International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend –The story behind Thom Drew, a former Nova Scotian lighthouse keeper

Mosher Island, in Nova Scotia, has a very interesting story to tell. The last lighthouse keeper to have held this job on the island was Thom Drew, a former UCTE member. Thom and his wife, Anna Drew, have found their home there. After lighthouses became automated, they decided to continue living their life peacefully on the island. On the occasion of the International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend, UCTE has decided to share their story with you.

Copyright – The Globe and Mail
On the former family picture on the left, we see Thom and Anne Drew at their home on the island with their dogs, Zoe and Sky; on the more recent photo on the right, we see them with their current counterparts, Eilean and Harry.

The waters surrounding Nova Scotia and its islands can be very turbulent. On more than one occasion, Thom has lost boats at sea due to difficult weather conditions on the island. He has spent 40 years of his life on this island. At 72 years of age, he finally had to admit that boats sometimes do disappear at sea. Over the last few years, Anne and Thom have lost nearly six (6) boats in total. These incidents are caused by storms that shake the boats, making them disappear at sea. Thom and Anne Drew are the only residents on the island. They live with two (2) dogs, eight (8) goats, approximately twelve (12) chickens, two (2) cats, and a few ducks. This island, which can only be reached by boat, is located 30 minutes from the Canadian coast.

The island’s lighthouse had been functional since 1868. Thom was the keeper’s assistant from 1981 to 1990. Lighthouse automation in Nova Scotia occurred at the end of the 80s. Thom and his wife were not the only ones who lived through a situation such as this one. In July of 1989, George Locke and his family had to leave the newly automated lighthouse, as well as the island, located near Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.

Copyright – The Globe and Mail
The former wood lighthouse was demolished and burned in 1990 and the neighbouring houses were abandoned.

When the CCG made these changes, several lighthouse keepers had to leave their homes and make career and lifestyle changes. At that moment, Thom and Anne Drew decided to settle on Mosher Island and make it their permanent home. It was what they wanted in terms of resources and lifestyle. ʺThere was never any debate[1]ʺ, said Mr Drew.

As the years went by, the Drews seized the opportunity to purchase some land near the lighthouse and they moved into their goat stable. They transformed a prairie laden with abundant wild roses into a small productive farm, surrounded by apple trees and a plentiful garden of vegetables and herbs. Around 2010, they built a small house from which they can see the whales out at sea.

Mosher Island

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Despite the peaceful lifestyle and the breathtaking scenery, conditions can sometimes be challenging. Power outages, hurricanes, a lack of qualified experts to fix home appliances, along with other problems, are issues they encounter every day. However, they would not trade their peace and solitude for anything in the world.

Lighthouse keepers and their families live a highly solitary and isolated life. In some cases, it may seem like a sacrifice, but for others, such as in Thom’s case, it was a choice very close to the heart. Lighthouse automation came with its share of worries. ʺThis new light can’t just go out and save people ʺ, said Mr Drew. ʺThose who live on the island know that if you get a call for help, you have to go. You don’t question it. We learn to rely on each other.ʺ




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