Stoer Lighthouse: 14 Metres High
Sits: 54 Metres above Sea Level
Visible for: 24 Miles
Flashes: White Every 15 sec
Stoer Lighthouse was built in 1870 by brothers David and Thomas Stevenson, of the famous Stevenson family, who designed almost all lighthouses in Scotland. It is one of nearly two hundred lighthouses that follow the Scottish coastline, protecting ships and crews from the rocks below. The local community had been petitioning the Northern Lighthouse Board for several years to install a lighthouse at Stoer Head to offer some protection for the Minch fishing fleet from both Stornoway and the mainland. The local minister also welcomed the prospect of additional work to the area in the construction of the lighthouse to assist the local poor in finding much needed employment. In 1859 surveyors came to assess the location and pinpoint supply roads and landing points to facilitate the work, however, the Board of Trade initially raised issues over access to the proposed location. In 1865, representatives from Stornoway and Wick Chamber of Commerce wrote to the Commission for Northern Lighthouses to petition the Board of Trade to reconsider their request. Several months later in early 1866, their request was finally granted.
The lighthouse keeper at Stoer Head lived onsite until 1978, when the light became automated. The complex of buildings shows a well facilitated self sufficient premises, with a byre, stable, cow shed, pig house and cart shed all available for the use of the keeper and his family. Children were educated nearby at Stoer Public School, however for secondary education, they were required to board out, possibly on the east coast.
Being a keeper on a lighthouse was often a lonely and hard existence, working in remote and often inaccessible clifftops. Yet the one task that overruled everything else…to keep the light burning no matter what. The light required constant maintenance during the long winter nights, for example the wicks needed to be trimmed every four hours. The job was incredibly demanding for just one person.
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Today the lighting system is electric and automated, consisting of an array of sealed beam electric lamps, similar to those used as headlights on trains. During the day a sensor automatically switches the lights off again. The Northern Lighthouse Board monitors all the lights remotely from their offices in Edinburgh and regularly sends technicians out to each lighthouse to carry out repairs and checks.
Stevensons: The Original Lighthouse Family
In 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote,
“Whenever I smell salt water, I know that I am not far from one of the works of my ancestors”. “The Bell Rock stands monument to my grandfather, the Skerry Vhor for my Uncle Alan; and when the lights comes out at sundown, along the shores of Scotland, I am proud to think they burn more brightly for the genius of my father”.
The famous writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, comes from a long line of civil engineers famous for their part in designing the lighthouses around the country. Robert Stevenson (1772-1850) started the dynasty after following his step-father, Thomas Smith, an engineer with the Northern Lighthouse Board, into the industry, and in 1791 he supervised the building of his first construction at Little Cumbrae on the Clyde.
Soon three of his sons would follow his lead, Alan (1807-1865), David (1815-1886) and Thomas (1818-1887) the father of Robert Louis Stevenson. While the children of Alan or Thomas followed in the family business, David’s family would continue the dynasty and further engrave the name Stevenson on the lighthouses across the country.