history was going up in smoke.”

“From Lights of the Inside Passage” by Donald Graham, Harbour Publishing 



1 Another very interesting website for comparing wages from earlier times to the present can be found here at Measuring Worth. Look on the left side of their page for more than one way of calculating this comparison – i.e. GDP, CPI, etc. Wages calculated in US dollars.

In this case, his wage today (2010 – last year that wage data is available) would have been $17,800.00 US dollars. A long way below the minimum wage!

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Retired (2001) British Columbia lighthouse keeper after 32 years on the lights.

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