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WILLIAM ANDREW MURRAY
A PEA POINT LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER

by G. Christian Larsen


Andrew & Myrtle (Brown) Murray (1945).

        William "Andrew" Murray was born 26 August 1898 in Fairville, St. John Co., NB to William James Murray (of New River) & Susan Maria Galbraith (of Pisarinco, now Lorneville). Andrew's father, Billy as he was commonly known, was the station master at New River Station so it was here that Andrew was raised and would receive his early education.

    On 1 December 1916, at the age of 18 years & 3 months, Andrew enlisted at Saint John, NB for service in World War I in the Field Ambulance Depot. This was probably due to his occupation at the time which, according to his Attestation Papers 1 2, was "chauffer." These papers went on to describe him as standing 5' 9" in height with fair complexion, hazel colored eyes and light brown hair. Under distinctive marks it is noted: "Circular scar on left ankle outside." He was discharged from the service on 6 June 1919.

    On 27 January 1920 he was united in marriage to Myrtle Evangeline Brown of St. George. Less then 10 months after their union, on 1 November 1920, Andrew took over as head lighthouse keeper at Pea Point. It would be here they would raise, what soon encompassed, a family of twelve children. Of these, nine were born in the original dwelling house on the island between 1923 and 1939.

    Present day access to the light is via an access road that was put in sometime in the 1970's. Prior to that, it was a twenty-minute walk on a path, through the woods, to get to the beach. One would enter the woods at a point approx. 20-25 feet to the right of the current access road, and would exit on the right hand side of the beach where the well was located.


Pea Point Light (early 1930's)
Left to right: Whistle house, pig pen, barn (forefront) with lighthouse in behind & oil house.

    Drinking water was carried from the well at the beach and laundry water was collected in a cistern, located under the house. These cisterns were backfilled when the house was demolished, and the current helicopter pad was constructed over them. A well was dug and blasted on the island in the late 1930's, but the iron level so high in the water that is was un-usable for either drinking or laundry. It was located above the path to the wharf, about two-thirds of the way down. It was backfilled soon afterwards and to the knowledge of Richard Murray, no other attempts were ever made to locate potable water on the island.

    Groceries were generally purchased at the company store in Blacks Harbour and taken to the light via motorboat or dory. Supplies were always purchased in large quantities, because one never knew when the next opportunity would present itself to restock.

    In November of 1929 the following article appeared in "The Saint Croix Courier":

"Blacks Harbour - Fred Lewis of the Department of Marine and Fisheries is placing new engines in the fog alarm erected at Pea Point Light by contractor J.E. Kane. Andrew Murray, who is now lightkeeper, will have charge of the new alarm which is a warning for all sea-going ships in foggy weather and will be a great help for the Connors Brothers sardine boats making the harbour entrance."

    The fog alarm was operated by compressed air from a large compressor, driven by two gasoline powered "make and brake" engines. Those engines also powered a dynamo for the lighting in the whistle house. The engines were cooled by water, collected in cisterns located under the whistle house and were still open to view when Andrew's son Richard was last on the island in 2002.. Supplies for the whistle house (gasoline, soft coal, rag waste, belting material, etc.), and the light (white kerosene, mantles, etc.) were delivered by Department of Transport ship, which anchored off Half Tide Ledge. At which time, the supplies then where brought to the island by tender, hoisted to the wharf, then wheeled and rolled up the path to the whistle house and other storage areas.

    In 1933 a huge storm swept both chimneys from the house and severely damaged the catwalk encircling the light. The damage was repaired and the catwalk was changed from a "flair" railing, to the style employed today.

    During World War II, Andrew again served. This time from 27 January 1942 until 4 December 1942, and Russell Mathews was his replacement during this time. He again enlisted in Saint John, but this time served in the Veterans Guard of Canada at Arvide, PQ. After his service to his country, he returned as keeper on 1 April 1943 until his retirement on April 30th, 1946. Ray Brown then took over the duties as keeper.

    A new 2 story house was constructed in 1948 for the keeper and his family. In 1965, a bungalow style house was constructed for the keepers assistant along with a new light tower. The original house and light, which had stood and served since 1877, were demolished. In 1989, the two story was burned into its basement and backfilled. The bungalow was moved to the beach side of the island, and at flood tide, was floated to the beach and eventually moved to Lancaster by road.

    Andrew Murray departed this life 17 April 1971. He was buried at the St. George Rural Cemetery next to his wife Myrtle who had predeceased him on 19 July 1945.


Keepers two story house (forefront) and assistant keepers bungalow (background).
Taken from the current day light tower in the 1970's.


Pea Point Light (1980)
Taken from the back shore.

EDITORS NOTE: The above story was written from recollections & information provided by Richard Murray, one of the children of the late Andrew & Myrtle (Brown) Murray. All photographs appearing here were supplied by Richard Murray.

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