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