Cantwells’ Way

A Natural History of the Cape Spear Lightstation

By James E. Candow  

Paperback $22.95

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In Cantwells’ Way, James E. Candow examines the relationship between people, place and technology at the Cape Spear Lightstation in Newfoundland and Labrador. Modern lighthouses and fog alarms were products of the new understandings of light and sound that emerged from the Scientific Revolution, so lightkeepers and their families were therefore in the vanguard of technological change in their communities. Despite this, they continued to practise traditional activities such as gardening and berry picking, which were part of the informal economy of rural Newfoundland. Life at the Cape Spear Lightstation reflected the underlying duality of Newfoundland society in the period.

“This is the most concise history of early lightstations in Newfoundland and Labrador, not just Cape Spear, that I have read so far … Most books about lighthouses are either too sweet, sentimental narratives, or as dry as a box of crackers. This one is as sumptuous and filling as one of Mrs. Cantwell’s Jiggs dinners, with dumplings and all. Readers anywhere in Canada and beyond will find the story of the Cape Spear lightstation has relevance to the lightstations in their particular region, whether on the east coast, the Great Lakes or the west coast.”

— Don Johnson, author of Smoke and Mirrors: A Look at Reflectors in Lighthouses

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  • “Compelling…”

    — Robin McGrath, St. John’s Telegram (full review)

  • “entertaining…insightful.”

    — Beverley Tallon, Canada’s History (full review)

  • “…belongs on the bookshelves of every sentient Atlantic Canadian.”

    — Alec Bruce, Atlantic Books Today (full review)

  • “…a thoroughly researched, well-written, and eminently readable work.”

    — Morgiana P. Halley, Husson University, Bangor, ME, USA (full review)

  • “…a well-researched and well-written book that will certainly teach even the most knowledgeable reader something new.”

    — Denise Flint, Downhome Magazine (full review)

  • Candow, a retired Parks Canada historian and accomplished writer of Newfoundland history, combines archival materials, oral history testimony, and personal reflections to produce this well-evidenced, thoughtfully written, and emotionally engaging account of the Cape Spear Lightstation and its Cantwell family dynasty of keepers on the easternmost edge of North America.

    — Michael F. Dove, Northern Mariner (full review)


  • Preface
  • Introduction: Let There Be Light
  • Quite A Peculiar Branch of Business
  • A Man of Parts: The Lightkeeper’s Duties to 1914
  • The Dying of the Light
  • Of Lightstations and Flower Petals
  • Epilogue: They Lifted Up the Sun
  • Appendices
  • Notes
  • References
  • Index

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