A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers


We all know what collective nouns are do we not? OK, I had completely forgotten the English language term until I saw the title above.

Collective nouns are the names given to collections or groups, be they beasts, birds, people or things. It is a naturally occurring phenomenon in many languages of the world e.g. English, German, Swedish, etc.

We have all heard of a a pack of coyotes, a flock of birds, a troop of Boy Scouts, and a fleet of cars. 

The use of collective nouns started back in the 14th and 15th centuries to designate collections of wildlife in hunting terminology (Wikipedia) but where did the term a plague of lighthouse keepers come from?

According again to Wikipedia, “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers” is a track from the British band Van der Graaf Generator’s fourth album Pawn Hearts (1971). It is notable for being a concept piece over 23 minutes long, which comprises the whole B-side of the album.

Now this collective noun has never been used before as far as I can find out, and will probably now become embedded into the English language as another collective noun. Although sounding deadly as in infectious, the term in this case, as explained by the composer means a gathering as in “a pride of lionsa murder of crows, so a plague of lighthouse-keepers“.

This term will not in general be used very often as a plague of lighthouse keepers is a very rare commodity, as mentioned in my article Our First Union Meeting-Nov. 13, 1994. Because of their isolation, lighthouse keepers do not get together very often in a group or gathering.

For those of you interested in hearing the musical piece, it is available on Youtube.

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/gDVpGqjOLlE” width=”400″ height=”350″]

Also, the lyrics and other information is available in a Google Search.

OK, that is solved. Now what are we going to call a group of lighthouses? Any suggestions? Again this is a very rare occurrence except at a river mouth, harbour opening, etc. Maybe a confluence of lighthouses? or? Any suggestions?

Reprint – Presentation of a Lifetime Membership from Lightkeepers UCTE Local 20232 To Jim Abram

B.C. lightkeepers honour their champion

By Kristen DouglasCampbell River Mirror
Published: September 25, 2012 2:00 PM 
Updated: September 25, 2012 2:13 PM

[media url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JN7SZCsEERY” width=”400″ height=”350″]
Strathcona Regional District director and former lightkeeper Jim Abram was honoured with a lifetime membership to the B.C. Lightkeepers Union Friday morning at the Cape Mudge Lighthouse on Quadra Island. Pictured from left, Abram’s son Jesse, daughter Melissa Abram, granddaughter Cleo Abram-Veloso, Abram’s wife Wendy, and Jim Abram, gather around to look at the commemorative plaque presented to Abram on behalf of the union.

Under cloudy skies, with the imposing Cape Mudge lighthouse looming in the background, former lightkeeper Jim Abram vowed to keep fighting for lightkeepers – the eyes and ears on the ocean. Continue reading

Severance Pay for Retiring Lightkeepers is Finished!

You all know what severance pay is do you not?

Severance pay is pay (and sometimes benefits) an employee receives when he or she leaves employment. Severance pay is most typically offered for employees who are laid off or retire.

Just recently the the Canadian Government, Treasury Board Branch, has forcibly modified the collective agreements of these three groups PA, SV and EB  so that Severance Pay is no longer paid upon retirement. It is still available if you are laid off.

PA Program and Administrative Services SV Operational Services EB Education and Library Science
Administrative Services (AS)  Firefighters (FR)  Education (ED)
Information Services (IS)  General Labour and Trades (GS)  Library Science (LS)
Programme Administration (PM)  Heating, Power and Stationary Plant Operations (HP)  Library Science (LS)
Welfare Programmes (WP)  Hospital Services (HS)  
Communications (CM)  Lightkeepers (LI)   
Data Processing (DA)  Ships’ Crews (SC)   
Clerical and Regulatory (CR)  Printing Operations (Advisory) (PR(S)) 
Office Equipment (OE)  Secretarial, Stenographic and Typing (ST)

Continue reading

Shiny New Guest Blogger, Bearing a Letter

Hi all. Our lovely blog master asked if I would make a guest post now and then, and, since the world as I appreciate it is where everyone listens to me, of course I said “yes!”

By way of introduction, I’ll post a letter that I sent to Hon. Mr. Keith Ashfield, Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, on the topic of Marine Communications and Traffic Services cutbacks. This blog has already posted on this topic, but I thought I would add my voice.

I also sent a copy to my MP Jean Crowder. Ms Crowder responded promptly. She thanked me for my concern, and linked me to a letter her party has already sent on the matter. I have yet to hear back from Hon. Mr. Ashfield, or his office.


Dear Hon. Mr Keith Ashfield,

I am writing because I feel very concerned about proposed government cuts to Coast Guard’s Marine Communication and Traffic Services. In an effort to save costs, the Coast Guard has proposed slashing overtime and holiday time for its operators, leaving the BC’s MCTS stations vulnerable to understaffing. Continue reading

Lightkeepers in Canada ARE Essential Services


In my Christmas Message 2011 I mentioned essential services while referring to lighthouses. It amazes me that Canada considers lighthouses essential services when the lightkeepers want to go on strike, but at any other time of the year they are trying to automate them.


According to the Canadian government: What is an essential service? This definition from their webpage Guidelines for Essential Service Agreements:

Subsection 4(1) of the Public Service Labour Relations Act (PSLRA) defines an “essential service” as “a service, facility or activity of the Government of Canada that is or will be, at any time, necessary for the safety or security of the public or a segment of the public”. (PSLRA, Section 4) Continue reading

MCTS To Lose Staff To Save Money

For those of you that do not know, MCTS (Marine Communications and Traffic Services)  is “the Branch of the Canadian Coast Guard that provides communications and vessel traffic services to the sea-going public”. 

“MCTS monitors for distress radio signals; provides the communications link between vessels in distress and the JRCC/MRSC; sends safety information; handles public communication; and, regulates the flow of vessel traffic in some areas. MCTS is an important link in the SAR system”.

The above is a quote from the official Canadian government website on Maritime Search and Rescue. (about half-way down the page)

Continue reading

In Memorium – Rene Kitson (1944 – 2011)

Rene Kitson (January 22, 1944 – August 06, 2011) was a long time lightkeeper at Bonilla island , McInnes Island as Assistant lightkeeper and he was the Principal lightkeeper at Ivory along with his wife Sherrill, the assistant lightkeeper for 15 years plus, until they retired and moved to Nova Scotia, Canada. He was also the Shop Steward for many years in the northern Prince Rupert district and fought long and hard for the lightkeepers against the de-staffing attempts, and spent many many hours in Ottawa negotiating lightkeeper contracts. He will be missed by all who new him. He was a dedicated lightkeeper and he was a great friend.

To include your memories in Rene’s memorial please click this link.