Jack Rankin kept himself busy …

Community Online First Pictou Island Memories

I have previously written about the lives of Pictou Island’s Jack and Mary Rankin. Even today I can bring to mind so vividly those years 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 and raised on Pictou Island. He married Mary MacDonald (1892-1965) who was also born and raised on Pictou Island. Mary was a sister to Bessie, Adeline, Hughena, Florance, Maggie, Andrew, Jimmie and Jack (Happy) MacDonald.

Jack Rankin & Mary MacDonald exchanged wedding vows at the Presbyterian Church in Pictou in 1909. Jack then purchased 250 acres of land that belonged to his father close to the eastern end of Pictou Island. He and his new bride subsequently set about building a beautiful nine-room Victorian style home on their land.

Besides being a fisherman, Jack was also a farmer who raised cattle, horses, sheep, chickens and a pig or two. Jack and Mary also operated a small store located in a building behind their home. It was in their store where the other 200 or so Pictou Islanders could purchase can goods, cigarettes, bread, pop and maybe even fresh meat, milk, etc.

Jack was never an idle man for he still made time to be the Justice of the Peace for his fellow Pictou Islanders. He was the Commissioner of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia and also helped his fellow Pictou Islanders with their last will and testimony.

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. I am being informed that on many occasions, Jack Rankin 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).

Having limited space, I wish to recall the lives off a few of those Rankin children.

Duncan married Verna MacMillan from Pictou Island and they were our closest neighbors to the east when we lived on Pictou Island. My dad built his very first boat for Duncan in Jack Rankin’s barn. Duncan, like his father was also a practical joker. My mom reminds me of 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. Their permanent home was in Murray River, Prince Edward Island but they would return every spring to their Pictou Island house. Their two-story island house was situated on a hill and was probably about two hundred or more feet up from the sandy shore known as The Beach. The beach area was a favorite place for fishermen to anchor their boats at. Those small fishing boats could be easily launched or removed from the water since the bank itself was quite low with a slight grade going down into the water. If the weather was really bad, any fishermen could run their boats onto the sandy beach. The fishermen would help each other with hauling the boats several feet onto the dry grassy field between the Keenon house and the water.

Three of Jack and Mary’s grandchildren are Lorina, Cecil and Rankin Keenan. Lorina married Simon MacIssas from Lyons Brook. It’s has been several years but Lorina still remembers those days when her young Pictou Island friends included, Viney & Theodore MacLean, Rita Turple, Elizabeth & Martin MacCallum, Sterling and Ruth MacCallum, Bruce MacDonald and Carolyn Rankin.  I thank Lorina for providing me with this information.

Rankin married Emily MacLean from Murray River and has two daughter’s, Kerri-Lee and Karen. Rankin was employed with Northumberland Ferries and retired years ago. He and his good friend Captain Leon Davey spent many past years sailing on the waters together. Rankin passed away 2018.

Cecil Rankin lived on Pictou Island and had fished its waters for many years. I remember Cecil owning a car on Pictou Island when he was probably fourteen or fifteen years old. I believe it was two tone Beige and light green 454 Cubic Inch Chevy Rocket. The islands only road is comprised of dirt and clouds of dust would ascend from vehicles traveling the road during summer. I can still envision my brother Vincent, Cecil and Theodore MacLean heading up the road with Cecil driving. They would turn at the very eastern end and gun it for the west end and all this time going through a cloud of their own thick dust.  The dust would flow through the holes in the floor of the old car and they could barely see each other as they drove along.

Cecil married his childhood Pictou island sweetheart Shirley Munro in 1962.


Picture taken on doorstep of Jack & Mary Rankin’s home on Pictou Island in 1948.