Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff


with 4 comments



Lighthouses inherently inspire all manner of allegory. The symbolism we read into them creates a multiplicity of meaning. There is one, among many, on the Huron Coast and specifically in Southampton that that has touched me from the first moment I saw it. Look out to the lake driving in or out of town and you can’t miss it.

The Southampton Range Light sits sentinel-like peering outward over the vast expanse of Lake Huron to the empty horizon. Rising like an exclamation point at the extreme end of the concrete long dock, a man made extension of the Saugeen River’s north shore, The Light points the way to safe harbour.

There is a sister Light upriver just past the bridge off highway 21. The Saugeen River Light sits about 2300 feet from the Front Light. It is a smaller structure, only 31′ high. But because of its hill location, it rises 61′ above water level with a fixed, electrically powered, automated signal.

Sailors and boaters line up the front and back Range Lights and stay the course to reach the river channel.

The Front or Southampton Range Light is a square tapered wooden building, painted white with a red top. It is electrically operated. Like all great lighthouses it has a working foghorn. A signal from a marine radio turns it on. Its bellow can be heard well into town.

DEAD SLOW. NO WAKE. These four words on the side of the Southampton Range Light greet everyone sailng into harbour.

DEAD SLOW is in red, bold face, all upper case letters. It is shouting to get your attention…a warning to watercraft to throttle down. NO WAKE is a confirmation of the initial request. What they are saying is simple…the uncertainty of Lake Huron is behind you. You have reached the shelter of the Saugeen River shoreline.

I started taking pictures of The Light the week I moved here. Each season lends it’s own unique, hypnotic ambiance. From high on Scubby’s Point, from ground level on either side of the harbor or road, at sunrise or sunset, there is always something dramatic in your viewfinder.

Whenever I’m shooting The Light, I always find myself drawn to those four words. There is a life lesson in their simplicity that goes beyond any maritime meaning.

If the lake represents the unpredictability of everyday existence, perhaps the message The Light is trying to convey is this: we must all live with cautious purpose (DEAD SLOW) and do no harm to anyone (NO WAKE).

But that’s just me.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

May 9, 2012 at 8:59 PM

4 Responses

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  1. A good morning to you Ed
    Thank you for the beautifully crafted post about the Southampton Range Light. Once again, your photographs have beautifully compliment the writing. I have a feeling that the creation of this piece was prompted, in part, by the change in the seasons. I have found that change makes one more perceptive, and perhaps, more creative. Let the moment pass and the unique, which initially caught your attention, becomes commonplace. The challenge may to find ways to make each moment unique…oh well, we can all dream about such possibilities. Keep creating my friend.


    May 10, 2012 at 9:22 AM

  2. The original practical ‘Dead Slow No Wake’ is perfect copywriting. A great writer with whom I had the pleasure of working once told me “Outdoor posters Conor, One word or less. Say it in one word or less.” I like your take on it.

    Conor Bofin

    May 10, 2012 at 3:02 PM

    • Thanks Conor:

      I kinda’ got the same advice from my very first Creative Director. He told me when you write an ad, write it like you’re writing a telegramshort, sweet and to the point.

      Take care.



      May 10, 2012 at 4:26 PM

  3. Hello Ed, I have been enjoying your writing & love your pics
    I was wondering if you would mind if we used a range light pic on the new Southampton BIA’s facebook page
    you can contact me at the Southampton Meat Market

    Sue Palethorpe

    January 27, 2015 at 7:02 PM

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