Thursday, 5 September 2013

What's in a Name?

My Thursday Challenge to myself is to click ‘Random Article’ in Wikipedia and write about whatever article comes up first, and also link the topic in some way to writing.
Today’s article is about the Copeland Islands, a group of 3 islands in the Irish Sea off the coast of County Down. One island is called Big or Copeland Island, the other two are Lighthouse Island and Mew Island. Interestingly, Lighthouse Island does not now have a lighthouse, whereas Mew Island does. The islands have had more shipwrecks than any other part of the Ulster Coast, due to the strong tides.
About a hundred years ago, Lighthouse Island had a population of about 100, and also had a school with 28 pupils. The last families moved to the mainland in the 1940s, and the farmhouses are now weekend and holiday homes.
As the islands were a danger to shipping, Lighthouse Island once had a light beacon which burned 400 tons of coal every year. In 1796 the Lighthouse Board announced the erection of oil lamps instead of beacons, and a lighthouse was built in 1815. It was superseded by a lighthouse on Mew Island in 1884, and the tower is now a ruin.
Until the 20th century the islands were used by smugglers bringing tobacco and spirits to County Down.
The islands are now a bird sanctuary, and are known as breeding grounds for the Arctic Tern, the Manx Shearwater, the Common Gull and the Eider Duck. Grey seal and common seal also use the islands as mating and pupping sites.
Photo licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Now, how do I link this to writing? A good smuggling or shipwreck story? Someone trying to steal the eggs of rare birds? The lighthouse keeper’s daughter? Someone escaping to one of the islands, in need of solitude?
What ideas spring into your mind?
Taking a different angle, the name Lighthouse Island, when there is no longer a lighthouse there, made me think about the titles we give our novels. How carefully do we choose a title? Do we use an obvious one e.g. (as above) ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter’ – or do we confuse our readers by using a title that may mislead them, or indeed may not relate to the story at all? Have you ever been misled by a title – or wondered why on earth the author chose that title? I know I have!

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