Drowning at Lawyer Island c. 1904

In the Lighthouses of British Columbia guestbook I came across an entry by an “M. W. Harding”. He stated that his grandfather had been the first lighthouse keeper on Lawyer Island, near Prince Rupert, BC, and had accidentally drowned. I contacted Mr. Harding and got more information from him about his grandfather’s death. – retlkpr

In the words of – Ned Harding (Grandson of Thomas Harvey who was Senior Keeper at Lawyer Island 1921 – c.1905)

Lawyer Island c. 1900s - photo CCG, Prince Rupert.

He said: “I have some information regarding the Lawyer Island Lighthouse. This information was given to me by my mother who was the daughter of the original keeper. The keeper’s name was Thomas Harvey who took care of the light starting approximately 1901. He was married to my grandmother in 1898 and my mother was born in Vancouver in 1899.”

“My mother and grandmother were also at Lawyer Island from about 1902. The grandmother’s name was Hannah G. Harvey, and my mother’s original name was Frances T. Harvey. The light was tended by this duo until 1904 when my grandfather was lost in the sea while rowing to Prince Rupert as was his practice from time to time.” Continue reading

Illness at Sisters Island c. 1929

As told to me by – Allen Herbert Smithman (Grandson of Henry Herbert Smithman who was Senior Keeper at Sisters Island 1927 – 1929)

Sisters Island lighthouse c. 1929

Henry Herbert Smithman was a keeper of the lighthouse at Sisters Island (November 30, 1927 – February 27, 1929) until he became sick and was moved to a hospital in Victoria, B.C. where he died. I believe, although unconfirmed, that he died of rheumatic fever because my father, one of the four boys that were living at the light alone with their mother (my grandmother) Elizabeth Kate, contracted the same illness but was nursed back to health at home on the light.

My grandmother told me the story that when my grandfather died the “powers that be” would not allow her to stay on at the lighthouse as women were not strong enough to take care of a lighthouse. The cute part was that she was the one looking after the light for the past weeks as well as taking care of her four sons ranging in age from about three to ten. Continue reading

Life on First Narrows Lighthouse and Fog Station c. 1915+

Capilano Lighthouse behind the Empress of Japan - photo Dudley Booth

 

– a letter written by Dorothy Mawdsley (Harris) Harrop (daughter of first light keeper, George Alfred Harris, at Capilano 1915 – 1925),  with special thanks to Alfred Harrop, grandson of George Alfred Harrop, for letting me post the text of the letter.

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This letter is a bit long, as people were prone to write a lot before the advent of computers. If you have the time, this is a fascinating story of life way back then. – JAC

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Perhaps my grandchildren will take time to read this when I am long gone. We came to Vancouver  in 1909. I had just turned my 13th birthday. My father could not get work of any description. He had a Chief Engineer Ticket from Liverpool [UK]  but owing to the B.C. laws he was not allowed to work as an engineer even on a small tug in the inlet. It must have been very hard on both my father and my mother.  Continue reading

Drowning at Lawyer Island c. 1904

Lawyer Island Lighthouse; photo - CCG Prince Rupert

In the Lighthouses of British Columbia guestbook I came across an entry by an “M. W. Harding”. He stated that his grandfather had been the first lighthouse keeper on Lawyer Island, near Prince Rupert, BC, and had accidentally drowned. I contacted Mr. Harding and got more information from him about his grandfather’s death. – JAC

– Ned Harding (Grandson of Thomas Harvey who was Senior Keeper at Lawyer Island 1921 – c.1905)

I have some information regarding the Lawyer Island Lighthouse. This information was given to me by my mother who was the daughter of the original keeper. The keeper’s name was Thomas Harvey who took care of the light starting approximately 1901. He was married to my grandmother in 1898 and my mother was born in Vancouver in 1899.

My mother and grandmother were also at Lawyer Island from about 1902. The grandmother’s name was Hannah G. Harvey, and my mother’s original name was Frances T. Harvey. The light was tended by this duo until 1904 when my grandfather was lost in the sea while rowing to Prince Rupert as was his practice from time to time.

