Calf of Man
Calf of Man lighthouses

Isle of Man

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East Coast North Coast Southwest Coast West Coast Inner Hebrides Outer Hebrides Orkney Islands Shetland Islands Isle of Man Calf of Man Chicken Rock Douglas Head Langness Maughold Head Point of Ayre
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Update: 28-03-2024

Compiled by:
@ Bob Schrage

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Calf of Man - High
Calf of Man - Low
Calf of Man - New
Chicken Rock
Douglas Head
Maughold Head
Point of Ayre

Place of the lighthouse

The island Calf of Man, is a 250-ha island, off the southwest coast of the Isle of Man. It is separated from the Isle of Man by a narrow stretch of water called the Calf Sound. Like the nearby rocky islets of Chicken Rock and Kitterland, it is part of the parish of Rushen. On the island Calf of Man, are three lighthouses: two from the period 1818-1875 and a recent one from 1986. The island Calf of Man has only two seasonal inhabitants.

The word 'calf' derives from the Old Norse word 'kalfr' which means a small island lying near a larger island. It is possible to reach the Calf of Man by boat from both Port Erin or Port St Mary on the isle of Man. Cow Harbour and South Harbour are the main landing places. The highest part of the island is in the west where peak reaches 128 meters above sea level.

Building of the Lighthouses

A proposal for the construction of Lighthouse(s) on the Calf of Man was first put forward by the Merchants of Liverpool in the early nineteenth century. Both Trinity House and the Northern Lighthouse Board were asked to investigate the cost for placing lighthouse(s). After reviewing the figures, the Liverpool Shipowners' Association requested the Northern Lighthouse Board to erect lighthouse(s) on the Calf of Man. In 1818, the lighthouse(s) were commissioned on the island by Robert Stevenson.

Calf of Man Lighthouse
The two Lighthouses of Calf on Man (Low and High)
Calf of Man Lighthouse
The High Lighthouse

There are two lighthouses on the Calf of Man, a low and a high lighthouse, so placed that the line of their lights points towards the submerged Chicken Rock which is off the southern extremity of the island. (see also the video in the right column.)

The two leading lights were designed by Robert Stevenson in 1816 and the station was established in 1818. It comprised two towers, 170 meters apart, aligned to indicate a safe course past the dangerous Chicken Rock. The two lanterns were 114 and 85 meter above sea level and held double revolving lenses and leading lights without color. The keepers had to synchronise the two lights. The station consisted of two circular stone towers with lightkeepers accommodation and was built within 10 months.

The two lights would appear as one from the rocks. The problem, however, was that the higher light on the Calf of Man was often (about 30% of the time) within the fog belt which made its visibility not reliable. These dangerous waters, aside from this problem, were marked by these lighthouses for a period of nearly 60 years (between 1818- 1875).

In 1869, the Northern Lighthouse Commissioners approved a recommendation to build a lighthouse on the Chicken Rock. The lighthouse was completed and brought into operation in 1875. As a result the two lighthouses on the Calf of Man fell into disuse. The original lighthouse accommodation on the Calf of Man was now used as a shore station for the Chicken Rock lighthouse. (see also the video in the right column.)

During refurbishment/automation of Chicken Rock Lighthouse after 1960 fire, a temporary light was put into use in the old low lighthouse between 1960 and 1962. This light consisted of AGA 200 mm Lantern and Acetylene light 4-A50 cylinders.

The 3th Lighthouse (new) of the Calf of Man

In the mid-1960s, the Northern Lighthouse Board decided to construct a new and very much more powerful lighthouse and fog signal on the Calf of Man, close to the position of the old remains of the towers. This new lighthouse is 11 meters, white octagonal tower designed by R.J. Mackay and built by R.J. Mackay & Peter. H. Hyslop. The Calf of Man lighthouse was first exhibited in 1968 and his Excellency, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man, Sir Peter Stallard, performed the official opening ceremony on 24 July 1968. The Calf of Man (new) is automated in 1995.

Calf of Man Lighthouse
The new Lighthouse (3th)
Calf of Man Lighthouse
The new Lighthouse (3th)
Calf of Man Lighthouse
The former Fog tyfon

Warning systems (Light, Fog horn, Radar Beacon)

The light is original a sealed beam unit mounted on a gearless pedestal, which is driven by a low voltage slow speed motor. The Calf of Man used twelve headlamps which have an effective range of 28 nautical miles. During the automation in 1995, this lighting was replaced by a 4th order catoptric Fresnel lens with a 250 watt Metal Halide lamp. The fog horn is an air operated signal of the "typhon" type where compressed air produces a sound by means of vibrating diaphgrams. The air is also compressed using vane-type compressors. The fog horn has an individual characteristic. The turning of the opening of the valves for this to give the correct characters and the opening of the valves themselves is done electrically. During the automation in 1995, the fog horn was replaced by an electric horn, Emmiter type 2 - ELG 300 with an output of 142 decibels.

The electric power for both domestic and services is supplied by three 18 kw generator sets any one of which is capable of supplying the full station load. One set runs continuously so there is always a supply of electricity at the standard 240 V. Should there be a complete breakdown of the electrical supply, the light can be operated at a reduced power (of about 176,000 candela's) from batteries for a period of up to 30 hours.

