Randy Ansley

Back in the days when men were men and women had not yet been given the right to vote, the job of being a lighthouse keeper was a family job.

Even the kids had their tasks to perform, along with the usual school and homework. Sometimes it was a juggling act and it was not always easy.

To start off with, just keeping the lighthouse in good repair was a full time job. The ocean's saltwater would cause metal to rust and paint to peel, not to mention cause dry rot in floorboards and mechanical devices to fall apart. The old military saying andquot;if it moves feed it. if it doesn't move paint it,andquot; worked well for lighthouses.

And, what about keeping the light itself working?

First of all. the lighthouses used to have a curtain in the lantern room that was opened at night. The curtain prevented the sunlight from being focused through the prisms during the day and starting fires on the ground, or blackening the inside walls of the lantern room.

Next, the weights driving the clock mechanism that rotated the Fresnel light had to be cranked upward to the tower. This had to be done every eight hours, so in the winter months it was done more than once a night.

Now attention had to be given to the lamp itself. A small supply of lamp oil to fuel the lamp had to be fetched from the oil house just north of the main building. The lamps' wicks had to be trimmed, the chimneys cleaned of soot, and the reservoir filled with fresh oil. This was all done every four hours. The glass prisms were polished as needed.

There have been many books written about how the lightkeeper's children would take care of the lighthouse operations if the parents had to go on short trips. Sometimes bad weather or other problems would keep the parents away from their duties for several days and it would fall to the children to keep the ships safe and out of harm's way. One of the best selling books in the Battery Point Lighthouse gift shop is called andquot;Walk Across the Sea.andquot; It is about a lighthouse keeper's daughter left to tend to the light but her father was gone longer than expected and it fell to her to keep the lighthouse going.

Many times the families are asked to pitch in and help with the family business. The children or merchants are asked to mind the store and farm kids are no strangers to the hard work that goes into getting in the crops.

Being a lighthouse keeper was a government job but it often took the whole family to get the work done. We salute those families that came before us and kept the ships safe and off the rocks.