Burn Baby Burn

by | Jul 11, 2005

I’m reading a truly outstanding book of essays by Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate and Lowcountry native, Roger Pinckney XI. There’s so much to touch on in this man’s wonderful collection, but for now I’ll just focus on one small, but important aspect. Pinckney introduces a cast of characters who belong to the Burn clan*.

Pinckney makes mention of Arthur “Papy” Burn, the keeper of the Bloody Point Lighthouse on Daufuskie Island during the mid 20th century.


According to Lighthouse Friends, Arthur “Papy” Burn lived at the lighthouse until his health forced him to move to the mainland. Papy was quite involved in island life serving as a substitute teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a magistrate, and taxidermist. Papy was known for the beautiful flowerbeds that surrounded the lighthouse each spring, but he is probably remembered most for his winemaking. They say Papy never drank, but in 1953, for some reason he started making wine in the old lamp house, which he christened the Silver Dew Winery. Papy would make wine out of anything he could get his hands on, including blackberries, bananas, elderberries, scuppernongs, and oranges. Papy passed away on Sullivan’s Island in 1968, having outlived three of his four wives. Papy’s body was returned to the island for burial, and more than one person has since felt or seen his presence at his beloved lighthouse.

Papy’s daughter-in-law, Billie Burn and her son Bobby Burn live on Daufuskie today. Billie has written a book on the island’s history, folklore and Gullah traditions, Stirrin’ The Pots on Daufuskie. Artist, Bob Burn, is the proprietor of Silver Dew Pottery on Daufuskie. According to a new piece for Orion by Pinckney (not in the book), Burn is also a strong, wiry, storyteller with a deep knowledge of “Indian stuff.”


Then there’s Francis A. Burn, Bob’s uncle, residing at Burn’s Landing on Daufuskie. With all these potential kinfolk in the area, I’m feeling just a little bit more at home.

*Note, very few people in the U.S. spell their name B-U-R-N. Of course, I happen to be one of them.