31 March 1989, 25 years ago, is a special date in the history of the island. It is the date that 353 years of permanent occupation by lighthouse-keepers ended when the Mainlight being fully automated.
At the time the event was marked by Ian Darling, the Chairman of the Isle of May Bird observatory and he noted in the observatories 1989 Annual Report:-
“During our visit in March Keith Brockie and I visited the Keepers and made a small presentation to them on behalf of the Trust as a token of the many years happy association which the Observatory has enjoyed with the Northern Lighthouse Board. On the 31st March , the Keepers were taken off the island for the last time, the light being now fully automated.”
The legacy of that occupation can still be seen on the island from the lighthouse keepers gardens and cottages, wash houses and baths, to tools and materials left when they went. In some places on the island such as in the top horn room of the North Horn, tools lie in a layer of dust seemingly placed there by a keeper 25 years ago and not moved since. The Isle of May is much more than just a nature reserve, it has a wealth of human history as well.
Many thanks to David Thorne of the Isle of May Bird Observatory for pointing out the significance of the date and providing me with the annual report quote.