Last month, Nova Scotia lost one of its biggest supporters of lighthouses. Craig Harding fought long and hard to save the historic Cape Forchu Lighthouse in Yarmouth, but on the afternoon of April the third, Craig lost his battle with cancer. He was just 52.
Craig was born in Overton, Yarmouth County. He loved the sea. As a young man, he worked as a steward on the Canadian Coast Guard ship Narwhal. In 1969, Craig joined the Canadian Air Force as a meteorological technician, serving on ships and bases across the country.
After retiring from the forces in 1988, Craig returned to live at Cape Forchu. He continued to stay in touch with the sea, working on the ferry Bluenose as a deckhand, and on Beaver Marine tug boats along the eastern seaboard.
But it was Craig’s passion for the Cape Forchu Lighthouse that revealed the depth of his passion for the beacons that guide ships on the sea.
The Cape Forchu lightstation is a Yarmouth landmark. The original lighthouse was built in 1839 and since then the light on the cape has guided vessels of all sizes safely in and out of Yarmouth Harbor.
In 1962, the Department of Transport replaced the original wooden lighthouse with a slender concrete tower. In 1993 the last lightkeepers departed, leaving the tower locked and the keepers dwellings empty.
As with other lighthouses in Nova Scotia, there was a danger the keepers houses, including a 1912-vintage duplex, and other surplus buildings, would be demolished or sold off by the federal government.
Craig and his neighbour and friend Gert Sweeney formed the Friends of the Yarmouth Light Society to help save the lightstation. The group worked tirelessly to restore the site, opening a museum and a tea room in the former keepers houses.
It wasn’t glamorous work — shingling, painting and putting in septic systems, as well as keeping up with regular maintenance in a harsh marine environment.
But Craig and the Friends persevered, and after more than five years of fighting the weather, and fighting bureaucratic red tape, their work finally paid off.
On June 1, 2000 the Coast Guard’s Maritimes Regional Director Larry Wilson handed the management of the Cape Forchu Lighthouse over the municipality of Yarmouth. The transfer meant the future of the lightstation was finally secure.
Craig’s passion, tenacity and dedication showed that Nova Scotia lighthouses can be saved. Without his foresight, the Cape Forchu Lighthouse may not have survived as a guiding light for mariners and as a beacon for the thousands of people who visit the Cape Forchu Lighthouse each year.
Craig Harding was a fine man and he is greatly missed by his friends, as well as all those who love lighthouses in Nova Scotia.
Thank you, Craig.
One Man’s Dream - Dedicated to Craig Harding
by Lin McGray, Friends of the Yarmouth Light
One man had a dream, a simple dream, to save one lighthouse.
He planned, he campaigned, he worked and he inspired others to follow.
Time and patience and love for a simple piece of land with a simple concrete tower paid off.
Cape Forchu will embrace and protect its own forever.
When a dream becomes a reality, and the planned-for thing comes true,
And work and worry are all behind, what one single man can do,
Is smile and say “we did it!”...and know it was all worth while
That’s what one man can do...smile.
What one man can do is dream, plant a seed and watch it grow,
What one man can do is inspire others, and show them the way to go.
And when that dream has happened, the heart can rest assured,
That forever and always the dream is protected...insured.
Time looms now that you must leave us, for reasons we’ll never know,
But it’s true that in many, many ways, you will never really go.
Your heart will remain at that lighthouse, your soul surround Cape Forchu,
For it wouldn’t be saved, nor your friends carry on, if it hadn’t been for you.
I know you will be there smiling, every time someone climbs that hill,
Your hand to steady youngsters there on the rocks and I know that it always will,
I know when the pipers magic rings out, that the music will find its way
To you and you’ll know that your song will go on and so lastly I want to say,
It’s your light now that shines in the darkness, your tower will stand supreme.
People will treasure those hills and those rocks and love will protect your dream.
Long into the future, others will hear, and know of the effort made,
And those doing the telling will always remember and always say “thank you Craig.”
At the annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Lighthouse Preservation Society on April 20th, society members voted unanimously to create the “Craig Harding Lighthouse Preservation Award.” The award will be presented annually to an individual or group in honor of outstanding efforts to protect and maintain Nova Scotia lighthouses.
This story appeared in the
June 2001 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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