Matinicus Rock Through the Eyes of an Island Child
Throughout Maine’s long and storied lighthouse history, authors, travel writers and news reporters have yearned to learn more about the lights and those who kept them. And rightfully so, for the keepers and their families were on the front lines of the sea and could best convey the trials, tribulations and emotions of lightkeeping.
Keepers, wives and children all had a story to tell, and what captivating accounts did emerge over time about lighthouse life thanks to these people. But one did not have to live at a lighthouse to capture the essence or allure of a sentinel and its location.
One such person who was able to pen timeless memories of a light station was Dorothy Knowlton Simpson who grew up on Criehaven Island (also known as Ragged Island) in the early to mid-1900s. Criehaven, a 440-acre island, is located some 20-plus miles from the mainland on the outer edge of Penobscot Bay.
After Simpson’s death on December 19, 1998 her niece, also named Dorothy Simpson, published a wonderful book entitled, The Island’s True Child: A Memoir of Growing up on Criehaven (2003), based on Simpson’s unpublished journals dating back to 1930.
One of the journal entries contained an island child’s view of Matinicus Rock Light Station, which was located about three miles away to the southeast.
A young Dorothy Simpson wrote, “Matinicus Rock Light was always a romantic sight. It was a turreted castle – a castle with a moat, a castle with battlements. When it was stormy, the tiny rocky island with its towers was a giant battleship, always sailing proudly into the east or west (it all depended on the wind). And although she always stood still, in our imaginations she was constantly moving, plowing the raging sea, tossing the foam high into the air.”
Simpson went on to say, “Matinicus Rock stood three miles away from us, with a foghorn that talked to us in thick weather and two lights that glowed like mysterious and watchful eyes at night. Years later, the twin lights were changed to a single one that revolved. By that time, we’d had the chance to go and see the place for ourselves. We saw the houses and engine house and boathouse and towers, and learned how they stood close to one another and so formed in the distance the illusion of a castle or a super-dreadnought.”
In conclusion, Simpson noted, “Even today; Matinicus Rock rides arrogantly against the horizon for me, and I see it still as something mysterious and majestic and unchangeable. So will it always be for island children.”
Few could have expressed a finer or more fun view of a lighthouse through the eyes of a young person than Dorothy Simpson. Her vivid imagination provided a different and timeless perspective that perfectly captured a nugget of human interest for us to enjoy today!