Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Farley Folly

A recent photo taken on Mary's visit to Claire Mowat out east shows the 'Alban Beacon' looking much the same as it did  when we built it for Farley, nine years ago. 

Here's the story...

In early August of 2006, we built an Alban 'beacon' on the Canadian Atlantic coast. The installation was erected for Farley and Claire Mowat on their summer property near St Peter's Nova Scotia. Mary and I and, Irv, a local lobster fisherman and good friend of Farley's, gathered suitable rocks from below high tide mark and assembled them into a unique 8 foot tall dry stone pillar on a point of land within view of the Mowat residence. 

The Beacon was to replicate one of the many dry laid structures built by a pre-Viking people who according to Farley Mowat, came to Canada in search of walrus skins and tusks in fragile hide covered double-enders from early Britain. 

According to his fascinating book The Farfarers, many ancient conical piles of stacked stones or 'Tower Beacons', (much like this newer reproduction) can still be found in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland and other parts of Arctic Canada. 

They stand from 7 to 14 feet high and range from 4 to 6 feet wide. Each dry stone tower has a unique shape. Often these towers are found in groups or pairs and it is believed they were erected as markers to help ancient sea-faring people find their way around the indistinguishably riddled shoreline. The beacons looked different enough in shape or in groupings to discern them individually, so that the walrus hunters would know their precise location along the coast.
This new dry stone beacon not only added a sense of history and mystery to the rugged Canadian coastal scenery, it stands as a more accessible tribute to our prehistoric dry stone heritage.


Not long after their return to the property each summer Farley would write back to us reporting on the condition of his favourite beacon. These hand typed letters would usually say something like "I am pleased to inform you once again that there has been no damage from high tides, strong winds, freezing snow or pirates."

1 comment:

  1. Those pesky pirates again or rock hounds. My father in law once told me a story where a person fills their pockets with marbles, and then walks around just looking at the ground.
    When you find an interesting stone, you are allowed to pick it up, if you, in exchange, leave a marble in it's place. When you've lost all your're a rock hound.