CCGS Quadra; photo - CCG

When he failed to return, the light was tended by my grandmother. She kept the light operating for about two weeks after he disappeared. She also lit a huge bonfire on the beach to attract attention to her plight. After the incident, she and my mother were returned to Vancouver on the Coast Guard Ship “Quadra”.

I have no knowledge as to who the new lightkeeper was after my grandfather was lost. We have little more than this account since it appears little other history remains of this light and the Coast Guard has been no help. When I grew up as a youngster I was apprised of this account by my grandmother and my mother, both of them sadly long since passed.

In Memorium – Steve Bergh (1949 – 2010)

Steve Bergh

Steve Bergh (October 28, 1949 – August 16, 2010) Vancouver Island lightkeeper earned respect for his caring attitude toward others.
Lightkeeper Steve Bergh was a father, fisherman, loyal friend and strong advocate for staffed lighthouses on the West Coast.
Bergh, 60, died Monday in hospital of cancer. He’d been diagnosed less than two weeks before he died.
“He lived life to the fullest and he had no regrets,” said Alice Woods, his wife of 37 years.
When Bergh got the devastating news that he was not going to recover, he looked at friends and family gathered in the hospital room and declared himself a lucky man.
But those who knew Bergh believed they were the lucky ones.
“He was an extremely loyal friend,” said Garth Mirau, a retired commercial fisherman from Nanaimo. “I’ve seen a couple times where Steve went way beyond what you expect from a friend to help people out.”
When a friend’s wife died, Bergh took time away from work to stay with his friend — and kept the house going for the difficult days following the death.
“I think he’d like to be remembered as a human being who was really interested in his neighbours,” Mirau said. “It sounds a bit corny, but he was a really caring guy and was really interested in what people thought. I was always happy after I talked to him.”
Bergh was born in California in 1950 and worked as a commercial fisherman before coming to Canada in 1971 and settling on the B.C. coast. He became a lighthouse keeper in 1973, taking over Estevan Point on the west coast of Vancouver Island. His last post was Chatham Point in Johnstone Strait.
Friend and fisherman Danny Lee knew Bergh for 20 years and says his service to fishermen will be remembered.
“If you had a problem, he always had a part or something you needed at the lighthouse that could keep you fishing,” said Lee. “That’s one thing everybody is going to remember him for. He had a lot of friends in the fishing community.”
Bergh spoke up for lightkeepers as president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada’s Lightkeepers, Local 20232, founding the Canadian Lightkeepers Association this year.
“He was not just a voice for lightkeepers, he was a voice for mariners and aviators of this coast,” said Woods. “He read the letters the mariners and aviators sent to our representatives in Ottawa pleading with them to retain these services.”
In addressing the Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans last May, Bergh said: “I’ve pulled people out of the water, I’ve searched for people who’ve fallen overboard. I’ve provided first aid.
“We provide mechanical repairs to vessels and we provide sanctuary for the shipwrecked. I don’t know what kind of computer can do those kinds of things.”
Working as a lightkeeper is the best way to know how important the job is to those who work on the coast, said Woods. Bergh advised mariners and pilots of changing weather conditions and kept a vigilant watch on marine and air traffic.
“He was a strong advocate for manned lighthouses, but I always felt it went way beyond the fact he happened to be a lightkeeper,” Mirau said. “I think it was because he really believed in community.”
Aside from his wife, Bergh is survived by three sons — Trevor, Jacob and Matthew. A celebration of his life was held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2010 at the Marine Heritage Centre in Campbell River, BC.

Posted: Sat, 2010-08-21 19:51 in Canadian Lightkeepers Association website1 Source:  Victoria Times-Colonist

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

More on Steve Bergh’s adventurous life in a Globe and Mail obituary here.

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FOOTNOTE:

1 The Canadian Lightkeepers website does not exist anymore. I received permission to hold the content of the site, and have made the site available here. It is not active. It is just being held for its informative value.

July 29, 2012 – UPDATE: I have now been informed that the Canadian Lightkeepers Association website is again active. Bravo!