In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Fort McNutt

There are plenty of ruins on McNutt’s Island in Shelburne Harbour. Among them are old cellars, collapsed stone walls, fallen-in wells, wrecked cars and every building at the lighthouse. On the eastern side of the island, above the deep harbour channel and the sea, are a couple of enormous rusted guns. One of them lies forlornly on the ground. The other is aimed pointlessly at the forest that surrounds it. These guns are nearly all that’s left of Fort McNutt.

During World War II Fort McNutt was part of a string of North American coastal defence stations. German submarines were a real threat and coastal defence was essential, if little remembered today. Frederic W. Cross of Ontario was stationed here during the war and remembers that his 104th Coast Artillery Battery was composed chiefly of gunners from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Mr. Cross adds that there were also a company of infantry from Regiment de Quebec and Navy and RCAF signallers, and that living conditions on the island were isolated and primitive.

Last summer some new friends from Halifax stopped by on their way to the lighthouse. They brought us a present: a CD of photographs taken at Fort McNutt in 1942. Augustine (Gus) Gough of the Irish Regiment sent the pictures home to Ontario while he was stationed here. He died in 1984 and his daughter Anne Philpot the family genealogist found them years later while she was sorting through boxes of papers and photos. She had them scanned and copied to a CD to share with others. The photographs showed the army barracks, some heavy guns, a lighthouse --- and, romantically, Gus Gough’s initials and those of his wife-to-be carved into a large rock.

The photographs were a puzzle – a mysterious piece of her father’s history that she wanted to solve. Through family stories Anne knew that her father had been stationed in Nova Scotia during the war and had heard him speak of McNutt’s but didn’t know it was an island. She kept searching until finally she contacted someone in Nova Scotia who knew about Fort McNutt. Fort McNutt is not very well known anymore. So her perseverance was rewarded. And now the rest of us benefit, too.

These images belong to the family of A. J. Gough and are used here by permission. Thanks to Terry Deveau and Ashley Lohnes for making the connections.

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