Reflections: On the Hill Where the Angels Sing

The Bruce Kelly Painting crew met up at the dock in Southwest Harbor to take the ferry to work that day. It was October 1980. We boarded the Beal and Bunker Ferry to Great Cranberry Island, a short 15-minute trip, my longest boat ride since I navigated across the Pacific Ocean aboard a submarine in the early ‘70s.


Our job was to paint the Congregational Church a big, white, wood building on a hill. As the junior man, my job was to do what nobody else wanted to do—to paint the steeple. Forty feet up, gripping with my toes, and with one hand, I scraped loose paint, primed the bare wood and brushed white paint onto the steeple. It was a treacherous task. 

As I worked away, looking out at the Gulf of Maine, with a bird’s eye view, a familiar sound burst through the air. The young ferry captain, who lived nearby (everybody lived nearby on Cranberry), cranked up John Prine’s debut album at full volume. I knew every word of every song. It was, and is, a staple in my music collection from my Navy days. I sang along with each song as I painted away. 

On that bright, clear, autumn day, I was on the roof of God’s House, holding on to the steeple, singing along with John Prine. That’s as close to heaven as I’ve ever been. 


Rick Moran 

Rick Moran lived in Bar Harbor from 1978 to 1983, and now lives in California. 

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