Return of the Keepers to Burnt Island Light Series

Mon, 08/01/2022 - 3:15pm

My husband Steve and I just returned home in Stockbridge, Vermont from our time on Burnt Island as volunteer Keepers in July.

What a wonderful experience meeting new community members from Boothbay, folks who came ashore in their kayaks, guests at Spruce Point Inn, and all the folks who took the tour on Balmy Days Cruises from so many states in our country and beyond our US borders.

Steve’s father Jim McCullough served in the US Coast Guard and was stationed at the Burnt Island Light from 1959-1962 with his family. This included Betty his wife, his daughter Shelia (11 years old at the time) his son Steve (7 years old) and Kirk who was born during their tenure at St. Andrews Hospital in 1960.

Steve has vivid memories of those days on Burnt Island, and I as his wife have been able to appreciate what it was like to tend the light and live in the house before electricity. In fact, he is the only living person who lived on the island before electricity was installed in 1962! He fondly recalls those days as the island ran on “kid power” when operating the light and the bell, both requiring the cranking of weights to spin the lens and release the bell’s striking hammer.

If you were a visitor while we were on the island, it was so great meeting you and we enjoyed giving daily tours through the restored house, tower, and boat house. During our time, we also watched children’s camps running simultaneously. During all activities is was apparent that the children were active learners as they explored the marine environment, learned about lighthouses, identified sea creatures and shells, found pirate’s “treasure” and created artworks from items found to take home and show their family. This gave us a happy feeling that the island was being utilized for education by Maine’s children as intended when the initial vision by Elaine Jones at the DMR was developed.

On one Saturday, a family of 50 reunited on Burnt Island for a few hours. The island was humming and active that day with a lot of kayakers from the harbor, folks taking the day to come to Burnt Island for a picnic by boat and others who were dropped off to visit for a short time. Steve and I got our steps in on that day, as most everyone wanted to see the top of the lighthouse, tour the beautifully 1950s decorated house, and the boathouse where Steve explained to visitors how the peapod boat and slip worked to take him to school when he lived there. Of course, there were other stories that came to mind involving the boat and slip before electricity which Steve shared freely.

We want to thank the DMR, and Keepers of Burnt Island Light for giving us the opportunity to fulfill our dream of being on Burnt Island as resident keepers for that span of time. We truly enjoyed sharing this gem of a place with all who came ashore, who were all so appreciative of our service.