Random Head Lighthouse

Reprinted from Lighthouses of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canadian Coast Guard 

Random head light

The old lighthouse at Random Head, 1919. (Photo credit: Canadian Coast Guard)

Random Head light station, 1921

Random Head light station, 1921 (Photo credit: Canadian Coast Guard)


The Random Head Harbour light went into operation in 1895. The light tower was manufactured by the Victoria Iron Works of St. John’s, to the specifications of J. T. Nevill, Inspector of Lighthouses for Newfoundland. It was originally intended for installation at Heart’s Content.

The lighthouse and tower were constructed in 1894. The circular iron tower was erected on the summit of the largest of Motion Islands, less than 30 meters (100 feet) above sea level. It stood 10.4 meters (34 feet) high; the tower, lantern and cap were painted with distinctive red and white checkers. The keeper’s dwelling was built on lower ground a short distance from the tower. Waves and wind constantly battered the small island and a boat could approach only in the calmest weather. The steep cliffs of Random Head, which rise to a height of 156 meters (512 feet), tower over the station. In the early 1900s, an 18 meter (60 foot) ladder was attached to the side of the cliff, enabling the keepers to cross from the island to a path on the cliff edge.

The Random Head light was an occulting white light with a sixth-order lens. It had a focal height of 38.5 meters (126 feet) above sea level, with a range of 11 miles. In 1931, the light was changed to a flashing white light, fuelled with acetylene gas, and became unwatched.

Thomas Henry Cooper was appointed light keeper in 1895, becoming the first of four generations of Coopers to keep the light at Random Head. The last full-time keeper, Thomas Cooper, resigned in 1952. John Watton was the caretaker of the light through the 1960s until it became battery powered. The tower was refurbished in the late 1980s.



Random head

Random Head light tower


The Random Head Harbour lighthouse is situated close to East Random Head, on the Motion Islands. The closest community is Hickman’s Harbour.

The headland is about 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) from the end of the road at Hickman’s Harbour. The light tower can be seen from the top of the cliffs at Random Head. It is accessible only by helicopter or private boat in very calm weather.

Property Status: Light tower; old foundations. The tower has recognized heritage building designation.


Contract between Henry Thomas Cooper and the Government of Newfoundland, 1895


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