Voices of Great Cranberry Island

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Blair Colby

Mechanic, Jack of All Trades

“I was born and brought up on Great Cranberry. For 20 years, I worked as a welder in New Hampshire, then I got hurt on the job. One thing led to another, and I wanted to come home. I graduated from high school unable to read or write. I can get by just fine out here, but not on the mainland. I plow the roads, sell firewood, make sure the widows’ steps are clear and the generators are working, and do pretty much anything else I can. I’m blessed to be under the umbrella of the summer people — I can’t say that enough — although it’s sad to see the state of the island in winter. When I was young, there were lobsterboats in the coves, always something going on. Now there are just a handful of people who are hanging on.”

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Beverly Sanborn

Widow of Lobsterman Norman Sanborn

“I met my husband, Norman, in Fort Lauderdale when he was in the Navy. He wanted to come home to Great Cranberry to be a lobsterman — that was around 1967. There were close to 200 people year-round then. All three of our children went to school here, and I was a teacher’s aide for six years. The number of kids in the school varied from as few as seven or eight to as many as 22. When the state started talking about having just one school for the two islands, we invited our legislators to come out. Wilfred Bunker went to pick them up — it was a blowy, snowy day, and he insisted that they get on the boat. He said, ‘If you want our kids to be boated to one school, you’re going to experience what they have to experience.’”

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Tiffany Tate

Marine Harvester

“I grew up in Washington County, but my family is wound through the history of these islands right back to the first settlers — Spurlings, Bunkers, Beals, Rices, and Rosebrooks. I feel like I’m finally home. Finding work can be challenging. I’m always right on the edge, figuring out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to pay rent. But if I went back to the mainland, it would be harder to share my son with his father, who lives on Islesford. Last Christmas, I made 250 feet of garland and draped it down the town dock. I was sitting at the store at 1 a.m., trying to get Internet and do college course work, and the wind kept whipping off the garland, and I kept going down to fix it. I’m stubborn. You’ve got to be stubborn to be out here.”

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Eileen Richards

Great Cranberry Postmaster

“My mother, Gaile Colby, is a strong woman. She has been the backbone of the community for years. She was president of the Ladies Aid, which must be one of our oldest organizations — it’s 114 years old this year. I’m president now. I swore I’d never do that, but here I am. We work to provide a community center and a ball field. The Ladies Aid building is where we have weddings, receptions, wakes, funerals, potluck dinners. It’s also our emergency shelter in case of disaster. We’re thinking about starting an inter-island cribbage tournament. We’re always trying to think of something new, because it can get very bland out here, very routine, nothing sparking you. You have to mix it up a little, while keeping the tried and true.”

Love the Cranberry Isles? Read “Alone Together,” a story about friendship and the future on Islesford and Great Cranberry, from our December 2014 issue.


Virginia M. Wright

Virginia M. Wright is the senior editor at Down East.