Society learns about Lighthouse history

Kathryn Moore with Ellon and District Historical Society chairman, Alan Cameron
Kathryn Moore with Ellon and District Historical Society chairman, Alan Cameron

In a fascinating talk to Ellon and District Historical Society on Tuesday, October 8, Kathryn Moore described how the Bell Rock lighthouse was built.

This was one of the first lighthouses to be built in Scotland and posed huge technical challenges for the engineers led by Robert Stevenson.

Not least of the challenges was that at high tide, the rock was covered by several metres of water.

The base of the lighthouse was built from granite blocks each of which was cut to a specific shape so that they fitted together like a jigsaw.

In addition, blocks were pinned to each other vertically with wooden stakes. This created an extremely strong structure to resist the power of the winter seas.

What makes all of this more amazing is that it was built in the early 19th century when modern tools and technology were not available.

However, it still stands today, 200 years later – a testimony to the design and craftsmanship of the early lighthouse builders.

These buildings were at least partly funded by charging passing vessels a fee of 1d (one old penny) per ton for each lighthouse passed.

Since there was no gas or electricity on the rock, light came from a series of oil lamps.

The Lightkeepers usually served a six week period on the rock with two weeks off.

Their families lived on shore in Arbroath in a building known as Signal House which is now a museum.

It is a fascinating tale and if you wish to find out more, you can read the book, ‘A House Upon a Rock’ which Kathryn has published.

The next Historical Society meeting takes place on Tuesday, November 12 at the Buchan Hotel with guest speaker, Dr Alistair Rennie who will talk about Aberdeenshire Ophthalmologists.

Entry costs £3.00.

More information about the Historical Society can be found at www.edhs.co.uk.