By Christopher Haraden
Continuing a tradition begun in 1881 along the town’s miles of shoreline, the Hull Lifesaving Museum will present its annual Harbor Illumination this Saturday night, July 30.
Volunteers will light flares that have been purchased to honor, remember, or celebrate loved ones along the two-mile stretch of the bay from A Street to Hull Village. Flares are still available on the museum website, www.hulllifesavingmuseum.org, or at the museum shop for those who have yet to reserve them, said museum Executive Director Mike McGurl.
The collective celebration and personal remembrance event begins Saturday at 6 p.m. at the Hull Village Cemetery, where the legacy of Capt. Joshua James and the lifesavers who patrolled the shores in the late 1800s and early 1900s will be honored. Following that recognition, the Forever Flare memorial ceremony, sponsored by Pyne Keohane Funeral Home, will begin at 8 p.m. near the A Street Pier. The general lighting of the flares begins at 8:30 p.m., as the community and visitors gather along Hull Bay from the A Street Pier to James Avenue in the Village.
In Hull, lighting the harbor with candles and torches began as an end-of-summer celebration, with the first illumination organized by the yacht club in 1881. By the next year, The Boston Globe reported that the locals had ironed out any wrinkles, and the second annual event cast a bright glow from the verandas of local hotels and cottages along the shoreline.
“The residents of the charming village of Hull, as a rule, entered heart and soul into the preparation for the illumination… seen from the landing at the Hotel Pemberton, the many-colored lights decorating the cottages on the hill were mirrored in the surface of the water below, the twinkling lights reflected in the bay producing a most charming and delightful effect,” the Globe reported on the morning of Sept. 5, 1882.
This year, Hull Lifesaving Museum will honor Hull native General Richard “Butch” Neal, Hull Times Publisher Patti Abbate, and shipwreck historian Bob Sullivan, all of whom died in recent months, with Forever Flares.
“They were forever friends of the museum, and will be forever in our hearts,” said Maureen Gillis, the lifesaving museum’s director of development.
Individual flares can still be purchased for $10, while Forever Flares – which the museum will display every year to remember loved ones – are $300. Participants should contact the museum at firstname.lastname@example.org to buy flares or to purchase T-shirts and sweatshirts to support the museum’s diverse programming calendar throughout the year.
To prepare for the harbor illumination, staff members place the flares along the shoreline, and area captains are responsible for lighting them on cue.
“Volunteers are always needed to help the captains in each neighborhood ignite the flares to ensure a consistent glow, and residents interested in helping can approach the captains on the night of the event to assist,” McGurl said.
The Hull Harbor Illumination was an annual event in the late 1800s and early 1900s before being discontinued. The museum brought the tradition back for several years in 1989 as part of Joshua James Heritage Days, and in recent years the event has become part of the lifesaving museum’s annual fundraisers and community-building efforts.
Proceeds from the event support programs for children, adults, veterans, and underserved individuals throughout the year, including offering scholarships and financial assistance when necessary. Gillis and McGurl said that the museum values and is grateful for the support of its sponsors, including Pyne Keohane (memorial sponsor of Forever Flares), Save the Harbor Save the Bay, Woodard and Curran, Granite City Electric Company, Safe Harbor Sunset Bay, Local 02045, O’Donoghue Insurance Agency, South Shore Cycles, and Hull Trolley and Tours.
The Illumination is a favorite event of photographers on land and sea throughout town, and with favorable weather in the forecast, the museum staff is looking forward to a repeat of the Globe’s assessment of the 1882 illumination: “The scene was one never before witnessed in this vicinity, and rarely surpassed by the display upon any similar occasion elsewhere. It was a picture of striking beauty, and one that, once seen, will not easily be forgotten.”