General view of the works as at 1810.
After Stevenson's "Account of the Bell Rock Light-house"
© With permission of, and thanks to, the owner.
NEW BOOKS - SEE BELOW
• To the men who built the lighthouse and to those who died during its construction; plus a list of those injured
• A genealogical insight into some of the key men who built it. Read about John Reid's life in George III's navy; and the ancestral origins of the Logans; amonst others!
• A select choice of letters sent by Robert Stevenson to Capt. David Taylor giving a clear insight into Stevenson's character and work ethos . . . and his use of the phrase "Shiver Me Timbers"
• A link between Scotland and Newfoundland. When is a handgrip a sea monster!
• A selection of scans from Ian Cowe's photographics . . . and more of the Georgian kind! Plus Eddie Dishon's contribution to the Bicentennial.
• An eclectic mix of newspaper cuttings mainly from "The Scotsman", "Arbroath Guide" and "Arbroath Herald".
• An account of WHAT WAS DONE and WHAT WASN'T DONE over 200 years of the Bell Rock Lighthouse's anniversaries - 50, 100, 150 and 175 years of celebration.
• A ragbag of interesting facts collected on the way through these researches.
• The world's interest in the Bell Rock Lighthouse (2003-2010).
Towers . . . Old and New!
Photo: © Ian Cowe
Paul A. Lynn
"The Lighthouse on Skerryvore"
Review - “The Lighthouse on Skerryvore” by Paul A Lynn (Whittles Publishing; 2015; paperback; 130pp; soft cover; £16.99).
THERE is always great interest amongst lighthouse lovers when a new book appears on the shelves . . . especially when the subject matter deals with the tower at Skerryvore, said by many to be the “Jewel in the Crown” of Scottish lighthouse architecture!
Ever since Alan Stevenson's magnum opus of 1848 “Account of Skerryvore Lighthouse”, little has appeared in print about its construction – apart from the odd paper written by an aspiring academic, or an article or two appearing from time to time in some journal or local newspaper.
In that respect, therefore, this publication is important. However, on opening the book it soon becomes clear that the title actually belies its content! This is, in truth, a book of comparisons – between what one might call a “trinity” of lighthouses (Eddystone, 1759; Bell Rock, 1811; and Skerryvore, 1844), all built on semi-submerged reefs. All three tend to go hand-in-hand when considering the construction techniques in such dangerous locations.
But make no mistake about it, this is more than just a coffee-table offering. There is much to satisfy the expert, but not too much to make it over-bearingly technical! I congratulate Paul Lynn on his articulate and skilful narration, and in particular his careful attention to the characters of both father and son – Robert Stevenson (Bell Rock), strict father, ambitious; and Alan Stevenson (Skerryvore), classically-educated, and almost certainly brow-beaten by his father into the family engineering business! To many, Alan's spectacular achievement did outshine that of the Bell Rock, but, unlike his father, he was not mired in the Rennie/Stevenson controversy, as was the case at the Bell Rock. In every respect he was his own man!
Another unlikely bonus for me (apart from being nicely illustrated with fine photographs and engravings) is his description of the Western Highlands and the conditions of the inhabitants who lived on Tiree at the time of building – in itself a veritable history of the area!
One small comment I would make! The writer does say that he did not consult original sources, and from that point of view I think he might well have benefited from a visit to the Stevenson archives in the National Library of Scotland (Acct. No. 10706); also the records of the Northern Lighthouse Board, now held in the National Records of Scotland (Ref. NLC). Both sources provide a plethora of information by way of Letter Books and Minutes! He may even find enough material there to warrant a second edition. In that case, I might even be persuaded to buy another copy!! I am reminded of the old Scottish Presbyterian minister in Aberdeenshire, whose library of some 17,000 volumes, eventually became central to the Aberdeen University Library, and who, when found sneaking another of the same title into the manse, said: “ You are never safe with only one copy of a good book."!
All in all, I found it a great read and have no hesitation in recommending it to the lighthouse aficionado as well as the casual reader! You will not be disappointed.
David Taylor, FSA.Scot
Dr A. D. MORRISON-LOW
"Northern Lights - The Age of Scottish Lighthouses"
Published by NMS Enterprises Limited - and available the National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh, and all good booksellers.
Prof. ROLAND PAXTON
"Dynasty of Engineers - The Stevensons and the Bell Rock"
Published by the Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust (2011).
Now available (or can be ordered from) from Whittles Publishing or any good bookseller. Also from Amazon.
In Professor Paxton's new book we see at long last closure (echoing James Will's quote below) on what many consider to have been an injustice to John Rennie who, for reasons explained in "Dynasty of Engineers”, has been largely ignored for the part he played in the construction of the lighthouse.
Prof. Paxton, the world leading expert on the Bell Rock build, details carefully his researches and includes Robert Stevenson’s fascinating report on the lighthouse last published in 1813 and the important previously unpublished Report of 1809 which shows that Rennie was clearly playing his part as Chief Engineer. He goes on to show other aspects of Rennie's input to the ultimate design - the slightly narrower tower than that proposed by Stevenson; the pronounced curve at the base of the tower which effectively deflects the force of the waves away from the main building; and the interlocking jigsaw pattern of the courses of the solid part of the house.
This book is not necessarily aimed for academic and architectural consumption, or for that matter lighthouse enthusiasts, but for the general reader who may have noted the lighthouse's recent Bicentennial and whose interest in the subject may have been kindled in passing! Ultimately the book once and for all draws a line under the controversy between the two families which has rumbled on now for the best part of two centuries.
It is divided into three main parts:
Part I: Updated biographical information on the engineers, including Robert Louis Stevenson (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography);
Part II: A new look at the creation of the Bell Rock Lighthouse from little-known records;
Part III: An illustrated timeline of Smith and Stevenson lighthouses in Scotland and the Isle of Man.
The book is handsomely illustrated by engravings (mainly from Stevenson's "Account" of 1824) and many fine lighthouse photographs by Ian Cowe - www.flickr.com/iancowe - and from the archives of the National Library of Scotland and Northern Lighthouse Board.
Published by Whittles at £20 [ISBN 978-0-9567209-0-0] it is not unreasonably priced taking into account it is hard-backed with an attractive dust cover! Moreover it includes much original research which will make it compelling reading for many! It should also be noted that Prof. Paxton has waived any fee for his work, and any profits from sales will go directly to The Northern Lighthouse Heritage Trust. - D.T.
FORGOTTEN LIGHTHOUSE HERO HAILED AT LAST, by Mark Macaskill - from the 'Sunday Times' - 6th February 2011 . . . "In the 19th century the Rennie and Stevenson families did have some fierce public disputes, but that was all a long time ago. What matters now is that both played their part in the creation of one of the great wonders of the modern world. and that both were great men." - James Will, a descendant of Robert Stevenson.
See full article below - With thanks to the "Sunday Times" and Mark Macaskill.
With special thanks to the
Northern Lighthouse Board
National Libraries of Scotland
National Archives of Scotland
Edinburgh Central Library
Dundee City Archives
East Lothian Local History Centre
Arbroath Public Library
Signal Tower, Arbroath
The Scotsman Publications Ltd.
Arbroath Herald and Guide
Prof. Roland Paxton (Heriot-Watt University)
Don Johnson (Cape Bonavista Lighthouse)
Lorna Hunter (NLB)
Astrid Slight (Chile)
Carmen Slight (Chile)
John F. Boath
Peter C. Clarke
David G. Taylor
Alan Taylor (webmaster)
Nessie Taylor (proof reading)
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