Neist Point

Lighthouses of the Inner Hebrides

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Neist Point - Isle of Skye
Flag of Scotland
© Composted by:
Bob Schrage
updated: 07-01-2019


Description 1838-44. Alan Stevenson. Ashlar. Balustraded walk around lantern. Revolving light. Lenses by M. Francois, Paris Machinery by John Milne, Edinburgh. Statement of Special Interest One of greatest achievements in lighthouse engineering. Skerryvore Rock is 11 miles WSW of Tiree and is included with it for parochial purposes.

associated engineer Alan Stevenson date 1837 - 1844 era Victorian | category Lighthouse | reference NL839262 ICE reference number HEW 2456 Skerryvore is the tallest lighthouse in Scotland. Its name, and the name of the exposed rock it sits upon, is derived from the Gaelic words for ‘great’ and ‘rock’. It was the crowning achievement of its designer Alan Stevenson and marked the first use of a Fresnel lens in Britain. Now automated, it was built for the Northern Lighthouse Board and remains a vital part of the national lighthouse network. Skerryvore is the largest in a cluster of jagged rocks forming a gneiss reef some 20km west south west of the island of Tiree, Inner Hebrides. Many vessels have been wrecked on this reef — at least 26 were lost between 1790 and 1844. It is wreathed in near-perpetual spray and is exposed to the full fetch (length of open sea over which waves can travel) of the Atlantic Ocean. Wave forces here can exert pressures of 291kN (almost 30 tonnes) per square metre. The Northern Lighthouse Commissioners Act 1814 provided for construction of a lighthouse at Skerryvore, though the daunting nature of the task delayed a decision to implement the proposal until the 8th July 1834. Surveys of the reef began in autumn that year and were completed in summer 1835. The creation of the lighthouse was an extraordinary achievementbut it took its toll on the health of its engineer, Alan Stevenson (1807-65). Stevenson also designed and directed the building of the Hynish shore station (NL986392) on south Tiree, on land purchased from the 6th Duke of Argyll, George Campbell (1768-1839). Hynish is the nearest land within sight of the lighthouse, and the purpose-built stone complex was equipped with a pier, a dry dock, stores, houses, a reservoir and a signal tower. The dock is about 12m wide by 4.9m deep, fitted originally with double entrance gates consisting of timber booms 6.4m long, lifted into position by a hand-operated crane as required. The shore works began in 1837, with construction on the reef commencing in June 1838. The method used was similar to that used by Stevenson’s father Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) at Bell Rock Lighthouse, by first erecting a temporary barrack beacon on the reef from which to carry out the work. It was not completed by the end of the season in September, and was destroyed by the sea during November storms. Unlike the works at Bell Rock, Skerryvore’s foundation is above high water level and its lower masonry courses are not dovetailed, resulting in a considerable cost saving. Stevenson chose a hyperbolic curved profile for the tower as this kept the centre of gravity as low as possible — in this case 12.566m above the base — for stability, and also producing an elegant structure. The first three courses are of Hynish gneiss, which was convenient but proved difficult to work. The remainder of the lighthouse is built of pink granite quarried from the Ross of Mull 42km away, and brought to the shore station for dressing before vesselment to the reef. Stevenson was concerned that each block should fit snugly with its neighbours, and specified a dimensional tolerance of just 3mm on the worked stone. A fresh start at sea was made in May 1839 and the barrack was erected successfully by the close of work in September. Stevenson discovered that the column of water spouting regularly from the rocks originated in a submarine chamber and changed the position of the lighthouse to avoid it — he also had the chamber infilled. Work resumed on the reef in April 1840 and the 7th Duke of Argyll, John Campbell (1777-1847), laid the foundation stone for the tower on 7th July. The exacting work of shaping the