Georgian Bay

Living in a Lighthouse

From 1885 to 1946 Lamondins lived and worked at Gereaux Island Lighthouse on Georgian Bay, Ontario.  One question that drives my family history research is why did my ancestors choose to live at the lighthouse?

I grew up in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area. The idea of living on an island in a remote area of Georgian Bay scares me. No electricity. No neighbours. Just miles of water, windblown spruces, and mounds of granite. The beauty of the landscape champions the Canadian Rockies in my eyes, but it contrasts the potentially harsh and lonely living conditions.

Gereaux Island Lighthouse

I am so comfortable in this modern world that life one hundred years ago seems incomprehensible. Some days I feel so disconnected from the natural world that the idea of living immersed in a Group of Seven painting without modern comforts is inconceivable. If my great-grandfather were alive today I imagine he would feel just as out of place in my world as I feel I would be in his.

Although I have spent all of my summers picnicking on islands near the lighthouse, although my parents live in Britt, a short boat ride from the lighthouse, I cannot fathom what it would be like to live in a lighthouse.

Emmaline Madigan lives in the lighthouse in Pointe au Baril, Ontario, about 40 kilometres from Britt. My dad shared a video with me yesterday that effectively captures the appeal of living in a lighthouse today. It is a Doc Studio Short Documentary Finalist for TVO.

Lighthouse by Cody Forth: Lighthouse is short a documentary about Emmaline Madigan, the last lighthouse keeper of Point Au Baril. Emmaline Madigan was 17 when she started her life at the Point Au Baril Lighthouse. She married the lighthouse keeper and raised six kids there. After her husband’s death she took over his duties and became the new lighthouse keeper. Unfortunately, she was evicted in 1983 because with the new technology they did not need lighthouse keepers anymore. Of course, this did not keep Emmaline from fighting for what she believed in.


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