CAPE RAY – After years of work and at the request of the family, the Rennie bible has made its way from The Rooms in St. John’s to its new permanent home at the Cape Ray Lighthouse Museum and Crafts.
In 1871, Robert Rennie was the first keeper stationed at the original wooden lighthouse, a job that earned him $600 per year. Last summer his great-granddaughter, Caroline Taylor, visited the museum and decided that the family bible belonged nearer to his legacy.
“She said the bible is in The Rooms in St. John’s, and she said that ‘We’d like to have it in its proper place, where he lived’,” recalls Anne Osmond, who is the Chairperson for the Cape Ray Lighthouse Keepers Committee.
The massive bible could easily be mistaken for a work of art. It measures about a foot tall and roughly five inches thick, with a striking red and gold embossed cover. Printed in 1892, almost every page is filled with black and white or full colour engravings depicting biblical scenes or maps. There are 2000 illustrations in total. One side of the cover has crumbled, and Osmond uses white cloth gloves and a delicate touch when she turns a page.
Because the museum remained closed this summer due to COVID-19, the bible hasn’t yet received many visitors outside of the staff. Now that the winter months are approaching, the Rennie bible will be placed carefully into storage for the winter to protect it from possible damage from damp or cold.
“We got it at the end of last year but we didn’t bring it out. It was in storage,” says Osmond. “So this summer we bought it out just to see what we’re going to do with it, how to display it. We had to put it in a proper case.”
Along with the bible, the museum’s exhibit contains time worn photographs of the Rennie family and various hand-written documents. There are other photos nearby too, including ones of the lighthouse before and after it was charred by a fire, and details about the keepers who worked the lighthouse after Robert’s tenure.
The last keeper, Gordon Thomas, left in 1991 when the Cape Ray lighthouse became fully automated.
The Cape Ray museum displays its treasures in what was once his home, and the small building next to the tower was declared a Recognized Federal Heritage Building in 2007.