At a time long before Canada was officially a country, the tall ships were traveling back and forth bringing people and materials to the newly found land.  Many arrived on our shores to find a rugged and raw landscape.  Even today this landscape is treacherous, finding many sea-going vessels encountering troubles on our craggy shorelines.  The need for a lighthouse was profound.  November 16th, 1860 Figard Lighthouse came to life as a beacon of safety and hope and today is it still in active service guiding ships from points all over the world into Victoria’s Harbour.

Fisgard Lighthouse - Colwood, BC, Canada

Fisgard Lighthouse – Colwood, BC, Canada

We love stories like the one at the heart of Fisgard Lighthouse.  It started life as a means to increase safety in the area and today is still active in this role, but it also has a wonderful secondary role that is really heartwarming to see in this day and age where many of our old heritage and historically significant buildings are being razed to make way for modern construction.

The lighthouse was deemed a National Historic Site in 1958 and over the years countless scores of visitors have flocked here to immerse themselves in a nautical experience and try to find a personal connection with a past.  Up until the 1940’s a lighthouse keeper was responsible for maintaining the integrity of the light, and this was a lonely, daunting and sometimes dangerous task.  This would take a person of incredible character and strength.

Fisgard Lighthouse - Colwood, BC, Canada

Fisgard Lighthouse – Colwood, BC, Canada

Part of the allure and intrigue of the site comes from the stories that circle around it.  Some are true, some are exaggerated and some are fiction, but they all form part of the fabric that creates the incredible character of the lighthouse itself and the area it calls home.  Even today, stories circulate how the bricks that built the lighthouse were brought over in the ships from England, used as ballast in the hulls of the tall ships.  Before the causeway was built connecting the dot of an island that the lighthouse sits on with the Fort Rodd Hill area, the keeper would paddle to and from the tiny island in a little rowboat.  One of the keepers met an unfortunate end when he dropped a paddle in the ocean and tried to reach for it, only to find himself falling into the roiling ocean and becoming part of the legend of the place.  There are many other tales from those who lived here, some having stayed less than a year.  A few only stayed for days.

From Wikipedia: Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site

Keepers of Fisgard Lighthouse

George Davies, 1860-1861
John Watson, 1861
W.H. Bevis, 1861-1879 (Died on station, 1879)
Amelia Bevis, 1879-1880
Henry Cogan. 1880-1884
Joseph Dare, 1884-1898 (Drowned in Esquimalt harbour, 1898)
W. Cormack, 1898
John Davies, 1898
Douglas MacKenzie, 1898-1900
Andrew Deacon, 1900-1901
George Johnson, 1901-1909
Josiah Gosse, 1909–1928

The brevity of tenure for many of the keepers speaks directly to the perils and challenges of undertaking such a life.  What would motivate someone to take on such a vocation, knowing full well the dangers and isolation that comes with it?  As we toured the facility, these thoughts constantly sat at the back of our minds as we tried to form a deeper understanding of the entire vignette.

Fisgard Lighthouse - Colwood, BC, Canada

Fisgard Lighthouse – Colwood, BC, Canada

What once was home to the brave souls who manned the lighthouse, today is two floors of exhibits detailing the history and some of the stories.  As you walk through the displays reading about all that has happened here in a relatively short period of time, the connections become palpable, in some cases leaving you with a small sense that you might have known the person at the heart of the story.  But honestly, this feeling of understanding is just a facade for there is no possible way you could really comprehend what it would be like without having lived the life yourself.

Parks Canada is responsible for the maintenance and running of the operation today, and they have done a terrific job on this site.  The building and facilities are meticulously kept, complete with great displays and presentations, many of them dynamic and interactive.  This really allows the visitor to become immersed in the experience as a whole.  It’s hard not to feel like you’ve stepped through a rip in time and space when you visit the Fisgard Lighthouse.

Fisgard Lighthouse - Colwood, BC, Canada

Fisgard Lighthouse – Colwood, BC, Canada

This post marks our very first visit to the lighthouse, and we’ll be back many times over the coming years to take a closer look both inside and out.  As we strolled around inside the house taking in the presentations, one perspective really stood out.  This short brick hallway connects the living quarters with the lighthouse and as you walk through the narrow and tight corridor, the bricks express incredible textures; both palpable by touch and by your higher senses desperately trying to understand the pathos of the entire experience.

Many see our lighthouses as sources of history and romance, and this is most certainly true.  Peel away the veneer of the story, even a little bit, and you will find something much deeper.  A visit to the Fisgard Lighthouse will reveal a fascinating story of Vancouver Island and our history, and will leave you yearning for more.

