SI2015-A-2: “Return to Sable” – Jill Martin

Writing under the pseudonym Jill Martin-Bouteillier in honour of her family, Jill’s novel Return to Sable (2015) opens the portal to life on Sable Island before the installation of both the telephone and the wireless. Although her motives in writing the book are personal, her narrative illuminates both the challenges and the wonderment of life on Sable Island 100 years ago. Her book chronicles her great grandfather RJ Bouteillier’s residency on Sable Island from 1879 to 1913 during which he served first in the capacity as foreman of carpentry and then beginning in 1884, as Superintendent. As part of the research to write this book, she consulted RJ Bouteillier’s yearly logs; the Marconi records held in the National Archives in Ottawa, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford University; and personal letters and artefacts in her possession. In the second year of her research, she conducted qualitative interviews with children of two of the main characters. From the late 19th Century and into the early 20th Century, RJ championed stewardship of Sable Island in a variety of ways: his dutiful care of the wild horses, documentation of yearly dune erosion, collection and recording of meteorological data and bird migration, but without a doubt the most important duty during those years – lifesaving. Her work sheds light on a period in Sable Island’s history of which few people have any knowledge.