stone blocks ashore was repaid by swift progress and by the end of the season the tower was 2.5m high, with six courses completed. The solid lower part of the tower, 7.9m in height, was completed between May and July 1841. When work halted in August, 37 of the 97 courses were finished. Stonework continued from May 1842 and the last stone in the tower was laid on 25th July. The lantern was built in August and September. In January 1843 Stevenson was appointed Engineer to the Northern Lighthouse Board. The work that year consisted mainly of fitting out the interior of the lighthouse and pointing the stonework. This was done with mortar made from equal parts of Aberdda lime and Pozzolano earth — identical with that used by John Smeaton (1724-92) at Eddystone Lighthouse. A light was first exhibited from Skerryvore Lighthouse on 1st February 1844. The project had cost £90,268 and for the workforce of up to 150 men it was hard labour — 17 hours a day on the reef, and not much less in the quarries and the shore station. The barrack was not dismantled until 1846. The masonry tower supporting the lantern is 42.2m high with a diameter of 12.8m at the base, tapering to 4.9m at the top. The walls are a maximum of 2.9m thick. Inside the tower there are 11 rooms, one per storey. The tower has a volume of1,780 cubic meters, of which 1,660 cubic meters is solid rock weighing some 4,380 tonnes. A balcony encircles the lantern and its light is 45.7m above high water. The revolving dioptric light apparatus, which operates by refraction through eight lenses instead of reflection from mirrors, was the most advanced in the world in 1844. Stevenson had met the brothers Augustin (1788-1827) and Léonor Fresnel (1790-1869) in 1824, and visited France in summer 1834 to see Léonor Fresnel again, to study their work on dioptrics. His subsequent paper On Illumination of Lighthouses by Means of Lenses influenced future practice in British lighthouses. Stevenson’s innovation of prismatic rings below the Fresnel central lens belt further extended the dioptric effect and increased the light’s intensity — it could be seen up to 34km away. The prisms were made by Jean Jacques François (1798-1878) at the Soleil factory in Paris under the direction of Léonor Fresnel. The light source was an oil lamp with four concentric wicks, now preserved at the Northern Lighthouse Board’s headquarters at 84 George Street in Edinburgh. The Institution of Civil Engineers described Skerryvore Lighthouse as "the finest combination of mass with elegance to be met within architectural or engineering structures". Stevenson’s nephew, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-94), declared it to be "the noblest of all extant deep-sea lights”. Its iconic design was the model used for the design of the Alguada Reef Lighthouse, offshore of Burma (now Myanmar) in the Indian Ocean, built 1862-65. The lighthouse was severely damaged internally by fire on 16th March 1954. A temporary light vessel was brought into operation 6km away on 24th March that year and remained lit until July 1955, to be replaced by a series of lights on the reef while the lighthouse was being repaired. This work was completed in 1959, when the light was converted to electric power provided by three diesel generators. The new light has a nominal range of 42.6km. Both lighthouse and shore station have been Category A listed buildings since July 1971. In 1972 a concrete helipad, with additional fuel storage tanks, was constructed on the rocks adjacent to the base of the tower. Skerryvore Lighthouse was automated in 1994. In 1984, the Hebridean Trust restored the Hynish signal tower (NL985391) and converted it into the Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum, which opened in 1987. Resident engineers: Alan Stevenson, Thomas Stevenson Lamp machinery: John Milne, Edinburgh Lenses: Jean Jacques François, Paris Research: ECPK Skerryvore (from the Gaelic An Sgeir Mhòr meaning "The Great Skerry") is a remote reef that lies off the west coast of Scotland, 12 miles (19 kilometers) south-west of the island of Tiree. Skerryvore is best known as the name given to the lighthouse on the skerry, built with some difficulty between 1838 and 1844 by Alan Stevenson.