Lighthouse keepers of the Calf of Man

YearFrom StationKeeper NameTo StationYear

Tiumpan Head B. Bagg HQ House Officer 1970
1974Douglas Head L. Anderson Retired 1982
D. MacDonald St Abbs Head 1974
1974Langness R. Shand
1975Muckle Flugga T. Georgeson Resigned 1978
G.C. Birse Isle of May 1975
W.B. Crockett Noss Head 1977
1977Douglas Head G.F. Adamson Rubha Réidh 1983
1979SLK N. Douglas Sanda Island 1983
1979SLA A.M. Marshall Killantringan 1985
W.S. Smith Covesea Skerries 1979
1979Langness N.S.Cargill Strathy Point 1984
1982Davaar R.Gatt Point of Ayre 1987
1983Butt of Lewis R. Grassom Langness 1986
1983Maugold Head G. Dugdale Sumburgh Head 1986
1984Hyskier A. MacKay Retired 1986
1985Maugold Head W.J. Norris Ailsa Craig 1986
1986Sanda Island M.R. Williams Langness 1991
1986Kinnaird Head J. Drumond Butt of Lewis 1990
1986Cape Wrath A. Dorricot Muckle Flugga 1991
1987Point of Ayre A. Hutchison Fair Isle 1989
1989Mauglod Head N.S. Cargill Redundant 1994
1990Butt of Lewis D. MacIver R/ALK 1993
1991Sumburgh Head M.A. Young R/ALK 1994
J. Burns Retired 1992
1992Hyskier D. Leslie Rinns of Islay 1993
1992Maugold Head R.J. Daggert Redundant 1995
1993St Abbs Head N. Muir Retired 1995
1993Point of Ayre G. Adamson Redundant 1995
1994Strathy Point M.N. Forge 1995
1994Fair Isle SouthD. Wise Hyskier 1995

Local ALK
1974 D.B. Hemsley Retired 1990
1986 T. Georgeson Redundant 1995

1995 G.Adamson Redundant 2004

Retained lighthouse Keeper
2004 D. Fox

Decommissioning the (new) Lighthouse

In January 2005, the three General Lighthouse Authorities (GLAs) of the UK and Ireland issued a consultation document following a joint review of Aids to Navigation of the coasts of the United Kingdom and Ireland. The review addressed the current and future requirements of national and international vesselping and those of Mariners. Each Aid to Navigation - light, buoy or beacon - was studied in isolation, as well as in relation to the other Aids to Navigation in its surrounding.

In the case of the Isle of Man the consultation took place with the Isle of Man Department of Transport (Harbours) and the Isle of Man users. As a result of this review, it was agreed to extend the range of the lighthouse at Chicken Rock to 20 nautical miles and to discontinue the Calf of Man lighthouse. Other decisions affecting Isle of Man aids to navigation were to discontinue the fog signals at Chicken Rock, Calf of Man and Point of Ayre.

Project work to upgrade the Chicken Rock light has been ongoing since September 2006, and during this time a temporary light has operated. Work at the Chickens Rock was finally complete and the light showed its new range of 21 nautical miles with effect from 13 June 2007. As a result of this upgrade, and to avoid any confusion between two long range lights in close proximity, the lighthouse at the Calf of Man was permanently discontinued with effect from 21 June 2007

Additional information

Until 1939 the island was privately owned by the Keig family but was sold to Mr FJ Dickens of Silverdale, Lancashire, who then donated it to the National Trust to establish a bird sanctuary. The island has been a bird observatory since 1959 and welcomes visits from volunteers and ornithologists. The observatory is able to accommodate up to eight visitors in basic self-catering accommodation which can be booked through Manx National Heritage.

Calf of Man is home to a breeding population of Manx shearwaters, a seabird which derives its name from its presence in Manx waters. The Calf of Man also has a large colony of seals which live and breed on the rocky coastline.

Overview Calf of Man
Overview Calf of Man and Chicken Rock

Calf of Man

AXXXX - High Light

Character: (discont.)

Calf of Man lighthouses
Calf of Man (click to enlarge the map)
Engineer: Robert Stevenson (1772-1850)

Lat, Lon: 54°03.240' N, 004°49.685' W

Established: 1818
Status: Discontinued 1875
Authority: Manx National Heritage
Remarks: Manx PBR308 - 07/07/2021

AXXXX - Low Light

Character: (discont.)

Engineer: Robert Stevenson (1772-1850)

Lat, Lon: 54°03.151' N, 004°49.736' W

Established: 1818
Status: Discontinued 1875
Authority: Manx National Heritage
Remarks: Manx PBR309 - 07/07/2021

Keepers of the Calf of Man
YearKeeperTo StationYear

1873T. Dawson(PLK)Chicken Rock1875
H. Mercer Chicken Rock1875
N. McDonald Chicken Rock1875
P.J. Wallace Chicken Rock1875

A4746 - New Light

(Discontinued 2007, was Fl. 15 sec)

Engineer: Peter H. Hyslop

Lat, Lon: 54°03.201' N, 004°49.749' W

Established: 24 Juli 1968
Character: Former: Flashing White every 15 s.
Range: was 26 NM ~ 48 km
Elevation: 93 meters above sea level
Tower: 11 meters, 36 steps to the top
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to:

Automated: 31 March 1995
Last Keepers: PLK - N. Muir
: ALK - G. Adamson
: ALK - D. Wise
: ALK - M.N. Forge
Light Power: 4th Order Catodioptric lens
: Gearless pedastal AGAPRB20
: 2x 250 Watt metal halide lamp
Standby lamp: Tideland ML300 lantern
Fog horn: As built Air operated (1968)
: 4 - Type KM135 and 4 - Type KM165
: Emmiter 2 - ELG 300
: 1 blast every 45 s.
: Discontinued 12 August 2005

Status: Discontinued 21 June 2007
Authority: Manx National Heritage

Explaining the two Lighthouses of Calf of Man

Calf of Man
The three Calf of Man lighthouses

Calf of Man
Calf of Man
Ex Barra Head, 4th.order Catodioptric lens with
NALC lampchanger

Calf of Man
AtoN - Discontuation of the (New) Light

The Calf of Man Lighthouse- Culture Vannin
Lighthouse Journey- Fred Fox