Northern Light

Lighthouses of the Shetlands

In Salutem Omnium
For the Safety of All
Northern Light - Shetland
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© Composted by:
Bob Schrage
updated: 12-01-2019

Fair Isle North (Skroo)

Under construction

Description David and Charles Stevenson, dated 1891. Group of lighthouse buildings on flat cliff-top site enclosed within boundary wall including principal building containing engine and control rooms with 3-stage tower centred to rear (NE), foundations of former accommodation block surviving to SW, and occasional keeper's house to W. Walkway leading from main complex to fog horn house on promontory to E. PRINCIPAL BUILDING: single storey, 11-bay (grouped 2-7-2) near- symmetrical offices with 3-stage tower centred to rear. Concrete base course and wallhead cope. Harled walls with brick quoins to corners and openings and concrete dressings and details elsewhere, all painted. W (ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: near-symmetrical, principal entrance door in centre bay with oval datestone and lighthouse armorial panel rising into stepped wallhead centred above flanked by brick pilasters. 3 closely-spaced and regularly-fenestrated bays at right; 3 closely- spaced bays at left with wide segmental arch in left bay; doors and windows respectively in penultimate and outer bays bay at left and right. Raised wallhead over centre bays. SIDE ELEVATIONS: symmetrical, regularly fenestrated, 2-bay elevations. E ELEVATION AND TOWER: 5-bay symmetrical elevation with tower projecting in centre bay and regular fenestration in flanking bays. 3-stage tower comprising battered shaft with narrow 2-pane fixed-lights with long and short dressings to E and W at 1st and 2nd stages respectively; cast-iron brackets supporting balcony with cast-iron handrail around upper stage comprising cylindrical murette with portholes and door to N; cast-iron cleaning path around lantern with triangular-paned glazing, surmounted by dome with arrow vane to vent. INTERIOR: stone spiral stair with timber handrail to banister. Vertically-boarded timber lining to 1st and 2nd stages, weight-stand corbelled out into stairwell at 1st floor, and hexagonal timber and brass portholes around wall of 3rd stage. FORMER ACCOMMODATION BLOCK: remains of concrete foundations and floors to symmetrical rectangular accommodation block demolished in 1984. OCCASIONAL KEEPER'S HOUSE: single storey, 2-bay flat-roofed box with 9 and 6-pane timber sash and case windows in S elevation, and vertically-boarded timber door offset to right in E elevation; cast- iron downpipe with hopper. SUNDIAL: bollard-like cast-iron plinth to sundial (now removed 1996) on square stone base. BOUNDARY WALL AND GATEPIERS: rectangular enclosure formed by random rubble boundary wall with rubble cope and wrought-iron gate in N corner. Bull-face stone gatepiers with pyramidal caps to principal entrance; stugged stone gatepiers with bases and pyramidal caps to NE corner of complex; wrought-iron gate adjoining to W. WALKWAY: in situ concrete cope with iron fence-posts flanking path. FOG HORN HOUSE: single storey mono-pitch horn house, circumvented to E by battered semicircular wall with cogged iron track on wallhead supporting bell of rotating riveted iron horn. Rivetted iron oil tanks to W. Statement of Special Interest The foundations of the accommodation block still mark out the position layout of this building, its demolition being a significant loss to this interesting complex. The horn house, with its horn and tanks is a remarkable survival, indicating the former appearance of the (now removed) "Bressay Coo". The walkway was built to guide the keepers to the horn house in bad weather conditions.

Fair Isle (Old Norse: Friðarey; Scottish Gaelic: Fara) is an island in Shetland, in northern Scotland. It lies approximately halfway between mainland Shetland and Orkney. It is known for its bird observatory and a traditional style of knitting.

Fair Isle North Lighthouse is on a rocky promontory with the light 47 feet above ground level and 262 feet above spring tides. In the engine room were three Kelvin-Diesels, each of 88 bhp driving at 750 rpm, which supplied the Sentinel air compressors for the fog signals. Two sets were run, and the third was on standby. Each was thoroughly overhauled, one in turn per year. Also in the engine room was a 3½ kw Lister set which provided light to the keepers' houses. There was also a Turner and Stuart plant for charging the starting batteries of the K-D sets. The lens was a simple glass of four sections with two bulls eyes in each section. The character of the light was two flashes going out to sea in quick succession followed by a 30 second pause.