At a height of 156 feet (48 m) it is the tallest lighthouse in Scotland.[5] The shore station was at Hynish on Tiree (which now houses the Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum); operations were later transferred to Erraid, west of Mull. The remoteness of the location led to the keepers receiving additional payments in kind.[6] The light shone without a break from 1844 until a fire in 1954 shut down operations for five years. The lighthouse was automated in 1994.

Between 1790 and 1844 more than thirty vessels were known to have been wrecked in the area. Robert Stevenson, chief engineer of the Northern Lighthouse Board (NLB) landed on the reef in 1804 and reported on the need for a beacon of some kind there. In 1814 he returned in the company of Sir Walter Scott and a party of NLB Commissioners.[16] Scott wrote: Quiet perseverance on the part of Mr S, and great kicking, bouncing and squabbling upon that of the yacht, who seems to like the idea of Skerry Vhor as little as the Commissioners. At length, by dint of exertion, come in sight of this long ridge of rocks (chiefly under water), on which the tide breaks in a most tremendous style. There appear a few low broad rocks at one end of the reef, which is about a mile in length. These are never entirely under water though the surf dashes over them.... It will be a most desolate position for a lighthouse, the Bell Rock and Eddystone a joke to it, for the nearest land is the wild island of Tyree, at 14 miles distance. So much for Skerry Vhor.[17] Later that year an Act of Parliament was passed enabling construction of a lighthouse, yet despite pleas for a light arriving almost weekly at the NLB, events proceeded only slowly. It was not until 1834 that Robert Stevenson returned in the company of his son Alan. A painstaking survey made it clear that there was little choice for a location. The single largest area was a rock that measured only 280 sq ft (26 m2) at low tide. Readings for wave pressure indicated that any tower would have to withstand forces of 6,000 pounds per square foot (29,000 kg/m2). There were suggestions that a tower of cast iron or bronze might be sufficient, but Stevenson senior wrote that "no pecuniary consideration could in my opinion have justified the adoption of an iron lighthouse for Skerryvore."[18][19][20] On more than one occasion the surveyors had to warn passing vessels of the danger. A vessel from Newcastle, whose charts showed only the main rock some miles away, was boarded near Bo Ruadh. The Master, oblivious to the dangers, was found lying at ease smoking a pipe with his wife beside him knitting stockings.[21][22] Still the Commissioners prevaricated, daunted by the potential costs, estimated by Robert Stevenson at £63,000. They set up a special Skerryvore Committee, whose members decided to visit the site by steamer to see for themselves. Just off Skerryvore a fire broke out in the boiler room crippling the vessel. It was extinguished and no harm was done, but the experience may have been persuasive.[23] Alan Stevenson was duly appointed as the engineer for the project aged only 30. He designed a tower 156 feet (48 m) high with a base of 42 feet (13 m), narrowing to just 16 feet (4.9 m) at the lantern gallery. The lowest sections would be solid, although at 26 feet (8 m) feet high they were less than half the height of the base of the later light at nearby Dubh Artach. Nonetheless the structure would weigh 4,308 long tons (4,377 t) and the volume of the base would be more than 4 times larger than the entire structure of the Eddystone light and twice that of the Bell Rock. With 151 steps to the top it would be the tallest and heaviest lighthouse yet built anywhere in the modern world, and today it is still one of the tallest lighthouse in the United Kingdom.[4][5][18][24][25] Shore station[edit] Hynish signal tower, now a museum Hynish on Tiree was the initial shore station and construction site. Located on the south west corner of Tiree, its proximity to Skerryvore and the resulting abundance of bounty from the wrecks, led to rentals being higher here and on the rest of the west coast than elsewhere on the island.[26] Work on the new facilities began in 1837; granite blocks were quarried from Mull and brought to the village to be cut and shaped before being vesselped out to the reef. Several cottages for the keepers were built in 1844 from the same stone as well as a massive pier and a tall granite tower to enable signalling to and from Skerryvore itself.[27] Stevenson remarked that the hive of activity there contrasted with the "desolation and misery" he imagined to be the lot of the surrounding population.[28] Barrack and foundation[edit] Temporary barrack used in the erection of the Skerryvore lighthouse [29] In 1838 £15,000 in wages alone was spent on constructing a 150-ton steamer in Leith to ferry workers and materials out to the reef. The difficulties should not be underestimated. Although Skerryvore is a dozen miles from Hynish it is 50 miles (80 km) from the mainland. The first work to be undertaken on Skerryvore itself was the construction of a six-legged frame on top of which a wooden barrack to house 40 men was placed. The building was created in Gourock before being dismantled and re-built on site.