Lobster Cove Lighthouse
Lobster Cove Lighthouse - The Museum
I came back from Woody Point on the 1:15 taxi boat, and the day still being young, I headed north again. This time I chose the landmark Lobster Cove Lighthouse near the town of Rocky Harbor.
Lighthouses have a universal appeal for people, so the place was much fuller than any of the other “attractions” I visited along the western coast. It was, indeed, fascinating, both esthetically and historically. I learned a lot about the first families who lived here, about the last lightkeeper and his family, the lightkeeper dynasty, the way they communicated with the light, and the changes with modernity. The last lightkeeper was made to leave the place when things got automated and his services not deemed needed. He refused to ever come back, even for a visit, despite having 5 of his children born by the fireplace…
This is how the lightkeeper communicated his messages: flags.
The last lightkeeper and his family:
You look at these old pictures and it brings back lost dimensions of being human. It wasn’t even that long ago. People lived a life of kindness, simplicity and generosity in a reality of a vast and non-compromising nature. Human connections were precious and solid. Faith, family and camaraderie were paramount. The tempo of life was slower. People were also alone sometimes, really alone, against a background of powerful elements that shaped and strengthened them – if they survived.
In the museum I learned that Woody Point, where I spent the morning, was the first trading post in Bonne Bay. In 1809 Joseph Bird set up the camp, fishing for cod and salmon in summer, hunting and trapping by winter:
“One family has resided on Cow Head for 40 years. An aged couple, patriarchs of their little flock, reared a large family, who have settled about them, and lived by fishing and hunting. They have this little world entirely to themselves…Not one of them can read or write…But they are ingenious in everything concerning the chase and the fishing…” (Reverend Ephraim Tucker, 1838).
History of pioneering is bizarre: the move to herring increased the local population 8-fold in 15 years, where “every cove that could be fished from was settled”.
The art of snowshoe-making was actually learned from the Micmac Indians who used to inhabit most of the country I travelled: PEI, NS, East NB, Peninsula Gaspe and parts of NL. 10,000-20,000 of them covered that territory. It is assumed they were originally fairly egalitarian, but became more hierarchical following the European invasion.
As I saw in the south of Crete and in the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, even today people prefer to move around by boats in certain terrains. Land can sometimes be harder to maneuver.
“They were the only family between Deer Lake and Bonne Bay, and Mrs. Wilton gave many meals to travelers. ‘We used to wake up on the floor sometimes because mother’s given someone our beds.’”
It takes remoteness, travelling and the presence of Nature, even today, to bring back those feelings of care, sharing, Amistad.
Here is a family blog about Annie Walters, musician and poet, who grew up in the lighthouse.
The Potomac evacuees found shelter at the lighthouse after their ship was stuck in the ice.
Lobster Cove Lighthouse - The Grounds
Lobster Cove Lighthouse - The Kitchen Party
Then there was another kind of beauty: the concert/kitchen party offered in the Newfoundland spirit of benevolence and hospitality. Genuinely sweet girls served us Labrador tea with molasses (or sugar), cakes and potato patties with fish cutlets. Everything – food, music, atmosphere – was excellent. I re-met the wonderful family from the Coastal Trail, and Tami (Tamales) shared even more about herself. She came from a family of 11. As a child they ate nothing but fish cakes and potatoes. There were very few vegetables available. When they moved to Quebec, she quit eating potatoes for two years, craving rice and pasta. But her mother, who later came to stay with them, refused to change her habits and stuck with the fish cakes and the potatoes she cooked her entire life… Tami’s father was a wandering minstrel and made his living that way.
Even though the hospitality and the concert were supposedly included in the park fee, it was still very generous. Interestingly, I could not recall being asked to pay any park fees at any point…Oh, well…
The day for me was still young. I knew my time in NL was limited, so I tried to squeeze in one more walk – Berry’s Pond.