The end of the lightkeeper era on Cross Island, N.S.

A switch to automation meant that Nova Scotia's Cross Island lighthouse wouldn't have a human lightkeeper anymore, starting in the summer of 1989.

Automation meant there would be no more people living on the island

Automation and lighthouses

34 years ago
Duration 0:11
In 1989, 1st Edition explains how automation has affected the role of lightkeepers.

How could Nova Scotia's Cross Island lighthouse say goodbye to its lightkeeper?

The answer was automation.

In July of 1989, George Locke and his family had to leave the newly automated lighthouse, as well as the island located near Lunenburg, N.S. 

"They say you got to be able to be contented here," Locke told CBC's1st Edition, noting he had been a lightkeeper for a decade and a half"We started on Flint Island 15 years ago and we've been contented ever since."

Saying goodbye to Cross Island

34 years ago
Duration 0:41
George Locke and his family lived on Cross Island for nine years, while he worked there as a lightkeeper.

The 1st Edition report explained that Locke had previously worked as a fisherman and a skipper. He ended up becoming a lightkeeper after his boat burned.

'Nobody bothers you'

But he said he found his "niche" while living island life.

"It's a way of life, it's hard to explain, eh? You got to be part of it, I guess, to explain it," said Locke.

"If you want to go for a walk, you can go for a walk. If you want to sit down and watch television, or if you want to read, you know, you're pretty well your own boss ... as long as you do your work and pick your own time to do it, nobody bothers you."

Moving a lightkeeper out

34 years ago
Duration 0:34
The Locke family's belongings have to be airlifted off Cross Island, where he served as lightkeeper for nine years.

The fact the Lockes had been living on an island meant that moving out was a bit of a chore. The Lockes' belongings, as shown above, had to be airlifted out.

'We read a lot'

In a separate interview, Locke was asked by CBC's Midday what day-to-day life was like during all those years on the island.

"We read a lot," he said, when asked if reading was a big part of the on-island entertainment.

'Did you read a great deal?'

34 years ago
Duration 0:30
George Locke is asked about what life in a lighthouse was like.

Locke said he and his family received many visitors on the island, particularly during the summer.

His wife told a newspaper that she often served homemade bread and cookies to those who dropped by.

"We call it the Cross Island yacht club and our guestbook at the house is filled with names of friends who have visited us from all over the world," Ethel Locke said, in a July 11, 1989 story that was printed on the other side of the country in the Lethbridge Herald about the closing of the lighthouse.

Midday reported that the lighthouse had operated for more than a century and a half and until the Lockes left, it had always had a lightkeeper living on the island.