Durness Beach

Lighthouses on the North Coast of Scotland

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Durness - North Coast
Flag of Scotland
© Compiled by:
Bob Schrage
page updated: 24-02-2021
Cape Wrath
Duncansby Head
Dunnet Head
Holborn Head
Pentland Skerries
Strathy Point
Swilkie Point (Stroma)

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Place of the lighthouse

Holborn Head is a headland on the north-facing Atlantic coast of Caithness, in the Highland area of Scotland. The name Holborn appears Norse in origin, meaning hillfort, and the headland may be the Tarvedunum promotorium noted by Ptolemy. At the tip lies the remains of a promontory fort.

Building of the Lighthouse

Description David and Thomas Stevenson, 1862. Short tower rising from SE end bay of south facing double pile 2-storey, 3-bay rectangular building combining Keeper's dwelling. Tower rises above eaves angles with triangular chamfer resulting in octagonal base for light drum encircled by wallhead parapet with cast-iron railing. All harled with contrasting painted margins. Off-centre 1st floor entrance with narrow flanking window and reached by forestair with rubble balustrade. Symmetrical fenestration to 3-bay rear (north) elevation; lying pane glazing; corniced end stacks; slate roofs. Enclosed by roughly coped whitewashed rubble wall. The first part of the name is Norst, Holl, a hill while the last syllable is probably from borg, the hill fort. Holborn Head Lighthouse is situated on Little Holborn Head, Scrabster, on the west side of Thurso Bay, Pentland Firth. Permission was granted from the Board of Trade in 1859 to build a lighthouse on Holborn Head, but it was until 1861 that building actually started. There is much correspondence between London and Edinburgh relating to the estimate for the work. Details are given below:- £ Land 200 Dwelling houses, including raised building to support lantern 1,250 Iron parapet, lantern, lighting apparatus 820 Gardens, Fences, Water etc 352 Road including retaining walls 550 Furnishing, advertising 360 3,532 Add for accidents 368 £ 3,900 The Board of Trade thought the estimates far too high and opposed by letter the cost of nearly everything. The drawings and specifications of the lantern and apparatus had to be forwarded to the Board for further examination, but finally permission was granted to proceed with the building. Mr Stewart from Peterhead was building contractor and Mr James Scott was appointed inspector. The tower was completed ahead of schedule and Messrs Milne and Sons made changes to the lantern, which was originally a temporary light at Whalsey. This had to be changed to revolving condensing apparatus. The light was first exhibited on Monday 1 September 1862 and the Notice to Mariners stated "The light will be a dioptric holophotal flashing light. Showing a flash every 10 seconds, it will be seen as a white light towards the Pentland Firth and Thurso Bay and as a red light towards Scrabster Roadstead". The Station was automated in 1988 and the Lightkeepers withdrawn. The light at Holborn Head was permanently discontinued in August 2003 following alterations to the port facility in the vicinity of the lighthouse. ND17SW 7.00 10669 70659 Holborn Head Lighthouse [NAT] OS 1:10,000 map, 1985. Holborn Head Lighthouse (Flashing Red & White) [NAT] OS (GIS) AIB, November 2006. ND17SW 7.01 ND 10697 70713 Fog Signal (Location cited as ND 102 703). Holborn Head Lighthouse, Scrabster. Established 1863, David and Thomas Stevenson, engineers. An unusual structure with a square tower terminating one wing of the two-storey, L-plan keepers' houses. The tower becomes octagonal just below a circular walkway. The lantern is of the small triangular-paned type, with a domed top. J R Hume 1977. (Name cited as Holborn Head). Admiralty List of Lights 1980. This shore lighthouse is situated on a clifftop about 0.5km NE of Scrabster Harbour (ND17SW 5.00). It overlooks the adjacent Scrabster Roadstead. It was built as part of the major programme of 1854-78 by D and T Stevenson, and lighted in 1862. It was bombed by German aircraft in the Second World War, but remained undamaged. Electrification followed in 1976, and automation in 1988. Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 7 November 2006. R W Munro 1979; K Allardyce and E M Hood 1986; S Krauskopf 2001. Related Site(s) Map | Aerial Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved. Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018. ND17SW 7.00 10669 70659 Holborn Head Lighthouse [NAT] OS 1:10,000 map, 1985. Holborn Head Lighthouse (Flashing Red & White) [NAT] OS (GIS) AIB, November 2006. ND17SW 7.01 ND 10697 70713 Fog Signal (Location cited as ND 102 703). Holborn Head Lighthouse, Scrabster. Established 1863, David and Thomas Stevenson, engineers. An unusual structure with a square tower terminating one wing of the two-storey, L-plan keepers' houses. The tower becomes octagonal just below a circular walkway. The lantern is of the small triangular-paned type, with a domed top. J R Hume 1977. (Name cited as Holborn Head). Admiralty List of Lights 1980. This shore lighthouse is situated on a clifftop about 0.5km NE of Scrabster Harbour (ND17SW 5.00). It overlooks the adjacent Scrabster Roadstead. It was built as part of the major programme of 1854-78 by D and T Stevenson, and lighted in 1862. It was bombed by German aircraft in the Second World War, but remained undamaged. Electrification followed in 1976, and automation in 1988. Information from RCAHMS (RJCM), 7 November 2006. R W Munro 1979; K Allardyce and E M Hood 1986; S Krauskopf 2001. Related Site(s) Map | Aerial Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved. Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018. The light is actually not on Holborn Head itself but is about 1 km (0.6 mi) south, on the north side of Scrabster.

