Porlier Pass Lighthouse
  Porlier Pass Lighthouse

The Porlier Pass lights are located on Virago Point and Race Point at the north end of Galiano Island in the Strait of Georgia.

Race Point,  Chris Mills
Building on Race Point demolished in 1996

Virago Point Light,  Chris Mills
Virago Point Light, looking toward Race Point

Virago Point Tower,  Chris Mills

Race Point Beacon,  M.K. Mitchell
Automated Beacon on Race Point

Grandfather of this researcher, Henry Edward BROWN (November 29, 1899 - September 27, 1974) served as lighthouse keeper at Porlier Pass between 1949 and 1965 which was established 15 November 1902; automated April 1996.

Every summer and most school holidays of my memory were spent at the north end of Galiano Island. At first in the house which stood further up the hill; lit by coal oil lamps, outhouse, water by bucket from the cistern and after that house burned down a 3 bedroom house that can be viewed from Virago Point Light, looking toward Race Point.

The house was reached by either a long walk from the head of the bay by a pathway to match the physical requirements of "The Westcoast Trail" which was greatly eased by the addition of stairways and walkways in the 1960s or by row boat during our sojourns in all type of weather.

Summers spent wandering in the woods, sometimes with purpose, mostly exploring, meandering along deer paths.

Over the period of a year in the bay one over watching a First Nations man, whom I never knew the name of, slowly burn, soak, carve away the charred wood, brace the inside of what was to be a large canoe built from one tree.

Rowing across the harbour to Virago Point to help with maintenance or watch my Grandfather light the lamp for another period of dusk to dawn.

Times spent together walking through the woods to Race Point and up the stairway whose metal stairs drummed with each step. With side-trips during which he lifted me up to view the colour of fresh robin's eggs in their nest. Taking a moment to enjoy the scents of the ocean during different seasons or times of the day.

The basement in which my cousins, sisters and I played "Red Rover" or skipped as we swigged on our home-made root beer or ginger beer from the cold room which also held Granddad's latest batch of home-brew.

Memories are made of visuals, scents, textures, sounds which invoke emotional responses to a special times. Most of the good memories of my childhood originated from the surroundings and buildings of Porlier Pass from the few steps up to what would be considered by many to be the backdoor. Through that door was a small room which most would refer to as a mud-room where each of us on entry were greeted with hugs and kisses by Gran (Sissy to her nieces and nephews).

Straight ahead was the entrance to the basement. To the right the pantry. The magic pantry which not only held the staples for all food produced in that house, it was also the treasure trove a special shelf, containing eleven jars; one for each grandchild which contained our own favourite type of cookie made from scratch as only Gran's hands could in the kitchen to the left of the entrance we used throughout all the visits of my lifetime.

One of the mesmerizing sights of my childhood was wondering if that ash on the end of her one-at-a-time rolled cigarette would drop into whatever concoction she was working on. The portable ashtrays she would build out of a piece of tinfoil.

The heat of the woodstove which dried our sodden coats, cooked all meals (no matter how hot the weather), kept meals warm for those still wandering in the woods.

The pier we jigged for cod, the bay we swam in or as some timid souls who swore they saw monsters in the water sat and watched the others frolic, the vegetable garden we all ended up doing some weeding in, the patch where the grass was always green that I recall my youngest sister being very curious about what was down that pipe and a cousin lifting her up to take a peek dropping her adding to her bevy of childhood scars.

For some the sound of a foghorn is sad and forlorn, to me that sound is one of safety as I recall waking and knowing ,no matter what, all was well as Granddad was taking care of everything as he pumped away on that ancient hand-driven foghorn.

Henry Edward Brown's second wife Francis Togan Aliceson, Born Porlier Pass, Galiano Island, BC: February 17, 1910 - February 13, 1999 (daughter of "Sticks" Allison first lighthouse keeper at Porlier Pass)

Porlier Pass (1994) 32 colour photos in collection. Two light towers (Porlier is a range light station), main lights, boat and boathouse, lightkeeper, dwelling, interior engine room and fog horn building, Coast Guard hovercraft. (NOTE: The old front range light was demolished Feb. 1996 and replaced by a fibreglass tower and the lighthouse was automated shortly after.)

Lighthouses of British Columbia

Photos: Chris Mills and M. K. Mitchell