Sunday, 1 July 2012

Our Lighthouses Part 1

Lismore Lighthouse

Lady Rock Beacon

Until I moved to the island, I worked as lighthouse attendant for the Trinity House Lighthouse Service looking after a lighthouse on the Welsh coast. So it is natural that I have taken more than a passing interest in our local lighthouses and beacons. The Sound of Mull is a well-lit waterway. The major light at the entrance is on Lismore or to be more precise on Eilean Musdile at the larger islands southerly point. Our ferry passes almost within touching distance on her way to and from Oban. The lighthouse was designed by Robert Stevenson and built by James Smith of Inverness. The Commissioners of the Northern Lighthouse Board purchased the small island that it was built on for £500 in 1830. The lighthouse which took about three years to build cost a further £4,250, a considerable investment in those days. For their money they got a 26-metre tower with its lantern on top. The first light was a fixed white light but this was soon changed to a flashing one, currently it flashes once every 10 seconds and has a range of seventeen nautical miles. The tower is painted white and stands out from the background so that by day and night it guides shipping exiting the Sound of Mull and transiting the Firth of Lorne.

William Black Memorial Lighthouse

When passing the lighthouse on the starboard side on the approach to the Isle of Mull if you quickly move to the port side you will see three other historic places. There is a beacon to keep ships off Lady’s Rock. The rock is so named because the wife of one of the first Lords of Duart was stranded on it after displeasing her husband. Luckily for her a passing fisherman heard her cries, rescued her before the rising tide engulfed her so as the saying goes…they lived happily ever after. This is just one of the many stories about the attempted murder of Lady Elizabeth another claims that her family rescued her. The imposing castle of the Clan Maclean is on Duart Point, though it has been the clans stronghold for hundreds of years, it was derelict for a very long time and has just celebrated the restoration 100 years ago by Sir Fitzroy Maclean. Just along the Mull coast from Duart castle there is a small castellated gothic tower. It is a working lighthouse, now fully automatic, but unusually also memorial to the Scottish novelist, William Black. It was placed in his favourite spot on the eastern most point of Mull in 1900 by a group of friends who commissioned the Edinburgh architect, Sir William Lieper to design it.

Duart Castle

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