David Stevenson succeeded Alan, who was forced to resign in 1853 through ill-health. David was the last of the Stevensons to serve as engineer to the Northern lighthouses. Mr. Stewart, Peterhead, was the building contractor. Although the Board of Trade gave permission to go ahead in 1859, the building was not started until 1861. The delay was caused by the Board's emphasis on economy. All estimates for the work were too high, and the Board opposed the cost of nearly everything. The finally agreed estimates were as follows Land Dwelling Houses, including raised building to support lantern Iron parapet, lantern lighting apparatus Garden fences, water, etc. Road including retaining walls Furnishing, advertising Add for Accidents 200 1250 820 352 550 360 368 £3900 The first part of the names is from Norse "Holl" - a hill, while the last syllable is probably from "borg" - a hill fort. Holborn lighthouse is situated on Little Holborn Head, Scrabster. Holborn Head Lighthouse is situated on Little Holborn Head, Scrabster, on the west side of Scrabster Bay, Pentland Firth in the north of Scotland. It can be easily viewed from Thurso. The graphic here is by Charles Tait. Permission was granted from the Board of Trade in 1859 to build a lighthouse on Holborn Head, but the estimated high costs (£3,900 including living accommodation for the lighthouse keepers) caused delays as these were examined in detail. It was not until 1861 that building work actually started after permission had been granted by the Northern Lighthouse Board to proceed with the building. It was engineered by David Stevenson. Its design was different from the norm, with the tower being of a "school house model." This meant the tower is built as a part of the Keeper's house. A Mr Stewart from Peterhead was building contractor and the tower was completed ahead of schedule. The light was first operational in September 1862 and the Notice to Mariners stated "The light will be a dioptric holophotal flashing light. Showing a flash every 10 seconds, it will be seen as a white light towards the Pentland Firth and Thurso Bay and as a red light towards Scrabster Roadstead". Scrabster Port The Station was automated in 1988 and the Lightkeepers withdrawn. Following alterations to the port facility in the vicinity of the lighthouse the light at Holborn Head was permanently discontinued in August 2003. Since the harbour at Scrabster has been upgraded, it is not uncommon to see substantial cruise ships in the area. The picture here of Scrabster harbour with the lighthouse behind is by Dorcas Sinclair, via Wikimedia Commons.

