Looking at my last post this morning reminded me that I was recently invited to attend a birthday celebration. On July 5th, the Gibraltor Lighthouse on Toronto Island will be 200. During the production of my documentary on Island settlement after 1800 I shot video from outside the lamp room, in the open air. Climbing those old wooden stairs, encased in several feet of stone all around is an experience everyone should have. And it will be available to visitors to the lighthouse during the celebration, which will be attended by Mayor David Miller, the Fort York Fife & Drum and as many living relations of the Durnan family of original lighthouse keepers as Edward English can contact.
Mr. English was born around 120 years after the lighthouse was built, a great, great grandson of James Durnan, who along with his son George were lighthouse keepers from 1832 to 1905. For decades in its earliest days that meant carting drums of whale oil up to the lamp room to keep the light burning.
It strikes me that the lighthouse was a technology in its time, developed to guide ships and sailors safely into harbour, to avoid running aground in foul weather and to provide a sense of position. Today, radar and GPS have taken over these jobs and I'll bet that most of us never consider that these tools themselves might be replaced in time with something shinier.
I look forward to this afternoon, to riding the ferry, with Toronto Sun writer Mike Filey providing a harbour tour, to meeting the relations of people whose lives I researched a couple of years ago and to hearing stories not found in the library books. And I look forward to shooting some video too. But mostly, and I must be getting old to feel this way, I look forward to being part of a celebration of the continued life of something that for many years was the most recognizable landmark in or near the great city of Toronto, built on a sand bar that itself sheltered the bay and justified the settlement. We can't know where we're going, but we can and probably should know where we've been. And did I mention a free, light lunch?