My great, great, great grandfather George McConnell was the first lighthouse keeper on Miscou Island. But he wasn't a lighthouse keeper when he arrived. According to an article published on the “Lighthouse Friends” website, he was “a practical engineer and mechanic, who had been selected by the Commissioners from a pool of thirteen applicants.”
George passed away in 1877, after more than 20 years on the island. His great great Grandson (my second cousin) Ralph Mark, still owns property there. It has been in my family since they first settled on Miscou and is just down the road from where the lighthouse still stands.
Needless to say, I have had a lifelong fascination with lighthouses and those who earn their keep by ensuring everything remains in working order. Sadly, a job that used to be done by three men is now handled by a microchip. The days of the lighthouse keeper are over, but the stories remain.
Lighthouse Keepers Bill Arnold, Handel Bluer, and Eddie Matthews give us a glimpse of what life was like in this short film by Ronan Glynn and Liberty Smith.
“You had the time. When you read a book, you read a book. You had time to read the book. Most things now, we just skip through them, don’t we?”
“You didn’t have to hang pictures on the wall to get a view. It was there looking at you.”
“I find that even now, I wake most mornings at 4 o’clock. As thought I was getting up for the morning watch.”
It wouldn’t be an easy life. But for those who enjoyed solitude and not only loved but had a healthy respect for the sea, it was the ideal job. It is obvious that it was something none of these men wanted to leave behind. You can see it in their eyes, which light up when telling the tales and fill with a quiet sadness when they recall their retirement.
My only complaint is that this short film is too short. At just 6 minutes, it offers but a glimpse into the world of the lighthouse keeper and leaves the viewer wondering about the many stories they didn’t get a chance to tell.