Shedding some historical light

There are stories to be shared about the former keepers of this lighthouse

by Lisa Crane
A picture of a lighthouse
The lighthouse at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve is over 150 years old. — Photo courtesy Ryan Murphy,, Lester B. Pearson College

If you are staying on Vancouver Island and want to check out some of the history around Pedder Bay, consider the 150-year-old lighthouse at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. The reserve is managed by Lester B. Pearson College for BC Parks, and the Canadian Coast Guard leases the envelope of land around the light tower.

The lighthouse, built in 1860, was constructed mostly from granite that was shipped from Scotland for building at Race Rocks.

The British Colonist reported on December 27, 1860, that the tower (lighthouse) was lit for the first time the previous evening, and that it seemed perfectly suited for its future duties. Those duties included lighting the way for the many tall ships that found themselves battling the challenging conditions of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Garry Fletcher, educational director of, has constructed a very informative website educating visitors on the history of the lighthouse.

“I find the most interesting part of the history is the research I have done following up on the lives of the light keepers,” said Fletcher. “Since the 150th anniversary last year, I have tried to get as many of the light keepers' histories on (the website) as possible.”

The first light keeper, George Davies, painted the distinctive black and white stripes on the lighthouse so that it could be better seen in the daylight. Joseph Slythe, relief light keeper from 1981, died in 2008 at age 93.

The lighthouse was automated in 1997 but the colourful history of several of these keepers is documented on the Race Rocks website, which also relates some interesting stories of shipwrecks, and exhibits a number of old newspaper clippings.

“I am always looking for relatives and pictures taken at the light station,” said Fletcher, adding that anyone with a connection to the lighthouse can contact him through the website.

“We are always trying to come up with a good ghost for this station but we haven't pinned one down,” laughed Fletcher. "We are eager to perpetuate any myths."

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