The Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award was established in 1977 and honours the best non-fiction books written by Nova Scotia writers. It is named in memory of Evelyn Richardson (1902-1976), who won the Governor General’s Award for Creative Non-Fiction in 1945 for her memoir of island life, We Keep a Light.
This year, shortlisted authors for the award are: Joan Baxter for The Mill: Fifty Years of Pulp and Protest (Pottersfield Press), Pauline Dakin for Run Hide Repeat: a Memoir of a Fugitive Childhood, and John DeMont for A Long Way Home: a Personal History of Nova Scotia (McClelland & Stewart).
Evelyn was born Evelyn May Fox in 1902. Her first island home was Emerald Isle, also known as Stoddart Island, on the southern coast of Nova Scotia. She attended high school at Halifax Academy and later studied at Dalhousie University, earning a BA and becoming a teacher. In 1926, she married Morrill Richardson.
In We Keep a Light, she describes how she and her husband bought tiny Bon Portage Island and built a happy life there for themselves and their three children. Although their main responsibility was supervising the lighthouse, they kept a garden and tended sheep and a few cows. The book is known for its gentle humour, colourful stories and interesting personalities. According to the Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada, We Keep a Light is “ an unsentimental, optimistic memoir of a simple lifestyle that suited the post-war mood and anticipated 1960s environmentalism.”
The Richardsons lived as lightkeepers on Bon Portage Island for 35 years. When they retired in 1964, the light was mechanized and the island was acquired by Acadia University for its ecology and wildlife management programs.
Evelyn Richardson wrote several other books including My Other Islands (1960)—“Mum’s best book,” says daughter Elizabeth Smith—and the historical novel Desired Haven (1953), set during the heyday of the Banks fishery. Where My Roots Go Deep, a collection of essays demonstrating her interest in local history was published by Nimbus in 1996.