Everyone should have their own “island magic” - whether visiting the Isles of Shoals or in your dreams.
I grew up near the New Hampshire seacoast and had visited the Shoals on school trips. I remember them as being a vast, rocky space where we would explore for treasure while being cautious to stay away from poison ivy and the gulls who might try to drop something on you. I moved away for college and while I never returned to the Shoals until recently, I had always pointed them out to my family from the mainland saying, “We must go out there some day.”
That day arrived in June 2006, when we were visiting friends in Rye, NH. We jumped on the early boat, the Uncle Oscar, and traveled on an ocean as flat as a mirror. We spent an incredible day exploring the rocks, learning about the history of Star Island and relaxing in the early summer warmth. All day long the phrase “this would be a great documentary” kept echoing in my head – but my initial thought was someone has probably already done it. We inquired at the gift shop if there was a DVD available about the Shoals and the immediate reply was “No, and we probably should have something like that!”
And so this documentary began.
I soon discovered that no program had ever been produced to chronicle the entire history of the Shoals. Shorter, more specific stories had been made – but nothing covered the entire 400 years. I began writing grants and researching the history of these unique islands that winter and taping began once boat transportation was available the following spring. I was fortunate to visit most of the islands and spent approximately 30 days on the Shoals taping An Island Kingdom. Many people say the Shoals have their own island magic, and I would like to think that some of it drifted my way. I ran into some friends I had not seen for over 30 years and made new connections with people I hope will last just as long.
I have two favorite stories I enjoy sharing about my experience producing this documentary. A gentleman who lives in California contacted me through the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association. Nate Hubbard is the great-great grandson of Celia Thaxter and visits the Shoals every summer. He also told me about his family, especially his eldest daughter, also named Celia. I was filled with gratitude when she agreed to read a few of her grandmother’s passages from her book, Among the Isles of Shoals. In this program you will hear the young voice of Celia Thaxter magically come to life through her great-great-great granddaughter Celia Hubbard. I am so honored to have been able to bring the two together.
Another story is directly connected to me and reinforces why I was meant to produce this program. I would often stay with my father who lives near the NH seacoast before my trips to the Shoals. I was already six months into the production of An Island Kingdom and had set the topics, script and characters involved with the program, including Nathaniel Hawthorne. I arrived one afternoon to be greeted by my father holding the “family bible.” He sat down and began to unfurl the branches of our family tree. To put it simply: my grandmother (his mother) had a grandmother, whose sister had seven children. One of the girls was named Sophia Peabody - who married Hawthorne and published his 10-day diary about his visit to the Shoals.
Must be Island magic…
I wish to thank everyone who helped make this documentary possible, especially my family who endured nearly two years of me talking, taping and dreaming the Shoals. They enjoyed many pancake dinners…
I hope you will refer to some of the many books, references and web sites of organizations connected with this program, located on this site. But most importantly I hope you will visit the Isles of Shoals and see for yourself what a fascinating place these nine islands truly are. I encourage you to learn more about the intriguing people and events of the Shoals – many deserve their own program. The very early island history; the artists, writers and musicians who summered at the Appledore House Hotel; and the wonderful activities and learning experiences currently offered will enrich your interest of marine science, historic preservation, personal enlightenment and a variety of artistic enjoyments.
A visit to the Shoals will stay with you for a very long time – hopefully you too will find your own island magic.
Andrea Melville, Producer/Director
It is apparent that Ms. Melville devoted many hours to study, research, and personal interviews to develop an in-depth knowledge of the various themes of Isles of Shoals history. – P. Randall