There’s no place like home …

Online First Pictou Island Memories

I reflect back in time to when Jack and Mary Rankin lived in their big yellow house close to the East end of Pictou Island. Jack Rankin (1882-1965) was born on Pictou Island. Jack was a brother to Lauchie, George, Hughie and  Sister Kate Rankin.

Lauchie married Katie MacKenzie from Pictou Landing and they had one son Edward. I have many wonderful memories of my visits with Edward and his mother Katie when living on the island. George was Captain Ernie Rankin’s father. Ernie operated the Pictou Island ferry service from 1948-1966. Hughie married Emma Turple (my father’s sister) and they operated Emma’s taxi in Pictou for many years. Jack Rankin’s only sister Kate married Charles Turple. Charles had operated the island ferry service prior to Captain Rankin taking it over.

Jack Rankin and Charles Turple grew up together as best friends. Being young adventurers, Jack and Charles left Pictou Island at a young age and toured the western Canadian Prairies while working on farms. However as like others before them, Pictou Island was calling out for their return. Charles returned and married Jack’s sister Kate and Jack married Mary MacDonald (1892-1965) who was also born on Pictou Island. Mary was a sister to Bessie, Adeline, Hughena, Florance, Maggie, Andrew, Jimmie and Jack (Happy) MacDonald.

Jack Rankin and Mary MacDonald exchanged wedding vows in 1909. Jack purchased 250 acres of land close to the eastern end of Pictou Island. He and his new bride then set about building a beautiful nine-room Victorian style home on their acquired land. Jack’s brother George had built an identical home close to the western end of the island. George’s grandson Elwood and wife Joan reside in that home to this very day.

Besides being a fisherman, Jack was also a farmer and raised cattle, horses, sheep, chickens and a pig or two. Jack and Mary also operated a store located in a small building behind their home. It was in their store where the other 175 or so islanders could purchase can goods, cigarettes, bread, pop, maybe even fresh meat and milk, etc year round. Jack was never an idle man for he still made time to be the Justice of the Peace for those on Pictou Island. He was the Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and also helped islanders with their wills.

Jack was a firm believer in education and made that known to all Pictou Islanders. He and Mary were both very fluent with the Gaelic language as were many other islanders of that period in time. On occasions, Jack had traveled to St.F.X. University in Antigonish to do readings in Gaelic to the students.

Jack and Mary Rankin raised nine children on the island. They were Laura, Duncan, Dolina, Annie Mae, Lauchie, Vernie, Florance, Joan and one granddaughter (Lorina).

Jack loved to play practical jokes on other Pictou Islanders whenever the opportunity arose. Those jokes were not only played upon his fellow islanders but also to the student ministers who frequented the island every summer. One minister in particular who accepted Jack’s jokes as merely the fun that they were intended was Rev. Murray MacDonald. Maybe Rev. MacDonald had good reason for being so lenient for he married Jack and Mary’s eldest daughter Laura. In later years, Rev. MacDonald went on to become the curator of the United Church of Canada.

Jack and Mary’s son Duncan married Verna MacMillan and they were our closest neighbors to the east when we lived on the island. Duncan, like his father was also a practical joker. I can recall my father being the victim off one or two of Duncan’s pranks. Duncan was a great friend to everyone and was always there to offer assistance when needed. Duncan and Verna raised three children, Cecil, Judy and Nina Mae.

Dolina married Ford Keenan from P.E.I. and their children were Rankin, Marilyn and Gail. I remember when they lived in a big house down by the area known as the island beach in the early 1950s. All that remains there today is a hole in the ground where the house once proudly stood.

Annie Mae married Earl Hilbert from B.C. and they raised two children, John and Mary Lynn.

Lauchie married Rita MacLean and they raised five boys whom they named Peter, Jack, Ray, Rawn and Grant.

Vernie married Isabel Hooper and they raised three children, Caron-Ann, Darrell and Linda.

Florence married Blain MacKeil and their children are Alfie, Henry, Carolyn, Jimmie, Clinton, David and Rankin.

Joan made her home in N.B. and married George Ivey. Their children are Duane and Darlene.

Jack and Mary raised Lorina as their daughter and she married Simon MacIsacc. Simon and Lorina have raised their family of four beautiful girls Dawn, Belinda, Julie and Lisa at their home in Lyons Brook.

The Pictou Island Rankins were well noted for their musical abilities. Many from that family could play various musical instruments and they usually provided the music for the many, many old time dances that were held at the island hall.

Pictou Island was always a very closely-knit community and life on that small island was always the same. Everyone was like being part of your family. If for whatever reason you left the island for a length of time, you were always greeted with “GLAD TO HAVE YOU HOME” when you returned.