The Kincardine Lighthouse stood as a beacon to seafarers, from 1881 until 1977. During this time, it has bore witness to many a heartbreak. In 1883, it watched helplessly as the Steam Ship Erie Belle blew its boilers, killing four crewmen, while attempting to rescue the grounded schooner ‘J.N. Carter’. Again, it watched in 1902, as its Keeper, Thomas McGaw, went to the rescue of the American schooner ‘Anna Maria’, who too had run aground on the costal rocks of Lake Huron. Four of its crew and a rescuer perished that night. These are two of the many tragedies that has taken place in and around Kincardine Harbour. However, it’s not the spirit of any of those poor souls that walks the lighthouse gallery deck.
It’s whispered that on those nights, when the winds are high and the waves relentlessly pummel the Lake Huron coastline, the lament of the great highland bagpipe can be heard above the fury. And if you dare to look upwards, through the blinding rain, towards the top of the lighthouse, you just may catch a glimpse of the Ghostly Piper of Kincardine.
But who is this eerie figure that walks the lighthouse, and to whom the pipers of Kincardine still pay homage to today?
Some say that it is the spirit of Duncan Sinclair, a Scottish immigrant, who, with his family, was aboard a ship bound for Kincardine, or as it was known back then Penetangore. During the voyage, as they made their way up Lake Huron, a vicious storm blew in, turning day into night. Hearing that the Captain feared they would not find their destination, Sinclair took matters into his own hands. Knowing that Penetangore was a strong Scottish community, Sinclair grabbed his bagpipes and rushed onto the deck. Mustering all the strength that he could, he played a mournful lament above the howling winds. After a few minutes, and much to the astonishment of everyone on board, a piper on the land returned the lament. The Captain steered his ship towards the sound of the pipes and eventually to the safety of the harbour. For years Donald Sinclair, whenever there was a storm, would rush to the harbour and play his pipes in the hopes of rescuing any floundering vessels.
It is believed that Donald Sinclair, despite his death, is continuing with his mission.
Kincardine is a municipality located within Bruce County, Ontario, Canada, and has a population of approx.8,215.