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.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

a hand-made life

Here's a wonderful picture of Otis Orchard, the lighthouse keeper. Myrtle Goulden Demings took it when she lived at the lighthouse as a young woman, with her first husband, George Gribble, who was the assistant lighthouse keeper in the early 1950s.
Because they lived so remotely, and because their government salaries were insufficient, the lighthouse keepers had to homestead as well as care for the light. They kept vegetable gardens and their sheep roamed the island; and they would have kept a cow and ox as well. Otis would have cut this hay with a scythe, and now he's carrying it up to the barn. All these old buildings (except the foghorn building) were destroyed after the original lighthouse burned in 1959 and a new complex of lighthouse and buildings replaced the old.

In 1860, as he approached retirement, Alexander Hood Cocken described his nearly fifty years as lightkeeper and homesteader on the island. Otis Orchard's life would not have been very different from Alexander Hood Cocken's when this picture was taken nearly a century later.

Thanks to Myrtle Goulden (Gribble) Demings for sharing this picture. To understand the picture's context, I strongly recommend Evelyn Richardson's We Keep a Light (Ryerson Press, 1945) -- the classic description of a Nova Scotia lightkeeper's life in the first half of the twentieth century. And yes, it is very good to be home again, about which more soon.