[30] Initial work began on the rock on 7 August 1838. Stevenson and 21 workmen arrived on board the sailing vessel Pharos and began to unload the barrack, whose massive legs were set into holes blasted out of the rock. After only two days the site had to be abandoned as a storm swept in from the Atlantic. It was a further six days before they could resume the punishing schedule of 16 hours a day work between 4 am and 8 pm. Fearing sea sickness, many of the man preferred to attempt to sleep on the damp rocks than on the ever-rolling Pharos.[24][31] Work for the season lasted only until 11 September, by which time the barrack legs had been secured although not the main structure. Less than two months later Stevenson received a letter from the storekeeper at Hynish, Mr. Hogben. It began: "Dear Sir, I am extremely sorry to inform you that the barrack erected on Skerryvore Rock has totally disappeared."[32] The structure had been destroyed during in a gale on 3 November and four months effort had been wasted.[4][32] Stevenson hired a boat to take him out to inspect the damage the same day he received this news. Firm in his self-belief, he resolved to build a stronger but otherwise identical replacement. Work began in April 1839 and by early September the completed barrack stood 60 feet (18 m) above the rock. Entry was via ladders attached to the legs that led into the lowest level containing a kitchen. The middle level contained two cabins, one for Stevenson, the other for his master of works, whilst the top level provided sleeping quarters for a further 30 to 40 men.[33] Work on the foundations for the lighthouse continued until 30 September. A total of 296 charges were used to remove 2,000 tons of rock and Stevenson believed that the rock was so hard that the effort involved was four times that required for boring Aberdeenshire granite. The work went well but by the end of the second season, no blocks had yet been laid. However, between April 1839 and June 1840 4,300 blocks had been fashioned, the stone donated by the Duke of Argyll from quarries on Mull. The roughly hewn rock was taken to Hynish where the blocks were hammered and chiselled into shape. The largest weighed over 2.5 tons, the smallest 0.75 tons and the precision required meant that a single block could take 320 man hours to complete.[34] Tower[edit] Skerryvore Lighthouse Sgeir Mhòr Skerryvore 01.jpg Skerryvore Lighthouse[35] Skerryvore is located in Scotland Skerryvore Scotland Location 12 miles south west of Tiree Argyll Scotland United Kingdom Coordinates 56°19′22.8″N 7°6′51.9″W Year first constructed 1844 Automated 1994 Deactivated 1954-1959 Construction granite tower Tower shape tapered cylindrical tower with balcony and lantern incorporating heeper's quarters Markings / pattern unpainted tower, black lantern Height 48 meters (157 ft) Focal height 46 meters (151 ft) Light source solar power Range 23 nautical miles (43 km; 26 mi) Characteristic Fl W 10s. Fog signal one blast every 60s. Admiralty number A4096 NGA number 3996 ARLHS number SCO-215 Managing agent Northern Lighthouse Board[36][37] The new barrack withstood the violence of the storms during the winter of 1839–40. Work re-commenced on the rock on 30 April 1840, and after the arrival of the new steamer Skerryvore the carefully fashioned blocks began to arrive on site. The first one was laid by John Campbell, 7th Duke of Argyll on 4 July. His son George later wrote: That sight is as fresh in my memory after an interval of 57 years as if I had seen it yesterday. The natural surfaces of the rock were irregular in the highest degree. Worn, broken, and battered by the unnumbered ages of the most tremendous surf, and by the splitting of the rock along lines of natural fissures, there did not seem to be one square foot of rock which was even tolerably level. Yet in the midst of this torn and fissured surface we suddenly came on a magnificent circular floor, 42 ft in diameter, as level as water, and as smooth as a billiard table.[38][39] Soon up to 95 blocks a day were arriving from Hynish, although the weather continued to play its part. During the summer of 1840 the steamer was unable to reach the reef for fourteen consecutive days, and on another occasion no landings were possible for seven weeks and supplies began to run low. When work ceased again in the autumn, 800 tons of granite standing 8 feet 2 inches (2.49 m) high stood on Skerryvore, and up to 80 craftsmen continued to labour on the blocks at Hynish all winter.[38] The first three courses of the base are of hard Hynish gneiss, the remainder are granite from the Ross of Mull.[40] Work continued during 1841–42, a crane being used to hoist the huge blocks as the tower rose. The last one was raised to the parapet in July 1842. Robert Stevenson, then aged 70, visited the site on his last annual voyage of inspection. The walls at the base are 9.5 feet (2.9 m) thick, and 2 feet (0.61 m) thick at the top. The lightroom and lantern sit above nine apartments 12 feet (3.7 m) in diameter.[40] The total cost of the works undertaken by the Northern Lighthouse Board was £86,977, including the cost of establishing the shore station at Hynish, estimated at £13,000. It is a credit to Stevenson, his foreman Charles Stewart, and Captain Macurich the landing master, that not a single life was lost during the construction.