Photos courtesy of Mrs. Eleanor Forsey
Located at the east edge of town, Clawbonnie faces the highway and presents a view of Fortune Bay, with Brunette Island in the distance. Originally known as 'Clawbonnie', it lies in an area once known as the 'Second Gulch'. Its original owner and estate name is unknown but Magistrate George Robert Forsey bought the property at an auction when his children were small (probably 1880s to early 1890s). The wooded, 54-acre estate included a stream with a high waterfall and pool deep enough for swimming and an orchard.
Oral history relates that while attending school in England, the Magistrate's son, Eugene, spent his summer vacation touring Scotland. Somewhere along the way, the word 'Clawbonnie' or 'Clawbonny' caught his eye. He liked it enough to attach the name to his father's property in Fortune. Supposed to mean 'Happy Valley', the original spelling is thought to be 'Cloughbonnie' and may be Gaelic in origin.
In his capacity as Minister, Magistrate Forsey frequently traveled up and down the south coast. He contracted tuberculosis and was advised by doctors to retire to Mexico, presumably because of a more favourable climate, and died there. After two years of untangling red tape, Mr. Forsey's body was finally brought home. He was laid to rest on 'Strawberry Hill', on the eastern side of Clawbonnie, just inside the gate and overlooking the Bay.
Clawbonnie was next purchased by a Mr. Carr and the Magistrate's remains were then exhumed and reburied in the family plot at Grand Bank. The Carr family used the place as a farm and summer home and it was known as 'Carr's Farm'. Apart from the 'Lodge', or main house, the only buildings on the estate at that time were a couple of milk houses, a playhouse, a couple of dog houses and a caretaker's house, occupied by a Mr. Pardy. Several years after her husband's death, in November or December of 1954, Mrs. Eleanor Carr sold the place to Walter Forsey and his wife, the former Eleanor Stoodley of Grand Bank.
In the spring of 1956 the new owners began construction on a motel and roadside restaurant, opening for business the following year under the original name of Clawbonnie. The Forseys liked the unusual name and thought it might appeal to tourists. Walter Forsey, a distant relative of the previous Forsey owners, retired and sold the business on 01 February 1973.
It was then sold to Edward Forsey who renamed the place 'Seaview Lounge'. The restaurant was operated as a night club for a while until it burned to the ground several years later. Partners Fred Nurse and Dr. Bill Witherall then bought the motel, named it 'Fair Isle', and kept it open for several fairly successful years. Under the next owners, Ken and Pam Stewart, the place was operated as 'Fair Isle Motel & Restaurant'. There were 13 fully-equipped rooms, complete with cable TV and phone. The restaurant was an elegant dining room in the same building. It closed again in 2000 and was left vacant for 10 years.
In 2010, the town put it up for sale in a tax auction. Mr. Brian Rose bought the property and began renovations which were completed in 2012. It was renamed 'Hotel Fortune' and opened for business in 2013.
The original Lodge (main house), situated some distance back from the highway, and was for a number of years a private residence, under the thought-provoking name of 'Whispering Acres'. It was later sold, refurbished and operated as "Clawbonnie Bed & Breakfast". The change in appearance of the building, and landscaping, is incredible.
The house is presently a private residence once again.
Photo courtesy of Mr. Jeffrey Elford