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit us here today, we really appreciate it.  As always, we love to hear from all our visitors so please feel free to leave us any comments you may have below.

Sources

Fisgard Lighthouse Historical Site Victoria Vancouver Island
Wikipedia: Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Site




  1. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    I love reading and looking at images of lighthouses Toad and this is a great post. I especially love the second image and the way you have positioned the boat. Outstanding, my friend.

  2. avatar Jerry Denham says:

    Toad this is by far one of my favorite posts from you. I absolutely love lighthouses and have never thought of the person settled with operating the lighthouse but only of the lighthouse and it’s settings around it. Love the shot of the lighthouse with the small boat parked in the foreground. Excellent work as usual my friend.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      It’s a huge highlight for us when you pop by and see us here, Jerry, thanks so much! Your kind thoughts really mean a lot to us, and I am sure everyone else will enjoy them too. Thanks a ton, my good friend!

  3. Lighthouses are one of my favorite photographic subjects, and you’ve certainly done this one justice with your images and words. Terrific post.

  4. Lighthouses are one of my favorite subjects to both photograph and to research for the resulting blog post. You have definitely done this particular one justice in both your images and the accompanying narrative. I really like the composition of the second image with the row boat and then the shed providing the leading line to the tower itself.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so, so much Mark, your ongoing friendship and support is very much appreciated! Fabulous comments here today, good sir, thanks for taking the time to pop by and leave these for us.

  5. Absolutely wonderful post about such a photogenic subject, I can’t wait to see what you get on your next visit! Believe it or not we actually have a lighthouse here in landlocked Utah, sadly it’s at the other end of the state (don’t ask me why we have one) It’s always a treat to explore your beautiful home through your eyes Toad, thanks for sharing it with us.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      What wonderful, wonderful comments Howard, thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave these for us and for everyone else to enjoy! You really have some amazing features in your area there, we’ve simply got to find a way to come visit one day and check some of these things out in person!

  6. Glad to see you were able to make it to Fisgard, Toad – and wow, what gorgeous images you’ve produced! It’s especially good to see them, as they were in the midst of renos when we were there so there was scaffolding covering the building. Great to see what a lovely job they did on that restoration. And yes, some of the stories behind those keepers are amazing.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      It’s quickly become one of my favorite spots here on the island, that’s for sure! It’s a wonderful link to our past, and we are very happy to see such a concerted effort in terms of ongoing maintenance etc. Thanks so much for visiting us today, Laurie, that means a lot!

  7. avatar Jimi Jones says:

    Very engaging read, Toad. I have always been in love with all things nautical and the rich associated history. Lighthouse are wonderful treasures that link us to yesteryear. So happy to see that this on remains in operation and thus, continues the mission and history.

    Your photos here are absolutely wonderful, providing a fantastic look at this treasure.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      A visit from you is always a highlight for us here, Jimi, thank you SO much my good, good friend!!!

  8. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Great post Toad and awesome images. I absolutely love the way you’ve composed the second image with the row boat.

  9. avatar Ron Wilson says:

    Admirable compositions on all your lighthouse photos. What an eye.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Gosh, Ron, we’re humbled and honored this morning to see you have visited and for the comments you’ve left! Many many thanks my friend!!

  10. avatar Rich McPeek says:

    Toad and Mrs Toad, I love reading your posts and your photos! They’re always so terrific! Thanks for sharing! Great work!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      You, sir, are a true scholar and a gentlemen in our books! Thanks so much, Rich, your ongoing friendship and encouragement means an awful lot to us!

  11. This place has great character, nice work!

  12. that is quite lovely!! Nice!

  13. avatar Renee Besta says:

    I absolutely love lighthouses, and try to visit as many as I can. Learning the history and backstory to this grand sea sentinel really adds to your images, Toad. Too often people do not think of what life was like as a lighthouse keeper. It sounds so enchanting, but was really a difficult job in typically isolated areas, far from normal human contact.

    Will have to place this beautiful lighthouse on my bucket list. Great blog post and images as always, Toad. Enjoyable read.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Sometimes there are wonderful stories to be found just below the veneer of the obvious. I think this is a great example of that, myself. Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave these terrific comments, Renee, and if ever you chase down your bucket list let us know so we can show you around Vancouver Island!!

  14. avatar ehpem says:

    This is a very nice series, the one with the boat is terrific, and very nice to see the interior too. The other day I came across shots I took, in black and white film, of an archaeological project under way at this spot. I really should do something with those sometime. It’s only been 30 years that they have been sitting untouched and unprinted!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Oh my gosh, Ehpem, I would LOVE to see those shots!!!! How cool would that be! Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and leave us your great comments here, that means a lot!