[13][40][41][42] Fitting out[edit] 19th-century engraving of the lighthouse The final season of work in 1843 was spent in fitting out the interior. By then Alan had become chief engineer to the NLB and the final work was undertaken under the supervision of his brother Thomas. The light, which had eight lenses revolving around a four wick lamp with pyramidal lenses above and reflecting prisms below each one, was constructed by John Milne of Edinburgh. The machinery was ready by the beginning of 1844, but it was seven weeks before a landing could be undertaken on the rock. The lamp was finally lit on 1 February and it shone without interruption for the next 110 years.[40][43] Skerryvore was Alan Stevenson's greatest achievements from both an engineering and aesthetic perspective. No philistine, he chose a hyberbolic curve for the outline for stylistic reasons.[44] His nephew Robert Louis described it as "the noblest of all extant deep-sea lights" and according to the Northern Lighthouse Board it is "asserted by some that Skerryvore is the world's most graceful lighthouse".[4][45][46] Keepers[edit] Such are the hazards of the surrounding reefs that the lighthouse is not normally approached by vesselping. However, completion of the construction work did not result in an end to the difficulties for those involved in its operations. The easiest landing is at Riston's Gully, which intersects the rock near the tower. An unaided landing has been described as "like climbing up the side of a bottle". A system of ropes attached to a derrick was installed to assist these dangerous operations.[47] Statistics compiled for the two decades from 1881–1890 showed Skerryvore as having been the stormiest part of Scotland. There were a total of 542 storms lasting 14,211 hours during that period.[48] One keeper lost his hearing for several weeks, after a lightning strike had thrown him through the entrance door.[48] James Tomison, who became a keeper in 1861, wrote of the bird migrations visible from the tower: "Hundreds of birds are flying about in all directions, crossing and re-crossing one another's flight, but never coming into collision, all seemingly of the opinion that the only way of escape out of the confusion into which they have got is through the windows of the lantern". A fog bell had been installed by then, one of only two operating in Scotland at the time.[49] The adverse conditions faced by the keepers resulted in them receiving additional payments in kind, but the remote location suited some veterans. Archibald McEachern was assistant keeper for 14 years from 1870–84 and John Nicol was principal from 1890–1903. The latter was involved in a dramatic rescue when the liner Labrador en route from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool ran aground on the nearby Mackenzie's Rock in 1899. The lifeboats were manned and two made it to Mull, but one with eighteen passengers reached the lighthouse where they were looked after for two and a half days before they could be taken to the mainland. No lives were lost and Nicol and his two assistants were commended by the NLB for their efforts.[50] John Muir, who served as a keeper with the NLB for 39 years all told, had a posting to Skerryvore from 1902 to 1914. He helped complete a new "landing grating", as the slender metal walkway was called, that made landings possible in conditions previously considered "hopeless". He baked his own bread and scones and made an inlaid table and Iona marble inkstand.[51] Post-construction events[edit] Numerous dignitaries visited the light in the ensuing years. William Chambers, the Lord Provost of Edinburgh came in 1866 and wrote: I was interested in knowing the method of intercourse by signals. Every morning between nine and ten o'clock, a ball is hoisted at the lighthouse to signify that all is well at the Skerryvore. Should this signal fail to be given a ball is raised at Hynish to enquire if anything is wrong. Should no reply be made by the hoisting of the ball, the schooner, hurried from its wet dock, is put to sea and steers for the lighthouse.... I enquired how high the waves washed up the side of the tower during the most severe storms, and was told that they sometimes rose as high as the first window, or about 60 ft above the level of the rocks; yet, that even in these frightful tumults of wind and waves the building never shook, and no apprehension of danger was entertained.[52] The visual similarity between Skerryvore and Dubh Artach 20 miles (32 kilometers) to the south east, led to the NLB painting a distinctive red band round the middle section of the latter in 1890.[53] The Hynish Shore Station had the advantage of proximity to the site during the construction period. However, the small harbour offered little shelter for vesselping. The keepers operated from here until 1892 when operations were transferred to Erraid adjacent to the Isle of Mull. Other than the signal tower, the land and buildings on Tiree were sold to George Campbell, 8th Duke of Argyll who had witnessed the laying of the first stone on Skerryvore fifty-two years previously.