Opinion

Jourgensen: Enigmatic Egg Rock

What is it about Egg Rock that lends the stone lump jutting out of the ocean an air of inscrutability? The natural protrusion’s proximity to Lynn and Nahant makes it seem tantalizingly close to shore, almost as if you could reach out and pluck it from the horizon.

It’s fascinating on a blustery day to stare at the Rock as waves crest and splash high on its gray flanks. They strike with a force that almost makes you wonder if the sea and the Rock are locked in an eons-old contest to see if the ocean can wear the stone down to a nub or if the Rock can withstand the ceaseless pounding.

Great writer and raconteur Dave Liscio wrote about the Rock in 1994, penning this introduction to its bleak terrain: “Imagine yourself keeper of Egg Rock Light, lord over three acres of barren feldspar off the coast of Nahant.”

He goes on to sketch out a stark tale from the 1860s when the lightkeeper’s wife dies and the bereft man has no choice but to temporarily lay her to rest in an oil shed on the Rock until more mild spring weather allows him to row ashore and bury her.

Liscio references Fred A. Wilson’s “Some Annals of Nahant” in describing how the Rock’s location as a popular nesting place for seabirds gave it the name, Birds Egg Rock.

Over the decades the Rock was the site of shipwrecks and it began playing a role in preventing wrecks beginning in 1856 when Egg Rock Light was first lit. Liscio writes how, in 1910, early efforts based in Nahant to develop submarine detection equipment included mounting a bell on the Rock.

“A telephone cable was laid underwater to connect the outpost with the mainland and serve as an early warning system for encroaching German Navy boats and submarines.”

Edward Rowe Snow in his book, “Tales of Sea and Shore,” romanticizes the Rock with the tale of “a young Italian lover” sailing out to the Rock in 1815 before returning to Italy to pick up “forget-me-nots” for his sweetheart.

Snow claims Egg Rock became federal property in preparation for the lighthouse’s construction. He also relates how three of 1860s lightkeeper Thomas Widger’s children were born on the Rock.

Snow suggests the story of the lightkeeper’s wife has one foot in legend and the other in lore with not much in the way of fact to bolster it. It’s still a great story — and that’s only half of it: Supposedly the widower, while ashore, married again.

“It is said that the light keeper’s home at Egg Rock was sold for five dollars,” wrote Snow.

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Janine Len Pipitone’s recollections about her father, R.G. Len, opened a spigot of memories with Tom Iarrobino recalling how Len’s original TV repair store was located at the corner of Lewis Street and Lafayette Park. Another informed source remembers a house call by Richard Len to his Collins Street Terrace home to replace a television tube.

I always appreciate recollections about old businesses and Meili Clark didn’t disappoint when she listed local places where local jazz could be heard, including Hughes Stage Door in West Lynn, Rick’s Lounge downtown, the White Whale on the Lynnway, and the Robin Hood off Market Street.

I promise to circle back and write about these places as well as Lenny’s on the Turnpike in Peabody. The Peabody Institute Library has some great old photographs from Lenny’s.

Congratulations to Aaron Kelly who reaches the pinnacle of Boy Scout achievement on April 7 when he stands before his Eagle Scout Court of Honor. He is a credit to his generation and to his parents.

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