Evelyn Richardson was a well-known local author whose writings reflect the local history and way of life of a small fishing communities. She is best known for her novel, “We Keep a Light” (1945) detailing aspects of her 35 years spent living on Bon Portage Island while her husband, Morrill was the lightkeeper there. Her other novels include the works of fiction, “Desired Haven” (1953) and its sequel, “No Small Tempest” (1957). She also wrote “My Other Islands” (1960), and “Living Islands” (1965). The novels, “B was for Butter” (1976), about how the Richardson’s contributed to the war time effort; “Ben Peach and the Pirates” (1991); and “Where my Roots Go Deep” (1976), a collection of short stories were published after her death.
Evelyn May Fox was born on May 16th, 1902 on Emerald Island, where her maternal grandfather, retired captain, Ephraim Larkin was a lightkeeper. Therefore, light keeping seems to run in Evelyn’s family considering that her paternal great-great grandfather, James Fox was the first lightkeeper of the Cape Forchu lighthouse in Yarmouth as a reward for serving in the British Navy. His son, John Thomas succeeded him.
Evelyn spent her early tears in Clark’s Harbour, where her father, Arthur was a teacher at Clark’s Harbour School. However, the family spent every holiday on Emerald Island. In 1917, the family moved to Bedford when Arthur accepted the post of principal of Alexandra School in Halifax. Evelyn graduated from Halifax Country Academy, and then taught for a year in order to save money to continue her schooling. She attended Dalhousie for a year, and then continued teaching for several years.
Evelyn met Morrill in Halifax. However, during the early years of their relationship, they only got to see each other a couple of times a year due to Morrill’s work in Quebec, then the States. Evelyn and Morrill got married on August 14th, 1926 on Emerald Island. After her marriage, Evelyn gave up teaching and hopes of finishing a college education.
Early on in their married life, Evelyn and Morrill lived in Worcester, Massachusetts were he worked. However, they did not enjoy city life and longed for the ocean. The Richardson’s first had the idea of living on Bon Portage Island when Evelyn’s oldest brother, Ashford suggested that Morrill buy the island and wait for the position of lightkeeper to open up. Morrill bought Bon Portage Island almost immediately.
Evelyn gave birth to her first child, Anne Gordon in 1928, about a year and a half after their marriage. Soon after, they re-located to Boston for Morrill’s work. Morrill’s office closed down but at about that time, the position for lightkeeper opened up. Morrill applied and learned from Ottawa at the end of May, 1929 that he had gotten the job.
Island life was difficult at first as they were $1000 in debt and Morrill’s monthly salary was only $60. However, over the years, they acquired animals such as cows, roosters and hens, sheep, and pigs. They also made a hay field and eventually became more prosperous.
In addition to Anne, Evelyn has two other children, Laurie in 1929, and Elizabeth (Betty) June, born in 1933. They were raised and home-schooled on the island. Sadly, Laurie became ill with pneumonia in October, 1947, and even thought he was brought to mainland and hospitalized, he died at the young age of 18.
Evelyn and Morrill lived on the island for 35 years. During those years, Evelyn only left the island about 13 times. However, Evelyn loved living on the island and marveled in its beauty. In the summer, the Richardson’s often had many visitors, so they weren’t completely isolated. In 1964, the Richardson’s retired to the mainland and gave the island to Acadia University. During the last two weeks in August, biology students go to Bon Portage to study the wild and marine life. There is also a bird observatory.
Morrill Richardson died in 1947 and two years later, on October 14th, 1976, Evelyn Richardson died, but she still lives on through her writing today.