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Cooper family photos a treasure for Clarenville Heritage Society

The Cooper Family. Left to right: Rosa, Sadie, Fanny, and George Cooper.
The Cooper Family. Left to right: Rosa, Sadie, Fanny, and George Cooper.

The Clarenville Heritage Society has added some true treasures — and snapshots of history — to their collection this year, as they’ve received plenty of photos of the Cooper family of Random Head.

Stephen Bonnell of the Clarenville Heritage Society told The Packet they were very happy to acquire the new items.

The lighthouse at Random Head.

Earlier this winter, the Clarenville Heritage Society were lucky enough to have family photos donated of the Cooper Family — as well as journals of their life at the lighthouse at Random Head.

In an article written for the Heritage Foundation of NL, Bonnell detailed the rich history of the Cooper family in this region.

“Thomas Cooper, born June 12 1897, passed away at age 92 on September 26, 1988 at Glenbrook Lodge, St. John’s,” wrote Bonnell.

“He was a lighthouse keeper at Random Head, Random Island, like his father, George Cooper, before him and grandfather too. Tommy’s tenure as keeper of the light was terminated eventually at the time of automation on the Head.”

The entire family included: George (father), Fanny (mother), and five children — Tommy, Bert, Sadie, Frankie and Rosa.

A retired Reverend Gerald Benson, who was a friend of the Cooper family, contacted the Society in March.

Benson gave four photo albums to the Clarenville Heritage Society. Bonnell called the albums the Coopers’ “prized possession”.

The photos even include a connection to Clarenville’s first library — daughter Rosa was the first community librarian in the town, from 1947-1972.

Clarenville's first community library with librarian Rosa Cooper.

Bonnell says the addition expands upon the collection at the Society.

“It gives more of a personal touch on our collection. Because, right now, we’ve always had physical items such as railway lanterns, model trains, school registers, antique radios and dishes, and that sort of thing.

“Now to actually get photographs of people about their life when they lived here, and even when they lived on Random Island, I think that adds a very strong human connection to what the Heritage Society is all about.”

Bonnell adds how interesting it is to see a glimpse of what life was like for lighthouse keepers in a secluded area like Random Head, on the northeastern side of Random Island. It was a five mile walk to Deer Harbour.

He says they led a life of subsistence on Random Head before Tommy, the last lighthouse keeper, moved away from the site with his sisters. However, the exact timeframe which led to lighthouse automation is still unknown, says Bonnell.

Bonnell even plans to visit the old foundation of the Cooper home, if possible, near the site of today’s automated lighthouse.

The United Church.

For more on the Clarenville Heritage Society, go to their Facebook page “Clarenville Heritage Society”, a public group. The Heritage Society operates out of the old railway station off Marine Drive in Clarenville.

If you’re interested in donating old photographs to the Society, contact Bonnell at the Society.

Twitter: @jejparsons

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