[4] A paddle steamer, Signal, built by Laird of Greenock in 1883 was based at Erraid for relief operations.[54] The shore station was moved to Oban in the 1950s.[55][56] Erraid observatory looking towards Skerryvore In 1916 mines were laid in the vicinity of the rock by the German submarines SM U-71 and SM U-78.[57] In July 1940 during World War II a stick of bombs was dropped by a passing German plane. The explosion cracked two lantern panes and shattered one of the incandescent mantles.[58] A disastrous fire started on the seventh floor on the night of 16 March 1954 and spread downwards. The keepers had no time to raise the alarm and were driven out of the lighthouse onto the rocks but rescued the next day when the relief vessel arrived as part of its regular schedule. The heat of the fire caused damage to both the interior and the structure and a lightvessel and series of temporary lights were installed during reconstruction. Three new generators were placed in the lighthouse to provide an electric light source, the lantern being re-lit on 6 August 1959.[7] A helipad was constructed in 1972 to enable relief trips to be undertaken without the need for perilous sea landings.[4] The lighthouse has been fully automated since 31 March 1994 and is monitored via a Radar link to Ardnamurchan lighthouse.[8] The Hynish tower has been converted to house the Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum, run by the Hebridean Trust who have also restored the pier.[59] It is now possible to visit Skerryvore with Tiree-based Skippinish Sea Tours.[60] Skerryvore Lighthouse, the name of which is derived from the Gaelic words "Sgeir" meaning the rock and "mhor" ("mh" is pronounced "v") meaning big, marks a very extensive and treacherous reef of rocks lying in the sea off the Hebrides some 10 or 11 miles south west of Tiree. It was built of granite quarried on the Island of Mull during the six years from 1838 to 1844, to the design of Alan Stevenson, Engineer and constitutes an outstanding example of lighthouse engineering. The beautiful symmetry of the outline of the tower, the proportions of which are a height of 156ft with diameter of 42ft at the base tapering to 16ft at the top, ranks it amongst the most graceful of all lighthouse towers; it is even asserted by some that Skerryvore is the worlds most graceful lighthouse. Alan Stevenson and his workmen eventually landed on the rock in June 1838 to undertake the first task which was to erect a wooden barrack for housing the men during their stay throughout the coming summers which were to be regarded as the working seasons. When possible, Stevenson and his men landed on the rock at 4am each morning and worked until 8pm each night with two half-hour breaks, a 17 hour day. Landing on the rock was often impossible and it was soon obvious that the barrack would not be completed the first season. On 11 September the season finished until the following Spring and the uncompleted barrack stood for two months before it was totally destroyed during a severe gale on 3 November. Although this represented a severe setback to plans, in that four months toil had been devastated, Alan Stevenson refused to be moved from his belief that it was still possible to erect a Lighthouse on the Skerryvore reef. Work started again on 6 May 1839 on the erection of a new barrack and also on the excavation of the foundations. It was little surprise nevertheless that progress was at the time minimal as on several occasions cranes, tools and materials were swept into the sea. Despite these frustrations however the barrack was finally completed on 3 September and that year's season came to an end. It should perhaps be mentioned that while two or three dozen men were employed on the rock, much larger groups of men were employed on the Ross of Mull quarrying the granite for the tower. The massive blocks of stone were then dispatched by tender to Hynish on the island of Tiree where a further workforce dressed and shaped the stones so that when they were landed on the rock each would fit perfectly onto and into the adjoining sets. On 30 April 1840 the workmen landed on the rock for the start of the season's operations and found to their relief that the barrack had withstood the winter's gales. After the disappointment of the previous year they now seemed to be making headway and on 4 July work on the actual tower was embarked upon. Three days later the Duke of Argyll, accompanied by the Duchess, were landed on the rock and with due ceremony, laid the foundation stone of the tower. Work pressed on now and the precise work done at Hynish by the masons bore fruit and enabled the rock workmen to set as many as 85 blocks in a day. By the end of the season the tower had risen to a height of 8 feet 2 inches. The new season began again on 20 May 1841 and by 8 July, the solid base of the tower was completed. Work ended for that year on 17 August when 37 of the 97 courses of stone had been laid. The 19th May saw the start of operations in 1842 and on 25 July the last stone of the top was laid. The masonry of the tower was now 137 feet 11 inches in height and it contained 58,580 cubic feet of material of about 4,308 tons. The lantern