Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Isle of May lighthouse open day - getting ready.

A little piece of history is in the making on the Isle of May this Sunday with the first ever lighthouse day when the buildings will be open to the public. So of course we are busy getting everything ready. Today I spent much of the morning sweeping out 100 years of dust and cobwebs from the Lowlight tower as this is one of the buildings that the public will be able to see. There were some huge spiders in high corners that probably used to feed on the pigeons that lived in the tower up to a couple of years ago. They produced some much guano that the stairs had become a ramp. But over the last 2 years 25 sacks of poo have been removed, the tower has been painted (on the outside at least ) and so with a bit of a clean it will be ready for Sunday. If you are coming on Sunday then to get to the top be prepared for a tight winding stair case, a narrow metal stair and a small hatch (not for big bums !) before you can get out on to the rim of the light. But it you get that far remember to look out for the beautiful brass fittings (they don't make then like this anymore), the crests embossed on the lantern and the old graffiti from Service men and visiting bird ringers that dates back to the 2nd world war and before.
The Lowlight was originality built in 1844 at the same time as when a revolving light was fitted to the Mainlight. But the Lowlight was a fixed light and its purpose was to mark the position of the Carrs rocks that lie just off Fife Ness. The rocks lay on the line of the Mainlight and Lowlight so if at night a ship was heading south round Fife Ness the skipper knew to keep the Lowlight to the right of the flashing Mainlight to miss the rocks. It was in use up to the late 1890's before a light ship moored on the rocks took its place. From then on the tower became redundant while the cottage was first home to lighthousemen, then Servicemen through the wars and now is home to the Isle of May bird observatory. And the tower wears its history well having been beautifully constructed, simply made to function and last but with a little decoration and it hasn't yet been smartened up so it still retains its working character. It is still easy to imagine Victorian lighthouse keepers going up the staircase to light the lantern every evening or Service men sneaking up the tower on a spare moment from watches to scribble their name before going off for another shift at the observation point. As I swept the staircase I wondered how many times it had been done before and by whom.

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