Goodbye Lighthouse Keepers

Thursday 24th January Comments: The Isle of May lighthouse history is as interesting as it is long. From the first ever coal burning lighthouse in 1636 up to the modern Stevenson lighthouse constructed in 1816, the island had seen it all.

During its heyday the lighthouse employed seven men at the turn of the century but technology was advancing and times were changing. Numbers of staff were reduced when the lighthouse converted from electricity to oil in 1924 and then further changes in 1972. During that year the lighthouse was converted to a ‘rock station’ which meant that the lighthouse keepers families would no longer live at the lighthouse but at the shore station in Granton, leaving just three men to live and attend the light.

Further changes followed in the 1980’s as the majority of lighthouses around Scotland were automated, including the Isle of May. The game was up and lighthouse keeping would become confined to the history books. After 353 years, the island would not have any resident lighthouse keepers present. The final three keepers  were helicopter off the Isle of May on 31st March 1989 and it is now controlled and monitored from the Northern Lighthouse Board headquarters in Edinburgh.

Further changes have occurred since as in 2015-16 the lighthouse was converted fully to solar energy with the old diesel generators removed. The lighthouse still operates today, beaming out over 22 nautical miles and despite the changes the lighthouse still remains as impressive as it did on the day of completion in 1816.

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