Additional information

Trying to trace her ancestors Mrs Foster called The Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in relation to two Taylors, listed as a lighthouse keeper on the census records. They also had a couple of photographs showing a man in a keeper’s uniform. At the Museum staff were able to trace all the Taylors and provide a full service history for them. The Fosters visited and were able to view records written by one of the Taylors, Mrs Foster’s grandfather. Further enquiries based on the service information provided by the Museum enabled the family to find out the following information. Ken Taylor married Catherine Sinclair Dunnet in 1900 when he was “lighthouse keeper” at Low Head lighthouse in Wick. Catherine Sinclair Dunnet was the daughter of David Dunnet, retired Lighthouse keeper living in Janetstown, Wick. She died aged 34 in 1910 from tuberculosis, Ken was then lighthouse keeper at Holborn Head lighthouse, Thurso. Ken was left with 2 small children to look after, and Catherine’s sister, Elizabeth, must have moved in to help look after the children. In 1914 Ken subsequently married Elizabeth Sinclair Dunnet when he was lighthouse keeper at Kinnaird Head Lighthouse, Fraserburgh. I am not sure what became of Elizabeth Sinclair Dunnet, but in 1933 Ken Taylor “widower” marries again, this time to the daughter of a farm servant from Skye, Dolina Gordon. He was lighthouse keeper at Isle Ornsay lighthouse in Skye then. This marriage took place in Dingwall at the same time as his daughter’s marriage to John Ritch, yet another lighthouse keeper at Start Point lighthouse, Sanday, Orkney. Maggie Taylor, another ancestor, married Basil Mackenzie on 21 July 1904 in Fortrose. Basil was an Assistant Lighthouse Keeper at Lismore lighthouse, Lismore, Argyllshire at the time, so it can be assumed that Ken Taylor was probably the Head Lighthouse keeper there.

Holborn Head Lighthouse, spelt 'Holborn', unlike the headland which is Holborn Head, is about one kilometre (half a mile) south of the point, near Scrabster Harbour on the western shore of Thurso Bay. It was built as part of the major programme of 1854-78 by D and T Stevenson, and lighted in 1862. It was bombed by German aircraft in the Second World War, but remained undamaged. Electrification followed in 1976, and automation in 1988.

The tower for the light is integral with the keepers' house which is unusual since most Scottish lighthouses are separate from the house. After entering the upper floor front doorway there is a vestibule with 2 entrances, one to the Lightkeepers House and the other to the Lighthouse Tower. There were 2 Lightkeepers houses and the Tower within the building. Separate to this was the Principal Keeper's House.

A walk around the headland can be accessed through a gate next to the Principal Keeper's House. There are stiles and bridges, which allow access to the unfenced off promontory of Holborn Head itself. There are clear views over to Dunnet Head and to the Orkney Islands.

Permission was granted from the Board of Trade in 1859 to build a lighthouse on Holborn Head, but it was until 1861 that building actually started. There is much correspondence between London and Edinburgh relating to the estimate for the work.

The Board of Trade thought the estimates far too high and opposed by letter the cost of nearly everything. The drawings and specifications of the lantern and apparatus had to be forwarded to the Board for further examination, but finally permission was granted to proceed with the building.

Mr Stewart from Peterhead was building contractor and Mr James Scott was appointed inspector. The tower was completed ahead of schedule and Messrs Milne and Sons made changes to the lantern, which was originally a temporary light at Whalsey. This had to be changed to revolving condensing apparatus. The light was first exhibited on Monday 1 September 1862 and the Notice to Mariners stated "The light will be a dioptric holophotal flashing light. Showing a flash every 10 seconds, it will be seen as a white light towards the Pentland Firth and Thurso Bay and as a red light towards Scrabster Roadstead".

The light at Holborn Head was permanently discontinued in August 2003 following alterations to the port facility in the vicinity of the lighthouse.

A3578

Character: (discont.)

Engineers: David Lillie Stevenson (1815-1886)
: Thomas Stevenson (1818-1887)

Lat, Lon: 58°36.874' N, 03°32.390' W

Established: 1 September 1862
Character: Flashing WR every 10 sec.
Range: 24 km / 15 nM
Elevation: 23 meters above sealevel
Tower: 17 meters
Init. Costs: £ ?.
Econ. Costs*: £ ?.
*) According to: MeasuringWorth.com

Automated: 1988
Last Keepers: ? - PLK
: ? - ALK
: ? - ALK
Fog horn: No

Status: Discontinued in 2003
Authority: Private accomodation
Remarks: Cat.B - LB14952 - 28/11/1984

Holborn Head lighthouse
Holborn Head lighthouse
Holborn Head lighthouse
Holborn Head lighthouse
References:

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