The original light was a paraffin lamp where the vaporiser was heated for ten minutes by a methylated torch, after which the valves on air and paraffin cylinders were opened. Air forces the paraffin to the lamp where it was vaporised. The paraffin cylinder was refilled by hand pump which used to bring the air in its cylinder to the 3 gallon cylinder. The lamp was a 55mm Autoform which was first used on 1 November 1892. The range of the light was 22 Nautical miles. The lamp was turned by a spur gearing mechanism - one revolution every two minutes - on a table moving on rollers. Turning was effected by a weight suspended by a wire rope which unwound from a grooved drum. When the weight reached the lower limit and the keeper began to rewind it, a retaining weight took over to keep the lens turning. If the normal lower limit was inadvertently exceeded, an alarm set off bells both inside and outside the lighthouse. A well polished plate on the wall bore the inscription. Group Flashing, Hyper-Radiant Light, Made by Barbier, Paris James Dove & Co., Edinburgh, Stevenson, Civil Engineer, Edinburgh, David A Stevenson, Engineers to the Board, 1892 Due to a number of considerations, such as neighbouring aids, condition of buildings, social amenities, the Keepers were withdrawn from this station and an automatic light and fog signal established. The light has a character of Flashing (2) every 30 seconds and the fog signal three blasts of 1.5 seconds duration every 45 seconds. The light has a nominal range of 22 miles and the fog signal a usual range of 2 miles. The existing lens, clock mechanism, etc was removed and a new aluminium floor installed at the level of the bottom of the glazing. On this new floor the new optical apparatus was mounted. This consisted of a gearless revolving pedestal manufactured by Pharos Marine Ltd of Brentford. This apparatus is operated from a 12 volt d.c. supply and is capable of revolving at very close speed limits. On top of this on an inertia ring, sealed beam lamps are mounted in two arrays to give the correct character. These lamps are operated from large capacity nickel cadmium batteries. The fog signal is of Wallace & Tiernan Ltd manufacture and its operation is controlled by a back scatter fog detector (battery operated) supplied by Pharos Marine Ltd. The batteries for operating both the light and fog signal are charged at regular intervals by either one of two generators housed in part of the existing engine rooms. The operation of the light, fog signal, fog detector, etc is monitored and information on the operation of all the equipments is relayed over the public telephone network to Headquarters in Edinburgh. On 28 March 1941 the dwelling houses were machine gunned by an enemy plane. Two bombs were also dropped but landed 60 yards south east of the tower and damage was confined to broken glass. The second main attack happened on 18 April 1941 when a single enemy plane machine gunned the buildings and dropped two HE bombs one of which registered a direct hit on the buildings situated 30 feet from the back wall of the dwelling houses. The outhouses, comprising store houses and closets were completely demolished and all contents destroyed, plus 24 feet of boundary wall which was also demolished. Roderick Macaulay, Assistant Lightkeeper, walked 3 miles from North Lighthouse, where he and his daughter had a narrow escape in the former raid, through snowdrifts and gale-force winds to lend a hand in restoring the South Light to operational order, and returned in the dark to take his own regular watch at the North Light: he received the BEM for his outstanding services. The Light was automated in 1983. Fair Isle has been occupied since Neolithic times which is remarkable because of the lack of raw materials on the island, although it is surrounded by rich fishing waters. There are two known Iron Age sites – a promontory fort at Landberg and the foundations of a house underlying an early Christian settlement at Kirkigeo. Most of the place-names date from after the 9th-century Norse settlement of the Northern Isles. By that time the croft lands had clearly been in use for centuries. On 20 August 1588 the flagvessel of the Spanish Armada, El Gran Grifón, was vesselwrecked in the cove of Stroms Heelor, forcing its 300 sailors to spend six weeks living with the islanders. The wreck was discovered in 1970. The large Canadian sailing vessel Black Watch was wrecked on Fair Isle in 1877. Croft houses Fair Isle was bought by the National Trust for Scotland in 1954 from George Waterston, the founder of the bird observatory.[15][16] The population has been decreasing steadily from about 400 in 1900. There are currently around 55 permanent residents on the island,[6] the majority of whom are crofters who work the land. The island has 14 scheduled monuments, ranging from the earliest signs of human activity to the remains of a Second World War radar station. The two automated lighthouses are protected as listed buildings. The island houses a series of high-technology relay stations carrying vital TV, Radar, telephone and military communication links between Shetland, Orkney and the Scottish mainland.[17] In this respect it continues its historic role as a signal-station, linking the mainland and the more remote island groups. In 1976, when television relay equipment was updated to permit colour broadcasts to Shetland, the new equipment was housed in former World War Two radar station buildings on Fair Isle.[18] Many television signals are relayed from Orkney to Shetland (rather than from the Scottish mainland) via Orkney's Keelylang Hill transmitter station.


Character: Fl(2) W 30s 80m 22M
(fl. 0.6s - ec. 2.0s)

EngineersDavid Alan Stevenson (1854-1938)
Charles Stevenson (1855-1950)

Lat, Lon59°33.128' N, 01°36.571' W

Character Flashing(2) White every 30 sec.
Range40.7 km / 22 nM
Tower14 meters, 37 steps to top of the tower
Elevationt80 meters above sealevel
Fog hornHorn(3) every 45 seconds

AuthorityNorthern Lighthouse Board
RemarksCandlepower 204.000 cd.
Cat.B listed - nr: 5446 - 18/10/1977

Fair Isle North lighthouse
Fair Isle North lighthouse
Fair Isle North map
Fair Isle North map

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