Lloyd Bourinot: Farewell, and Fair Winds
While travellin' down to Isle Madame you'll find the sea is mighty ca'm
Cause a dirty oil slick's holdin' down the foam;
But Ottawa don't seem to care 'bout the Bunker C that's lyin' there
In that little oil-ringed island we call home.
In 1970, the tanker Arrow impaled itself on Cerberus Rock, just off the coast of Isle Madame, Cape Breton, and the Bunker C oil that poured out of it created the worst oil spill in the history of Canada, even to this day. The Talkin' Arrow Blues was written by a local musician, printer, sailor, naval reserve officer, bon vivant and businessman named Lloyd Bourinot. The Bunker C belonged to Imperial Oil, who at that time had the slogan "Always look to Imperial for the best." So Lloyd's chorus went:
So jump in your car and come on down and see our dirty little town
That once a rural beauty did possess;
You can gaze on oil as thick as fudge, 'n' grease 'n' grime 'n' slick 'n' sludge, 'n'…
Always look to Imperial… for the mess.
Lloyd Bourinot was a big, bright, funny, harum-scarum character who loved to sail, drink, eat, make music and party. He was a prankster, always full of surprises. Travelling in Newfoundland with two of his cousins, he went into a little service station, beckoned to the proprietor and confided that he and the man with him were sheriff's deputies taking an extremely dangerous prisoner to the mental hospital in Dartmouth. The prisoner, he said, had gone to the washroom, and Lloyd wanted to warn that he was quite violent, but as long as he wasn't crossed he probably wouldn't wreck the store. When the unsuspecting cousin walked into the store, he couldn't figure out why the proprietor was treating him with such incredible deference and anxiety. Lloyd laughed about it for days.
One night when I was entertaining guests from Ontario, the door suddenly burst open and Lloyd boomed in, followed by the impish little figure of Jarvis Benoit. Jarvis was a dazzling Acadian fiddler, and the two walked over to the piano, spontaneously played a beautiful set of tunes, then bowed and walked out.
"Does this sort of thing happen often in Cape Breton?" asked my goggle-eyed guests.
"Oh, all the time," I shrugged.
He was a loyal and loving friend. Once, when I was going through a sad experience, I was astonished to find Lloyd standing on my doorstep. He was living 100 miles away, but he'd heard of my troubles and he thought I would want company — so he dropped everything and drove down to hang out with me.
When his family's publishing and printing business was sold, Lloyd went on to a distinguished career in the reserve Navy, teaching sailing and navigation to cadets at what used to be CFB Cornwallis, in the Annapolis Valley, and later helping the community convert the decommissioned base to civilian uses. By all accounts he was a great teacher, and a very effective executive. And for all his high-spiritedness, he could be a deeply devoted and loving man. He had two adult chidren, Becky and David, from his first marriage, and at Cornwallis he fell in love with one of the cadets, a woman decades his junior. They ultimately married and had another daughter, Janelle, and eventually settled in Eastern Passage.
I saw him only rarely after he moved away from Isle Madame, but when I think of Lloyd Bourinot, I see a great big salty man who filled the room with music and stories and laughter, a virtual fountain of fun. He died tonight, at (I would guess) the age of 77. So they're having fun at the Pearly Gates tonight. But it's not much fun down here.