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Interview With A Lightkeeper

Mr. Maxwell G. Thornhill of Fortune was born in 1927. He began his career as a lighthouse keeper on Green Island in 1945 at the end of the war. He worked there for two years, but did not like the isolation so he began working as the Town Engineer in Fortune.

He married Sarah Hoopais, also of Fortune, in 1947.

On June 15, 1954, Mr. Thornhill became the first Principle Lighthouse Keeper at Fortune Head Lighthouse Station and continued to work and raise his family there until October 19, 1986 when he retired because of sickness.

Interview conducted by Tyler Moore, for school Heritage Fair.



Tyler: When did you start working as a lighthouse keeper at Fortune Head Lighthouse Station?

Mr. Thornhill: I was 27 years old when I started at that lighthouse. I was making $210.00 every month back then, and I would say that I was probably one of the best paid people in Fortune at that time.

Tyler: How did you become a lighthouse keeper?

Mr. Thornhill: Well, I was very mechanical. I was quite familiar with working with small gas and diesel engines, and from my other work experiences.

Tyler: What was your dad's job?

Mr. Thornhill: My father was an engineer too, but he didn't work in a lighthouse.

Tyler: What was life like at the lighthouse?

Mr. Thornhill: My life was really different when I first started because there was only the foghorn building and the light tower. Two of us keepers worked there and we took turns doing six hours on and six hours off. We slept on a cot in the foghorn building but our families had nowhere to live. That was really hard. There were also no telephones or radios, so if we needed anything, we had to walk for about 45 minutes to get to Fortune. In 1956, the Department of Transportation built two houses-one for my family and one for the assistant lighthouse keeper and his family, but there was still no road to the lighthouse so our families stayed in Fortune to let the children attend school.

Tyler: What kind of light did you use in the lighthouse?

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