As for every lighthouse, Cap-des-Rosiers lighttower initiates from wrecks. Between 1809 and 1852, among the thousands of wrecks that took place in the Gulf and St-Lawrence River, fifty at least occurred between La Malbaie and Fox-River, of which 19 at Cap-des-Rosiers or a few miles away. It was mostly merchant’s ships, barks, brigs or schooners, but the Carricks wreck was the one that everybody knows about.
Leaving Sligo in Ireland at the end February or beginning of March 1847 with her crew and 187starving Irish immigrants fleeing their homeland aboard, the two mast bark of 87 feet was driven onto the reefs at Cap-des-Rosiers, in the morning of April 28 by a northeast wind storm with snow.
48 passengers only saved their life and some of them settled at Cap-des-Rosiers. 87 among them were rejected by the sea and have been buried in a common pit on the Bank of Cap-des-Rosiers. A monument for their memory has been erected at Cap-des-Rosiers in 1900 by St.-Patrick parish of Montreal. Next to the monument is the Carrik’s bell, recovered on September 24, 1968 by Mr Alphonse Ruest at Blanc-Sablon on the North Coast.
The lighthouse construction
It is probably this wreck, but also the pressures of the ship owners, that entailed the decision to erect a lighttower at Cap-des-Rosiers. It dates from1851 and the amount of the construction works was estimated at this time to 6,000 pounds of sterling silver.
Between 1853 and 1858, the contractor Charles François-Xavier Baby erected the lighttower according to the drawings of John Page, chief engineer to the ministry of Public Works of United Canada.
It seems that in 1856 the tower was completed. Dudley Witney mentions that “Construction had been slow and difficult. Horses and equipment had been brought by sea, since the roads were dangerous and impassable in winter. When John Page went to see the building in 1856, he praised the contractors highly: The work has been far more onerous and perplexing than human foresight could possibly have anticipated.”
If the tower was completed in 1856, the installation of the lantern and the devices of optics and lighting took place that year or the following year. However it may be, the light of the tower was lit officially, for the first time, March 15, 1858 at the beginning of the season of navigation.
The construction of the lighthouse and other buildings (a powder magazine and a vast residence annexed to the tower being the dwelling for the keeper) finally cost a sum of $75,986.70, to which it should be added other expenses, either for the exploratory studies, the transportation of the materials, the provisions and men by vessel, the engineering, the equipment for the light and the lantern, etc, whose approximate amount was of $38,000.