David McBeath

The Cove Island Lightstation has many fascinating stories to tell but nothing compares with the drama of lightkeeper David McBeath, his wife Mary Jane, and their five young children running out of food with winter imminent.

It was early December 1860 and David McBeath and his family had not yet received their provisions. Despite rationing for weeks, the McBeaths were desperate.

With the lake beginning to freeze, McBeath had a difficult decision to make; stay on the island in the hope that food may arrive soon and risk starvation, or load his family into the boat and take his chances on the cold and turbulent lake in the hope of reaching safety on the mainland.

Time was quickly running out for the McBeath family as most ships were already icebound in the harbour. A schooner that was initially chartered by McBeath’s supplier to deliver the provisions to the Isle of Coves also became trapped by the ice.

On December 1st, A telegram was sent to the Commissioner of Public Works stating:

“The Lighthouse Keeper Isle of Coves has no supplies for winter – Himself and family will starve – Shall, the Rescue take his supplies – No other boat going there.”

At this time, the Steamer Rescue under the command of Captain James Dick was on her last trip for the purpose of going into winter quarters at Collingwood. Hearing of the McBeath’s serious predicament on Dick wrote:

The steamer “Rescue” is about laying up but can be kept out long enough to take provisions. “

In the middle of a raging storm, Rescue, departed Collingwood harbour on the afternoon of December 6th’ delivered McBeath’s provisions and returned to Collingwood.

Had the steamer arrived at the Isle of Coves any later, lightkeeper David McBeath and his “whole family would have perished.”

Captain Dick found the Isle of Coves lightkeeper and his family “about to commit themselves to the Lake upon a very insecure Raft, in the midst of the Storm.”


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