he book is based upon research into the unsolved disappearance of three lighthouse keepers from the tiny Scottish island of Eilean Mor in 1900. A mystery that has led to several literary responses, in both poetry and prose.
The local people believed the island of Eilean Mor had been haunted by ghosts since time began. The ghosts of the many who had died on its dangerous rocks and hazardous shores. But these long-held beliefs that the island was haunted were dismissed in the more scientific, more commercially orientated 19th century. So, a lighthouse was built on Eilean Mor to protect the growing shipping trade, a lighthouse to be manned by experienced keepers. But barely a year after the light was began to burn it went out, and the keepers, mysteriously gone.
A vessel was sent to investigate and was met with strange and variant weather. The captain went alone to the island but when he landed no one came to greet him and no human answered his calls instead, three black birds swopped and passed him as he climbed the lighthouse stairs. What was the meaning of the terse lighthouse log entries or the enigmatic final entry- the day the light went out. Where were the three keepers? What had happened on Eilean Mor?
Gary Crew has taken this historic tale and created a post-modernist story that is both strange and discomforting. The lyrical text weaves in and out of the images and the reader’s mind revealing something, and nothing at the same time.
The use, by illustrator Jeremy Geddes, of digital and oil paint photo-realism to create different perspectives and distorted images which, when set against the text, creates a conflict, a second oblique narrative that adds to an overpowering sense that something unnatural or, perhaps supernatural was present on the island.
Though there are various theories, the actual disappearance of the three men has never been conclusively resolved making ‘The Mystery of Eilean Mor’ even more compelling.
‘The Mystery of Eilean Mor’ is an excellent introduction to postmodernism in picture books.