PEI Heritage Site




Seacow Head Lighthouse was built during the summer of 1864 under a contract of £314 by David McFarlane and John Rankin. Besides the cost of constructing the tower, £86 was paid for the land and right-of-way, Malcolm McFarlane was given £30 for clearing the land, Thomas Robinson was paid £85 for the lantern, and £300 was expended for copper, lamps, glass, and materials for the frame.

The octagonal, heavy-framed lighthouse, 18.3 metres (60 feet) in height and measuring 3.4 metres (11 feet 3 inches) on each side at the base, originally stood on a stone foundation and exhibited its light at a focal plane of about 27 meters (88 feet) above the surrounding water. Situated on the coast near the turning point for reaching Summerside Harbour, the Seacow Head Lighthouse serves as both a harbour light and a gulf light.

In 1877, William Mitchell, the agent for the Department of Marine and Fisheries on Prince Edward Island, visited Seacow Lighthouse with the General Superintendent of Lighthouses of Canada and had five of Sibler’s patent lamps and burners, with deep reflectors, placed in the lantern room. At that time, the keeper, Peter O’Ronaghan, was living in the lighthouse, which was very uncomfortable, and Mitchell encouraged the Department to consider constructing a keeper’s dwelling. Tenders were invited for the construction of the requested dwelling in 1879, and a contract for the sum of $777 was awarded to James Barclay of Ellerslie. The new dwelling was built at the station in 1880.

Old Keepers Dwelling, removed in 1967


A new cast-iron lantern was placed atop the tower in 1902 replacing a worn-out, inferior lantern. The tower was also reshingled, and a new platform deck built. In 1906, the system of lamps and reflectors was replaced by a fourth-order Fresnel lens, supplied by Barbier, Benard & Turenne, of Paris, France. The lens consisted of two groups of two panels each with each panel subtending 90° in the horizontal plane. Every ten seconds, the lens would produce the following pattern: flash of 0.638 seconds, short eclipse of 1.862 seconds, second flash of 0.638 seconds, and long eclipse of 6.862 seconds. The lens completed one revolution every twenty seconds, and petroleum vapour burned under a mantle was used as the illuminant.



Malcolm McFarlane served as the first keeper of Seacow Head Lighthouse starting in 1865. In 1867, after McFarlane was no longer keeper, two commissioners were appointed by the House of Assembly of Prince Edward Island to investigate chargers against the former keeper. The commissioners found that the evidence presented to support a charge that McFarlane had embezzled public property were so trifling that it would not have been sustained in a court of law, and thus Keeper McFarlane was cleared.

Keepers: Malcolm McFarlane (1865 – 1867), Thomas P. Huestis (1867 – 1872), James Wright (1872 – 1873), Peter (Patrick) O’Ronaghan (1873 – 1917), E. O’Ronaghan (1917 – 1919), Thomas J. Ranahan (1919 – 1946), Walter Richards (1946 – 1959), William Sherry (1959 - 1967)




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