Lonely Island

 

Christy Ann Morrison: one of only two people to survive the sinking of the S.S. Asia, wrecked on September 14, 1882 near Lonely Island.It is rare that a person can actually see Lonely Island from the Bruce Peninsula coastline, but on a very clear day it’s possible (usually with the help of binoculars) to see its long, flat outline.

To my eyes, it always seems a brooding, solemn landform, but maybe that’s because of the stories I’ve heard about it. Drownings.  Starvation. Robbing the dead. Rattlesnakes. The original lighthouse was also built in the vicinity of a First Nations’ (Indian) burial ground—in other words, on sacred ground.
Lonely Island has certainly seen more than its fair share of human tragedy. Christy Morrison (left) was one of only two people to survive the sinking of the Asia in 1882. Bodies were washed up on Lonely Island and the light-keeper Dominic Solomon robbed the corpses of their valuables (watches, money, jewellery, etc.). Under questioning by the authorities, Solomon admitted to robbing and hiding the body of a Mrs. Woods—her remains were later discovered hidden under a pile of debris and she was eventually buried on the island.
…the body of a woman clothed and having a life-preserver on….was near the water’s edge, and a board laying on top of it. No efforts had been made to bury it. On examining the corpse the name of Mrs. Woods was found on the corset and stockings.…The corpse had been badly decayed and was unrecognizable. —The Manitoulin Expositor, 1882
Solomon claimed that his isolated circumstances had made him confused and that he had no way to report the body. Apparently the investigators accepted his story and he was never charged. (This was chilling incident and I modified it as a scene in “Perdita”: Marged Brice and Allan Stewart are among those who visit the island after a devastating shipwreck and together they make a grisly discovery.)
The "Ploughboy" struggling in stormy waters  near Lonely Island.  (Watercolour by William Armstrong, 1912.) Toronto Public Library collection.

The “Ploughboy” struggling in stormy waters near Lonely Island. (Watercolour by William Armstrong, 1912.) Toronto Public Library collection.


Tragedy struck Lonely Island again in mid-century when a light-keeper decided to winter on the island with his dog. The keeper had established a system of signals (showing the light on certain dates) to indicate that he was fine. He gave a signal on Christmas, but when mainlanders came to visit him in the spring, they found both the keeper and his dog dead of starvation. Both are buried on the island behind what was once the oil shed.
More on Lonely Island here.

Back to Lighthouses here.


 

 

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