Michael F. Bulger (1944-2020), was a very special person, a man of Plum Island.
Michael’s love of his island endures in his extensive collection of photographs, maps, ephemera and people’s stories, donated by him that are memorialized in the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center’s Michael Bulger Plum Island Collection.
He lived on one of the lots purchased by his grandparents from the Plum Island Beach Co. and spent his youth there swimming, boating and fishing.
Many will remember his popular slideshow presentations, which began in 2010 at the PITA Hall, and at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, during Yankee Homecoming, and his Newburyport Public Library history talks that continued for several years.
Michael began coming to the library in 2006, going through reels of newspaper microfilms for information on Plum Island. Year by year, copy by copy, he gathered photographs from friends, making copies and creating scrapbooks on Plum Island. His “wow” moment was finding in Rhode Island the original linen map of the Plum Island Beach Co., dated 1920, showing the 500 lots being sold.
Here are a few more memories from Michael’s friends.
Sharon Spieldenner, NPL archivist: “His enthusiasm for PI and for life in general was seriously catching. He really lit a spark in those Nock School students when they came in to work on their projects … .”
Ghlee Woodworth, NBPT historian: “His enthusiasm, humor, dedication, love of Plum Island history, sitting three years in front of the microfilm machine, donations of pictures, postcards, etc. The archive was his second home … .”
Marge and Skip Motes, library volunteers/researchers: “We spent hours with Mike going through photographs sent to them from Chris Enos of PI homes, developments, changes and of St. James Church. Hours of stories and laughter.”
Bob Richard, library volunteer: “So enthusiastic about his project, especially PI… always a huge supporter of the archives.”
Linda Tulley, house researcher: “I will always remember him saying. ‘It’s an addiction’ when we were discussing our pursuit of obscure historical clues … I will miss him so much!”
Jane Wild, researcher: “He was the nicest individual with a true love of history. I’ll also remember when he and the [late] Sue Follansbee were jockeying on Saturday’s use of the microfilm machine.”
Valerie Spalding, researcher: “He spent a lot of time at the archives and the Saturday morning group, sharing his knowledge and donated so much to the center.”
Stephanie Cobb, researcher of Grape Island: “His enthusiasm for history was contagious.”
Scott Nason, collector: “One of my best friends and swimming partner – one of the best laughs we all had was when Mike lost his glass eye – had the kids on the beach looking for it, decided some seagull snatched it.”
Mark Brophy, friend: “I can see him now on heaven’s version of PI. Bending over with ease and looking at the waves with both eyes. He’s picking up moon shells and beach glass. … He will be missed.”
Thank you Mike for your friendship and contributions to Newburyport history.