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Following the political uproar over the firing of William Condon and the consequent fall of the Liberal government, the new Conservative administration re-hired Condon. On 15 June, 1857, William Condon was appointed to a position as Superintendent of Lighthouses under the Board of Works.

Belcher's Farmer's Almanack, 1858

Belcher’s Farmer’s Almanack, 1858

Interestingly, lighthouses and lighthouse keepers would eventually become something of a family affair, but the first encounter with the occupation began at this time.

Condon’s first report from 15 December, 1857 provides the reader with an eye-opening account of the work and challenges of lighthouse keepers across the province. Condon discussed the “character of light” at each station, providing the technical details, the qualities and condition of the equipment, whether improvements needed to be made, and whether the keeper was attentive to his job. He also reported on the condition of the buildings and repairs that were needed, recommending, in a number of cases, changes to improve cramped quarters that he deemed to be totally inadequate for family living, particularly when the keeper had a large family. The salaries varied widely and were minimal at best and Condon advocated on behalf of those keepers who he believed needed to be better recompensed for their work.

Whitehead Island, Guysborough Co., N.S., Satellite Image

Whitehead Island, Guysborough Co., N.S., Satellite Image

His report on the Whitehead lighthouse is typical of his forthright discussion and recommendations:

The keeper has made an excellent landing wharf, and built a store near it. He has also made a good road from the landing place to the light house, and he has shown about the whole of the premises a commendable interest and industry. I have to report on this building as being entirely too small for the purposes intended. In the first place it is scarce large enough for a light house fitted with revolving apparatus, and being also used as a dwelling, makes it still more contracted.

There is a family of ten persons now living in this building, viz; the keeper, his wife, and eight children. They have in the winter time to keep the oil in the cellar or kitchen where they cook. I would recommend that a small addition be put to this house next season, so as to make it fit for a family to live in. Mr. Dillon complains of his salary being too low, in all, only £80 per annum – while the keepers of Beaver harbour and Cape Canso light houses are each receiving £115 per year, for doing the same work.

Superintendent's Report on Light Houses, 1857

Superintendent’s Report on Light Houses, 1857


While Condon recommended general repairs and improvements to the lights in many of the stations he was almost universally complimentary about the conscientiousness of the lighthouse keepers themselves. At only one lighthouse did he find a problem with the lighthouse equipment being in a sorry state, due to neglect. This problem was quickly taken care of by replacing the staff, and upon a return visit to the lighthouse, Condon noted, “I left with the impression that there will not be again a similar case of disorder and neglect to notice regarding this light house”.

Despite evidence that Condon was a capable Superintendent (many of his recommendations had been implemented), he was fired again in 1861 when Howe and the Liberals regained political power. This was no doubt an even bigger blow for Condon than his first ‘firing’. As Superintendent of Lighthouses, Condon’s wage was $1000 per annum, a very decent salary for the time.

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