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Green Island Lighthouse

Green Island lighthouseEstablished: 1865
Location: Green Island rises out of the Atlantic on the southeastern coast of Isle Madame.
Latitude: 45° 28″ 40′
Longitude: -60° 53″ 58′

A windblown, treeless outcropping of rock, two miles in circumference, rises out of the Atlantic on the southeastern coast of Isle Madame. This small isle some one to one and one half miles from the Acadian villages of Alderney Point and Little Anse is referred to as Green Island, although at one time may have been more commonly called Ile Verte. It is said that the brilliant, long-lasting colour of the grass there gave birth to its name.

Little Anse and Green IslandToday the island, true to its prehistoric past, lies vacant and solitary. No longer does the sound of childish laughter or the chopping of firewood or the cries of domestic animals ring from the rocky landscape. For some 120 years, however, this was not the case.

By the mid 1800’s Isle Madame communities were dotted by wharves, and harbours were profuse with vessels of all shapes and sizes. According to one well-known story there were enough ships in Arichat Harbour at one time to walk from ship to ship across the harbour.

In any event, whether this story is fact or fiction, Isle Madame had become an important player in the booming coastal trade. The lucrative fishing grounds were abundant in cod, haddock, hake, mackerel, lobster, and squid among other species. Not only did there appear to be a boundless supply of fish, but also the Island was rich in experienced seamen from inshore and offshore fishermen to deep-sea sailors who travelled the world.

Green Island lighthouseGreen Island is located at the northeast entrance to Chedabucto Bay and the Strait of Canso, a busy sea-lane in the “days of wooden ships and iron men”. It is also an area of frequent thick fogs and unpredictable currents. For all these reasons it was decided to establish an aid to navigation there. According to one source there was a warning device there as early as 1853; however, most other sources agree that 1865 is a more accurate date for the inception of a lighthouse on Green island.

This initial light consisted of a one and one half storey frame house with a lantern on the roof 110 feet high. Needless to say this device was operated manually and this was accomplished by winding twenty-five pound weights every four hours. The person responsible and the first keeper of the light was Patrick Duann who served in this capacity from 1865 to 1871. In this year the father was succeeded by the son, William, who remained on the island until 1902, a period of thirty-one years.

It was during his stewardship that a number of highly dramatic events occurred. In the waning hours of a stormy winter night in the early 1870’s, William Duann, his wife, and a friend were startled by a singular occurrence on an island whose sole occupants were staring at one another in anxious surprise – a frantic knocking on the lighthouse door. With some trepidation the door was opened and there before them they discovered a young man wet and shaking uncontrollably. He was a Norwegian sailor, the sole survivor of a ship that had gone down just off the island. He and a shipmate had become separated in their attempt to swim to safety in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

An immediate search led to the discovery of the body of the second sailor. Later, when it became possible to leave the island the remains were removed to St. John’s Anglican Church in Arichat to be prepared for interment. A lock of his hair was sent to his mother in Norway; however, she requested his remains be returned to her. Arthur H. Burton exhumed the body, and Sheriff James Power made the necessary arrangements.

Harvey A. Burton, son of Arthur, was a prolific writer of poems whose book entitled The Sinking of the Nazi Fleet earned him acclaim both in Canada and the United States. One of his poems, entitled “Green Island Wreck”, was inspired by the anecdote recounted above.

Excerpt from Wm. Duann Sr. journalThe tragedy of the Norwegian wreck was not to be William Duann’s last adventure, however. In 1875 the J.R. Lithgow, a 110-ton Boston schooner en route from Lunenburg to Arichat foundered on Green Island and threatened to go down with all hands. Once again it was the elder William Duann to the rescue; he attached a lead weight to a rope and heaved it to the distressed ship. The attempt succeeded and in consequence nine sailors were saved from a watery grave. The Lithgow had an estimated value of $5000, a significant sum at the time. For his quick-thinking heroics Mr. Duann was awarded a silver watch, which has become a prized family heirloom. As son had succeeded father in 1871 so too did William Duann Jr. in 1904. After almost forty years the original light continued to serve the navigational needs of the Strait. It emitted a red-white beam alternating every forty-five seconds and was visible from a distance of fourteen miles.

Green Island wind generatorIn 1912 William Duann Jr. retired thus bringing to a close a forty-seven year tenure for the Duann family. Edward Boudreau was the replacement; he maintained the light until 1923 when he, in turn, was replaced by Harry Boudreau and his assistant Larry D. Boudreau. A year later, 1924, an automatic siren was installed at a cost of $15,000.

Amedee and Cassie BoudreauThe latter Mr. Boudreau kept the light until 1932 when Amedee Boudreau took over. His service continued for twenty years until 1952 when Conrad Landry, his assistant, and his family settled on the island. Mr. Landry was assisted over his thirty-two year career by Wilfred Joshua, Lester Doyle, and Valdore Boudreau.

Upgrades began on Green Island in 1968. In that year a skeletal tower was erected, and a new house was built; then in 1971 the lantern was replaced by an electronic foghorn.

Lorraine Landry, wife of Conrad, lived on the island for forty-nine years. Her father was the previous lighthouse keeper, Amedee Boudreau, and she moved there with her family as a child of two. On February 1, 1952 she married Conrad Landry and thus continued her residency on the island where she raised three children, Gary, Debbie, and Donna. The children were home schooled until grade eight at which time they went to the mainland to continue their educations.

Green Island: new house far leftThe last lighthouse keeper to date was Gary Landry, son of Conrad and Lorraine. When Conrad retired in 1982, Gary assumed responsibility for the facility and continued in his capacity until 1986 when an automated tower was installed. And so, Green Island continues to serve as an active aid to navigation in the Strait, but now it does so without human intervention.

Other names which might be associated with service on Green Island: Alzear Boudreau, Joe LeBlanc, Simon Harrie, Francis Casey, Tom Ball, Kenny Dean, Raymond Boudreau, Bill Keating, Wilfred Samson.

Lighthouse Keepers:
1. Patrick Duann: 1865-1871
2. William Duann: 1871-1902
3. William Duann Jr.: 1902-1912
4. Edward Boudreau: 1912-1923
5. Harry Boudreau: 1923-1932
6. Amedee Boudreau: 1932-1952
7. Conrad Landry: 1952-1982
8. Gary Landry: 1982-1986

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