After years of a slogging through process, Shirley resident John Walls is ecstatic at the finished product, To the Lighthouse, An Explorer’s Guide to the Island Lighthouses of Southwestern BC.
“The idea was to produce a book on lighthouses, which there weren’t any, to raise money for the (Sheringham Point) lighthouse,” said Walls, also an executive on Sheringham Point Lighthouse Preservation Society. “I’d always be on the (society meeting) agenda to talk about the book and there were times I’d have to get very creative because I had nothing to say. I just kept on it and it came to fruition.”
The guide features five Greater Victoria lighthouses, including those on Trail Island and Discovery Island off the shores of Oak Bay, as well as Fisgard, Race Rocks and Fiddle Reef.
Featuring only the local lighthouse would limit sales and interest, so he set out to feature 25 sites to cover a decent market area. “The original concept was a coffee table book. I wanted to do a hard cover (as) there are beautiful shots … 60 from all of BC. It was an aggressive project,” he said. “I went through a couple authors who took up the project and couldn’t finish.
Then he came across Peter Johnson, known locally for his award-winning 2013 historical book Quarantined: Life and Death at William Head Station, 1872-1959.
“Once he agreed to do the writing it went into hyper speed,” Walls said. The duo pulled the project together in less than a year.
“It’s got a neat format where each one has a ‘getting there’ and a rating which is dead easy to really hard,” Walls added. “It has namesake, history, weird stuff … some of them more weird.”
They did however, need a photographer in that new short timeline and discovered Richard Paddle.
“He went crazy … he even hired helicopters for aerials,” Walls said. Filled out with images of the more challenging sites, sourced from friends and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the pages were complete and are now on shelves.
The guidebook includes tidbits on getting to the lighthouses, the names, the weird, design/construction and keepers’ tales.
“It’s a guide book number one, but there’s history on every lighthouse. You can see why it’s called Trial Island… and Discovery as well, you can see the namesake,” he said. “It’s got those kind of things the lighthouse geeks want to know about.”
The tidbit missing on Trial Island is that it was designated a federal heritage lighthouse this summer.
“That’s great news. Without all of this work by different groups, some of them can just end up like on the East Coast where they’re bulldozed and it’s history… it’s high-demand property,” Walls said. “We want people to leave their homes and start wherever they want and go see these places.”
To the Lighthouse: An Explorer’s Guide to the Island Lighthouses of Southwestern BC is available online and at Ivy’s Bookshop, Bungalow and Oak Bay Marina gift shop.