Maugher Beach Lighthouse

Lighthouse Details
44° 36' 08.2'' N    -63° 32' 00.9'' W
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44° 36' 08.2'' N    -63° 32' 00.9'' W    Google Map

Maughers Beach Lighthouse stands at the end of a curving white sand beach on the west side of McNabs Island, at the inner entrance to Halifax harbour. The beach was named after Joshua Maugher (pronounced"Major"), a rum distiller and powerful merchant from early Halifax who used the beach to dry fish. It is also popularly known as "Hangman's Beach" because of its use by the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic wars to hang the bodies of executed mutineers as a warning to crews of ships entering the harbour that this was a port where they had better behave themselves.

In 1814, the British army began building a stout round granite Martello tower at the end of the beach to house a small cannon battery to defend the harbour entrance. The tower took fourteen years to complete, but as early as 1815, lights were shown at the site when naval ships were expected. In 1826, the provincial legislature decided that a permanent light was needed to help ships into the inner harbour, and voted 1500 pounds for a lighthouse. To save money, the Lieutenant Governor persuaded the military to permit the placement of a lantern room on top of the martello tower, instead of building a separate lighthouse. The Ordnance Board agreed, as long as the light didn't obstruct the cannons in what came to be called Sherbrooke Tower. "Whether the two functions were compatible was never tested, fortunately perhaps," noted a sceptical Parks Canada historian.

The light at Maughers Beach was used in 1851 by Abraham Gesner to test out the new fuel he had invented, kerosene, to replace whale oil. Although lighthouse officials were sceptical, the careful recording of the efficiency of kerosene by Maughers Beach keeper David George helped establish the fuel for standard use.

Contributor: Dan Conlin, Kathy Brown
Information Sources: Discover McNabs Island by the Friends of Mcnabs Island, Dept. of Marine Annual Reports, Dartmouth Coast Guard Records, Public Archives of Nova Scotia clippings and The Sea Road to Halifax by Hugh Pullen.