The keeper’s Christmas dinner
I have sent out my email Christmas card for 2013, the third in a series illustrated with a wood engraving. Again, it’s a sentimental subject involving Christmas, a rowing boat, a lighthouse, and a lighthouse keeper.
The picture was drawn by the Scottish-American artist Milton James Burns. Burns was a seaman before he became a professional painter and illustrator. His work reveals an observant eye for maritime subjects, such as the scene in our engraving. All the details of the picture look right—the open boat with its lug-sail furled being tossed by a breaking wave, the crewmen in oilskins working at their oars, the delicate operation of hoisting the baskets of Christmas goodies up to the lighthouse balcony—except for the lighthouse keeper meeting the boat in a boatswain’s chair. That looks wrong to me—a gratuitious risk that a real lightkeeper would avoid.
I guess that the lighthouse in the scene is meant to be the one on Minot’s Ledge near Boston harbour—one of the few American offshore towers built of stone.