LETTER: Fran Renoy recalls first visit to Main Duck Island

I recently read with interest Jason Parks’ well written and very interesting article on a local couple Mitch and Sara Harrison offering chartered tours to Main Duck Island (Local commercial fisherman offering trips to Main Duck, The Picton Gazette, Aug. 20).

My father Frank Pitts was a lighthouse keeper  there in the 60’s and 70’s working with Cole Main and I was fortunate enough to visit my parents a few times while they were living on Main Duck.

The year was 1964 and  I was in training at Belleville hospital to become an xray technologist As this was my first trip to Prince Edward County I was excited.

The Main Duck Island lighthouse and weather station in the 1970’s. (From the collection of Lynne Cole)

I would be staying on an Island. However I must say I was not very excited by the time we reached  Main Duck as the waters were very rough and I was green and very seasick.

Little did I know five years (1969) later I would return to the County to take a position with the Radiology Dept. at our wonderful  local (PECM) Hospital. Also, little did I know then I would  be fortunate enough to have lived in this beautiful County for 50 years even though today there is certainly more “hustle and bustle” than I would prefer.

Many things the writer mentioned in his story I remember well.

The light keeper’s residence (a duplex) pictured in the article was occupied by my father and another assistant. A newer bungalow had been built for The Chief lighthouse keeper Cole Main and his family. At that time there were deer on the Island and some of them were so tame that they would come up and look in the window of the duplex. What a wonderful sight in early morning.I remember my first tour of this interesting Island was in a jeep that was used by the Lighthouse keepers and one of the sights that we observed  on our tours was the cabin of John Foster Dulles.

I was never there when Mr. And Mrs. Dulles were in residence so was not privy to their interesting swimming excursions that Terry Sprague described in the article. When  Mr. Dulles and his wife were about to visit my mother was asked to “tidy up” before their arrival.

The other fact I remember well was Cole Main and the other light keepers  were able to reduce the snake population  dramatically. This made me very happy to hear this upon my arrival in 1964.

In his article  Mr. Parks stated that by 1978 automation  ended the “legacy of families tending to the lighthouse during shipping season.”

My father  played a big part in the automation. In the 70’s  he transferred to the Dept of Transport Marine Depot in Prescott and went on to automate lighthouses all throughout Ontario. By then the Technicians were transported by Helicopter. The author or (your humble scribe) as Mr. Parks describes himself stated “the legacy of the County families  tending to the lighthouse are part of the lore of this almost mythical place in Prince Edward County that you have to see and step foot in to believe.”

I know for me  fifty five years ago, my visits to Main Duck Island were  magical.

I wish Mitch and Sara Harrison all the best in bringing people to this unique place with such an extensive history.

Fran Renoy