Thursday 1st September comments: Today marks a very special day in the islands history as the main lighthouse, designed by Robert Stevenson, is 200 years old. Today marks the 200th anniversary since the original light was switched on and beamed across the Forth for the first time.
Like any lighthouse, the Isle of May main light has some interesting history as in 1809 Robert Stevenson approached Northern Lighthouse board commissioners about the need for improvement of a light on the Island but the offer was rejected (the old coal burning Beacon was proving inadequate).
However following the loss of two of His Majesty’s ships, the frigates Nymph and Pallas wrecked at Dunbar (they believed the fire of a limekiln on the nearby coast was mistaken for the May coal burning light) attitudes changed. Permission and the money were awarded to build a lighthouse on the island.
In 1814 the island was purchased for £60,000 by the Northern Lighthouse Board from the Duke of Portland and construction of the main lighthouse commenced the following year. The lighthouse was designed to be a quadrangular, two-storeyed edifice of grey stone, facing west (which was built to accommodate 3 families). The Tower was built approximately 79 feet in height (24 metres) and the light displayed at 240 feet above sea in level.
Eventually in 1816 the lighthouse was completed and on the 1st September of that year the light shone for the first time (although the light was stationary and fitted with a lamp and reflectors, visible for twenty-one miles).
So happy birthday the mighty lighthouse and here’s to the next 200 years…cheers! (and remember you can gain full access to the lighthouse this weekend!)