No Port in a Storm Inside Boon Island’s Outhouses
The history of Boon Island Lighthouse is one of constant struggle with the sea. Throughout its days as a staffed light station, many a big storm threatened to wipe clean the islet upon which the lighthouse and buildings clung. In fact, on occasion when keepers and their families feared for their safety, they were compelled to seek refuge in the lighthouse to avoid the furious seas sweeping over Boon Island.
When seeking refuge in the lighthouse from a raging tempest, the inhabitants could only hope that the 133-foot granite tower itself would be strong enough to defy the storm’s fury, or otherwise, their fate was all too certain. For many, these frightening moments were forever etched in their mind, and for others, they just as soon forgot the entire experience.
However, this constant struggle with the sea was not confined to the effects of the mightiest gales. During times when a good sea was running, it may not have had the power to inundate the rocky ledge, but it certainly could extend its dousing reach to higher points in periodic rushes of unbridled energy.
Such a reality was something that keepers and their families were forced to grapple with at all times – even during those occasions when nature called!
To think that a trip to the outhouse – whether a short or extended one depending on the calling, could turn into a harrowing affair was no small matter. One can only imagine the anxieties endured by young and old alike during a trip “out back” when the sea could turn the routine into a topsy-turvy, odorous adventure in a heartbeat.
In 2013, Robert Mcleod, the son of Florence Grace Batty, recounted two such experiences at Boon Island. Florence Grace was the daughter of assistant keeper Fred C. Batty and his wife Florence.
“During the 1930s, the keeper’s wife Florence recalled that in lieu of indoor toilets, each of the three families would cut off the tops of five-gallon tins of kerosene oil and place the square containers under each opening inside the outhouses” said Robert Mcleod.
Unlike most outhouses that would preside over a hole in the ground, there was only ledge on Boon Island. Therefore, something had to contain the outhouse contents – and reusing the kerosene oil cans must have been considered the best option for the families at that time.
Mcleod went on to say, “Once during a storm, Florence heard her daughter’s shrieks.” Young Florence Grace was minding her own business while sitting inside the outhouse when the sea decided it was time to wreak some havoc.
According to Florence Batty, the tin container above which the young lady was perched, had been “two-thirds full, and when the sea came in, it struck the back of the toilet, knocking the windows out of the back of the outhouse. All that stuff came splashing out of the square can and right onto her – and up in her hair too.’
Robert Mcleod said that after this terrifying experience, Florence Grace “started using the chamber pots.” Who could blame her!
One outhouse episode would have been enough during this storm, but as it turned out, the toilet mischief did not end with young Florence’s misfortune.
In fact, from the sounds of things, head keeper Harold Hutchins took an unwanted ride in his family’s outhouse.
“A little while after that – during the same storm, ‘Hutch’ put the teapot on the stove to get the water hot for some tea, and then he got up to go to the bathroom,” said Florence Batty. At some point after keeper Harold Hutchins closed the door to his humble commode, Mrs. Batty recounted that “the incoming sea swept the outhouse and all its contents, moving it towards the back, up on the high rocks.”
With just a little imagination, one can visualize what keeper Hutchins may have looked and smelled like after this private moment gone terribly wrong. In looking at the bright side, at least the fury of the waves did not sweep the keeper out to sea in the outhouse.
Privy disasters aside, it is apparent from the parting comments to follow that Florence Batty did not enjoy her experience on forlorn Boon Island. The keeper’s wife concluded, “I was glad to get off that place. I was scared out in that place. It was an awful life.”