arrived in sections and was assembled during August and September of that year. In January 1843 Alan Stevenson was appointed Engineer to the Lighthouse Commissioners and the final stages of the tower were left to his younger brother Thomas, who succeeded him as resident engineer and was later to become Engineer to the Board. Thomas Stevenson visited the rock on 29 March 1843 and found the whole structure watertight. The rest of that season was spent in repointing the tower and fitting the interior which comprised 11 rooms in all. The tower was now ready for manning and on 1 February 1844, Skerryvore beamed out for the first time. Two large fog bells were sounded 1 stroke every ½ minute. The larger of these bells in now in St Connan's Kirk, Loch Awe. From February 1844, when it was first exhibited, the white light flashed out each night without fail until the night of 16 March 1954 when a disastrous fire broke out and badly damaged the structure. As a temporary measure an unmanned lightvessel (ex Otter Rock) was laid in position 4 miles 235° from Skerryvore on 24 March 1954 (Notice to Mariners No 3 of 1954 refers) exhibiting a flashing light which gave one flash of 0.5 seconds duration every 6 seconds. In July 1955 these two lights were discontinued (Notice to Mariners No 13 of 1955 refers) and the Dalen revolving light, giving one flash of 0.5 seconds duration every 10 seconds, was re-exhibited until further notice. In October 1958 the Dalen light was replaced by a temporary watched light (Notice to Mariners No 22 of 1958 refers) which exhibited one flash of 3 seconds duration every 10 seconds which remained in operation until 6 August 1959 on which date the present light (Notice to Mariners No 11 of 1959 refers), which exhibits one flash every 10 seconds, was re-established. Reconstruction work on the lighthouse commenced in 1956 and was completed in 1959 when the light was made electric. It is now a self-generating station, power being produced by 3 diesel generators, any one of which is able to carry the full station load. In mid July 1940 a stick of bombs dropped at Skerryvore, exploded on the rock near the tower, cracking 2 lantern panes and shattering an incandescent mantle. Communication between personnel on the Rock and those ashore was initially by visual means. The Signal Tower at Hynish, South Western Tiree, was built during the period 1840 - 1843 under the supervision of the Board's Engineer, Alan Stevenson LLB, FRSE, MICE. The purpose of the Signal Tower was to transmit and receive semaphore signals to or from Skerryvore Lighthouse (visibility permitting) at pre-arranged times or otherwise in the case of an emergency. At this time, which was before the introduction of wireless telephone, this was the only means of communication with the lightkeepers of Skerryvore, some 14 miles distant from Hynish. The Hynish Shore Station offered few advantages and its remote situation, destitute of any shelter for vesselping, decided the Commissioners to transfer the Station to Earraid on the Island of Mull. On the accomplishment of this transfer in 1892, the land owned on Tiree was sold to the Duke of Argyll, but with the exception of the Signal Tower which is now the Skerryvore museum. With the advent of Radar and its ability to remit communication over greater distances, the Shore Station, for this and other social reasons, was re-located at Oban. In 1972 a concrete helicopter pad with additional fuel storage tanks contained therein was constructed on the rocks at the base of the tower. This allowed the reliefs to be carried out by a helicopter which is not so likely to be affected by adverse weather conditions. Skerryvore Lighthouse was automated in 1994. Skerryvore Lighthouse - Alan Stevensons Account Courtesy of the Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust and the National Library of Scotland, Alan Stevenson's Account of the Skerryvore Lighthouse is now available in digital format giving the opportunity to read this fascinating account of the building of the light also contains Notes of the Illumination of Lighthouses.... The lovely harbour and hamlet of Hynish, near Tiree's southern tip, was built in the 19th century to house workers and supplies for the construction of Skerryvore Lighthouse – Scotland’s tallest lighthouse. The Skerryvore Lighthouse Museum, which occupies on of the old workshops, tells the story of the heroic engineers and keepers who built and maintained the lighthouse on a treacherous low-lying reef 10 miles south-west of Tiree. The Hynish Heritage Trail (maps available from the museum) leads you around the workshops and walled gardens that once served this small community.


Character: Fl W 10s 46m 23M
(fl. 0.4s - ec. 9,6s)

EngineerAlan Stevenson (1807-1865)

Lat, Lon56°19.381' N, 07°06.865' W

Established 1 February 1844
CharacterFlashing White every 10 secs.
Range43 km / 23 nM
Tower48 meters, 151 steps to top of the tower
Elevation46 meters above sea level
Fog hornDiscontinued 4 oktober 2005
AISMMSI No 992351091

AuthorityNorthern Lighthouse Board
RemarksCat.A listed - nr: 17849 - 20/07/1971

Skerryvore lighthouse
Skerryvore lighthouse
Skerryvore map
Skerryvore map

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