Reviving the spirit of Kidd’s “Lulu Island”

Thomas Kidd of Richmond, 1846-1930“Child of the Fraser River and the sea,” says Thomas Kidd with loving respect for Lulu Island.

It was 140 years ago, February 1874, when Kidd first came and saw this child of nature. After a decade of roaming from Ireland’s County Down, where he grew up, to New Zealand to California, he settled here in the future Richmond.

With his older buddy Walter Lee, Thomas Kidd was a community builder from the start. Later, he was a school trustee, councillor and mayor and the first Richmond MLA. He did it all with a farmer’s sense and a poet’s vision, which meld in the ode to Lulu Island.

Why heed him at this time? This Sunday is—or should be—Kidd Day.

Thomas Kidd was born 168 years ago on February 23. With 168 hours in a week, we could even extend Kidd Day to Kidd Week (a festive hour per year).

At this time last year, my Kidd Day article was an “open letter to Thomas Kidd” with his lyrical “The Harvest’s Done.” That empathic poem rejoices with the farm animals. Kidd did things well and shared the joy that brought.

This year let’s enjoy “Lulu Island,” ours from Thomas Kidd. As true odes often do, it speaks to its subject in words of praise.

(Note: If you click on  “Lulu Island,” it will open in a new window or at least a new tab. That may make it easier to go back and forth between the poem and this article.)

The first stanza leads up to a big choice made simple, the decision to make Lulu Island home. Except for place names, each word in it is just one syllable, a single sound unit. It’s like 1, 2, 3: look, care, act.

pink roses, probably like the roses Thomas Kidd wrote aboutThe two middle stanzas are clusters of fond thoughts, like pausing to take in the wild roses. The memories are idyllic feelings, not verbal ideas.

The last stanza cherishes the natural wonders and invokes protection. The mountains that surround are inspiring scenery, a jewelry setting of great value and the powerful kind of guardian that Lulu Island deserves.

Odes used to be sung and danced, but it’s fine to just speak this one with feeling. Before we go on, can you take two minutes to do that twice? Reading aloud, feel “Lulu Island,” first as Thomas Kidd did a century ago and then as you do now.

You feel the images but also the rhythm and rhyme and perhaps the whole form. Thomas Kidd was adept in the craft of poetry, and you’ll feel more as you notice more. To help you progress quickly, I’ve prepared a guide, “Experiencing Thomas Kidd’s ‘Lulu Island’.”

This article is for all levels, and one can even treat it as an intro to poetry analysis.

Ray Galawan at Finn Road, Richmond, BCThomas Kidd passed on at 84 in 1930. It’s 84 years later now, and his great-grandson, Ray Galawan, carries on in his footsteps. Ray and FarmWatch are at Day 400 in the vigil on Finn Road to stop the dumping on ALR farmland.

This past year, despite our citizens’ informed and tireless action, Richmond’s powers-that-be kept squandering our natural legacy. More than ever, we need the values that Thomas Kidd lived and phrased so well, the spirit of “Lulu Island.”


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