M999.54.24 | Bicquette, 1885-1889
Henry Richard S. Bunnett
1885-1889, 19th century
Watercolour on paper
17.2 x 26.5 cm
Gift of M. Châteauguay Perrault and Mme Valérie Migneault Perrault
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Painting (2229) , painting (2227) , Waterscape (2986)
Keys to History
Lighthouses and Their Role
What is a lighthouse? Are all lighthouses the same? The Oxford Canadian Dictionary describes a lighthouse as: "a tower or other structure containing a beacon light to warn or guide ships." Webster's Collegiate provides slightly more detail: "a structure (as a tower) with a powerful light that gives a continuous or intermittent signal to navigators."
Lighthouses are made up of four main components:
1. a base that is raised above sea level by some means. The structure may be a tower located on a cliff, hilltop, island, etc., and it may be built of different materials such as wood, metal, stone;
2. an electric or gas lamp, that is, a source of light;
3. an optical system (reflectors or lenses) to intensify the light and direct it toward the horizon;
4. a lantern or enclosure to protect the lamp and the optical equipment from the ravages of the weather.
The Île Bicquette Lighthouse is a 22.5-metre tower made of stone. It was completed in 1844 at an estimated cost of 6000 British pounds.
Île Bicquette is located in the St. Lawrence River near Cap-à-l'Orignal, in Parc du Bic (on the south shore). Sailors greatly feared the area because numerous ships were wrecked there.
The Île Bicquette Lighthouse was built in 1843-1844 under the direction of Trinity House in Quebec City. Ships' captains who sailed these waters had first called for the construction of a lighthouse here in 1828. The original lighthouse is still in operation, though it has been automated.
There is a legend about a man named Fortier who spent the winter at the lighthouse after its two keepers drowned in 1859. One night, hearing strange footsteps in the staircase, Fortier became convinced that the lighthouse was haunted and refused to set foot in it again.