I recall as a small boy the many, many times during the late 1950s when I would be sailing with my parents to and from Pictou Island and going past the magnificent structure known as the Pictou Bar Lighthouse.
During those years there was a dwelling for the light keeper and his family to live in and was situated by the light tower. A MacFarlane family lived at that lighthouse during those years and I would often see them walking about on the property. I often wondered how dangerous it might have been living there in such a low lying area.
I recall a sandy road being quit visibly going from the light and running right into Pictou Landing. That way of travel was very low and would very often be under sea water with abnormal high tides and severe storms. A massive storm in 1873 destroyed the breakwater that was adjacent to the light tower. The abnormal high tides and gigantic waves moved the keeper’s house from its foundation and completely destroyed the kitchen area. The light tower was completely surrounded with water last year with the extremely high tides that accompanied hurricane Juan.
The original Pictou Lighthouse was constructed in 1833. It took a year to complete the 44 foot tall structure. The beacon light on top of the tower was fueled by oil and was manually lit every day by the lighthouse keeper. For almost 70 years the 11 mile beam of light reached far out beyond Pictou Harbor. In 1903 fire destroyed the original light but construction of a new tower started immediately and was completed in 1904 at a cost of $3,471.99. That newer light had a longer light range but was seven feet shorter then the first tower. On July 16, 1931, the lantern room of the lighthouse caught fire and sustained extensive damage. The quick actions of the then lighthouse keeper prevented the structure from burning to the ground.
The Lighthouse Keepers house and outbuildings were declared surplus and disposed of in 1960. The house was then dismantled and moved by barge to a new location.
Several upgrades were made to the tower and light over the next years and the tower was elevated to 60 feet during the early 1960’s.
As an operating Lighthouse, eight different families operated the Pictou Bar Light over its lifespan. Henry B. Lowden was the lights first operator followed by a Mr. Munro, A David Lowden, A David Lowden Jr., A W.E. Watts, A Harry MacFarlane, A John K. MacFarlane and lastly a Raymond D. MacFarlane.
The Pictou Light was automated in 1993 with flash 2’s; eclipse 3.5s., visible fro 13 nautical miles.
On Monday, July 5th 2004, the Historical Pictou Bar Light was destroyed by fire.